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Owning a Home

There can be real joy and satisfaction in owning a home, especially for first-time homeowners. In addition, there are both personal and financial benefits to owning a home, regardless of the type of home you purchase. These benefits include tax deductions, appreciation value, and the ability to enjoy your home in just about any manner you choose. However, all of these activities have a legal component to them as well. This section contains articles and resources covering a variety of legal issues related to owning a home, such as homeowners insurance, property taxes and deduction, homeowner safety, and home improvement.

Home Improvement & Contracts

Homeowners typically learn how to do minor repairs, maintenance, and improvements on their own. Painting a bedroom, for example, is not difficult to learn but may take a while to master. However, rewiring your house or installing a new gas line usually requires specialized training and tools. In other words, you may need to hire contractors for certain jobs. As the word "contractor" implies, the legal relationship hinges on the terms of the contract.

Some states require the existence of a valid home improvement contract. But even if your state is not one of them, a contract will help you protect your interests. At the most basic level, the contract outlines the details of the work to be done, when it will be started and completed (approximately), and what it will cost.

When you have work done on your home, make sure to keep all receipts and contracts on file in case you need to return any materials or take legal action against a contractor. Also, it's important to thoroughly inspect the work after it is completed before signing off.

Property Taxes

Unlike renters, property owners are responsible for paying property taxes to their county government. This tax is based primarily on the value of the land, rather than the actual house or structure, and is used for local services such as schools, parks, libraries, and fire departments.

Liability & Homeowner's Insurance

Homeowners are generally liable for injuries that occur to visitors, even trespassers. This is called premises liability. For instance, a visitor who slips on an icy walkway and breaks her hip may be able to sue for damages (alleging negligence of the homeowner). A "reasonable" homeowner in this situation would either remove the ice or place a warning sign at the beginning of the walkway.

One way to protect yourself from property lawsuits is to purchase a homeowner's insurance policy, which gives the insurer the right to settle or defend lawsuits involving the insured property. Not all claims involving the property are covered, though, such as intentional acts by the homeowner.

Homeowner's insurance also covers the physical home itself, including its contents. The extent of what is covered is determined by the terms of the contract, as regulated by state insurance laws.

Home Owners' Associations

A home owners' association, or HOA, is a governing body that creates and enforces certain rules related to a "common interest" development such as a condominium complex. HOAs are intended to maintain the integrity and value of the individual units by ensuring the maintenance of common areas and a certain uniformity among each individual unit. For instance, an HOA may require homes to be a certain color scheme. Monthly HOA dues help pay for their operations, but also go toward shared landscapers and other services.

To learn more about these and other topics pertaining to home ownership, click on a link below.