Homeowners associations provide
valuable protection for residents who live in the Georgia
neighborhoods the organizations govern. Many homeowners believe
they protect their property value by ensuring that neighboring
properties meet certain standards.
A homeowners association also
applies the principle of strength in numbers by allowing members
of a community to pool their consumer power to obtain discounted
rates for some utility services, such as cable television
service, and to create common areas, such as swimming pools.
The State law sets the rules for Homeowners Association and
The Georgia Property Owners'
Association Act defines the parameters for homeowners
associations. The act requires associations to file with the
state a declaration of covenants, restrictions and regulations
that the HOA requires every property owner within its boundaries
to follow. Covenants and restrictions include rules regarding
fence construction, lawn maintenance and noise levels within the
neighborhood. An elected board oversees the HOA rules.
Georgia state law allows HOA
boards to impose and assess fines and temporarily suspend voting
rights and use of commons areas when members fail to comply with
HOA covenants. State also require that lot owners and occupants
of homes on the lots be allowed access to their properties, even
while the HOA board assesses fines and other penalties. HOA
boards often make changes to association bylaws and any member
is free to approach the board to recommend a bylaw change.
Members also have the right to appeal a HOA board ruling.
Homeowners associations in Georgia
include in their bylaws specific information that identifies the
geographic boundaries of the HOA. Any property within the
boundaries is subject to the HOA's bylaws. The bylaws include a
description of these geographic boundaries, which in many cases
match the boundaries of a particular subdivision. Often, the
subdivision and association share the same name. The developers
of these subdivisions often create the HOAs. In other cases, a
group of residents determines the geographic boundaries. To
create an HOA, the majority of all property owners within the
specified geographic area must vote in favor. Vacant lots are
included in the HOA as long as they are included in the
geographic description of the HOA. Anyone who builds a home on
these lots is required to follow the rules the HOA sets in
Some of Georgia's HOAs are
resident-initiated. In most cases, however, the developers who
build subdivisions create a HOA and a resident-run board
eventually takes control. The transfer generally takes place
once a neighborhood reaches a certain percentage of completed
homes. Traditional HOAs enforce their will upon all members of
the community, who must follow rules. Some HOAs, however, are
voluntary organizations. Only those who wish to join are
required to pay membership fees and follow the HOA's standards.
Residents who do not pay fees generally cannot use common areas,
such as meeting rooms, pools and exercise facilities.
Georgia state law requires HOAs
within the state to gain incorporation as either a business
corporation or as a nonprofit membership corporation. The
corporate name must include: "Homeowners", "property owners" or
"association." The association is also subject to applicable
laws regarding corporations in the state. To file for
incorporation, you must establish a board of directors and
elected officers. The association also must maintain copies of
incorporation and bylaws.
Some Georgia residents oppose the
legal powers the state's homeowners associations hold. One
group, the American Homeowners Resource Center, has recommended
a Bill of Rights for Georgia homeowners. The concept is centered
on the recognition of "traditional ideals of freedom,
individuality and resourcefulness in the design, construction
and operation of homeowner associations." It also calls for
elections supervised by the state elections board and one-year
term limits for HOA board members.