01/22/2006 12:00 AM

01/22/2006 2:53 AM

What are homeowners associations? They are neighborhood governments created to make sure homeowners do not let their houses go to pot and hurt their neighbors' property values.

There are roughly 3,000 associations in the Triangle, with more to come. The state now requires new neighborhoods of 20 or more homes to have a homeowners association.

What can they regulate? Most associations regulate what type of fences and sheds people may build, limit what people can park in their driveways and require residents to cut their grass and keep the outside of their homes relatively spic and span. Some associations also limit what color people can paint their homes, the sort of doors they put on garages and the kind of plants they place in their lawns.

Where do they get this power? Covenants written into the deed to every home they oversee.

Can people opt out? No. Associations can fine people who do not follow their rules and even foreclose on homeowners who consistently refuse to pay annual dues.

How can I get involved? Go to your annual meeting and volunteer to serve on a committee, Jim Laumann of the Homeowner Associations of North Carolina suggests. If you want to find out who runs your association, go to his organization's Web site,


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