People living in certain communities are subject to the rules and regulations of a homeowner association, or HOA. While the intent of these HOAs is generally to maintain a certain 'standard' for the community as a whole, sometimes they can stifle the independent nature that some homeowners cherish.
In Maryland, because the HOAs are governed by law, the association must perform specific functions, such as recording specific actions taken by the association. These actions often pertain to liens against property owners who have not paid their dues, for example.
Each county in the state usually has a designated 'depository' in the department of land records where the HOA files its records. Because these are legal documents, homeowners in communities with these associations should keep themselves updated with changes and activities that might directly affect them.
When a homeowner living in such a community decides to sell his/her home, the seller is required by law to provide the prospective buyer with a copy of the HOA documents. The documents give the buyer a chance to review to determine if any rules or covenants are objectionable, and thus allows the buyer to withdraw the offer and have the deposit returned.
Since HOAs can vary from community to community in what they determine to be 'acceptable standards' for living in the community, it is essential that the prospective buyer read through the documents. Because they can be huge files, people may be tempted to bypass this opportunity for review.
It is a buyer's right to have access to this information, and real estate agents can be a conduit for gettting the documents to the appropriate people. Each time the property changes hands, these documents must be provided.
Unless a real estate agent happens to be a real estate attorney, an agent can't interpret or advise a client about what's contained in the documents. The ultimate responsibility to decide whether buyer(s) want to live in a community that has these associations is strictly up to the buyer(s). If there is any concern or question about the HOA, buyers are encouraged to contact an attorney to help with this matter.
Are HOAs a good thing or a bad thing?
The simple answer is, It depends on how much independence you want and how much you care about upholding a certain standard the HOA has established.
The choice is always yours as a buyer.