In Virginia, there is a law, The Property Owner Association Act, that provides a prospective buyer with a framework and a time frame for reviewing the Property Owners Association (POA) Documents associated with a specific property. Upon receipt of these documents  the buyer has three days from receipt of the Property Owners Documents to review, and if necessary void, the contract.

This sounds very simple, but what exactly to buyers and sellers need to know about this when they have a contract to buy or sell a home in Virginia?

  1. There can be more than one Property Owners Association per home. In Reston, for instance, there is often both a cluster association and the Reston Association. The option to void remains in effect until the buyer has had the LAST DELIVERED SET for three days.
  2. Because of the option to void, sellers should order the documents as soon as they can; the sooner they are delivered, the sooner the option to void expires. No one wants these documents delivered right before closing!
  3. If there is more than one association, there can be more than one set of property violations. Most documents involve some sort of inspection.  Often there are two such inspections and the lists can be the same, or they can include different things.
  4. If violations are cited, it is the seller’s responsibility to correct them before closing. If they do not, the violations become the buyer’s violations. 
  5. Violations cited in the POA docs are not the same as items identified in the home inspection (although they can be). If the buyer agrees to accept a flat amount of money in lieu of correction,  the re-inspection and any further obligation to the community become solely the buyer’s responsibility.
  6. The delivery method for these documents is clearly spelled out in the contract. Your Realtor should pay careful attention to deliver the documents as specified. If it says to email them to a specific email address, then don’t drop them off at their agent’s office. It is important to follow delivery instructions so that everyone knows when the clock starts on the three day review.
  7. There is a lot of content in the POA docs. Be sure to read these documents–even when it is tempting not to. You don’t want to find out later that the association is being sued by former homeowners or that the reserves for neighborhood improvements are inadequate.
  8. Buyers can, and will, use the POA docs to get out of a contract simply because they have cold feet. This is why, as a seller, you should do everything that you can to get these documents to them as soon as possible. Maybe they will still cancel the contract, but depending on when and how, the seller may be eligible to keep the Earnest Money. If they use the POA docs as their reason for voiding, the money is generally returned to the buyer.
  9. These are ‘living’ documents; they change with every month and every new association meeting. You cannot recycle the version you got when you purchased your home and be in compliance with the POA Act.  A new, fresh set of documents must be ordered for each sale. 
  10. Most (but not all) associations will allow you defer payment until closing.
  11. The seller is the one who pays for these documents. 

There is a lot more to the POA Act, but these are the items that I seems to get the most questions about.

None of this is intended as legal advice (I am not an attorney!), but rather as some practical information that I have learned through the years. Like every other aspect of having a property under contract, understanding the POA documents and the laws that govern how they are delivered and what they must contain is very important to a successful sale and closing.