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Subject: HOA Board refussing to put their determination in writing
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AnnaA3
(California)

Posts:24


08/02/2019 9:49 AM  
Hi Everyone,

There is a situation with Trees and Bushes not being trimmed regularly and becoming a nuance and possible fire hazard because we live in a area in the hills which the city and county states in writing "This is an area of extreme fire hazard area"
The Board is now stating that they do not have to give their decisions in writing to us when we ask for them. The reason we are asking for decisions in writing is because every time a Board Changes, so do the agreements made regarding this situation.

Backround: 33 years ago a neighbor, below us, planted on an area that was only to be planted on and taken care of by the Association, per the specific plan and the CC&Rs. This area is on a fire break. The bushes she planted were Acacias and a Eucalyptus brush. I guess no one notice them because they were small at the time but have grown out of control. This neighbor has fought hard to keep them because she wants privacy in her yard. These bushes are extremely flammable bushes and Eucalyptus are know to explode when on fire. Plants which are flammable should of never been planted on a slope which is a fire break.

Fighting has gone on about keeping these bushes to a reasonable size for years, with negotiations of keeping them at a certain size and letting the neighbor have her privacy, but keeping the size to were the bushes are not out of control. This has gone on with 3 different Boards now. One Board in the 2000's took care of them, but the neighbor still complained about privacy, yelling at the gardeners for trimming them. Then in the late 2000's the next door neighbor neighbor of the neighbor who has these bushes got on the Board as president and things went down hill since then.

My next door neighbor has been going to the HOA for years with me and they don't seem to want to do anything about the bushes. In 2016, the Eucalyptus bush grew to about 35 feet high because of it not being cared for or trimmed. The landscape company then told the Board it is now a tree. Well, we stated to the Board, it is a bush and now at tree size because the gardeners let it grow that high and the Board did nothing when it was reported that it was not being taken care of. Now we have to pay for the bush to be on a tree schedule with an extra tree trimming charge, when before, for years and years, it was trimmed for free by the landscapers...when you could get them to do it. The reason they did not like trimming it is because it is on the top of a steep slope and hard to trim. IMO

Well, to make a long story short. My neighbor had a list of questions she read to the Board at a board meeting about a year ago. She asked for a reply in writing. She had to go to Brazil because her father died and stayed for a while. When she was gone, I went to meeting for myself and her to try and negotiate with the Board on having this situation handle with something we could all agree on. I thought we came to an agreement, but the agreement never happened. My neighbor came back and asked what happened to the decisions the Board made that she ask for in writing and they said they do not have to give her that in writing. they just said, it is now a tree and that is how tall it is going to be...but they will not put anything in writing.

Is this true. I know at public meeting there are things like the public information act that a person can see things or get things in writing. Is there anything that states a HOA does not have to give their decisions in writing to a homeowner?

Thanks you

SheliaH
(Indiana)

Posts:2701


08/02/2019 1:47 PM  
Most HOA records aren’t public information, except for things like the Declaration and the CCRs, which are usually recorded in a county office, so you need to check your documents to see what homeowners are entitled to. In this case, you probably aren’t entitled to know what was done to homeowner #1 about his/her parking, barking dog, etc. It’s similar to assessment information – you don’t need to know homeowner #1’s account information, but homeowners should be able to review board meeting minutes because that affects the entire community.

The issue you really need to focus on is this tree and its potential to cause real damage if there’s a fire - didn’t this lady notice what went on with the wildfires last year? I understand privacy, but what good is that if your damned house burns down???

In my opinion, this neighbor has been wrong from the start because she planted the trees on Association property and apparently didn’t get permission. Previous boards should have nipped this in the bud and ordered her to cut them down and if she refused, they could do it and then bill her for the expense. You want privacy, build a fence (if it’s allowed in the documents, of course).

Since this tree (or really large bush) is in an area that’s a fire break, perhaps it’s time for the city or county, or whoever oversees this to step in. Could the board contact them to see if the problem can be resolved? Let the neighbor explain to the government why she insists on increasing the fire risks for herself and the neighbors – that should be fun to watch and listen to.

Otherwise if the board is not going to compel her to remove them, they can and should make her trim them regularly if she doesn’t want anyone else to touch them. Personally, I’d urge to board to send her a letter giving her 30 days to knock it and the others down at her expense, otherwise the board will do it and send her the bill. A copy of that letter should go to the association attorney because I suspect this is the type of person who’ll threaten lawsuit.
If this board doesn’t have to stones to deal with this, perhaps it’s time you and your neighbors consider voting them out and putting in people who will (you may need to be one of them.)

AugustinD


Posts:1937


08/02/2019 2:17 PM  
Anna, I do not think the Board has to put anything in writing at this point. In my opinion what you should do is follow California statutes regarding dispute resolution at HOAs. The first step is to submit a formal request for "internal dispute resolution." See https://www.davis-stirling.com/HOME/Internal-Dispute-Resolution . Per the latter, try something like the following:

Dear HOA Board,


The HOA's covenants at ___ and ____ require maintenance of the grounds in a manner that ensures the safety of residents. The trees/bushes on the common areas at _______ are in a Fire Break. As you are surely aware, the trees/bushes pose a great risk of fire. To attempt to resolve this, and pursuant to California Civil Code 5910 et seq., I request Internal Dispute Resolution. Please let me know by August 15 when and where the Association's representative(s) can meet with me.

Thank you,

Jane Smith
___ Main Street
___ HOmeowners' Association
____, CA ____
Phone:
Email:
AnnaA3
(California)

Posts:24


08/02/2019 2:24 PM  
Thank you for your reply.

Yes, we are thinking about getting in touch with the county fire department and talking to them.

I understand that the Board cannot discuss another neighbor's situation with us or in writing.

All my neighbor was asking for is why the Board decided to not trim the bush and why they decided to let it grow to tree size after countless meeting of her asking for the bush to be trimmed. They to do not want to give her a reason in writing or even say why....nothing to do with the neighbor who grew the bush.

I guess my question is basically, if you ask for a bush to be trimmed and the Board says no or does nothing, can you ask for the Board's decision to be given in writing with a reason?

Nothing about any other home owner would be involved.

Thanks again
AnnaA3
(California)

Posts:24


08/02/2019 2:27 PM  
Thank you AugustinD

I love this reply, thank you for the info.

SueW6
(Michigan)

Posts:586


08/03/2019 4:42 AM  
There are fire retardant sprays that can be commercially applied to trees and shrubs.

The real issue is her desire for privacy. Can any other options be consudered?
AnnaA3
(California)

Posts:24


08/03/2019 9:50 AM  
Well, I don't know if the real issue is the desire for privacy, it certainly is one. Years ago, in the early late 1990's and 2000's, We elected a new and the board president really let the HOA go. No one really noticed until it got out hand. A lot of people in our community started going to Board meetings. When asked about the condition of the shrubs and trees on the slopes, he told us that tree trimming cost too much money, so he never did it....long story short we voted in a new Board next time.

The new Board started getting things cleaned up on the Slopes really fast. The neighbor who has the overgrown bushes we are talking about here, went crazy at the meetings. The wife told everyone, that is my property and my plants that I planted and I don't want them cut.

Just so you understand, this HOA was built in 1985 and the association property that we cannot plant on or maintain are in areas between homes and are listed in the Specific plan and CC&R maps as a fire green belt that must be maintained by the HOA only.

A fire battalion chief, said they no longer call it a fire green belt, but fuel modification zones. How this association was set up, put these fire green belts on property owned by homeowners. So these bushes and shrubs that she planted, are on their property, but when she purchased the home, they signed the papers agreeing to the Specific plans and CC&R's.

In 1986 when we moved in, the slopes were all planted with mostly ground cover and low plants to slow down a fire that moved from one street to another. It was suppose to maintained that way to avoid a fast moving fire. This is explained in the CC&R's.

The owners who planted these bushes, we are talking about here, like myself, are original owners and I don't think they read the Specific Plans or the CC&R's when they purchased her home. So the new Board of the early 2000's had to set them straight. The husband threatened to sue at a meeting and it started going legal and I know a decision was made legally that the Specific Plan and the CC&C's stands. This is the big reason they are upset to this day.

These neighbors actually stop work orders from boards while the bushes were being trimmed, by yelling at the workers, telling them that this was their property and they could not cut the bushes. This happened many times and the management company had to step in so the work orders could be completed. I believe these neighbor's only receives letters to stop giving the gardener instructions, not sure if anything else happened to them in these cases.

In the late 2000, we changed our management company. Last year when this situation came up again about the bushes and letting them get to tree size, I asked the Board,if they had read the decision that was made in this case in the 2000's. They said when we changed management companies, a lot of paperwork was lost. We don't have that information. Isn't that nice?

This is why my neighbor asked for their decisions in writing so we have a record for future boards in case paperwork is lost again.

I have tried to reason with my neighbors many times so that there would not be such an upset with them.

In the early 2000's I went to these neighbor's home and ask if we could come to a decision of how high she needed the bushes to be so that they could maintain their privacy....they would not agree, it was their bushes and they did not want them lowered. Last year I had the wife come into my back yard and had her look how high those bushes were. They are over 30 feet high now and I showed her that if they were lowered 10 feet, we still could not see in her yard, would that be agreeable? She still would not agree, that is her property she keep saying.

I think this board may not want to get into a legal issue with her, that is the only reason I can think of. Letting that bush get to tree size is not economical. We now have to pay a tree trimmer if we want the bush cleaned up....prior to letting it get so high, the landscapers were suppose to trim these bushes as part of the landscape agreement.

We have watch fires go through the hills in front our community a few times. It came all the way to the edge of the community in front of us one time and we were told we might have to evacuate. It is windy up here and if sparks from a fire hit our slopes we would have a big problem. The slopes are suppose to be maintained so that if a fire did occur, it would stay flat on ground and move slowly because of fire retardant plants that are suppose to be there, not go up 30 bushes with flames flying into our yards. Especially eucalyptus, they are known to explode in a fire when they get really hot and start shooting flames. They are NOT native to California and California has articles about them that are not good when it comes to fires.

I hope this clears up things a little better.
KerryL1
(California)

Posts:6636


08/03/2019 10:31 AM  
In CA, the Board discusses and votes on agenda items. For one such as your concern, it would be on an open board meeting agenda. The result of the board vote on this item--its decision-- must be recorded in the meeting minutes. All Owners have access to these minutes often on your web site or by writing and asking for them 30 days after the meeting in question. Even if the minutes are still in draft form, the board or PM must give you a copy.

If the Board does''t want to do anything about the time, the minutes should show something like, "The Board decided to take to action on this item." This lets everyone know that the matter came to their attention.

If your topic was never on an agenda, there would be no written record about a "decision." So, try to get your topic on an open meeting agenda. some board accept agenda items form Owners. Otherwise, a bunch of you need to attend an open meeting and nag at the board ruing one forum to discuss and vote on this matter, but putting it on the next one meeting agenda.
AnnaA3
(California)

Posts:24


08/03/2019 12:06 PM  
Ok, Kerry .....thank you for your impute. We will try to the this on the agenda. I do not believe it was ever an agenda item in the past. Let's see what they say.


Anna
KerryL1
(California)

Posts:6636


08/03/2019 12:52 PM  
Excuse my types. IF the board won't place it on an open meeting agenda, hen go to Plan B and have all concerned neighbors attend a board meeting and express their options during open forum
SueW6
(Michigan)

Posts:586


08/04/2019 9:05 PM  
Have your local fire Marshall speak at the next meeting. Perhaps he/she would order fire management measures by law.
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