What Are Home Owner Associations In Canada?

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Though Home Owner Associations are far less prevalent and powerful in Canada than in the United States, they’re still important to keep in mind, especially if you’re looking for homes for sale in British Columbia. Though there aren’t that many HOA’s in Canada, there are plenty of organizations that function virtually the same way, they just go by different names. We’ll go into the details of what HOA’s do, how they operate, and what they expect from you. Having a firm understanding of HOA’s will make your house hunt much easier.

What is a Home Owner Association?

A Home Owner Association is a group of elected representatives from the community the HOA is meant to serve, kind of like a community government. These elected representatives create by-laws for the community and work out by-laws and solve disputes between residents.

In Canada, you’ll find several HOA’s that don’t actually go by the name of Home Owner Association. For example, many properties in suburbs around Vancouver are governed by Strata Corporations. Strata Corporations were created to divide the ownership of large parcels of land into lots. If you own a lot of strata land, then you’re automatically part of a strata corporation. Remember, a strata corporation behaves virtually the same way as a home owner association.

Another HOA to keep in mind is Ontario’s Condominium Authority. This is another Home Owner Association, but for condos instead of single family homes. Just as with normal Home Owner Associations and strata corporations, the Condominium Authority has an elected board meant to settle disputes between community members as well as enact by-laws that will keep the community appreciating in value.

What do Home Owner Associations do?

Home Owner Associations focus on doing two things: keeping property values high and appreciating and keeping community problems within the community. Let’s say your neighbour isn’t cutting their grass, or teenagers keep driving too fast down the street and blasting their music; both of these examples can hurt the value of a community. Instead of calling the police or getting involved in legal battles, you can turn to the Home Owner Association for mediation.

Those are extreme examples, of course. Most of the time, Home Owner Associations just oversee the upkeep of community amenities like neighbourhood parks and trails. In order to maintain these communal spaces, they collect money from the neighbourhood residents. In all but name, this is a tax, but unlike other taxes, you can see at firsthand the benefits of the money you pay to the Home Owner Association: cleaner, tidier spaces and higher appreciation rates for your home.

What do Home Owner Associations expect from you?

It varies from place to place, but most of the time, you’ll pay either a monthly or annual fee to your local Home Owner Association to help fund community upkeep projects. All residents pay their share at a rate of around $.30 per square foot.  So check out your home’s square footage and multiply that by rate and you’ll have a good idea of how much you’ll be spending per month. In some cases, you’ll pay a flat fee regardless of home size.

How do Home Owner Associations work?

Home Owner Associations are democratic institutions. Think of them as neighbourhood governments. Each HOA is a little different in how it works, so while you’re looking for homes in British Columbia or elsewhere, be sure you read into the details of whatever HOA governs your area. Despite their differences, most Home Owner Associations in Canada share a few key similarities

Homeowners elect a board of directors/supervisors et cetera that will oversee any changes to the community, hear complaints and issues raised by the homeowners, and mediate any disputes within the neighbourhood. Typically, the board will meet only once per year, but there are some Home Owner Associations that are more active than others.

Where are Home Owner Associations in Canada?

You’ll find the majority of Home Owner Associations in and around the cities of Vancouver and Toronto. Alberta is starting to see more HOA-like entities pop up, especially around Calgary and Edmonton. Not every property is going to fall under an HOA, but if you’re looking to live in a nicer neighbourhood or a luxury condo, you’ll most likely have to deal with a strata corporation or condominium authority.

Home Owner Associations get a bad rap because nobody likes being told what to do and what not to do. The simple fact is that if you live in a neighbourhood, your actions (or inaction) affect everyone else. Home Owner Associations protect sellers from being undercut by their neighbours because as we all know, curb appeal is everything. It doesn’t matter if your house is perfect if the house next door is dilapidated. In the buyer’s quickfire mind, they’ll see that as a sign of a bad neighbourhood and move on.