Legal Blog

Real Estate Focus: Homeowners’ Association Limitations – What to Know

House Model Near HOA Rules And Regulations DocumentOwning a home is still part of the American dream for many people. Having your own property can mean more space and growth of an investment. Many also see it as a form of freedom from the requirements of a landlord or lease. While property owned – rather than leased – provides more rights, it is rarely without restrictions. Many jurisdictions (particularly in Northern Virginia) have homeowners associations (“HOAs”) that apply to residential developments. HOAs are created via statute, however, their breadth and application vary depending on the neighborhood. I recommend that potential and current homeowners keep the following in mind:

  1. You are bound by the HOA’s rules – however, should be permitted to review them. HOAs can legally restrict how you redesign or landscape your property. I recommend that current homeowners request a copy of their HOAs’ governing documents (typically covenants, bylaws, and a manual) to determine what limitations exist so that they can plan for the future without issue. Potential buyers should inquire about the HOA and how it operates in order to have a “heads up” for what to expect.


  1. Fees can vary greatly and may be applied differently. Many HOAs require monthly assessments/fees. These fees are sometimes different than other fees (i.e., maintenance or “conservation”) that may be collected for those that own property in an HOA. I recommend that potential buyers inquire about monthly assessments as well as other potential fees that might be associated with living in the HOA in order to realistically gauge their level of investment. Current homeowners can benefit from understanding the difference between the different requests for funds and how they might benefit/use the services offered.


  1. Get to know those involved. HOAs are governed by neighbors and operated pursuant to open elections. Serving on an HOA Board takes significant commitment – however, getting to know those involved is fairly simple. I recommend that potential or current homeowners reach out to the HOA Board (many times accessible via a website) to discuss their current priorities. This connection can help in troubleshooting issues in the future (or might result in the choice not to pursue a purchase).


Have questions about your HOA? Feel free to reach out to me to discuss.

Contact me at or 703.745.1849


Theodora Stringham is a member of Offit Kurman’s Commercial Litigation, Real Estate Law and Transactions, and Employment Law practice groups. Ms. Stringham’s diverse experience is aimed at assisting individuals, businesses, and organizations with growing successfully while minimizing liability. Focusing on real estate and personnel needs, Ms. Stringham executes sustainable plans for real estate development and employee matters. She provides comprehensive representation for everyday growth issues, including, but not limited to, re-zonings, site plan approvals, eminent domain/valuation concerns, employment discrimination, and disciplinary issues. Ms. Stringham’s scope of representation ranges from identifying potential liability and providing counseling/trainings, all the way through representation at trial.