Should I Worry About Small Homeowner Associations?

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Q: Any suggestions for buying an apartment in a small building without getting stuck with feuding neighbors? As a renter, I've dealt with my share of crazy landlords and neighbors. I'd like to avoid this when we buy a place in the Boston area. However, in our area, nearly all apartments for sale are in two or three family houses, with the HOA consisting solely of the owners. I'm really scared of potential clashes with neighbors who have some legal authority over my home!

In the past I've had a landlord who came unhinged and attempted to extort money from, wrongfully evict, and even move in with her tenants; and a neighbor who would harass us and lodge false complaints (claiming we were throwing loud parties when we weren't home, etc.). In both cases it got so bad that I had to move - not something you can do when you've sunk a lot of principal into a home. I asked some real estate agents whether there were condos that were managed professionally or by a neutral third party, and they said there were hardly any like that. We don't have the time, money, or inclination to buy and maintain a single family house. No one we know wants to buy a multi-family with us, and we don't want to be landlords, so buying a multi-family is out. Even if we research and like the neighbors at the time we buy, what if they move? Are we doomed to rent forever?

Sent by Caitlin

Editor: Please share your advice with Caitlin in the comments below - thanks!

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Janel Laban is the Executive Editor of Apartment Therapy and has been working here, at the dreamiest of dream jobs, since March 2006.