HOAs in Alberta: What You Need to Know About HOA Fees and Responsibilities
HOAs are somewhat rare in Canada and to many Canadians, HOAs are a strange term. However, the number of HOAs is increasing as new developments come up in cities like Alberta and Calgary.
To make communities more attractive to buyers, developers constructing planned developments include certain amenities, and more often than not, it is not the city's responsibility to maintain these amenities.
So developers create HOAs to manage such amenities by charging annual fees to homeowners. When a community is still new, the developer usually maintains the amenities for a period of time before handing over control to the HOAs.
Homes in such developments have encumbrances added to their property titles, making HOA membership mandatory. The only way to opt-out of membership is by not owning a home already under an HOA.
HOA fees vary from community to community, depending on the amenities incorporated by the developer.
The fees can be as low as $40 to as high as $1000, depending on the costs accrued from maintaining such amenities and the amount set by the developer or HOA board.
Also, HOA fees in a community may vary from house to house, depending on the amenities available to each home.
Keep in mind the term HOA (HomeOwners Association) is used interchangeably with RA (Residents Association). These should not be confused with Community Associations, which do not require mandatory memberships and annual fees.
HomeOwners Associations are non-profit private organizations. They exist as an independent legal entity registered under the Societies Act in Alberta.
Community associations are responsible for running community programs and activities such as sports tournaments, elder groups, youth groups, etc.
Differences Between HOAs and Community Associations
HomeOwners Associations/Resident Associations
Have an elected board of directors
Have a volunteer board of directors
Maintain amenities through membership fees
Activities and programs are run by volunteers
Supported by developers
Supported by the city or province
Financially stable through membership fees
Rely on fundraisers
What are the HOA Responsibilities?
When developers build a community, they include amenities that need to be maintained and paid for by the community. In addition, some HOAs add more rules to protect the community's property value.
Some of these responsibilities include:
- Maintaining the community's aesthetic looks.
- Maintaining amenities such as community pools, halls, skating rinks, etc.
- Snow clearance during winter.
- Garbage collection.
- Stormwater runoff.
- Pathways and roads.
- Maintenance of entrance features.
- Repair and maintenance of landscaping.
These responsibilities vary from community to community. Typically, the more the amenities, the higher the fees.
HOA Fees in Edmonton
Over the recent years, the city of Edmonton has seen the rise in new developments in the southern and northern portions of the city, most of which are set up with HOAs. As of today, there are more than 30 HOAs in Edmonton.
Some of the HOA communities include:
- Whitemud Creek
- Whitemud Ridge
- Cameron Heights
- The Grange
Note: In most cases, HOAs do not cover the entirety of a neighbourhood. It could be several homes within a certain area or homes inside a gated community in a neighbourhood.
In terms of HOA fees, in places like the Summerside, the HOA charges anywhere from $395 to $950. In addition, these rates can be adjusted for inflation and GST (Goods and Services Tax).
These rates are among the highest in Edmonton mainly because the Summerside Community is a lake community that maintains lots of amenities including a 32-acre lake, a 10-acre park, tennis court, basketball court, tents, mini-golf, playground, pleasure skating, hockey rinks, boat docks, beach, and much more.
The Summerside HOA’s website lists the fees in the following categories:
- Lake Front - $950.15
- Lake Access - $554.30
- Standard - $395.91
In such communities, different fees for different homes are quite common. This is because some homeowners may have exclusive access to certain amenities, therefore they have to pay more to cover the maintenance.
So in the example of Summerside, homes with lakefront access pay more as they have exclusive access to piers and boat docks.
In Aurora, residents pay The Edmonton Aurora Residents Association (EARA) $100 annually for the maintenance of:
- Masonry Entry features
- Masonry Pillar (Stonework)
- Pond Fountain
- Decorative steel fence
- Wood Screen Fence
- Black Vinyl Chain Link Fence
- Soft Landscaping (trees, shrubs and sod)
HOAs in Calgary
Calgary is a city that has also experienced growth with many developments sprouting in different parts of the city.
Examples of HOAs or Residents Associations in Calgary include:
- Cornerstone Homeowners Association
- Cougar Ridge Residents’ Association
- Springside Residents’ Association
- Wentworth Residents’ Association
- West Grove Estates HOA
- Westpark Residents Association
- West Springs Farm HomeOwners Association
In terms of fees, HOAs in Calgary charge according to the cost of maintaining the communities amenities. Lake communities usually have more HOA fees compared to other communities.
For instance, Cornerstone HomeOwners Association HOA fee is only $52.50 (including GST) annually. These cover:
- The maintenance of parks, boulevards, entry monuments, structures, and public-facing fences, should the HOA decide the city is not maintaining such amenities to a satisfactory standard.
- Maintaining facilities not maintained by the city, e.g., entry signs.
- A capital reserve fund.
- Administrative, audit and legal fees.
Can HOA fees go up?
HOA fees can increase depending on the HOA’s plans. In instances where HOA members vote to build new amenities, let's say a community pool, the fees may be increased to cover such an expense.
So it's best to check an HOA's plans before buying into a community as you'll be forced to contribute to such plans.
In addition, some HOAs adjust the fees for inflation.
Can You Negotiate HOA Fees?
HOA fees are set by the board. However, HOA members can rally up support and pass amendments to reduce or increase membership fees. This may require a meeting to decide on the appropriate fees and then a vote to make a final decision.
Can HOAs Evict You Due to Non-Payment of Fees?
HOAs do not act as a landlord or owner of your property therefore, they cannot file an eviction claim. However, in certain cases, HOAs can restrict access to community amenities such as parks, sports fields and much more if HOA fees are not paid.
In addition, HOAs usually charge interest on outstanding accounts. This means such fees can balloon to astronomical amounts if left to accrue.
When you sell your home, any HOA fees and interest accrued will be deducted from the proceeds of the sale since the HOA has a registered encumbrance on the property title.
Some HOAs charge additional costs such as collection costs, late payment charges and legal fees.
Can HOAs Sell Your House?
HOAs have the power to place a lien on your house in case you fail to pay membership fees. A lien can be used to claim a legal right over your house to guarantee payment of a loan or other obligations such as payment of HOA fees.
The HOA can file a lawsuit against you and have a lien placed against your house. If non-payment of the fees continues, the HOA may foreclose on your home to recoup the HOA fees.
A lien also presents other problems as it means other parties have a claim to your house. This means refinancing or selling your house may be difficult.
Can HOAs restrict rentals?
When you join an HOA, you have to sign an agreement meaning you have to abide by the HOAs by-laws.
Some HOAs ban renting altogether, while others place restrictions on the number of homes that can be rented at a given time.
Others like the Summerside HOA in Edmonton, allow renting, however, homeowners would have to sign a Tenant Transfer Form.
The transfer means the tenants take over the landlord's HOA membership, but the catch is the landlord would take liability for the tenant's actions while on HOA amenities.
Can You Be Forced to Join an HOA?
In Canada, most HOAs are formed by developers who want to include homes in their development under an HOA. So buying such a property would mean mandatory HOA membership.
So it's best to consult with your realtor or lawyer to check whether a house is under an HOA before making a purchase. As of now, there is no database listing all the HOAs in Edmonton.
However, such information can be found by looking at a property's certificate title or HOA website.
In other situations, your neighbours may come together to form an HOA. In such an instance, they cannot force you to join their HOA as you are not a party to their agreement.