What are the Different Kinds of HOAs? 

June 22, 2023

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A Guide To Different Kinds Of HOAs

More than one quarter of American citizens live in HOAs, condo associations, or other kinds of private communities.  

Homeowners association (HOA) is an umbrella term for several different kinds of associations.  

People often use terms like condo associations and HOAs interchangeably; however, the different associations aren’t identical. 

Each kind of HOA has elements that make it unique. 

In this article, we’re going to look at the main types of HOAs, what differentiates them from HOAs, and what to expect from each kind of HOA.  

Homeowners Associations 

What better place to start than with basic HOAs. HOA communities are the most common kind of association. These organizations of homeowners oversee maintenance and general upkeep of communities while enforcing bylaws and covenants.  

For more detailed information on HOAs, read this article. 

Condominium Associations 

Scope of ownership is the main difference between condo associations and HOAs. In condo associations, owners are responsible for everything inside the drywall and above the floorboards. Common areas like lobbies, parking garages and amenities such as swimming pools, fitness facilities, tennis courts and dog parks are jointly owned by all members in the association. 

Just like a condo association, each HOA member owns their property and is responsible for it. Unlike a condo association, though, HOA members don’t share joint ownership of common areas. Instead, the HOA – which usually exists as an independent entity or is owned by the developer or an HOA management company – owns the common areas. 

Condo associations primary rules and regulations can be found in documents referred to as the Declaration of Covenants, Conditions, and Restrictions (CC&Rs). These guidelines let tenants know acceptable behavior regarding the buildings and common areas in the association. The board or a community associations management company is responsible for enforcing these rules. 

Most rules will be readily apparent (I.e., don’t damage or vandalize any part of the complex). That said, additional rules may address things like blocking entryways or walkways. Other rules may relate to things like: 

  • Pets: Most associations, if they allow pets, have restrictions on breeds or the kind of pets you can own.  
  • Noise: Most condo associations have certain rules about noise and commotion. There are probably specific things you cannot do in common areas to respect other residents. 
  • Garbage removal: If you own a detached condo somewhere with curbside pickup, you’ll probably have to store your trash and recycling in specific bins. It’s also likely you’ll need to bring bins back from the street right after garbage day. If you live in a high-rise or other kind of condominium, you may need to dispose of your garbage in a garbage chute or the dumpster for your building. 
  • Your unit: While you cannot alter common areas in any way, you may be able to remodel your parts of your unit with the association’s permission. The association needs to make sure you aren’t impacting load-bearing walls or putting the building’s structural integrity at risk. 

As with other kinds of HOAs, condo associations charge fees. These fees depend on the location and size of your complex and the amenities offered. Your fees go to three separate “accounts”: 

  • Operating fund: This fund is for the general maintenance of the building or complex you inhabit. This account also takes care of general repairs to exterior parts of buildings and common areas. 
  • Reserve fund: This fund is almost like a savings account for unplanned expenses and important needs. 
  • Special assessment: This fund is typically for a natural disaster or necessary repair that is well above the association’s annual budget. 

Housing Cooperative (E.g., Co-Op) 

Like condo communities, housing co-ops are shared buildings with common areas. The main differentiator for co-ops, though, is the tax ID number. When you buy into a co-op, you’re buying shares in the co-op, not a specific unit. This ownership allows you to lease a unit within the community. 

In addition to the board, shareholders have a say in who can buy into co-ops. Thus, co-ops are typically quite selective on who they allow in their communities. Multiple committees may conduct interviews for prospective buyers, and buyers will be subject to extensive credit and background checks. 

Like HOAs, a board of elected directors typically governs the community and makes sure rules are followed.  

Unlike HOAs and condo associations, co-ops traditionally have high monthly maintenance fees. The reason they’re often high is because they contribute to real estate taxes, the mortgage for the building, staff fees, and more. The more shares a shareholder owns, the higher their maintenance fees will be.  

That said, the more shares someone owns in a co-op, the more power their vote commands.  

Civic Association 

Civic associations are volunteer-based organizations with a goal to improve neighborhoods under their jurisdiction by working with people who live in communities. They often exist in places without functioning HOAs. Civic associations are groups of engaged community members who organize and unify to connect the local government. 

Civic associations are essentially advocacy groups. They’re typically more effective at expressing concerns for things like petitioning for changes to local streets than individual homeowners because there is power in unification and numbers. 

Civic associations differ from other associations because they don’t have legal authority to enforce rules and cannot mandate fees. They rely solely on donations or charity.  

Civic associations don’t own common property. Thus, they cannot make modifications to common areas the way HOAs can.  


Most kinds of HOAs have substantial commonalities with a few differences. It’s important to understand each kind of HOA to have a general understanding of what to expect if you encounter them.  

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