The 5 Types of Homeowners Association Communities


Community associations are each unique, yet also have similarities – the most notable being that they oversee homes within their jurisdiction and have the obligation to collect assessments (sometimes referred to as ‘dues’) in order to maintain and effectively operate the association.

Here we will discuss these five types of communities managed by an association, how are they different, and what makes them similar:

HOA community

Otherwise known as a homeowners association, the HOA community is the most common and well-known type of association. It is defined as an organization of homeowners that oversee the maintenance and provisions of community facilities and enforce various restrictions and covenants.

The governing documents used by the HOA are known as CC&Rs, or Covenants, Conditions, and Restrictions. These documents are recorded in local records. When a buyer purchases property within an HOA community, they automatically become a member of the HOA. While they don’t own any interest in the common area of the community, they are responsible for its maintenance and care.

There are dues associated with living in the HOA community. These funds are to be allocated by the HOA board members to pay for common area maintenance, utilization of amenities, and overall upkeep of the community. Some of these things may include but are not limited to, gates, clubhouses, swimming pools, landscaping, parks, streets, and sidewalks. The HOA also functions to maintain the overall aesthetic of the community by adopting acceptable paint colors, landscaping improvements, and/or other visible changes to the exterior of the homes.

Condo Association

A condominium association is similar to a homeowner’s association, as it oversees the community and, by purchasing a condominium, you automatically become a member of the association. However, a condominium association differs in that individual units within a condo association are divided into apartment-style residential units or townhouses. Owners own everything within the wall of their own personal unit;  however, they are not responsible for the main pipes, wiring, and walls of the common area. There may be some exceptions from one community to another, but some condominium associations may also include the cost of utilities.

Within the condominium association, there are common elements and limited elements. The common elements include things like recreational spaces, hallways, sidewalks, and elevators.  These are accessible for use by all residents within the community.  Limited elements are things like reserved parking spaces, driveways, and balconies.

Condo fees or assessments are collected to maintain the common elements and divided between the annual maintenance and any reserves there maybe for future projects. The association operates under a strict set of bylaws and can use its authority to enforce the association rules.

Master Association

A master association is the umbrella organization that exists over other associations when there is more than one within a planned community. For example, if you live in a neighborhood with an HOA, but your community includes more than one neighborhood, condominium association, or any ecological features, the master association is the authority over all the associations within the community.

Master associations have various levels of authority depending on the needs of the area in which they serve. They may be responsible for roads, common areas, and architectural elements. If a large, planned community has a lake or streams that require conservation of water and animal life, the master association will most likely be responsible for overseeing these features.

Fees are collected from each association beneath the umbrella of the master association and the funds are managed by the master association’s board. Individual homeowners do not pay directly to the master association. In addition, the subordinate associations may have a representative that serves on the master association’s board. Oftentimes, their meetings are open to homeowners; however, homeowners do not have an opportunity to speak.

Housing Cooperative, or “Co-Op”

Similar to a condominium community, a housing co-op is shared buildings with common areas. However, the biggest difference between a housing cooperative and a condominium association is the tax identification number. By buying into a co-op, you’re not purchasing a specific unit; instead, you’re buying into the co-op as a whole.  Your ownership entitles you to lease a specific unit within the community.

Housing cooperatives have the right to be more selective when it comes to who can purchase within them. There are restrictions within the Fair Housing Act which prohibits discriminatory practices and cannot set limitations regarding someone’s net worth. There are also schemes related to co-ops, like the fair-housing market that sets restrictions on selling, and are in place to encourage affordable housing.

Co-ops are mortgage, taxes, maintenance, insurance, and anything else related to the community property. Taxes for the property are paid for by the cooperative housing corporation.

Civic Association

A civic association is a volunteer-based organization whose main objective is to improve the neighborhoods for which it serves by working with the members. They generally exist in communities that do not already have a functioning HOA, but a group of engaging community members who have organized as a unified voice for connecting with local government. In addition, they engage with other community organizations to advocate for the area in which they live.

A civic association may be more effective at expressing concerns regarding upcoming construction projects or petitioning for changes to area streets. They may accomplish more than individual homeowners could achieve on their own.

Civic associations have no binding power to enforce their own rules and cannot mandate a collection of dues – they must rely on donations. Planning and coordinating community events are also common within civic associations.

Determining which type of community association is right for you depends on what you’re hoping to get out of your residential community. HOA’s and condominium associations can be an effective way to protect your investment by managing the common areas, maintaining community amenities, and helping to increase the value of your property. In addition, having access to things like parks, a swimming pool, and a clubhouse may be important to you. You may also decide that living in a neighborhood that restricts dog ownership is helpful. Well-manicured lawns and social activities could also be a top priority when it comes to choosing the right neighborhood for your next investment.

Knowing how your community association can work for you as a property owner is an important part of understanding what type of resident and homeowner you want to be. Consider these five different types of community associations to help you decide which neighborhood is the right fit for you. For HOA board members wanting to gain a better understanding of their role and duties, sign up for a free trial of our board member lessons.
Related: To get more HOA Management tips, subscribe to Spectrum Association Management blogs today!


Related Articles