What Do Your HOA Dues Pay For?


Every homeowner’s association is different. Some are small, just covering a few condo units. Others include hundreds of freestanding homes. Some serve high-rise condo complexes. There are endless configurations. But one thing every one of them has in common is dues.

At the beginning of the year, HOA boards commonly present a budget and fee structure for the coming year. New homeowners may not know how their dues are being used.

In most HOAs, being a member is not optional. When you buy a home within an HOA, you’re responsible for the dues that come with it. Dues are usually paid monthly, quarterly, or annually. Most HOA members pay less than $50 a month, but others pay upwards of $1,000 per month.

Why such a huge difference? How much you pay depends on how your HOA uses your dues.

Common Costs Covered by HOA Dues


Even the smallest HOA usually has some common outdoor area. Mowing grass, planting and maintaining flowers and bushes, and maintaining trees in common areas are all part of HOA landscaping.

Some HOAs also do lawn and yard care for individual units. If your HOA consists of freestanding condos or duplexes, your HOA may be cutting your grass and weeding your garden.

It is not unusual for the HOA to hire pest control services to keep the grounds safe and comfortable.

Snow Removal

A subset of landscaping is snow removal. HOAs often provide plowing of parking lots. But your HOA might also remove snow from streets, driveways, sidewalks, and paths to residents’ homes.

Snow removal factors into your HOA dues based on your geography and the level of services provided.

Common Areas

Landscaping is not the only responsibility of the HOA in common areas. The association maintains and repairs common buildings and structures like clubhouses, pools, and exercise facilities.

Electricity in common areas is paid for by the HOA. This includes lighting for parking lots, paths, and sometimes streets.

Your HOA keeps common areas clean, attractive, and in good working order. Utilities including electricity, heating, and cooling for common buildings like clubhouses and offices are paid for by member dues.

Other common area maintenance may include the surface of parking lots, roads, and paved pathways. Depending on your community, roads may be a municipal service not involving the HOA.

Common Structural Components

If you live in a condo complex, you share more than a greenspace or a pool with your HOA neighbors. You may share a roof, exterior walls, plumbing, electrical systems, heating and cooling, and more. Your HOA may install and maintain building-wide fire alarms or sprinkler systems.

In these buildings, you own and are responsible for the interior walls of your unit and everything inside them. The HOA owns and is responsible for everything else. Pest control may also be provided in these buildings and included in your dues.

Some of the services provided by the HOA in multi-unit buildings are required by law. This will vary depending on your location and the size and type of your community.

Amenities and Services

This is an area that differs greatly from community to community. Some homeowner’s associations are there to provide bare-bones care for common areas and nothing else. A community of freestanding homes with only a small outdoor common space may have low dues and few services.

Some HOAs provide basic municipal services like trash removal and wastewater management.

Other HOAs provide everything from security to valet service. Security is a common expense in larger condo complexes. Parking lots, gates, entrances and exits, and other areas may be staffed full- or part-time.

A high-end condo community may have concierge service, staffed lounges, and on-site fitness services including trainers. Needless to say, the dues in those buildings are higher than in other communities.


Every homeowner’s association, large or small, has insurance needs. The HOA is responsible for insuring any common areas in case of an accident or injury. Every area for which the HOA is responsible is (or should be) covered by a good insurance plan.

While your dues pay for HOA insurance, it is your responsibility to acquire and maintain homeowners insurance for those things under your control. The HOA’s insurance is not a substitute for your own policies.

When deciding how much homeowner’s insurance you need, check to see what is covered by the HOA’s policies.

Reserve Funds

A portion of your dues is tucked away each year as part of your HOA’s reserve fund. This is the money used for anticipated repairs and replacements of HOA-owned components.

The most common example of this type of expense is replacing a roof. The roof can be on a shared building with multiple homes or a common building. The roof will have an estimated lifespan when it is installed.

Your reserve study, which outlines all expected major maintenance, will indicate in which year the roof is expected to need replacement. Since the expense is large, the HOA saves for the years of the roof’s lifespan to replace it without adding a special assessment to homeowners’ dues.

The reserve fund is like a savings account, earmarked for large expenses for repair and replacement of major components.

Your HOA may also use its reserve fund for new projects. Building a new clubhouse or adding a pool to a common area can be planned for well in advance to ease the pressure on the operating budget.

Your HOA board helps the professional who prepares your reserve study so that it accurately reflects the needs and priorities of the community. So each time you pay your dues, a part of them will go to fund future maintenance and projects.

Your Dues Work Hard

Nobody likes paying their HOA dues or fees. Nobody likes paying bills of any kind. Understanding what your money pays for within your community makes it a little less painful to part with those dollars.

Homeowner’s associations that have trouble collecting dues also have trouble paying for necessary maintenance of the community. They may have less than adequate insurance and not enough money in their reserve fund to cover major expenses.

If you’re a new homeowner and are having trouble paying your dues, contact your HOA board. Try and work out a payment schedule that fits your budget.

Sometimes HOAs find themselves with members who cannot afford dues increases. If the number of members is small, the board can work with them individually. If a large number of homeowners are feeling financial strain due to fee increases, it might be time to re-examine the budget to see if there are unnecessary expenditures planned.

New homeowners with questions about their HOA dues should attend HOA meetings and ask questions. Becoming involved in your HOA can be enlightening and rewarding.

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