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Subject: To Bee, or not to Bee:
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Author Messages
BrianB
(California)

Posts:2820


06/26/2006 4:29 PM  
Okay, fun one today for me.

Homeowner tells me that a hive of bees has settled into the concrete block wall at the back of his property. Not ON the wall, but inside the wall: inside the holes of the concrete block. Since this wall separates his property from a common area, it is a jointly "owned" wall between him and the HOA.

The question was: "Who is responsible for the removal of the bees?"

In our CC&R's, it states that any damage to the wall is the responsibility of the owner who damages it. If the damage is no one's fault, then both owners split the cost. However, the bees aren't damaging anything (and not likely they will.. .hard for a bee to damage concrete block). THe CC&R's also state that the owners are responsible for maintaining a yard "free of noxious weeds and insects". There is no such rule binding the HOA for keeping bugs out, since we are all Single family homes, with no common HOA buildings, etc..

WHat would you do? Pay for the removal? REfuse to pay? Split the cost?


My answer: Since this homeowner is one of our "best" (regular payer, never late), we rewarded him by simply saying "get it done, and we will reimburse you." However, had he been one of our bad owners, i might have had a different attitude.

Anyone else had something like this?

BradP
(Kansas)

Posts:2640


06/26/2006 7:46 PM  
Brian:

I like the approach.

Brad
GeraldT1


Posts:0


06/27/2006 5:56 AM  
BrianB - If the wall is common area, jointly owned by HOA and the owner, the responsibility for removing the bees, and maintenance to the wall, is both the HOA and the owner. While the bees may not cause any damage to the wall, they may cause damage to the residents. The bees are seeking shelter on common property. Therefore, it's in the best interests of the HOA to reward everyone equally and deal with the matter by splitting the cost and not set a precedent of favoritism.

This bee issue is just one concern that commonly owned walls can present. Who's responsibility will it be if this commonly owned retaining wall needs more extensive maintenance, or causes damage from collapsing? I know all too well what our attorney's legal interpretation is of a commonly owned retaining wall collapsing. Resonsibility depends upon where the fault actually occurred. Just like a 3 cars that are rear ended.

As for your last paragraph, are you saying you would deal with an HOA common property maintenance item differently for different owners? This hints at favoritism.

In this case, I would have advised the owner that the HOA will split the cost for the removal of the bees however the HOA will contract for the restoration of the commonly owned wall. What's intersting about this is that the owner will be paying twice. Once for half of his/her cost, a second time in his/her HOA monthly maintenance contribution.

GeraldT1
BrianB
(California)

Posts:2820


06/27/2006 8:03 AM  
yes gerald, my last paragraph is definately favoritism. I favor those owners who pay on time, every time, and disfavor those who are behind in their dues, never pay, and cause us to hire lawyers to collect their dues.

definately favoritism. unabashed.
LisaS
(Illinois)

Posts:341


06/27/2006 8:46 AM  
I always go to 'worst case scenario', like what if the bee hive got out of control, someone was allergic, walked by and got attacked. Then, more liability.

Favoritism exists, HOA's don't exist in a vacuum. I am against favoritism and special treatment, but I likely would have done the same thing.

If it was a really big expense, more review might have been needed. But in the time it would take to figure out who should pay what, how, etc. the problem was buzzing and getting bigger!
GeraldT1


Posts:0


06/27/2006 9:08 AM  
BrianB - Restricting owners use of the benefits of a pool, or features when they are in arrears or not members in good standing is one thing. Favoritism has no place in HOA governing. If this owner was behind in maintenance or not in good standing in my association, my approach would still be to split the costs of the bee removal, and bill the owner for his/his share. The reason is that the HOA has a fiduciary obligation to protect the membership at large, and not put other owners in jeopardy because of another owners stupidity or irresponsible finances. The job of bee removal would need to be done irrespective of who is to pay for it. In your circumstance, you are dealing with a cooperative owner that is more likely to reimburse the association than one that is in arrears. I would have seized that opportunity and the HOA would have profited from the owners good example. GeraldT1
HaroldS
(Arizona)

Posts:906


06/27/2006 10:22 AM  
Well Brian - you epitomize all that is said about power hungry amateur HOA board members. I pity your members who are not your favorites. Harold
BradP
(Kansas)

Posts:2640


06/27/2006 11:06 AM  
I don't want to jump into an argument but I think what Brian did was well meaning and not a power hungry attempt at anything. I probably would have done the same thing if the expenditure was not very much. I think it is important to keep into perspective that some of us have little to no experience with HOA's. Unfortunately either the structure was never there or there is little help in terms or resources or people.

In my case it was either I did it or we went back to the fiasco that I have identified before where no minutes were kept, very poor and suspect bookkeeping and borderline illegal votes and elections. I have learned a lot from this forum and just by doing things in my 9 months on the job. I don't consider myself power hungry, but I am still very naive. But, I do have a vision for what I want to see happen and if no one else is willing to offer their vision what is wrong with mine as long as it is done properly?

However, we are all still human, and yes I do agree with Brian, If you pay on time and do things the right way maybe there should be a small reward for you. Whether this was an appropriate way to do that is up to debate, but I can't fault a board member for wanting to take care of those who make his job easy. Just my two cents...
GeraldT1


Posts:0


06/27/2006 12:16 PM  
BradP - You touched upon something which is the bigger message this bee issue has evidenced; rewarding owners. I don't support the concept that owners should be rewarded, or given special treatement for doing what they are supposed to do, i.e. paying maintenance on time, adhering to the rules and regs. I also don't think acceptibility of a small expenditure justifies anything. Owners get wind of everything. All they'll remember is that the HOA picked up the tab. Some will use it to claim discrimination when their turn comes. I can't blame Harold for his comments given Brian's "unabashed" remark, I find the comment to be unseasoned but am reasurred given his courage to post his feelings in this format. We all learn our lessons. My replies to Brian and you are to help you think of the flipside. GeraldT1
BrianB
(California)

Posts:2820


06/27/2006 12:47 PM  
Two additional keys to this issue: I would indeed do the same thing for any owner who paid their dues on time, etc., so my favoritism isn't for this one owner, it is for all owners, should they consent to join our little association and be valued members. Owners who do not pay their dues are saying "I don't want to be part of the association", and thus, why should I reward them or come to their aid at the drop of a hat? When owners pay their dues, the association is there for them. When they refuse to be part of the association, why should we bend over backwards to provide them services they never contributed too?

Secondly, there seems an assumption here that these bees somehow pose a threat, or potential threat to the association or members. I would ask for proof of that. Bees exist everywhere, and i do not believe it is the association's job to kill every bee that comes onto our property. Is it our job or duty to slay every lizard? exterminate every snake, wasp or flying bug? Should the association somehow lethally destroy every mosquito or virus that could potentially cause someone an illness, reaction, etc.? Why does a colony of bees get killed, and a colony of e coli not? Do we have an obligation, if bees are our responsibility, to go wipe down everyone's cutting boards for staph, e coli, etc.? After all, more people are at risk for infections than bee stings. Why should the association do anything at all about bees nesting in a wall? We don't do anything about ants, grasshoppers, beetles, even roaches.
LisaS
(Illinois)

Posts:341


06/27/2006 1:13 PM  
Brian, you seem to be getting a little defensive.

Technically, I would think that if it was a common wall, the association should split the cost with the homeowner. Depending on the cost of a can of insect killer, I am guessing about $2 each. I don't think anyone legimately is concerned about the cost.

These are the stupid little things that members remember...if there are enough bees to be of concern to the homeowner that they brought it to your attention, then they feel it's a problem. And probably told others.

If the wall abuts a common area that is used, and it's a big hive...and you know it's there...then it is a liability issue. We had a very similar issue in our community gazebo. Bees are everywhere, but if you sit or lean on the wall (I have no idea what size it is...) you are likely to be stung. I am allergic to bees- so for me it is a serious danger. I guess you could always put up a sign that say 'Danger: Bees' ;-)
GeraldT1


Posts:0


06/27/2006 1:30 PM  
BrianB,

Don't think of rectifying the bee situation as a reward for those that "don't want to be part of the association". Think of it as rewarding all those that are already part of it.

I agree that it is easier to lend a sympathetic ear to those members that pay on time, or contribute to the association by volunteering. However, owners should not be rewarded for doing what they are supposed to do, i.e. paying maintenance on time, etc.

You have not disproved your favoritism, you have only reafirmed it. Just because you apply it to more than one owner does not mean your criteria for treatment is equal. Because, whether you like it or not, you have a fiduciary responsibility to protect the membership at large, even those that are not the best of members. You cannot escape the HOA's responsibility to maintain the common elements. The HOA does not have the luxury of NOT being held accountable for neglectful acts, this one was brought to your attention. Failure to remedy the solution will place you at risk.

The bees pose a threat as they are nesting in a wall, the bees came to the attention of the unit owner and therefore pose a phsycological threat as well. Given your rambling about potential hazzards and the HOA responsibility for things that are not associated with HOA functions (wiping cutting boards, illness, etc.), I'll preempt you by saying NO you don't have to spring for therapy of phsychological threats. However you cannot discount the potential for a risk to the association given a nest or perhaps colony of bees. Have you every heard of carpenter bees? They destroy roofs and wood. Have you ever heard of millipedes? They are common in cheap mulch and new construction. To eradicate them, treatement for at least 3 years is necessary.

GeraldT1
BrianB
(California)

Posts:2820


06/27/2006 4:06 PM  
Gerald, you raise interesting points. I will try to address each in turn.

You write "Don't think of rectifying the bee situation as a reward for those that "don't want to be part of the association". Think of it as rewarding all those that are already part of it."

I think that's exactly what i am doing: rewarding those members who are part of our association. In this case, the member is a dues paying owner with a problem. I solved his problem. If he had not been a dues paying member, then he loses rights under our CC&R's, one right being the right to vote, the other being the loss of any facilities or services provided by the HOA.

You write "I agree that it is easier to lend a sympathetic ear to those members that pay on time, or contribute to the association by volunteering. However, owners should not be rewarded for doing what they are supposed to do, i.e. paying maintenance on time, etc."

an aside, but this debate is constantly raging in my own company every year at compensation time: do you reward those who do their jobs competently everyday, or is that what the paycheck is all about.



I have indeed heard of carpenter bees, and millipedes. Are you saying that if a carpenter bee comes onto a homeowners property, he should call his HOA and demand we eradicate it? THat since it flew over, or may be nesting on common (or jointly owned) property, we must destroy it? It may be feeding on our cottonwood, or nesting on a gazebo and feeding on his deck: which is the ownership?

If your claim is that the bees are a threat, please define the threat: how are bees threatening? I have lived around bees all my life, and only been stung once (and that was absolutely my fault). And if it is indeed our responsibility to eradicate psychological threats, then that opens a huge can of worms (no insect pun intended) as well. after all, what if an owner THINKS that a storm could knock down a tree on common area, and shatter his peaceful home: Must we remove the tree, because of that perceived threat? What about a light pole that could, in a high wind, be picked up and blown into a living room. What if someone fears that could occur? Even if the light pole is 200 feet away? Must we kow tow to everyone's perceived threats and fears? If we begin to deal with perceived threats, how can we draw the line? How do you quantify which perceived threats are worthwhile, and which are koo koo? What if they are terrified of ants, or beetles, or mice? Must we radiate our common areas, and destroy all life, so no one feels threatened?

I realize i am rambling and extending the arguement: however, if I am asked to put to death a perfectly natural, relatively harmless colony of bees because someone feels threatened, I would like to know where the HOA's limits to threat reduction are. If the HOA owns the responsibility to reduce that risk, then we should own the responsibility to reduce all risks greater than that, correct?

BrianB
(California)

Posts:2820


06/27/2006 4:21 PM  
And Gerald, I want to thank you for engaging in this "debate". Your comment about helping to see the flip side is important, and I feel that is important. Your comments make me exam my actions and thoughts, and i hope that my comments help other people to better examine their actions and thoughts.

It is my hope that through processes like this, even to the "silly" extremes we may take an arguement, help others to see the logic of their situations, and consequences.

I find you a worthy "opponent" on this issue, and my hope is, a worthy ally on the next issue. To paraphrase an NPR program I love, "I find your opinions to be well thought out and insightful. Needless to say, they are not mine."

GeraldT1


Posts:0


06/27/2006 5:10 PM  
BrianB,

The wall is commonly owned. You solved his problem which so happens to be the entire HOA's problem. Luckily for your HOA members, this owner was in good favor. Otherwise given your logic and statements, it doesn't seem the problem would be rectified.

Let's say it was something else, something more serious, like a real threat as opposed to the bogus ones you've concocted in your second to last paragraph!! LOL. Let's say one of your more "irresponsible owners" reported a tree that was going to fall and cause harm to common property. Do you ignore the report, or do you respond (as you are supposed to when governing an HOA) by weighing the situation and acting in a manner so as to protect the members of the HOA? You could take a few seconds to gracefully remind the "irresponsible owner" that a well run association is a two way street, where owners contribute in their maintenance that allows the HOA to act on everyone's behalf, like in the instance of a tree about to fall.

My thought is that the dialogue must be fostered even with owners that are not "favored" for whatever reason. Late fees or not, it's basic HR that can kill two birds, or bees, with one stone.

There is no arguing with your comparisons because they are at one end of the extreme and are not what I am saying at all. Do you realize you put words in people's mouths? There is a big difference between a bee coming onto a property and responding to an owner's report of bees in a commonly owned wall.

You deal with each issue as it arises..

I am neither your opponent, nor your ally. Rather a fellow like you who is living in an HOA, and seeking perspective that can benefit others.

GeraldT1
BrianB
(California)

Posts:2820


06/27/2006 5:33 PM  
well, if the tree was growing from HOA property, it would easily be our problem, IF the tree truly presented a risk to property or person. However, if the tree were merely "leaning", would we have an obligation to kill it because an owner "thought it might fall?".

If the tree grew on the owners side of the property, it's his business. However, if the tree grew exactly on the property line, then we would own halfsies.

Perhaps my other examples were "wild". However, I still have not heard a single arguement that a hive of bees represents a risk that should be a capitol crime for them.

Imagine this arguement: a homeowner, afraid of the risk of that horrible pandemic "bird flu", is concerned that the starlings roosting in the common area could infect his children and kill them.

Must we now go out and kill the starlings? After all, the risk is there, albeit small. Even if you argue that the risk is negligible, because no cases have been reported in the US, a court may decide differently. After all, thousands of companies in the US have already spent millions of dollars on Bird Flu preparedness, including proactive measures to prevent roosting on property, etc. SO, if a precedent has been set, does that create a path we must also begin to follow? Courts have certainly been known to find parties negligent for failing to provide a reasonable standard of care, as evidenced by other similar parties actions.

Lastly, would I tell an owner "No, I won't help you with your problem"? Probably not. However, under our covenants, I could: non paying owners are rightfully denied "access to common areas, facilities and services of the association". Killing bees in a common wall is a service we provide to those owners who pay their dues.

GeraldT1


Posts:0


06/27/2006 8:11 PM  
BrianB,

I believe you are innacurately reading your covenants. But let's say your reading is correct. Following your logic thread, if non paying owners are rightfully denied access to common areas...then paying owners are rightfully granted access, correct? Are you going to sacrifice the rights of paying owners because of one bad egg?

However, keep in mind you are talking about a wall that is jointly owned by the HOA and the Owner. You are not talking about a pool or a service where access can be denied.

Maintenance of the common property is a service my association must share or provide even to those who do not pay their dues. Maintenance of jointly owned property that is used or accessible by all members is my association's responsibility to provide even to those who do not pay their dues.

Unfortunately, bees and humans cannot always live in harmony, it may be a hard concept for some to accept. They are burrowing in a place they should not, they are forming a colony in a jointly owned wall, it's that simple. Perhaps you can seek a more holistic approach as opposed to capital punishment. There are bee collectors.

While you debate your philosophy of when to act, there are other members of this site that seek answers on how to act. They do so in the best interests of their associations to protect their communities at large. I believe you could learn something from them on how to be, as I have learned something from you on how not to be.

GeraldT1
SwanB
(Washington)

Posts:199


06/27/2006 9:30 PM  
You speak of bees in this argument but we have had members complain of mosquitos propogating in standing water on common areas in our HOA and their concern about the West Nile virus; and asking the Board what we are going to do about this.
GeraldT1


Posts:0


06/28/2006 7:44 AM  
SwanB,

Bees are just one example. The responsibilities of an HOA vary. Standing water on common areas is an HOA concern. That mosquitos could propogate is secondary to the standing water that needs to be addressed.

Let's say there was standing water on a roadway (bad drainage/pitch of road). This would be of concern to the HOA to remedy. Because standing water on roadways is one of the biggest contributing factors to roadway failure, as per my association's Transition Engineering Firm.

On the flipside, it is unrealistic to expect the HOA address, one bee, or paranoid complaints.

Interesting enough, the community I lived in previously had one or two woodpeckers that did devasting damage to the wood trim of numerous units. Guess why it was gouging the wood? To get at the carpenter bees that had burrowed on the other side!!

Not addressing one problem can often lead to another.

GeraldT1

GeraldT1
SwanB
(Washington)

Posts:199


06/28/2006 8:27 AM  
Absolutely right GeraldT1, and the reason I brought up an insect other than bees for this argument which leads to the actual and true problem we need to be concerned with: Standing water on common areas.
We recently discovered a group of bats flying out from under the eaves of our clubhouse every night and are needing to research any potential destruction these winged critters can do. We certainly enjoy their presence since they munch on mosquitos but want all of our bases covered.
BrianB
(California)

Posts:2820


06/28/2006 10:51 AM  
with mosquitos, there may be county or state health laws that you can copy/follow. If your HOA does what the county requires, you should be in compliance. Anything extra is up to the HOA.
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