3 Ways Outside Investors Could Hurt Your HOA (And 3 Simple Solutions)

Anyone trying to buy a home right now knows that the market is a mess and that investors are their only real competition. The Washington Post determined that outside investors purchased a record share of sold homes across 40 major metropolitan areas in the US last year (1 in 7 homes sold!)  But this isn’t just hurting home buyers. That’s a huge number of absentee homeowners renting out space in condos and HOAs. A few long-term renters in your HOA or condo association aren’t a problem in the grand scheme of things, but rentals can get very out of hand very quickly if left unchecked. 

Community Associations – It’s a Numbers Game

Keeping investors out isn’t a simple, or even always desired task. Because investors are not inherently bad. Especially in coveted vacation destinations, everyday people want to own a sweet little slice of heaven that they can use as they please and then rent out for the other half of the year. But too many investor-owned properties in your condo or HOA can alter the nature and even purpose of a community association.

The problem with investment properties becoming a significant percentage of your community association’s roster boils down to a potential lack of accountability. It’s kind of like one of those word problems you used to have in math class:

Let’s say you inherit a large garden space, and you are a watermelon lover. You share 500 garden plots with friends and neighbors so you can all grow watermelons to enjoy this summer. In the first year, you all grow delicious, beautiful watermelons, and life is good. But if the following year, 300 of the plot owners start letting people come in and use their soil however they like, the remaining 200 are stuck dealing with the potential consequences. One guy went and planted thistle, and the guy two plots away is planting lavender, and someone else planted cotton which would probably have been fine but now there’s a bull weevil infestation. Now the entire garden is suffering. If all 500 original gardeners were collectively responsible, it wouldn’t be such a challenge to face. But contacting absent gardeners to resolve the messes made by their amateur gardening buddies grows slimmer as the numbers climb– it’s just too much work for too few people.

In the story, your community is the garden, and the 200 who got stuck are the homeowners who are living in their own homes in the community. They are the ones left holding the bag when absentee investors do not respect the rules or engage with their community.

3 Ways Absentee Homeowners Can Hurt Your Condo or HOA

Making Quorum

Homeowner apathy has long been a thorn in the backside of HOAs and condo associations. From dismal meeting attendance to push-back on necessary assessment increases, condos and HOAs struggle when it comes to engaging with their residents. Now imagine half or more of your community’s homes aren’t owner-occupied or even human-owned if a business or conglomerate has bought them as an investment! Getting the votes to amend community documents, raising assessments, implementing special assessments–all of it becomes much harder, if not impossible, to accomplish. If homeowner delinquency reaches dangerous levels, coming back from those losses will be even more difficult to do successfully.

Community Comes Second

Especially when dealing with large, well-funded corporate investment entities, keeping your community, well, a community, becomes increasingly difficult. To a company, your community is a stream of revenue–it’s business! And that isn’t a bad thing on its own, but it can deeply impact everything that goes into creating a harmonious living space. Now it isn’t just about the maintenances that can’t get approved or the special assessments that are needed. Any changes to the community that help improve general camaraderie or success are likely to be shot down by those who are more concerned about their bottom lines than the welfare of families.

Investors Can Stage a Literal Coup

This is not a scare tactic or an “only in the right circumstances” situation we’re talking about–certain state laws, like Arizona’s Condo Act, include language that allows for Termination of Condominium in the event that a specified percentage of the units (80% in AZ) agree to terminate the community association. For investors, this means they could dissolve a community and force the remaining homeowners to sell their homes at “fair market value,” to be determined by an appraiser hired by the 80% calling for dissolution. 

3 Ways HOAs and Condo Associations Can Push Back on Outside Investors

Keeping your community healthy is a necessity. Sometimes the best option is to stop potential nonsense before it has a chance to get out of hand. HOAs and condos have some options when it comes to weeding out the bad-faith investors and identifying the good ones that will contribute to your healthy community.

Set a floor.

Implementing rental minimums can be a huge help in staving off corporate investors. One popular option is imposing a minimum length for a lease. Dictating that leases must be over a certain number of days (30, for example) keeps away anyone trying to make a quick buck on pricey weekender rentals. You could also set a restriction on WHEN a tenant is allowed to begin leasing their units. Seven months is a common bar–it’s not so long that it turns away owners looking to have a winter or summer vacation property, but it’s longer than many corporate investors are willing to wait to begin renting a unit, especially when flips these days take so little time. 

Set a ceiling.

Setting a bar on the maximum rental occupancy for the whole community is a brilliant way to stop investor encroachment. Limiting the rental percentage well below that 80% threshold we talked about is the simplest way to avoid investors taking over and dissolving your community out from underneath you and your homeowners. By setting a realistic, healthy rental percentage (which will vary by community size and location), boards can minimize the number of investors interested in buying property in the community.

Play to your strengths.

Your authority as the trustees of the community is likely the strongest asset you have when it comes to combatting absentee homeownership. Requiring board approval of all future tenants are one way of slowing short-term rentals. Requiring background checks on potential renters is another tool to utilize. They help protect the community, but also cost the landlord a nominal fee that really starts to add up the more tenants they bring in. And proper enforcement of your CC&Rs, like trash cans being left out too long or damages to community property, will make investors think twice about bringing in a high volume of unpredictable tenants.

Don’t Forget a Collections Plan

Outside investors are here to stay, for better or for worse. Sooner or later, they will have a space in your community, and when that happens, it’s important to consider what that means, and have plans in place to keep them in check. That includes a plan for community collections because even major corporate entities can fall behind on monthly assessments. Axela Technologies can help with any collections efforts your HOA or condo association has, including collecting from corporate investors. Call us today for your no-risk, no-cost consultation.

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