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Subject: California Ombudsman
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LindaL


Posts:0


02/10/2006 4:29 PM  
There is pending Legislation in California for a pilot ombudsman to resolve HOA problems. I've noticed some groups such as AHRC are angered over this and would like to know what could be wrong with this new program? I feel that homeowners need a place to go to resolve problems besides hiring an attorney. I feel that HOA board members and management companies have too much unbridled power which goes unchecked. Just my humble opinion.
Linda
KathyS
(California)

Posts:145


02/11/2006 12:05 AM  
Although a good idea in theory, you and I are going to have to pay additional money to cover this legislation. Every other year, you and I will pay $10. The Boards, management companies, vendors, lawyers, CAI, CLAC, CACM or ECHO will not pay a dime.

Second, they will be only a place to complain. There will be no resolution of problems between a homeowner and an association other than possible mediation which we already have access to.

It is a pilot program that will be reviewed in a year or two and maybe become a program that will be of true use to the homeowners.

At first I was excited about this. I thought FINALLY!! But after reading who is supporting the legislation, as in CAI, I have to wonder how much use it will be to any of us and once again it will be business as usual.

There is much ado about nothing. I'm sure you and I won't be on the committee. It will be the big shots with the big money who really don't care what happens to you and me. CLRC is even taking what CAI is saying as fact. When I exposed CAI latest factoid to CLRC, I was met with no reply. When 80 people are called, with phone numbers of those 80 people provided by CAI, almost all of them were very happy living in HOA's. I asked what about the other people who live in the 36,000 HOA's in California? I know I didn't get a call from the polling company and no one I know did. I would bet money you didn't get a phone call either.

So when legislation is based on lies and misinformation, no programs are going to help the underdogs.
LindaL


Posts:0


02/11/2006 4:47 PM  
Thanks for your input. I take it we will still have the option of hiring an attorney and suing the HOA?
Linda
AlexN1
(California)

Posts:3


07/05/2006 9:11 AM  
I was saddened to see California's SB551 go down to defeat by just one vote. It would have established an ombudsman role at the state level to assist Associations and Homeowners in settling disputes that otherwise can only be handled by someone suing in a court of law. This blockade is what allows renegade Boards of Directors to rule over associations like a bunch of storm troopers. The cost for such a service, as stated in the proposed bill, was just $5 per year per homeowner. Why was I so anxious to see this bill passed? Well in our Association, our board felt it proper to hire an ombudsman (who just happens to be a homeowner himself) to mediate in matters of dispute amongst homeowners and the board. This function is one that is supposed to be handled by the management company that the association uses along with the permanent paid attorney the board has hired, who basically runs the association. Here's the disgusting part....this paid homeowner gets an annual salary of $82,200. We are an association of 575 homes so that works out to $142.96 we pay each year to this bozo who took a six week course in mediation and is supposed to be independent. How independent can he be when the Board pays him these big bucks. The homeowners get no reporting on how many matters of mediation he has handled for a week, month or year. He is a "good old boy" to the Board. He has already been named in a law suit by the State of California for performance as the Landscape Committee Chairman, which is supposed to be another of his volunteer duties. How do we change this? One would have to go into court on an individual basis and sue over the conflict of interest that exists. Many homeowners don't have the financial where-with-all to jump into litigation to settle matters and the SB551 would have transferred that to a State agency to provide relief to homeowners who are being abused by their untouchable boards of didrectors. I'm searching for any other HOA that actually pays a person to act as ombudsman on an annual salaried basis.
NancyM2
(California)

Posts:249


07/05/2006 12:04 PM  
As a homeowner and former treasurer of our BOD I request the financial's occasionally. I have complained about our excessive spending, and exceeding the budget. Therefore they redact several items I recieve on the financials. Many of which shouldn't have any connection to "Attorney Client Privilege" How do I find out which of these redacted items are legitimate.

Recently our Board has created a unprecendented position for a Ombudsman to handle such matters. Since this homeowner/Ombudsman is a friend of the board, and needed a job, they hired him for a position we never had before. and are paying him in excess of 82 thousand a year. with no previous experience as a Ombudsman. Since he is obligated to this board for his position, how could be be impartial. I consider this to be "conflict of interest" Could you please advise me.

Sincerely
Nancy L. Mason
Coast Homeowners Asso.
RogerB
(Colorado)

Posts:5067


07/05/2006 12:20 PM  
Nancy, as a former Treasurer I presume you already know it is an absolute NO NO to modify an HOA financial report unless an error is being corrected. And then there should be an explanation and it becomes the final or official report. Make a request to the Board that they use GAAP.

Do you really have so many mediation problems that it justifies spending $82,000 annually? That is unbelievable. You need a better Management Company and a better Board of Directors so you will not need an Ombudsman.
BradP
(Kansas)

Posts:2640


07/05/2006 12:51 PM  
Nancy:

all I can say is wow! I will listen to people complain for $82,000 a year. My first opinion is that your association is wasting $82,000 a year, and my second opinion is the same. I don't see any scenario where that cost would be justified.
NancyM2
(California)

Posts:249


07/05/2006 2:31 PM  
Dear Roger

Thank you for your speedy reply. Since we are in California, and you are from Colorado. I assume the law's might be different. I was told that anything that is "Attorney Client Priviledge" can be redacted from our financial's. not the dollar amount, just the name of the transaction. However they are redacting items under Geotechnical consulting etc. What is more puzzleing is an item that was redacted under the Laing settlement (a case that was just settled) the item that was redacted had an address where the check was sent for $1,399.50 Upon checking the tax roles I find that address belongs to our "in house" attorney's GRANDMOTHER. Why would we be sending her a check, and what would the attorneys grandmother have to do with a case we just settled.

Roger, you are preaching to the choir ~~ I also think we need a better Mgmt Co, and board. You miss the point ~ This board is feathering the nest of one of their buddies with our nickle. We never needed an Ombudsman/medition person before. But what can I do about it.

Nancy Mason
NancyM2
(California)

Posts:249


07/05/2006 3:07 PM  
Roger

Perhaps I should have asked what constitutes "Attorney Client Privilege" and would it be the same in both states??
Thank you again for your attention to this matter.

Nancy Mason
California
LisaS
(Illinois)

Posts:341


07/05/2006 3:55 PM  
In our state (and HOA) we are not allowed to discuss pending litigation, however that which is settled is fair game.

I would also have to wonder what was being hidden. Perhaps a request for an audti should be forthcoming?
AlexN1
(California)

Posts:3


07/05/2006 4:43 PM  
We have a very strange association. 575 homeowners, yet all you ever get out to a meeting is about15 which shows how complacent people are until they are hit by an assessment. Our Association has been in bankruptcy TWICE and endured a classic class action suit where 470 of the 575 homeowners joined the class and foolishly sued the Association which was "themselves". Obviously, the attorney got the lion share of the settlement and homeowners suffered a special assessment to cover legal costs of fighting the class action. They threw out the existing board, of which I was a member,in early 2003 and with a five member board, that has turned over three times in three years, they have an attorney basically running the board who will not accept the position of President. Our board has not had the President's position filled since Sept 2003, even though California Corporation Codes require that corporations have a President or Chairman of the Board. When asked why he doesn't just accept the role, he replies, "I don't want a bullseye on my back." The association also had a full time paid attorney, whose brother happens to be a homeowner in the association. The management company they use is one of the most expensive in the state and still don't provide all the services they were contracted for. Our's is clearly the Homeowners Association from Hell.
Alex,
RogerB
(Colorado)

Posts:5067


07/05/2006 5:11 PM  
Nancy, I am not an attorney.

Some of my understanding on the attorney-client privilege is: "only the client may waive the privilege and consent to reveal information an attorney has received from the client. The confidential communication covered by this privilege may be written or oral and must occur under the existence of legal counsel being sought by the client. Anyone who is working on client matters and has access to the confidential information of the client may be held to the attorney-client privilege. The fee arrangement between the attorney and the client is not covered by the privilege. Only if the details of such an agreement would reveal the identity of a client, would this fall under the guidelines of the privilege."

I don't see why your HOA (the client) would not reveal information about your attorney and related fees to the members of the HOA (unless as you suspect the Board is doing something wrong). I would not reveal the name of the other party in an active suit. But I would provide ALL financial information without naming the other party. I see this as part of your HOA's information and not related to the other party's attorney-client privilege.

I understood your concerns and again - get a new Board, a new MC, and no Ombudsman.

GeraldT1


Posts:0


07/06/2006 8:27 AM  
NancyM2,

What can you do about it? Perhaps the $82,000.00 fee for Ombudsman exceeds the threashold the board can decide on their own to expense. In other words, this expense may require a 2/3rd's majority vote because it exceeds a certain percentage of your operating budget. Check your gov. docs, perhaps there is a by-law or provision on this. Furthermore, you could always divulge your findings at an open meeting.

GeraldT1
NancyM2
(California)

Posts:249


07/06/2006 9:15 AM  
Gerald: Thank you for your input. I believe we do have a rule that we cannot exceed 5% of our budget for "Capital improvements", without a 2/3rd vote from the homeowners. Something I will look into. Many of our homeowners have complained about the Ombudsman expense, but the board turns a deaf ear to them. we are a communnity of 575 homes, with a 1M plus budget, So certainly something to look into. Many of our homeowners are complacent and do not attend meetings. I am known as the Anti-Christ of our communnity by our board, as I ask to many questions. As a former Treasurer, that was partly responsible for pulling us out of a deep financial hole, I still feel responsible to our homeowners to DO THE RIGHT THING.

Again Thank you for your attention to this matter

Nancy
NancyM2
(California)

Posts:249


07/06/2006 9:17 AM  
Dear Brad, I had the wrong name addressing my last posting (sorry)
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