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Subject: Why do so many owners need to hire an attorney?
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MichaelS56
(Minnesota)

Posts:300


05/21/2021 5:56 AM  
Reading a number of posts for the past two years, I have concluded that a very common piece of advice given to a person is hire an attorney. Individual owners of a house in a non-HOA neighborhood do not appear to hire attorneys so quickly when they have an issue with the city. Attorneys are expensive and of course their is no guarantee that they will be able to solve your problem(s. It is a sad commentary on us as that serve on Boards that there are so many Board members that appear to have a personal agenda and enjoy power over others thus causing many of the problems that are referred to this site.
SheliaH
(Indiana)

Posts:4290


05/21/2021 6:42 AM  
You're correct that there are some problems that may elevate to the the point that an attorney is necessary, but you're also right this doesn't have to be the case. It's not just a board acting petty or are on a massive power trip - sometimes homeowners so.ply do not understand or refuse to accept the rights and responsibilities that come with living in a HOA.

To wit - yes, you do have To pay your fair share of assessments in full and on time. Yez, there are some instances where you do need prior approval before making an exterior change to your home. Yes, the parking space in and around your community may be limited and so you will have to share with other residents.

And yes, reading the documents can be a chore because they're written by attorneys who know the words shall vs. may (not to mention a few more words and phrases) may turn a legal question on its head. That's why there isn't a statute that covers each and every scenario in HOA land. communities change and people change and while it helps to review the documents every 5-7 years with your association attorney to see If you're need updating, there are times when everyone needs to calm down, think before they speak and use common sense.

Unfortunately, we live in a time where fewer and fewer people want to give careful consideration of community ity issues or anything and want their way because it's what THEY want and to help with everyone else. This is so where education comes into play - homeowners have got to do some research before they but she understand what HOA living will mean. It's not just about reading the documents, you should talk to a few of the neighbors to see how they like living in the community and how much they know about what the board is doing.

Be careful of a community where no one has a clue or everyone says things like "oh, I don't get into that stuff - I just pay the fees and as long as they don't go up too much, the board can do whatever they like.". Likewise, give two side eyes to board members who can't give you a straight answer as to why they voted a certain way or seem to defer to one of two colleagues All. The.Time because they're incapable of thinking for themselves. The meglamaniacs are also to be avoided because there could be something very nasty brewing that you may not find about until it's too late.

As for the legalese, I personally won't go that route unless it's something critical and then I want to have a better than 70% chance I'm right. Sometimes people to from zero to 1000 because they're too lazy to read the documents themselves and expect slapdash answers to serious questions. Or accept reality, whatever that is.

SheliaH
(Indiana)

Posts:4290


05/21/2021 6:57 AM  
Forgot to mention education also applies to the board members, even more so. I don't expect perfection, but you should take the time to read your documents and understand how the community supposed to be run . Nothing the board does should ever be a surprise - people don't have to agree with the decision, but they shouldn't have to jump through hoops to get a response. The association money is everyone's money and homeowners have every right to know why, where and how it's being spent. I believe in open meeting so people can hear and see the decision making progress, and even if no one shows up, meeting minutes should be made available immediately upon request.

Since few people know how HOA boards operate (because they didn't necessarily sign up to do that when they bought their home), board's must find a way to get educated on best practices. That's why I often refer people to CAI - get some of their books and use them to develop a board members handbook for reference. Ask your association attorney to come in and give a few presentations. The property manager and association master insurance company may also have some resources. Use websites like This one to see how other communities handled certain situations - and why they screwed up, so you can learn how to avoid that.

When people refuse to educate themselves, act consistently and fairly, that's when problems start or escalate. That applies to everyone, whether you're in The board oranges homeowner in the community.

Above all, don't be a jackass- try treating people how your like to be treated, shut your mouth once in awhile and really listen to what's be I f said and try to consider another point of view or two (maybe three!). That may do far more in keeping everyone out of an attorney 's or or courtroom.

CathyA3
(Ohio)

Posts:2599


05/21/2021 8:05 AM  
I think part of it is that most of the new people posting questions here are having problems of some sort, or think they are. If you form an opinion about HOAs and COAs just based on this, you'll think they're cesspits of incompetence, malfeasance, and general disgruntlement. We're not hearing from those who are more or less content with things. Finally, there are just so many more HOAs and COAs nowadays, and the numbers continue to rise. So an increasing number of your acquaintances will have personal experience with them and you may hear more horror stories.
BarbaraT1
(Texas)

Posts:589


05/21/2021 8:57 AM  
You're always going to find more complaints and concerns on any message board because people don't take to the internet to say they have no problems and their association is boring and functional.

Given the tens of thousands of association across the country and the small number of posts here, on other places on the internet, and in the news, most HOAs are boring and functional.

I haven't seen a lot of "get a lawyer!" comments here, but I don't read all the topics so I may have missed them. People might suggest consulting a lawyer because:

They don't want to give advice they are not qualified to give
State laws vary widely and posters can't know every state statute
Governing documents vary widely and posters can't know what is in everyone's documents

Of course people who don't live in an HOA seldom need to contact a lawyer - they are not contractually bound to an association or deed restrictions! Very few people who do live in an HOA actually need a lawyer either. Often the solution to their problem is something they don't want to do, like attend meetings, read their documents, raise community support for whatever issue they are concerned about, pay their past due bills.



MaxB4
(California)

Posts:1601


05/21/2021 9:06 AM  
I have managed over120 associations over the past 12 years. I have never had a homeowner threaten legal action against any of those associations, because I made certain the clients were transparent and provide information promptly when requested.
MelissaP1
(Alabama)

Posts:10590


05/21/2021 9:55 AM  
There is a different mind set for those in a HOA and those whom are not. It almost seems that some people think an HOA has "deep pockets" or a "bubble" around them. They will hire a lawyer more quickly than going against the city. That is because of the old adage "You can't fight city hall". A HOA people seem to think it's different.

It is ironic that suing your HOA is suing yourself and your neighbors. I am in NO way stating or implementing an opinion i agree with when I say that. Facts are facts. I whole heartedly believe there are reasons one may sue their HOA. It is just that is the CONSEQUENCE for doing so. Something that needs to be factored in when making the decision. There are risks and consequences for doing so.

If you are to sue your HOA then one should do it as a "class action" suit rather than individual. That would have the best results if it is more than one member having the issue. However, having stated that it should be pointed out that the HOA is set up to be "corrected" by majority. Meaning if you have a majority of owners upset, they can remove the board or change the rules. No court needed.

Plus keep in mind that we are NOT lawyers on this forum. Each state is different. Each HOA is different. Each situation is different. We can only comment and advise on what is presented to us. It is best if you have a legal issue to consult the experts. They have license to practice law. We don't.

Former HOA President
AugustinD


Posts:1920


05/22/2021 8:35 AM  
I have belonged to three HOAs/COAs now. Serious, costly mistakes by boards at all three over five or so years were usual. Consequently, with my sample size of a mere three, I tend to think the negativity about HOAs/COAs posted here is the rule. And the exception is the well-run HOA/COA. I do think there are well run HOA/COAs out there.

Assuming the posts here are representative of the thoughts of HOA/COA directors and members nationwide, then I think the biggest problem is a lack of critical thinking skills. One can see it in the way people respond (or mostly, do not respond) to questions from the long-time posters here. Repeat posters often won't bother to look up and then read the two state statutes that typically apply to their HOA/COAs, even when told repeatedly in different threads to do so. They are largely incapable of keyword searches of their state's applicable statutes. (Maybe because knowing the right key word requires a lot of experience and critical thinking all by itself?) They're put off by the idea of having to read and think. Doing so is too much work. I do not see the same extent of, frankly, illiteracy in other online forums or even in the comments of national newspaper sites. Teach people to fish vs. giving folks fish? Even regular posters here just want to be given fish. Which is often a fool's errand, because the nuance and inability to communicate all the relevant details means said fish may not have much value.

Also it seems to me that this site sees a lot of posts from folks who speak English as a Second Language. They're battling with basic English vocabulary. Try to teach them some legalese, and they are doomed in their efforts to have a rational exchange with their boards. Likewise the Boards trying to communicate with ESL folks can quickly become frustrated, because of the language disconnect.

I do not have a solution. I sympathize with both sides in a dispute when it's clear that lack of a common first language is a barrier.

Maybe the main value of this forum is letting people vent and know they are not alone in their frustrations with either a HOA/COA's membership or a HOA/COA's board. Somehow psychologically this helps. Perhaps the chance to be heard and understood can be everything in helping people avoid suffering.
AvaA
(North Carolina)

Posts:28


05/22/2021 2:07 PM  
Posted By SheliaH on 05/21/2021 6:57 AM

Above all, don't be a jackass- try treating people how your like to be treated, shut your mouth once in awhile and really listen to what's be I f said and try to consider another point of view or two (maybe three!). That may do far more in keeping everyone out of an attorney 's or or courtroom.


BRAVO!
I can't believe the actions I'm witnessing from my fellow board members. It's such that I expect to resign soon. It's deeper than I don't want to get sued. I don't want to be associated with the board members, period.
AvaA
(North Carolina)

Posts:28


05/22/2021 2:09 PM  
Posted By MaxB4 on 05/21/2021 9:06 AM
I have managed over120 associations over the past 12 years. I have never had a homeowner threaten legal action against any of those associations, because I made certain the clients were transparent and provide information promptly when requested.



All boards need people like you as directors. I wish you were on my board.
MelissaP1
(Alabama)

Posts:10590


05/22/2021 3:39 PM  
Why scared of being sued? Worst case you get sued. Only thing the court can do is make one "whole". So if a situation goes to court it's not like winning the mega-millions. The reality is you may get your legal costs back and damages your suing for. If it's a rule to be enforced then that may happen.

I think people spend more time, energy, and money PREVENTING a possible lawsuit than just letting the lawsuit happen. Which 90% never happens. People threaten but rarely follow through. Plus if it was valid, then the HOA should work on resolving it. If it's frivolous, then it will most likely be tossed out of court. Which the court will do if the lawsuit is found to be outrageous. Plus they may award the HOA the person filing pay their legal costs.

So before start fearing a lawsuit. Look at what worse case is for if they won their case. It's not all what you may think it is. Most insurance pays out even on a million dollar policy 80K. It may hurt loan offerings or interest rates for refinancing. Which having too many liens or debt does the same.

Is it worth being scared of a lawsuit? Not really. Suing your HOA is suing yourself and your neighbors. If your willing to take that consequence then get prepared.

Former HOA President
JohnC46
(South Carolina)

Posts:11665


05/23/2021 8:26 AM  
Posted By MaxB4 on 05/21/2021 9:06 AM
I have managed over120 associations over the past 12 years. I have never had a homeowner threaten legal action against any of those associations, because I made certain the clients were transparent and provide information promptly when requested.



I find it hard to believe no owner ever threatened to sue. I say threatened, not actually did. There had to be a few Aholes along the way.
MaxB4
(California)

Posts:1601


05/23/2021 9:59 AM  
Yes, there are A-holes, but none have even threaten to sue.

In over 12 years, outside of construction defect law suits already in place, or updating one's governing documents, the total legal expenses for 120 associations hasn't been over $5K total. Only a handful even used legal counsel.

Be transparent, handle a situation before it becomes a problem.
AmyT1
(California)

Posts:14


05/26/2021 12:48 PM  
hi,

what other recourse does one have, if HOA is not/has not maintained common area drainage, to the degree it has damaged your property? And you are disabled and lack of maintnance is affecting your ability to use your property?
AugustinD


Posts:1920


05/26/2021 12:53 PM  
Posted By AmyT1 on 05/26/2021 12:48 PM
hi,

what other recourse does one have, if HOA is not/has not maintained common area drainage, to the degree it has damaged your property? And you are disabled and lack of maintnance is affecting your ability to use your property?
Submit a Fair Housing complaint to HUD, focused exclusively on how the HOA is not accommodating your disability, and nothing else.
JohnC46
(South Carolina)

Posts:11665


05/26/2021 1:55 PM  
I believe many posters are ones that feel they have an issue with their HOA and are looking for advice. I believe most of them are new to association living and few of them actually end up getting legal help. Those seeking/getting legal advice are an infinitesimal amount compare to the many that live in an association.

I also believe many new posters are shopping for answers they want to hear and end up do nothing.
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