Information available on homeowner groups

MAILBAG

October 07, 2001

Dear Mr. Azrael,

After reading the Mailbag item about homeowners associations, I wondered about our own community in Ellicott City.

Our neighborhood includes homes built by several builders beginning around 1989. Some of the homeowners were given agreements relating to the community, but other neighbors said they never received one.

I have been in my house eight years. I'm not sure whether we have an association. How can I know if a homeowners association is in effect? Donna Tafuri

Ellicott City

Dear Ms. Tafuri:

Since you're not paying dues or assessments, the chances are your subdivision does not have a homeowners association (HOA).

As mentioned in a previous column, developers establish these associations to manage and maintain common areas within communities. The maintenance expenses are funded by mandatory assessments paid by the homeowners.

Your subdivision probably has no common areas, so there is no need for a dues-collecting HOA. Nevertheless, the developer might have recorded a declaration of covenants and restrictions that limits the uses of lots in your community.

The declaration typically regulates the size, style and location of structures, restricts accessory buildings and uses, and sets standards designed to maintain the character of the community. These restrictive covenants can be enforced by the developer or by any homeowner.

You should be able to get a copy of any restrictive covenants affecting your property from the title company that handled your home purchase.

Also, you can check your title policy for a recording reference to any declaration. You then can obtain a copy from the land records in the Howard County courthouse in Ellicott City.

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