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TL;DR: Can an HOA force homeowners to pay a large 1-time fee for installation of a street gate and increased monthly fees for road maintenance on the private road that is already in the process of being dedicated to the county?

I live in a new affordable housing community with the majority of the homes classified under various affordable and "workforce" housing programs for the county of Maui. Some of the homes went to the "open market" and were apparently sold at market value. Some of the homes in the community are being built by Habitat for Humanity and others are being built by a trust that holds houses at affordable prices in perpetuity. None of these houses (roughly 1/3 of the total) are completed yet. All of the "open market" and "workforce" housing has been built and is occupied -- about 2/3 of the total lots included in the HOA.

We are located on a single road that connects a much older neighborhood to the main highway. This is an alternate (and possibly quicker) route for northbound traffic from this older neighborhood. The road was only recently built and was submitted for dedication to the county, but the process is not complete yet.

The HOA board wishes to keep the road private and build a gate blocking access to/from the older neighborhood. They wish to charge every homeowner a 1-time fee to build the gate and to start a reserve fund to pay for future road maintenance (which will show up in our monthly HOA fees). Is this legal? Can they charge us a 1-time fee for improvement projects? What type of approval if any is required of the homeowners? We were told that the road was being dedicated to the county when we bought the homes. Do we have any recourse to prevent the HOA from "privatizing" the road (actually, they are try to prevent the road from being dedicated rather than actually privatizing the road)?

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This would depend on the detailed terms of the governing documents of the HOA.

Some HOA declarations authorize the HOA board to make expenditures needed for maintenance (which can itself be quite expensive), but require a vote of the full membership for capital improvements. A gate would arguably be a capital improvement, but your HOA may not have that limitation in its governing documents.

In general when you buy or lease a property governed by an HOA you sign a contract agreeing that you are bound by the governing documents of the HOA. This is because you will sharing resources with the other members which must be maintained in common. Take this seriously! An HOA can wield considerable power over your property, and can impose significant financial obligations on you.

If you disagree with the way the board is running the HOA, you may want to stand for the board yourself.

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