HOA Access Control – A Comprehensive Guide! 2024

gated communities

As a highly skilled and knowledgeable Homeowners Association (HOA) Manager, it is your primary responsibility to ensure the safety and security of the residents within your gated community. 

Residents have chosen this environment due to its heightened security and privacy, and you must maintain this standard. 

Conventional measures such as HOA gate systems, barrier arms, and staffed guardhouses can provide a certain degree of security. In today’s increasingly sophisticated society, it is imperative to implement additional measures to stay ahead of potential threats. 

The successful prevention of intrusion, theft, vandalism, and other criminal activities is of utmost importance. The following tips will assist in fulfilling this critical mission.

When selecting a security system for a Homeowners Association (HOA) community, it is essential to carefully evaluate various factors to determine the solution that best meets the specific needs and requirements of the community. 

  • Cost
  • Maintenance
  • Scalability
  • Integration
  • Compatibility
  • Capability

Additionally, it is essential to ensure that the system complies with local and state regulations to provide the highest level of protection for the residents and community.

This article will delve into the various components to consider when evaluating and choosing a security system for an HOA community. We aim to provide a comprehensive guide to help residents, property managers, and board members make informed decisions that will result in a secure and protected community.

In this this comprehensive guide we’ll cover:

Let’s get started!

Barrier Arms vs Iron Gates

Iron gates and barrier arms are two common forms of access control in gated communities. Both methods aim to control the flow of traffic in and out of the community and enhance security. However, there are several differences between the two.

Iron gates are physical barriers that prevent vehicles from entering or leaving the community. They can be operated manually or automatically and are usually the primary form of access control in gated communities. 

HOA Access Control

They are designed to be decorative and functional to provide high security and privacy. Iron gates are also very durable and can last for several decades with proper maintenance.

Barrier arms, on the other hand, are a type of mechanical barrier used to control the flow of vehicles. 

Through an electronic access control system, barrier arms grant or deny access based on specific conditions, such as the time of day or the driver’s identity. Barrier arms are commonly used in parking lots, toll booths, and gated communities.

Main Differences

The most significant difference between iron gates and barrier arms is the level of security they provide. 

Iron gates offer a higher level of protection because they are physical barriers that cannot be easily breached. On the other hand, barrier arms are more vulnerable to tampering and can be easily bypassed if not adequately secured.

Another difference between iron gates and barrier arms is the level of control provided. Iron gates give residents more control over who can enter or leave the community. 

HOA Access Control

For example, residents can open the gate manually to allow visitors in or use an intercom system to speak to visitors before granting access. On the other hand, barrier arms are usually operated by an electronic access control system, so residents have less control over who can enter the community.

In terms of cost, barrier arms are generally less expensive than iron gates. They are also easier to install and maintain compared to iron gates.

While both iron gates and barrier arms are effective forms of access control in gated communities, the choice between the two will depend on the community’s specific needs and the level of security and control desired. To learn more about barrier arms please read our Guide to Barrier Arms

HOA Gate Operators

Gate operators are systems used to automate the process of opening and closing gates, typically in the context of access control for properties such as residential communities, commercial buildings, and industrial sites.

hoa access control

They typically receive a signal from a remote control, keypad, or other access control device. The signal triggers a motor within the gate operator to move the gate in an open or closed position. The operator stops the gate’s movement if it encounters an obstacle for safety reasons.

Some gate operators are designed for specific types of gates, such as sliding or swinging gates, while others are more versatile and can work with various gate styles. Many gate operators also feature adjustable settings for speed, force, and timing, which can be customized to meet the needs of the property owner or manager.

In addition to primary gate opening and closing functions, many gate operators offer advanced features such as built-in access control systems, integration with security cameras, and remote monitoring capabilities. 

The use of gate operators can significantly enhance the security and convenience of a property, allowing for easy, automated access control while minimizing the need for manual intervention.

Choosing a quality gate operator is vital because it affects the gate system’s long-term reliability, safety, and security. A well-made operator will have fewer malfunctions, require less maintenance, and have a longer lifespan than a lower-quality one. 

Additionally, quality operators typically have better safety features, such as obstacle detection and emergency stop functions, which can help prevent accidents. 

On the other hand, a low-quality operator is more likely to break down, require frequent repairs, and pose a safety risk. Over time, the cost of maintaining a low-quality operator can add up and surpass the price of a quality operator.

Investing in quality gate operators can save time, money, and potential headaches in the long run. When working with your access control installer, you’ll want to understand what operators recommend and why. You can dig into researching that manufacturer. 

Here is a list of more well-known gate operator manufacturers. 

  • Max Operators: Crafted in the USA, Max Operators are known for their reliable and secure gate operators made from quality materials. With a range of products to choose from, they have something for everyone.
  • Magnetic: Magnetic offers innovative gate operators that combine performance and value. Their products are designed with the latest technology for maximum reliability, convenience, and safety.
  • LiftMaster: LiftMaster is widely recognized as an industry leader in commercial and residential gate operator systems. They create durable components to ensure long-lasting operation no matter what environment you’re working in.
  • Doorking: Doorking has been providing top-quality gate operator solutions since 1957. Their products are designed to be user-friendly and offer superior performance with the latest technology.
  • Viking: Viking is renowned for its reliable gate operators handling any application or environment. They use innovative solutions to ensure your system runs smoothly, safely, and efficiently.
  • HySecurity: HySecurity is a leading manufacturer of secure and dependable gate operator systems for commercial and residential applications. Advanced features like remote access provide an unbeatable level of security and convenience.

Is Your HOA Guarded or Not Guarded?

There are two main scenarios when it comes to gated communities: guarded and un-guarded. 

HOA Access Control


An important aspect of a gated community is determining how visitors, vendors, and service providers will enter. Gated communities can either be guarded or unguarded.

Guard gated communities typically have two entry lanes, one for residents, one for visitors 

Located next to the guard house, the visitor lane has a guard who confirms the visitor’s eligibility where one of several actions can be performed such as:

  • Pass printing
  • Pass Scanning 
  • Drivers License Scanning
  • Processing
  • License Plate Recognition 

Every HOA tasks their gate attendants with different visitor processing protocols, and these are all procedural components of your security operation. 

Whatever the procedure, it is important to understand the importance of a good visitor management system and have one in place. Today, many guard gated communities still use pen and paper. 

HOA Visitor management

Clearly, this method lacks accuracy and accountability, is subject to human error, and limits historical data in the event of an indecent

It’s also important to consider software that interfaces with your management, security team, and residents. 

It is still common for gated communities to rely on residents calling down to the gate house and telling the guard of a visitor’s arrival. 

With modern software, residents can manage their own guest list of temporary and permanent visitors and service providers. As well as text their visitors digital ePasses ahead of time.

By using a visitor management software, you will be able to keep track of temporary and long-term guests, service providers, short-term rental guests, and everything in between.

Choosing a Security Company

It’s important to do your due diligence on the security company you hire to man the gatehouses.

HOA Access Control

Heres why!

  • A well-trained security guard can deter criminal activity and provide residents with peace of mind.
  • A professional security guard company can perform regular patrols, monitor access points, and respond to security incidents to maintain the safety and security of the community.
  • Security guards are trained to respond quickly and effectively to emergencies to ensure residents’ safety.
  • Ensure a harmonious living environment for residents by enforcing community rules and regulations.
  • By monitoring and deterring vandalism, theft, and other criminal activities, security guards can help protect community property.
  • The highest standards of conduct and performance can be expected from a reputable security guard company, as their guards will be trained, licensed, and insured.
  • Therefore, hiring a good security guard company is essential to ensure the safety, security, and well-being of residents in a gated community or HOA.

All this comes at a price, however! HOAs can certainly pay a high price for gate attendants, so some of them now implement a virtual or remote visitor processing system.

Remote and Virtual Gate Guards

Typically, a remote or virtual guarding company will install a kiosk at your visitor entrance. Typically, kiosks come with cameras, IP telephones, pass scanners, and sometimes driver’s license scanners.

HOA Access Control

It usually works like this: A visitor drives up, they press a button to speak to a gate attendant sitting in an office somewhere. The gate attendant confirms the visitor’s identity and ensures they are on the host’s visitor list. The visitor will be let through if they are, if not, the gate attendant will contact the host and confirm permission to enter.

This could be further enhanced with license plate recognition access and ePass scanning for returning visitors, but you get the idea.

Virtual guarding companies can offer these services for a quarter of the cost of having a permanent guard on site. Read: Gate Guard Cost Vs Virtual Guard

Some HOAs are going hybrid!

Hybrid Gate Security

Finally, some communities have hybrid HOA gate systems – a combination of both guarded and unguarded gates. This allows for the best of both worlds – the human presence of a guard during busy hours, coupled with the convenience and cost savings of an automated system when there is less traffic.

The key here is to find the right balance between security and convenience, as well as cost-effectiveness.

Unmanned Gated Community Access

Many (if not most) HOA communities are non-guarded. This means that there is no human presence at the gate but instead a system of gates and barriers that control entry into and out of the community.

Non-guarded systems come in many shapes and sizes, but many will be simple intercom or keypad entry systems. These have their challenges – for instance, a resident may not be able to let in their guest if they are away from home.

residential intercom telephone entry system

But they are also much more inexpensive, given the lack of human presence required. They can also be monitored remotely and integrated with other systems, such as surveillance cameras or access control systems, to provide a more comprehensive security presence. 

Now if your HOA is using an intercom with a pin-pad…

Avoid universal gate entry codes and upgrade to smart entry systems

One of the main concerns we get when speaking with HOA boards is that everyone uses the same access code, with an old pin-pad AND the entire town knows the code to get through the gates. Many communities are now looking to do away with universal codes and use unique access codes with pre-determined day, time, and use durations. Many modern solutions will integrate with smart telephone entry systems that will accept digital passes sent to visitors by residents, provide security snapshots, as well as capture license plate and vehicle images of each visitor.

Gated community security system

Visitors can drive up to the telephone entry units and input a unique one-time access code or scan a digital QR code. By doing this you limit the sharing of a universal code and you are able to track visitor entries and pull reports should an incident occur. You can even limit the number of times a code can be used per day or enable anti-passback in increase security. This comes in handy when your residents want to give recurring service providers access for example pool cleaners and landscapers.

Consider Cloud-based Access Control Systems

Homeowner associations (HOAs) play an important role in the security and management of residential communities. An HOA has the responsibility to ensure the safety of residents, manage common areas and amenities, and maintain property values. One way to achieve these objectives is by selecting a good cloud-based access control software.

The following are some reasons why a cloud-based access control system might be a good choice for an HOA:

  • Enhanced Security: With a cloud-based access control system, the HOA is able to monitor who is entering and exiting the community, as well as when and where access is granted. Additionally, the system can alert the HOA if an unauthorized entry is attempted.
  • Convenience: Cloud-based HOA gate systems enable HOAs to remotely manage and control community access from anywhere they have an internet connection. This eliminates the need for manual processes such as manually checking identification, or physically unlocking doors, and saves time and resources.
  • Scalability: A cloud-based system can easily be adapted to meet the changing needs of the community because they are highly scalable. This makes it ideal for new developments and HOAs that are experiencing growth or change.
  • Data Management: Cloud-based access control systems provide a centralized repository of access control records, making it easier for HOAs to manage and organize data and generate reports and audits.

Access Device Options

When it comes to resident access, there are several options to choose from, including RFID, mobile, license plates, remote controls, and key fobs (as mentioned earlier).

HOA Access Control
  • RFID (Radio Frequency Identification) is a contactless technology that uses radio waves to identify and track objects. In the context of access control, RFID-enabled vehicle transponders, cards or key fobs can be used as credentials to grant access to residents. RFID systems are most commonly used for vehicle access because they are secure, fast, convenient and offer higher reliability than other systems.
  • Mobile credentials are becoming increasingly popular, as they allow residents to use their smartphones as a means of access control. Mobile credentials offer the convenience of not having to carry physical keys or fobs and can be easily managed and revoked remotely. However, this system may be less secure than other options if the phone is lost or stolen.
  • License plate recognition is a valuable option for gated communities with a high vehicle traffic volume. This system uses cameras and license plate recognition software to identify vehicles and grant access based on pre-authorized license plates. 
  • Remote controls, like key fobs, are small, handheld devices that grant access to gates. They offer high security and convenience but can be easily lost or stolen. Additionally, they often require a battery to function and may need to be replaced periodically.

The bottom line is that the right access control solution and credentials will depend on your community’s specific needs. Cloud-based access control systems, in combination with state-of-the-art security technology, can offer a secure and convenient way to manage access and provide residents with peace of mind.

Consider Mobile Credentials

Smartphone-based credentials automate resident access to community doors and gates and eliminate several issues stemming from devices like fobs and proximity cards. With these devices, you run into what we call Loss, Loan, and Clone. 

Residents lose them, they lend them to friends and family, and they can clone them. 

There are minimal security risks associated with smartphone-based credentials because of strong encryption. They are assigned and verified to one device; they cannot be transferred, cloned, or re-issued. 

A resident is a lot less likely to let someone borrow their iPhone 13 Pro Max to use the tennis courts than they are a plastic fob. 

In addition, the management of mobile credentials takes a load off of property managers. Issue them over email and automatically activate and deactivate resident credentials who move in or move out.

Controlling Access To Amenities

Many access control issues stem from unauthorized people attempting to use amenities such as swimming pools, tennis courts, fitness centers, playgrounds, and other recreational areas. 

These spaces should be accessible only to authorized users so they can enjoy them safely without fear of trespassers or vandalism.

Use valid credentials (such as RFID cards or key fobs) to control entry into shared facilities like swimming pools, gyms, and parking lots. Access control can also be applied to features like BBQs and spas, allowing them to be turned on only after presenting a valid credential.

Spa Access Control

Implementing credential-based access control for all common areas provides additional security benefits for all residents and reduces the risk of unauthorized use. In turn, this creates a safer environment for everyone and gives residents peace of mind knowing that their community is protected.

The Use of Digital ePasses

ePasses with one-time access codes are another solution to consider. Digital ePasses are similar to eBoarding passes. It is possible to email and/or text them to vendors and visitors. EPasses contain temporary security codes that grant temporary access to gated communities. This system is excellent for visitors such as delivery personnel or service technicians who need one-time access to the community.

digital epasses

One-time access codes allow authorized users to gain entry into the community without providing a permanent credential like an RFID card or key fob. The code generally has a limited time before it expires, which helps ensure that only those with valid authorization can enter the community. 

Additionally, these HOA gate systems typically have advanced features such as real-time monitoring and audit trails, which help with accountability and security.

Other strategies include using security cameras and intercoms and implementing a visitor management system. Security cameras monitor activity at the gate, while intercom systems communicate between the guardhouse and visitors.

Finally, a visitor management system helps streamline the process of granting access by allowing residents to pre-register visitors, track entry/exit times, and receive notifications when guests arrive or leave.

Consider Installing License Plate Recognition

License Plate Readers (LPR) can be a helpful addition to a gated community’s security system. These systems use optical character recognition (OCR) technology to convert the textual image of a license plate into a readable format that can be analyzed and reported on through software. 

In addition to detecting and memorizing license plates, modern LPR systems also provide a wealth of reporting options.

Some LPR systems allow pre-registered guests and vehicles to be granted access through the use of license plate cameras. This can be an efficient way to manage access and make the process of entering the property easier for residents.

HOA Access Control

A great example is Proptia’s ALPR (Automatic License Plate Recognition) Module, which offers a modern and advanced solution for managing access control in gated communities. 

The OCR system and analytics app allow the automatic conversion of license plate images into readable formats, which can then be analyzed and reported via software.

The key benefits of using the Proptia ALPR Module are:

  • Advanced Technology: Unlike regular security cameras, Proptia ALPR uses smart technology to detect and memorize license plate numbers, making monitoring and controlling access to the community easier.
  • Remote Monitoring: Proptia ALPR allows you to remotely monitor the vehicles entering and leaving the community through a cloud-based app. This makes it easy to track who is coming and going, even when you’re not on the premises.
  • Reporting Features: Proptia ALPR provides a wealth of reporting options, including details on the make, model, color, and type of vehicles that enter the community, as well as the time they arrive and leave. This makes it easy to keep track of vehicle activity and maintain records for security purposes.
  • Access Control: Some systems even allow license plate cameras to be used to grant access to pre-registered guests and vehicles, providing an added layer of security and control.

HOA Security Cameras

A security camera system is essential to maintaining a gated community’s security. Residential gated HOAs commonly use Network Video Recorder (NVR) CCTV systems due to their reliability and ease of use. 

The NVR system is responsible for capturing video footage, which can be easily retrieved and viewed through the NVR’s software interface.

Don’t limit yourself to one type

When selecting a security camera system for your gated community, it’s important not to limit yourself to just one type of camera. 

There are many different types of security cameras available, each with its own unique features and capabilities. For example, some cameras are designed for outdoor use and can withstand harsh weather conditions, while others are intended for indoor use and provide higher image resolution. 

Install security cameras in strategic locations

To ensure maximum security and coverage, it’s important to install security cameras in strategic locations throughout your gated community. This may include installing cameras at entry points, around shared amenities like swimming pools or gyms, and in high-traffic areas like parking lots.

Legal considerations

Before installing security cameras in your gated community, you must understand the legal considerations involved. In some jurisdictions, there may be privacy laws that limit the use of security cameras in certain areas. Research the specific laws and regulations in your area and ensure that your security camera system is compliant.

Put signs up to let residents know

Finally, informing residents about the security cameras in your gated community is important. This can be done by putting up signs in visible locations, such as near entry points, to remind residents that they are being recorded. 

This not only provides additional peace of mind for residents, but it also serves as a deterrent to would-be criminals.

Integrated Systems

Integrated systems provide a convenient and efficient way to manage the security of a gated community. Proptia offers an integrated platform that combines visitor management, access control, license plate recognition into one comprehensive system. 

This not only reduces the amount of work required in its implementation but also streamlines the process of maintenance and administration.

In addition to simplifying day-to-day operations, an integrated system provides other advantages as well. 

For example, by utilizing such a system, communities can rely on just one vendor for all their needs rather than having multiple vendors for various components of their security setup. This saves time, money, and effort as it eliminates the need to negotiate multiple contracts or manage multiple service providers.

Furthermore, an integrated system allows communities to customize their security setup according to their specific needs and requirements. For example, they can choose which components of the system are active in certain areas or for certain visitors. 

They can also define different levels of access control based on the type of visitors, such as employees or guests. This ensures that a community’s security is tailored to its exact specifications while ensuring maximum safety and efficiency. 

Finally, with an integrated system, communities have access to real-time data about who is entering and leaving their premises. This allows them to monitor their security setup in real-time and make changes as necessary, ensuring that their community remains secure at all times. 

Overall, integrated systems provide a comprehensive and efficient way to manage the security of a gated community. With Proptia’s integrated platform, communities can benefit from streamlined operations, customized security features, and real-time data about who is entering and leaving their premises – all while relying on just one vendor for all their needs.


Are you a property manager or HOA board member looking to upgrade your current access management system? There are many moving parts of a well functioning HOA access control system. It’s important to understand the various components involved from the gates and operators to the technology and software used to automate the system. One of the great things about Proptia is that it’s a single sign-on software that can connect to your infrastructure and deploy a complete system quickly and efficiently. Learn more about its features by booking a demo with a Solutions Consultant today!

Are you a property manager or HOA board member looking to upgrade your current access management system? You can’t go wrong with Proptia. Learn more about its features by booking a demo with a Solutions Consultant today!


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