Alison Landers, a member of the homeowners’ association for Edgefield Farm in Golden Springs, chose to live in a neighborhood with an association because she takes pride in having a put-together home and wants to live near people with similar values regarding aesthetics.
“Even though the houses are different and they all look different, you still have everybody maintain their yard, and everybody keeps their house up to snuff,” Landers said. “It’s the maintenance, and overall, just a curb appeal kind of thing.”
When Anniston City Manager Brian Johnson wanted to build a doghouse in his backyard, he had to be sure to factor in several things. The doghouse had to have terracotta shingles and match all the houses in the neighborhood.
That’s because he is also chairman of the homeowners’ association for Buckner Circle at McClellan, which sets standards for what houses in the neighborhood should look like.
“This group of people gets together and keeps an eye on things,” Johnson said.
A law regarding these groups, known as the Homeowners Association Act, took effect Jan 1. Under the law, homeowners associations must register as nonprofit groups with the Alabama Secretary of State’s office or their local probate judge. Associations must also provide or direct potential buyers to public records containing information such as the homeowners’ association covenant, the current operating budget and a list of all common areas, according to the law.
The act hasn’t really affected Buckner Circle, according to Johnson. However, he said it makes it easier for people to find information on different associations.
“It hasn’t affected the way we operate in any way, shape or form,” Johnson said.
The houses in Buckner Circle, which is is also under the National Register of Historic Places, were built for Army officers, according to Johnson.
They have to receive permission from the U.S. Department of the Interior to make changes to the common areas, such as the band shell and the old guard shack on Baltzell Gate Road. Among other things, association dues in Buckner Circle help pay to maintain these common areas.
“It also preserves the integrity of the neighborhood,” Johnson said. “You’ve got to give some to get some.”
Sam Almaroad has been building homes since 1978. His subdivisions did not have homeowners’ associations in the beginning, but now several of his neighborhoods, such as Barrington Farms near Alexandria and Forest Ridge Estates near Pleasant Valley, now have them because he believes they protect residents.
“A majority of the time it works out, and I think people appreciate it,” Almaroad said.
Almaroad doesn’t have a problem with the new law. Homeowners’ associations in his subdivisions help regulate neighborhoods outside of cities like Anniston.
“If you’re out in the county and you have a homeowners’ association, then that’s a plus,” Almaroad said.
Landers, a local realtor, said there are not many homeowners’ associations in the area, and they are relegated to high-end subdivisions.
Some larger neighborhoods even have a third party enforce the subdivision covenant, and Landers wants a third party to govern her neighborhood too.
“That takes the actual homeowners out of being the bad guy,” Landers said.
Edgefield Farms is a small community, and personal issues can sometimes get in the way, according to Landers. The homeowners’ association is currently volunteer-run, which can make policing and improving the neighborhood difficult.
Though the homeowners’ association is designed to keep property values and quality of life high, there can still be some friction, according to Johnson.
“The politics of HOAs is some of the nastiest politics you’ll get into,” Johnson said.
Conflicts can sometimes get out of hand, according to Johnson, but he tries to keep everything professional.
“You get into a war of words,” Johnson said. “We’ll never be able to truly do it without issues.”
However, Landers said most people know what they’re getting themselves into when they move into her neighborhood or another covenant-protected neighborhood. People intentionally violating the covenant is rare, according to Landers.
“We have a neighborhood that we’re proud of,” Landers said. “In general, people tell me, ‘We love to ride through your neighborhood because it’s so pretty.’”