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Subject: Your Biggest HOA Joy or Accomplishment
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Author Messages
TimB4
(Virginia)

Posts:16704


07/02/2014 5:30 PM  
As there are two sides to any coin, I thought this would be a good flip side to an earlier thread about your biggest regret/mistake.

I will go on record that if I can find a property not in an Association that my wife and I can agree on, I'll move there. That said, I've had a lot of accomplishments once I've gotten involved with my Association. The Biggest I can't decide between three:

1) Proposed, and was adopted by the membership, a grandfather clause as an amendment to our Bylaws. This protects the membership from changes in tastes on the Board and is the main solution to my initial problem with the Association.

2) Increased transparency by digitizing and placing all governing documents, minutes, reports (audits, reserve studies, etc) and newsletters on the Associations website. I hope it will continue when I leave the Board but I don't think it will.

3) Placed the Association on the road to a better financial setting - this was done by performing our first reserve study (even though it had been a requirement for many years earlier) and educating the membership enough to have them approve a 20% increase in the assessments to fund the Reserves based on that study.
BanksS


Posts:0


07/02/2014 6:38 PM  
Yes, Tim there are two sides to the coin.

My biggest joy is the location of my home. It's just a lovely setting and I can sit out on my deck in the morning and watch the sun come up. It's so peaceful and quiet. I enjoy the changing of the seasons and fall is my particular favorite. The days are warm and sunny and the nights are cool. We open our windows and the breeze blows through and the scent of the outdoors wafts threw the open windows.

We like to watch the birds and the other wildlife in the area. Just yesterday we watched 2 fawns and their mother just across the road. We like to boat and fish and hike and are going to take up a new hobby of kayaking. The largest manmade lake in Iowa is just down the road. It's just an awesome place.

I can't say that I have done much for the governance of my community. It's not that I don't want to but my relationship with the board is quite strained. I hate that but I'm not sure what else I can do. I have tried to open up some dialogue with them but communication has to be a two-way street. I'm a hopeless optimist so maybe some day that will change.
RichardP13


Posts:0


07/02/2014 6:45 PM  
I have to agree with Tim, that if I ever moved again, it would not be within a HOA.

When I got involved 5 years ago, we had very little transparency. Documents requests were ignored, no web site, little to no communication, so on and so forth. So I went about learning the law. First thing was to actually count ballots during an annual meeting, so we restated our Bylaws and now we have elections every year and never have to worry about achieving quorum.

I got on the Board and one year later became President of the Association. We got a lawsuit stopped, got our financial house in order, have a $1M reserve fund that is 170% funded, we can fund new projects without raising dues. We had 8-10 community events funded from the interest earned from the CD's on our reserve funds, so no dues monies are involved.

My wife is currently the President, and between the two of us, we actually run the community. We have great support from other Board members, but we actually do most of the work.

I have a different perceptive than most posters here in that I am a homeowner, former Board member, former Board member, former property manager and now managing director of a property management firm. How I treat a client is always how I would want to be treated by someone as a homeowner.

Being in the PM business, there are some really screwed up associations that would drive a sane person to the asylum. All I try is change one association at a time.
MelissaP1
(Alabama)

Posts:9136


07/02/2014 10:47 PM  
My biggest accomplishment was learning as President NOT to take it as a "Thank-LESS" job but as a "Thank-FULL" one. I turned the position no one wanted, ran for, or appreciated into a position where multiple people wanted the position. My theory is "There is ALWAYS a BIGGER Fish". So work hard at encouraging and growing the smaller fish in your pond. One day they won't be so small, will school together, and take over the place...

Former HOA President
PitA1


Posts:0


07/03/2014 2:58 AM  
?? JOY OF HOA LIVING ??

a/k/a: Oxymoron
JimR24
(Texas)

Posts:352


07/03/2014 3:56 AM  
For me and my wife (ages 60's - 70's), the lock-and-leave lifestyle, low maintenance responsibility of shared ownership is the perfect arrangement for us. Also, our community has a clubhouse where we love to get together to create friendships and fellowships which would not have otherwise existed without it.

Both of us have decided to become very active in Association affairs over the 7 years we've lived in this condo community. Some of our best friends are either board members or past board members.

We live a positive lifestyle and over the years, we have learned that when we expect things to go well - they do. We've also learned that if you expect things not to go well, they do...lol...

Sure am enjoying reading and learning on this discussion board with all of you. Love it!

Lovin' life with my honey!
and, Treasurer of Condo Association
DavidW5
(North Carolina)

Posts:565


07/03/2014 6:03 AM  
I guess I am in the minority here. We have lived in our HOA for 10 years. I have been involved first as finance committee member, finance committee chairman and for the last 3 years, Board Member and Treasurer. During that time we successfully transitioned from developer control, recompeted every contract, fired the management company the developer used, hired our own staff, and got ourselves into a very solid financial position. Assessments have been unchanged since 2008, we have a fully funded reserve, we maintain an operating contingency of 20% of annual assessments, and have created a Capital Improvement Fund to bring new amenities to the community. All of this has been possible due to the willingness of community members with extensive business and management background and skills to volunteer for committees and the board.

Yes, we have our problems and issues but we have a beautiful, well maintained community with a large core of very active participants. Our home values have recovered nicely from the housing crisis and sell quickly when listed for sale. It takes work but the results have been worth it.
JimR24
(Texas)

Posts:352


07/03/2014 6:34 AM  
Excellent work David and well-stated. My circumstances are similar to yours.

I am proud of our community and my wife and i love living here. Any kind of shared ownership arrangements has its issues (see stats on how many business partnerships fail...yikes! - ...lol..). Working with others can sometimes be tough - especially when everybody has vested interest in one of the most valuable assets many of us own - OUR HOME!....[smile]...

Congratulations on your successes. You are correct in saying that management and business skills are important to board service. I know that takes lots of effort and sounds like you have something for which u can be proud.


Lovin' life with my honey!
and, Treasurer of Condo Association
KerryL1
(California)

Posts:7052


07/03/2014 4:35 PM  
Great narratives about what works--homeowners who volunteer in their HOAs. Above is the evidence.

Our twin urban 211 residential condo high rises opened in mid-'01 & spouse & I moved in very late '04. We love to travel and stay in hotels, especially in cities and here we are in the heart of a large city in a place that feels like a hotel. No doormen, or maid service in our unit, but a lobbies, fine gym, pool, etc. A the end of the day, we sit on our upper floor balcony with views of a bay and the ocean, which was our primary requirement. Became active on committees a year later.

By mid-'06, we realized along with some other "newer" owners that the board was secretive and too cozy with the developers rep, who has a permanent seat on our board so long as they own the commercial units, which comprise about half of the ground floors. Our HOA attorney still was the developer's attorney. We formed a "small group," and like Richard, we studied to learn our docs and state law. We realized that the statutes of limitation were starting to run out on certain suspected contraction defects. We attended board meetings and asked about these potential defects. "Oh, there are no defects," and "well, it passed inspection!," our developer and his attorney repeated. By then the HOA attorney was attending most monthly board meetings because a group of us owners had become "rowdy."

To get to the good part more quickly: We ran for the Board; 2 of us were elected to a board of 7, so in the minority. At the election a year later, we became the majority. The then PM who always seemed to side with the developer resigned, and we got a new one much more interested in us residential owners. We fired the developer's attorney. We hired a construction defect law firm and started the legal process. One defect was so bad that we had to fix it before we were even close to settling & needed under a million dollars.


So we had to get owner approval via secret ballots for a loan to be paid out of defect settlement funds that we hoped to collect. Got it, started the fix. But wait!! We had to replace our failing cooling towers that run HVAC system. One reason they both had failed so prematurely was that they did not have variable frequency drives (VFDs), so the motors, etc., that operate the HVAC system ran full bore 24/7 instead of based on how much or how little demand from us unit residents.

BUT, both our HOA attorney AND our defect attorney said we couldn't install the VFDs because our individual water source heat pumps didn't have the proper values to control water volume and water pressure. The reason we couldn't install these two valves on every heat pump was the heat pumps are the owners' responsibility. We'd be "overstepping" to have these devices installed. I researched the whole topic up and down, backwards and forwards and finally was able to get a letter from our mechanical-plumbing expert consultant saying there was no point replacing the cooling towers without the VFDs. They only would fail prematurely again. At a big meeting with us directors, both sets of attorneys, & our PM, I presented my findings and both sets of attorneys finally agreed that we must install the devices on the individual heat pumps to bring our cooling towers up to industry standards.

So that has been my biggest joy & accomplishment. I know the above is long and boring, but it was a huge triumph! (And yes, after 2-1/2 years, we got a mic settlement!)
NpS
(Pennsylvania)

Posts:3987


07/04/2014 7:38 AM  
Greatest achievement: Getting the Board to commit to a 2-day turnaround on Architectural Change Requests (ACRs).

Our Declaration says that if the HOA doesn't respond to an ACR within 45 days, the ACR is approved. How absurd. When you finally decide on a contractor and finish negotiating your project details, you want to get the work done when the contractor is available, not when the HOA grants its approval. And if you find out in the middle of a job that you or your contractor underestimated your needs, you don't want to start another 45 day waiting period.

Because everyone has a horror story to tell about getting stressed out by the ACR wait, I thought that revising our practices in this one key area could dramatically shift the image of the Board from overseer to facilitator.

I challenged the Board to set a standard of turning around new ACRs in 2 days and turning around ACR revisions and emergencies in 1 day. If the ACR was incomplete or unclear, we would notify the HO within 24 hours of receipt what was needed for the Board to grant approval.

The Board was initially reluctant. It meant that we could no longer rely on monthly meetings and nicely assembled packets from our MC. To hit our new targets, we had to rewrite every aspect of our communications and approval process. We proved to ourselves that we could in fact get approvals out consistently in 2 days.

The next hurdle was to get the Board to announce our new 2-day turnaround standard to our members. (PA does not have open meeting laws for HOAs so all of our discussions were private.) Most Board members were afraid that HOs would give us no slack if we missed our targets and would claim that every submission was a same day emergency. I asked to announce the program as a trial "best efforts" program. After much wrangling, the reluctant Board members relented.

We rolled it out. The most surprising thing to the Board was that, while the HOs let us know in no uncertain terms when we missed our targets, they weren't really angry about it. Mostly, they just wanted to keep us on our toes, which is their right to do (and a few think is their obligation to do). And no one abused the same day emergency option.

After a couple of years, it's no longer a trial program. We've refined it and made it better. We always do a post mortem when we miss which isn't often.

One of the best things that came out of the program is that our Board is no longer afraid to commit to changes that increase our exposure to criticism if we fail. Since then, we have been working through each of our other practices without dread of malicious criticisms, personal attacks, or threats of lawsuits. These attempts to intimidate still happen but they no longer immobilize any member of the Board.

Because 2-day ACR turnarounds succeeded, the Board gained a new confidence and the vast majority of members gained a new respect for a Board that is willing to set a higher standard for itself than our rules demand.

Happy 4th everyone.

Sikubali jukumu. Read all posts at your own risk.
SallyR3


Posts:0


07/04/2014 9:36 AM  
NpS ... Without a doubt this is the most impressive change I have seen on this site. With today's technology there is no reason for a board to jerk around people who are improving the community. I will be presenting this to our board. Your post is the FIRST post that gives me hope, since most conflicts reside with the Architectural Committee. I thank you for this post and know that I will seek out reading what you write. Sally
NpS
(Pennsylvania)

Posts:3987


07/04/2014 1:52 PM  
Thanks Sally.

FYI. We did not disband our Architectural Committee. We did revise its role.

1. We know the areas of expertise of each member. When appropriate, we invite select committee members into the Board's ACR approval dialog. When committee members are invited in, we still hold to our 1 and 2 day turnaround standards.

2. We use the committee as a sounding Board for all proposed changes to our specs. The committee can also meet on its own to develop its own change recommendations.

3. Committee meetings are always open to the entire community. The committee does not have the authority to exclude anyone.

4. When a new contractor is on-site, a Board member and a committee member will usually reach out to him to answer any questions he may have about our specs.

Collaboration is at an all time high.

Sikubali jukumu. Read all posts at your own risk.
SallyR3


Posts:0


07/04/2014 2:09 PM  
NpS ... You are my hero ... This is the sort of action that keeps HOs happy AND it keeps them away from attorneys. I assume the HOs like this? And I assume angry calls to the Board are reduced?. Now if you decline a HO what are the results? Does the HO understand why the project isn't viable? Communication IMHO solves so many issues. You are diffusing the situation and keeping the mercury down. Congratulations ...

Why don't you start a new thread as you ... You could label it "ARCH Committee and how to keep the mercury low".
DeanaD1
(Tennessee)

Posts:7


02/26/2015 12:49 PM  
Managed to get de-annexed from the City. They did nothing but collect taxes. Was difficult. Saved homeowners upwards of 3K per year. Still have County taxes but no more double taxation with no benefits. Ours is a rural HOA with 5+ acre homesites.
JonD1


Posts:0


02/26/2015 1:19 PM  
Posted By DeanaD1 on 02/26/2015 12:49 PM
Managed to get de-annexed from the City. They did nothing but collect taxes. Was difficult. Saved homeowners upwards of 3K per year. Still have County taxes but no more double taxation with no benefits. Ours is a rural HOA with 5+ acre homesites.





Congratulations

Can you briefly describe the process that was required.

How long.

Did the city resist your efforts?

Have any other properties followed suit?

What was the cost to your property?

Thank you.......
BonnieG1
(Nebraska)

Posts:1186


02/26/2015 2:48 PM  
My biggest joy is the friends I have made here.
However, just like Tim, if I ever move again, it will not be to a Condo or Homeowner's Association.

I have a goal of updating our documents. After the vote for extra security measure was voted down at our annual meeting, I have a better understanding of the importance of getting everyone's vote especially when a super majority is needed. If we do succeed in getting our (over 30 year old) documents updated, I will consider that a major accomplishment.

One accomplishment that has already happened is getting our members to have some knowledge that we do have State laws that must be followed. As I mentioned before, one member once asked me what the State law has to do with our condominium.

I did not do my homework before and moved here and did not know what I was getting into other than I owned my apartment.

I have heard from more than one person that a few years before I moved here, a person was elected to the Board and then the Board elected her to be the President. Everyone apparently knew this woman was in some stage of Dementia, but the reasoning was she was "nice" and it was her "turn".

I would love to be able to just come home from work and not be concerned about Association business.

JerryD5
(Colorado)

Posts:205


02/26/2015 4:12 PM  
I, too, would be leary about living in an HOA if I moved. I have been in the house almost 8 years, on the board for 6 years and board president for 5. We have struggled with incompetetant landscaping companies and property managers. In addition, we had an ARC committee member who was wrecking havoc among homeowners with her inane and cumbersome details before she recommended approval (keep in mind, she is just 1 vote). If anyone crossed her or questioned her motives, she would aim both barrels at you with snide and inappropriate comments. We had her removed from her position 2 years ago and harmony was restored. 6 months later, I was able to convince another homeowner to run against her husband on the board (the homeowner won). Their power base came tumbling down.

That gets to our biggest accomplishment: 1 year ago, we hired a new property management company who has been much more attentive to our HOA. They are a bare-bones company that does a lot online. They don't nickel and dime us on every little expense that has come up. Plus they are about $300 a month cheaper. They actively pushed a secession amendment, arranged town hall meetings, etc. They made more progress in 4 months than the previous 36 months with our previous MC. The secession amendment passed and we went from 118 homes to 63.

NpS
(Pennsylvania)

Posts:3987


02/26/2015 4:35 PM  
Posted By JerryD5 on 02/26/2015 4:12 PM
I, too, would be leary about living in an HOA if I moved. I have been in the house almost 8 years, on the board for 6 years and board president for 5. We have struggled with incompetetant landscaping companies and property managers. In addition, we had an ARC committee member who was wrecking havoc among homeowners with her inane and cumbersome details before she recommended approval (keep in mind, she is just 1 vote). If anyone crossed her or questioned her motives, she would aim both barrels at you with snide and inappropriate comments. We had her removed from her position 2 years ago and harmony was restored. 6 months later, I was able to convince another homeowner to run against her husband on the board (the homeowner won). Their power base came tumbling down.

That gets to our biggest accomplishment: 1 year ago, we hired a new property management company who has been much more attentive to our HOA. They are a bare-bones company that does a lot online. They don't nickel and dime us on every little expense that has come up. Plus they are about $300 a month cheaper. They actively pushed a secession amendment, arranged town hall meetings, etc. They made more progress in 4 months than the previous 36 months with our previous MC. The secession amendment passed and we went from 118 homes to 63.



Why did you feel it was necessary to secede? Was there any downside?

Sikubali jukumu. Read all posts at your own risk.
JerryD5
(Colorado)

Posts:205


02/26/2015 5:57 PM  
Our association was made of 63 green court homes (single family homes around a common parklike area) and 55 street facing homes. The green court homes pay $90 for maintaining the common areas and include water, landscaping and snow removal. The street facing homes had no common areas and did not receive any landscaping or snow removal service. They paid $12 per month (they used to pay $20 or so per month at one time) for basically ARC and covenent control. The street facing homeowners decided that since they did not receive anything of value, they no longer wanted to be part of the HOA. They amassed approximately $20,000 in their accounts (we had separate budgets since we had more expenses). For the 3-5 years, they have wanted to seceed from us. So last year we told that they had to pay for the legal costs for the secession and we would keep all the money in their accounts if the movement was successful. The secession cost approximately $3,500 and we kept around $16,500. The only downside is that revised association had to pay the full management fee ($650 per month) and the audit/insurance costs. Previously, all of the administrative costs were split down the middle. Some of the cost were offset by changing management companies (went from $950 to our current cost of $650). We have also tried to cut other expenses so we haven't had a need to raise monthly dues (so far). The $16000 helps out too; the bulk of which went to into our reserves.
NpS
(Pennsylvania)

Posts:3987


02/26/2015 6:35 PM  
Thanks Jerry. Surprised that they let you keep the entire 16.5 without a fight.

Sikubali jukumu. Read all posts at your own risk.
JerryD5
(Colorado)

Posts:205


02/26/2015 8:36 PM  
Well, the quote from a CPA to equitably distribute it was about $5,000 or so. I think they were just happy not to pay the $12 anymore.
RobertL21
(California)

Posts:17


03/06/2015 4:20 PM  

1) Removal of bad management company.

2) When law suit was filed against me for a rule dispute I stuck with it, responded with a demur, became the prevailing party, and the HOA had to pay my fees and costs.

3) Ran a successful recall campaign and removed the BOD that were responsible for the lawsuit above.

4) Sold my HOA property for a handsome profit and now live in a non-HOA neighborhood.
AmandaR2
(South Carolina)

Posts:566


03/07/2015 7:56 AM  
Robert,

Your accomplishments are impressive, Congrats.

I can't help but wonder about what the rule dispute was concerning, that you not only prevailed in court but were also awarded fees and costs by the courts? It's just that we always here that the HOA prevails so often in court cases (I'm sure they had a HOA attorney representing them and filing suit against you, and they still lost so sorely). Just curios if you feel like sharing any detail?
RobertL21
(California)

Posts:17


03/09/2015 4:58 PM  
It is all a bit complicated but let me just say there was a rule dispute over a fine, it does not matter what the rule was. I disputed the fine through Small Claims Court, but instead of fighting the rule in question I went for something bigger. I targeted the legitimacy of the HOA in regards to the formation of its operating rules. My beef was that the Association did not adopt them as directed by statute.

By California state statutes any operating rules must be circulated for approval by the homeowners then adopted by the board. The fine schedule was not present within the CC&Rs, the CC&Rs only provide the power to fine, so it could have been a $1 fine. So I looked at the operating rules that had the fine schedule and that had a date "Adopted on XX/XX/XXXX". I thought to myself, well that was impossible because there were no homes built and no homeowners in them.

I further looked into the corporate records and meeting minutes, where the developer was in charge, and there was no mention of the fee schedule or operating rules being adopted. So where did they come from? (I know this is the way business is always done, as I have been told, but it should not be that way.) I feel strongly that management companies should not just make stuff up, create fine schedules out of thin air or taken from other communities, without getting homeowner review. Remember, this is a "community" of "common interest". What if the management company said there would be $1,000 fines, you know some suckers would pay that, and that is not fair.

This questing of the operating rules released a hell storm up on me. I got served right there in Small Claims Court. The HOA comes after me with a suit seeking declaratory relief. They basically want the court to say they are right and that the operating rules were in fact adopted. I found that they like to seek a default judgment. What they really wanted to do to me was stick me with nonsense legal fees and teach me a lesson so I would shut up. So, things go on for months, court dates, extensions, and I am caused all kinds of trouble. I think at one point they tried to extort me, but I did not fall into that trap, I answered the complaint.

I knew that they had no right to sue me because again, there was a California statute that says for an HOA to sue a homeowner or vice versa, in civil court NOT SMALL CLAIMS, there must be ADR or certification that ADR was turned down. (My CC&Rs also said that there needed to be a vote of the membership to sue a homeowner.) Well guess what the HOA did not offer ADR nor did I have the opportunity to turn it down and they could not show certified proof. So I guess what they did was illegal (do I dare say that). They drop the case.

A motion was filed to argue that I was the prevailing party because of the ADR thing. That motion was granted. Next, there is another California statute that basically says the prevailing party gets fees and costs shifted to the other side. So that was what happened. The HOA gets to pay a bunch of money for not following the rules to enforce the rules. They pay both sides.

You see it just does not matter what the alleged rule violation was because it is all about power and business as usual.

I call it the HOA Nexus of Evil. It can be defeated.




TimB4
(Virginia)

Posts:16704


03/09/2015 5:08 PM  
Good for you Robert. You took the time to read and understand your governing documents, applicable State laws and stood your ground. It takes a lot of character to do that.

A good lesson for all, read and understand your governing documents and applicable laws.

If you are on your Board, make sure that your Association is in compliance with those documents and statutes.
AmandaR2
(South Carolina)

Posts:566


03/09/2015 5:15 PM  
Robert,
Thank you so much for taking the time to share those details. I am even more impressed and happy you stuck to your guns when you knew you where right, so many victims just give up. I hope Howard (another poster here) who's going through hell with his HOA reads your posting, it would be very encouraging for him I think. Not all HOAs are bad but that "Nexus of Evil" as you call it does infect some HOAs and I'm glad to hear you defeated it.
AmandaR2
(South Carolina)

Posts:566


03/09/2015 5:26 PM  
Tim, you seem to be the best with forwarding, attaching and sending things, would it be possible for you to send Roberts story over to Howards thread if you have the time? Don't you think he'd find it encouraging to hear a success story?
HowardC2
(North Carolina)

Posts:80


03/10/2015 4:13 PM  
Posted By RobertL21 on 03/09/2015 4:58 PM
It is all a bit complicated but let me just say there was a rule dispute over a fine, it does not matter what the rule was. I disputed the fine through Small Claims Court, but instead of fighting the rule in question I went for something bigger. I targeted the legitimacy of the HOA in regards to the formation of its operating rules. My beef was that the Association did not adopt them as directed by statute.

By California state statutes any operating rules must be circulated for approval by the homeowners then adopted by the board. The fine schedule was not present within the CC&Rs, the CC&Rs only provide the power to fine, so it could have been a $1 fine. So I looked at the operating rules that had the fine schedule and that had a date "Adopted on XX/XX/XXXX". I thought to myself, well that was impossible because there were no homes built and no homeowners in them.

I further looked into the corporate records and meeting minutes, where the developer was in charge, and there was no mention of the fee schedule or operating rules being adopted. So where did they come from? (I know this is the way business is always done, as I have been told, but it should not be that way.) I feel strongly that management companies should not just make stuff up, create fine schedules out of thin air or taken from other communities, without getting homeowner review. Remember, this is a "community" of "common interest". What if the management company said there would be $1,000 fines, you know some suckers would pay that, and that is not fair.

This questing of the operating rules released a hell storm up on me. I got served right there in Small Claims Court. The HOA comes after me with a suit seeking declaratory relief. They basically want the court to say they are right and that the operating rules were in fact adopted. I found that they like to seek a default judgment. What they really wanted to do to me was stick me with nonsense legal fees and teach me a lesson so I would shut up. So, things go on for months, court dates, extensions, and I am caused all kinds of trouble. I think at one point they tried to extort me, but I did not fall into that trap, I answered the complaint.

I knew that they had no right to sue me because again, there was a California statute that says for an HOA to sue a homeowner or vice versa, in civil court NOT SMALL CLAIMS, there must be ADR or certification that ADR was turned down. (My CC&Rs also said that there needed to be a vote of the membership to sue a homeowner.) Well guess what the HOA did not offer ADR nor did I have the opportunity to turn it down and they could not show certified proof. So I guess what they did was illegal (do I dare say that). They drop the case.

A motion was filed to argue that I was the prevailing party because of the ADR thing. That motion was granted. Next, there is another California statute that basically says the prevailing party gets fees and costs shifted to the other side. So that was what happened. The HOA gets to pay a bunch of money for not following the rules to enforce the rules. They pay both sides.

You see it just does not matter what the alleged rule violation was because it is all about power and business as usual.

I call it the HOA Nexus of Evil. It can be defeated.








Hello Robert, I am having a major feud with my HOA. If you don't mind taking a look and chiming in????
http://www.hoatalk.com/Forum/tabid/55/forumid/1/tpage/5/view/topic/postid/183522/Default.aspx#190277
I think it is clear that our situations are very different. You were able to exploit some laws that are not available to me but you may get an idea or two from reading the thread. If you don't mind of course.
One question for your situation and outcome please:
Did you get representation for your situation? It sounds like you handled things yourself via small claims court. It would be so nice to be able to use small claims court in my case. It would be $150.00 for filing and so on. I think the CA laws are very different than the NC laws.
Thanks
Howard
RogerB
(Colorado)

Posts:5067


03/11/2015 8:36 AM  
Biggest Accomplishment as an HOA professional manager has been to save several HOAs more than our management company was paid.

Biggest Joy as a Board member was in a suburb of Houston where as President of the HOA I spearheaded efforts to purchase 4 1/4 acres of land adjacent to the subdivision; install fencing, water and irrigation system, ball diamond, play grounds; and ultimately a parking lot, change house, and olympic sized L shaped swimming pool with 1 & 3 meter diving board and a kiddy pool. The spring after the pool was completed I transferred to Tulsa.

Three years later while in Houston I visited with one of the key Board members who assisted in those projects. He informed me that the previous summer this subdivision had won first place in the City's swimming competition. THAT MADE ALL OF HIS AND MY EFFORTS WORTHWHILE!!!
KellyM3
(North Carolina)

Posts:1488


03/11/2015 12:29 PM  

My proudest accomplishments:


1. Guiding our board to retiring a $46,000 debt, two years ahead of schedule, on a $108,000 total budget.

2. Developing an atmosphere where dues payers can reasonably access and question the board's plans and decisions - and receive explanations

3. Practically "replace" 95% of our aged, Reserve Fund items to renew the property while not adding new amenities.

4. Reducing actual cash expenses in Operations Budget, redirecting savings into Reserve Funds

5. Re-establishing HOA spending so that Reserve Fund deposits consume nearly 30% of total dues revenue.
RobertL21
(California)

Posts:17


03/11/2015 2:03 PM  
Hello Howard,

I took a look at your problem and it is quite the thread. I was able to read about 70% of it. I have some opinions on the situation and a few questions. However, let me quickly answer your questions.

Did I have representation for my situation? I was propria persona or pro-per. What I did was use limited scope or un-bundled legal services to have some documents drafted and to better understand the court system, civil procedure in particular. I was awarded costs and fees based on those services that I used. (The economic impact on the HOA would have been much higher had I done the traditional thing and hired an attorney on retainer, I did not want that to happen, I am neighborly, but also pragmatic about my rights.) After talking to a number of attorneys I found that I had a better grasp of the law than they did because HOA law is so obscure. In my locality most the the people who do practice HOA law are on the side of the HOAs and do not deal with homeowners. Also, I did not trust most who I had consulted with. You can read about limited scope at https://www.calhomelaw.org/ (warning the site is difficult to navigate and fish stuff out of, and it is California specific.)

Did I handle things in Small Clams? At the start I did but the outcome was obtuse. The Small Claims Court wanted nothing to do with the issue at hand. I ended up being sued in Superior Court by the HOA in the end. I do not recommend small claims because it is a big gamble. I like to call it liar's court. In California the courts have been so full of HOA nonsense that some statutes have been created to offload the HOA stuff to Small Claims. However, in my opinion they are not equipped to handle the complexity of HOA matters. In the future there might need to be an HOA court like there is a traffic court if the trend of creating HOAs continues.

Now about your issue:

Have you been served papers? This is very important because that sets the toll, the clock is ticking at that point.

When served you have to act quick as you do not want to get stuck with a default judgment. You must respond to the complaint, if anything to buy time.

You need to think seriously about if the HOA really wants to go down the Civil Court path. In my case it could have been 1-2 years of litigation. That's a lot of money for an HOA to fork out without really knowing what the outcome might be. Are your neighbors comfortable spending 50K to get 13K? Most likely not. They are liable in the end. I can smell a special assessment in the works. Also, who says insurance will pay anything? If found that the BOD breached their fiduciary duty (which is hard to prove but a nice thing to suggest) then the members can sill pay or better yet the BOD can be held to it. Again, nothing but bluff talk. Sometimes that works.

If you want to add heat to the fire, show up to your HOA meeting with a few neighbors and demand answers to how much the HOA legal fees are as well as what they might be projected to be if they were to go on this legal adventure. We did this. (In California there is a statute where a homeowner can demand association documents, like the general ledger, within a defined frame of time, if the Association does not provide said documents then an association member can file a small claim and the HOA can be made by the court to provide members with the documents and they could be subject to a fine.) This actually worked, the BOD was unmasked and it was found that reserve funds were being used to perpetuate legal shenanigans, of which one might speculate were actually personal vendettas. Our CC&Rs did not have anything about the maintenance of of personal vendettas being the burden of the Association. However, they were responsible for cutting the lawns in the common areas.

This brings me to my next point. This whole thing has nothing to do with a pond. It does not matter who is right or wrong. It is about power. It is about the BOD being hell bent on making you pay and pay dearly. They don't like you. Who knows why? It does not matter. They have a "professionals" egging them on to stick it to you. Experts are a dime a dozen and these expert professionals have more to gain than the HOA does in perpetuating your situation.

Also, do not go down the mediation or arbitration path, it is a trap. The reason is that it is not fair to the homeowner. You have already signed away your property rights being a member of an HOA and owner of a deed-restricted property, you do not need to sign away your rights to a fair trial by entering a "private quasi-legal system". All you will do is pay a bunch of money and end up going to court anyway. However, the difference is that you will have already shown your case to them, your documents, and with that knowledge they will destroy you and your family!

Think about it, someone does not like you. It is all petty and sounds like someone spent a bunch of HOA money on something that they are having second thoughts about. Now they want to stick you with the bill. Sounds like you tried to work things out. They perhaps regret spending the money to re-fix things or whatever was done moving dirt around?

Since you are in a HOA you are part of a "community" and this is a community problem. Not you vs. them. How do others in your community feel about what is going on? How would they feel if they were to be the next guy to get beat with the rubber hose? It is not IF, it is WHEN it will be their turn. If you cave you just add to their power base. It will happen over and over.

If you can rally any kind of support of others in the HOA you need to. Your cause will be to put a stop to this. The easiest way to do so is to do a recall of the entire BOD. A recall is swift and can remove the BOD, the ones who form what I have read are jerking you around. If they are not able to make the decision to sue you on behalf of the HOA, because they are no longer in power, then the issue will become null, in the event that you can get some people on the board that have sense. These sorts of civil cases can take 1 year, 2 years, or longer to be resolved, a recall can be much faster. Think about it. A bit of intense effort can pay off in the long run. It can actually work to build community and put things back on track if they are amiss. However, keep in mind that HOAs are always one election away from going rogue.

You need to find alliances within your community. There might be others that are going through similar issues, I found them in my community. I was shocked to see the amount of liens and other bogus fines and billing that was going on. You do not want to make this a silent affair where you quietly battle the POWER of the BOD, you will loose and get sucked into a bigger mess. You need to find allies in your community and a few on the outside. Remove with a recall. Your association documents will have the procedures right there, usually in the ByLaws. Use the element of direct democracy turn your situation around.

You are at a point where you need to calculate your risks. I don't know your situation but can you cut and run? That is also an option. I do know that covenants run with the land, but do they run with the person? If you bail they have pushed you out of the community and fulfilled their ultimate goal right? It would be strange to end up in court being sued for a property that you no longer have an interest in? A property by which you are not bound by the covenants. A property that they can no longer place a lien on or take away from you. At that point things become very difficult for them.

Again, think about a recall and get a feeling about what the community thinks of all this. You might be surprised at the support you may find. It is intense work for a few months but could pay off.

Also, at your point in your situation do not trust or deal with the BOD or management company because it is clear that they are not interested in settling this matter. Pay your association dues with USPS money orders, change your bank accounts, and only correspond if needed through certified mail. Document everything!

Howard, I know that my solutions are radical and probably a bit out there for most to stomach, but they are solutions that are self determined. You have to make them happen rather the hope that someone else rules in your favor.


Perhaps a bit of wisdom from Dalton, the character played by Patrick Swayze in the epic 1989 film “Road House”, sums it up nicely:

“All you have to do is follow three simple rules. One, never underestimate your opponent. Expect the unexpected. Two, take it outside. Never start anything inside the bar unless it's absolutely necessary. And three, be nice.”











TimB4
(Virginia)

Posts:16704


03/11/2015 6:38 PM  
I see that this thread is starting to fracture. Although threads often fracture into various tangents, to make it easier for everyone who may look at these threads based on the subject line that it may be best, and so everyone can follow issues within one thread, that discussion of Howards' issue remain in Howards thread:

http://www.hoatalk.com/Forum/tabid/55/forumid/1/postid/183522/view/topic/tpage/5/Default.aspx
KerryL1
(California)

Posts:7052


03/11/2015 6:59 PM  
I've written about one accomplishment above that I'm still really proud of because it saves all owners money as our electric bill is lower than it was and would have been. In addition, the $9mil. cooling towers on our two roofs will last many years leaner than if put online incorrectly.

At the personal level, I was reelected last fall to the Board despite (or perhaps because of) a very negative letter about me that a competitor, also seeking reelection, put under residents' doors and in our high rise mailrooms. I wrote a short, factual rejoinder.

Not only was I reelected, "Mabel" lost her spot on the Board. Our meetings are so much more productive and friendly now that it's amazing. But Mabel had a lot of negative energy. Moral: if others says negative, and untruthful things about you as an HOA leader. Take the high road! Karma is real!
AmandaR2
(South Carolina)

Posts:566


03/11/2015 8:13 PM  
Posted By NpS on 07/04/2014 7:38 AM
Greatest achievement: Getting the Board to commit to a 2-day turnaround on Architectural Change Requests (ACRs).

Our Declaration says that if the HOA doesn't respond to an ACR within 45 days, the ACR is approved. How absurd. When you finally decide on a contractor and finish negotiating your project details, you want to get the work done when the contractor is available, not when the HOA grants its approval. And if you find out in the middle of a job that you or your contractor underestimated your needs, you don't want to start another 45 day waiting period.

Because everyone has a horror story to tell about getting stressed out by the ACR wait, I thought that revising our practices in this one key area could dramatically shift the image of the Board from overseer to facilitator.

I challenged the Board to set a standard of turning around new ACRs in 2 days and turning around ACR revisions and emergencies in 1 day. If the ACR was incomplete or unclear, we would notify the HO within 24 hours of receipt what was needed for the Board to grant approval.

The Board was initially reluctant. It meant that we could no longer rely on monthly meetings and nicely assembled packets from our MC. To hit our new targets, we had to rewrite every aspect of our communications and approval process. We proved to ourselves that we could in fact get approvals out consistently in 2 days.

The next hurdle was to get the Board to announce our new 2-day turnaround standard to our members. (PA does not have open meeting laws for HOAs so all of our discussions were private.) Most Board members were afraid that HOs would give us no slack if we missed our targets and would claim that every submission was a same day emergency. I asked to announce the program as a trial "best efforts" program. After much wrangling, the reluctant Board members relented.

We rolled it out. The most surprising thing to the Board was that, while the HOs let us know in no uncertain terms when we missed our targets, they weren't really angry about it. Mostly, they just wanted to keep us on our toes, which is their right to do (and a few think is their obligation to do). And no one abused the same day emergency option.

After a couple of years, it's no longer a trial program. We've refined it and made it better. We always do a post mortem when we miss which isn't often.

One of the best things that came out of the program is that our Board is no longer afraid to commit to changes that increase our exposure to criticism if we fail. Since then, we have been working through each of our other practices without dread of malicious criticisms, personal attacks, or threats of lawsuits. These attempts to intimidate still happen but they no longer immobilize any member of the Board.

Because 2-day ACR turnarounds succeeded, the Board gained a new confidence and the vast majority of members gained a new respect for a Board that is willing to set a higher standard for itself than our rules demand.

Happy 4th everyone.


I actually missed this when it was posted and just read for the first time just now, I must give credit where credit is due. NPS that was very daring and ambitious of you, and I am impressed! What a great idea and honest way to gain well deserved respect in your community!
HowardC2
(North Carolina)

Posts:80


03/12/2015 5:55 AM  
Posted By RobertL21 on 03/11/2015 2:03 PM
Hello Howard,

I took a look at your problem and it is quite the thread. I was able to read about 70% of it. I have some opinions on the situation and a few questions. However, let me quickly answer your questions.

Did I have representation for my situation? I was propria persona or pro-per. What I did was use limited scope or un-bundled legal services to have some documents drafted and to better understand the court system, civil procedure in particular. I was awarded costs and fees based on those services that I used. (The economic impact on the HOA would have been much higher had I done the traditional thing and hired an attorney on retainer, I did not want that to happen, I am neighborly, but also pragmatic about my rights.) After talking to a number of attorneys I found that I had a better grasp of the law than they did because HOA law is so obscure. In my locality most the the people who do practice HOA law are on the side of the HOAs and do not deal with homeowners. Also, I did not trust most who I had consulted with. You can read about limited scope at https://www.calhomelaw.org/ (warning the site is difficult to navigate and fish stuff out of, and it is California specific.)

Did I handle things in Small Clams? At the start I did but the outcome was obtuse. The Small Claims Court wanted nothing to do with the issue at hand. I ended up being sued in Superior Court by the HOA in the end. I do not recommend small claims because it is a big gamble. I like to call it liar's court. In California the courts have been so full of HOA nonsense that some statutes have been created to offload the HOA stuff to Small Claims. However, in my opinion they are not equipped to handle the complexity of HOA matters. In the future there might need to be an HOA court like there is a traffic court if the trend of creating HOAs continues.

Now about your issue:

Have you been served papers? This is very important because that sets the toll, the clock is ticking at that point.

When served you have to act quick as you do not want to get stuck with a default judgment. You must respond to the complaint, if anything to buy time.

You need to think seriously about if the HOA really wants to go down the Civil Court path. In my case it could have been 1-2 years of litigation. That's a lot of money for an HOA to fork out without really knowing what the outcome might be. Are your neighbors comfortable spending 50K to get 13K? Most likely not. They are liable in the end. I can smell a special assessment in the works. Also, who says insurance will pay anything? If found that the BOD breached their fiduciary duty (which is hard to prove but a nice thing to suggest) then the members can sill pay or better yet the BOD can be held to it. Again, nothing but bluff talk. Sometimes that works.

If you want to add heat to the fire, show up to your HOA meeting with a few neighbors and demand answers to how much the HOA legal fees are as well as what they might be projected to be if they were to go on this legal adventure. We did this. (In California there is a statute where a homeowner can demand association documents, like the general ledger, within a defined frame of time, if the Association does not provide said documents then an association member can file a small claim and the HOA can be made by the court to provide members with the documents and they could be subject to a fine.) This actually worked, the BOD was unmasked and it was found that reserve funds were being used to perpetuate legal shenanigans, of which one might speculate were actually personal vendettas. Our CC&Rs did not have anything about the maintenance of of personal vendettas being the burden of the Association. However, they were responsible for cutting the lawns in the common areas.

This brings me to my next point. This whole thing has nothing to do with a pond. It does not matter who is right or wrong. It is about power. It is about the BOD being hell bent on making you pay and pay dearly. They don't like you. Who knows why? It does not matter. They have a "professionals" egging them on to stick it to you. Experts are a dime a dozen and these expert professionals have more to gain than the HOA does in perpetuating your situation.

Also, do not go down the mediation or arbitration path, it is a trap. The reason is that it is not fair to the homeowner. You have already signed away your property rights being a member of an HOA and owner of a deed-restricted property, you do not need to sign away your rights to a fair trial by entering a "private quasi-legal system". All you will do is pay a bunch of money and end up going to court anyway. However, the difference is that you will have already shown your case to them, your documents, and with that knowledge they will destroy you and your family!

Think about it, someone does not like you. It is all petty and sounds like someone spent a bunch of HOA money on something that they are having second thoughts about. Now they want to stick you with the bill. Sounds like you tried to work things out. They perhaps regret spending the money to re-fix things or whatever was done moving dirt around?

Since you are in a HOA you are part of a "community" and this is a community problem. Not you vs. them. How do others in your community feel about what is going on? How would they feel if they were to be the next guy to get beat with the rubber hose? It is not IF, it is WHEN it will be their turn. If you cave you just add to their power base. It will happen over and over.

If you can rally any kind of support of others in the HOA you need to. Your cause will be to put a stop to this. The easiest way to do so is to do a recall of the entire BOD. A recall is swift and can remove the BOD, the ones who form what I have read are jerking you around. If they are not able to make the decision to sue you on behalf of the HOA, because they are no longer in power, then the issue will become null, in the event that you can get some people on the board that have sense. These sorts of civil cases can take 1 year, 2 years, or longer to be resolved, a recall can be much faster. Think about it. A bit of intense effort can pay off in the long run. It can actually work to build community and put things back on track if they are amiss. However, keep in mind that HOAs are always one election away from going rogue.

You need to find alliances within your community. There might be others that are going through similar issues, I found them in my community. I was shocked to see the amount of liens and other bogus fines and billing that was going on. You do not want to make this a silent affair where you quietly battle the POWER of the BOD, you will loose and get sucked into a bigger mess. You need to find allies in your community and a few on the outside. Remove with a recall. Your association documents will have the procedures right there, usually in the ByLaws. Use the element of direct democracy turn your situation around.

You are at a point where you need to calculate your risks. I don't know your situation but can you cut and run? That is also an option. I do know that covenants run with the land, but do they run with the person? If you bail they have pushed you out of the community and fulfilled their ultimate goal right? It would be strange to end up in court being sued for a property that you no longer have an interest in? A property by which you are not bound by the covenants. A property that they can no longer place a lien on or take away from you. At that point things become very difficult for them.

Again, think about a recall and get a feeling about what the community thinks of all this. You might be surprised at the support you may find. It is intense work for a few months but could pay off.

Also, at your point in your situation do not trust or deal with the BOD or management company because it is clear that they are not interested in settling this matter. Pay your association dues with USPS money orders, change your bank accounts, and only correspond if needed through certified mail. Document everything!

Howard, I know that my solutions are radical and probably a bit out there for most to stomach, but they are solutions that are self determined. You have to make them happen rather the hope that someone else rules in your favor.


Perhaps a bit of wisdom from Dalton, the character played by Patrick Swayze in the epic 1989 film “Road House”, sums it up nicely:

“All you have to do is follow three simple rules. One, never underestimate your opponent. Expect the unexpected. Two, take it outside. Never start anything inside the bar unless it's absolutely necessary. And three, be nice.”


Thanks Robert,







I have not been served papers as of yet. If my attorney has been served then I am not aware of it. I was told by the HOA attorney, at a meeting three weeks ago, that I was going to be served in 10 days. Two weeks after that my attorney sent him a letter requesting mediation. I had expected to be served between the time of the meeting with the HOA attorney and the meeting I had with my attorney however this did not happen. I suppose they were delayed in serving me. I am sure they are not backing down especially since they sent the letter to the entire HOA.

The mediation being requested at this point is a non binding mediation. My attorney is sure that, if if my case was brought before a judge, the judge would order binding mediation. We also requested, again, a hearing before the community adjudicatory committee. I made this same request at a meeting I had with the BOD and the HOA attorney 4 weeks ago and was told this committee was no longer available because they could not find volunteers to sit on the committee. I told them the adjudicatory panel is a policy as set forth on out web site. It has always been understood that this committee is part of the normal processing of a dispute. The HOA attorney was not aware of this committee so we handed him the web site document. Upon returning from a "recess" we were told the committee is no longer. My attorney is asking for that I be heard from this committee prior to mediation.

It is very true that the BOD does not like me. This is a little disappointing because I actually helped one member of the BOD keep his boat from sinking. This happened after my previous dispute was over and I thought I'd be a big guy and help out an former adversary. For my good deed I get a $13k bill.

I don't know if the BOD is having second thoughts because about how they decided to go about "fixing" the pond. This is a group that cannot admit they make mistakes. They are obstinate and surround themselves with like minded people. There are several things they are doing or have done that people are up in arm about without adding my issue to it. They decided to fill the pond in with dirt which was never discussed as being a means to fix the pond when we were having out initial dispute. Post dispute they decide it is the way to remedy the pond issue??? With no engineering involved AND holding me accountable for underestimating the amount of fill dirt required to do the job??? Yes, there are a few things they should have second thoughts about. The again this assumes they are capable of first thoughts IYKWIM.

I had not considered the possibility of recalling the BOD. I will look at the bylaws again to see if the process is spelled out. I agree that getting support from the community is a potentially powerful thing. Right now the BOD has positioned themselves to get community support because they sent out the letter and many will assume it is factual. If I act strategically I know I can turn this around. I just need to make sure my attorney is on board with me as far as showing up at the next weeks HOA meeting with people that will ask questions on my behalf. We fully intend to make the community aware of the potential legal costs that everyone will have to share.

I suppose anyone can, "cut and run" but I am living in my dream home. I built a lot of it myself and I did a ton of work on it myself. I know my house is built better than ANY other home in here. Builing this house took a lot out of me and I won't do it again because I can't. I worked until 1:00 in the morning most days and got up at 6:00 to start again. I did this for 6 months because I could not deal with the shoddy workmanship the subcontractors were giving me. I thought this would be my last home but I may be wrong. I do not want to be driven off by these people.

Thanks so much for sharing your experience and for taking the time to give me your advice.
AmandaR2
(South Carolina)

Posts:566


03/17/2015 8:40 AM  
Posted By TimB4 on 07/02/2014 5:30 PM
As there are two sides to any coin, I thought this would be a good flip side to an earlier thread about your biggest regret/mistake.

I will go on record that if I can find a property not in an Association that my wife and I can agree on, I'll move there. That said, I've had a lot of accomplishments once I've gotten involved with my Association. The Biggest I can't decide between three:

1) Proposed, and was adopted by the membership, a grandfather clause as an amendment to our Bylaws. This protects the membership from changes in tastes on the Board and is the main solution to my initial problem with the Association.

2) Increased transparency by digitizing and placing all governing documents, minutes, reports (audits, reserve studies, etc) and newsletters on the Associations website. I hope it will continue when I leave the Board but I don't think it will.

3) Placed the Association on the road to a better financial setting - this was done by performing our first reserve study (even though it had been a requirement for many years earlier) and educating the membership enough to have them approve a 20% increase in the assessments to fund the Reserves based on that study.


I never commented on this subject because personally I am not the type that is comfortable calling attention to my accomplishments and encouraging praise/recognition. (Not meant as a dig against any other posters it's just "not my style" or preference to do so.) I enjoy helping behind the scenes and don't crave the spotlight or public recognition. In fact It's going against my grain now to be talking this much about myself.

However I am posting this due to recent incidents/altercations on this forum. This provoked some thought about this subject. I have contributed to all four of the HOA governed communities I have lived in, whether I served on the Board or not (I served as Secretary). I feel all roles in communities are important and have an effect. I feel everyone deserves to expect and receive fair treatment and justice regardless of whether or not they have the time in their lives to serve or even attend all meetings. (I have always understood some people are not at a point in their lives where they can contribute the time and energy serving that it requires). I also feel getting fair treatment and being able to point out when something is wrong or not proper is the right of anyone living in the community and paying dues. I don't serve now in my current HOA (not even on a a commitee) but I pay dues and I attend all membership meeting and some BOD meetings and continue to expect fairness and continue educating myself regarding HOA business. I want to be prepared should problems occur. (I have no major gripes with my current HOA, if things were to deteriorate I would considers more involvement again.)

I would say my BIGGEST joys and accomplishments have been:

-Helping keep the neighborhood property values up by helping achieve an orderly, welcoming and friendly atmosphere.

-Not being afraid to speak up/speak my mind whether it be with new ideas or questioning something I suspect is not being handled properly. (I speak up even if the issue does not have a direct effect on me. I have been thanked by neighbors for this many, many times. (That's my reward--helping people in general).

-Taking the time to research and give suggestions on how things can be improved (more efficiently, economically, or in a kinder more "neighbor to neighbor" like manner.)



ps. I do realize that in condos and other type of communities with with more shared buildings, maintenance and such it is wise to have more of a strict, business like atmosphere. I understand the needs are very different in communities not similar to mine. I also admire the many accomplishments and details many of you have chosen to share.


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