By Deborah Goonan, Independent American Communities
In my opinion, one of the biggest deceptive marketing ploys by developers of planned communities is the notion that home buyers should pay a premium for a “water view” lot.
The truth is, unless your house is on the shores of a recreational lake or a seaside location, your “water view” is merely a stormwater retention pond. The reason these ponds or small “lakes” exist is to collect stormwater runoff from the rooftops of all of those newly built homes, plus their driveways, and, of course, the roads.
The truth is, developers could create one large water detention area, a safe distance away from homes and back yards. If you look at older, more established subdivisions, you will rarely see stormwater ponds. If they are present, they are generally hidden from view.
But in more recent decades the practice has been to build several or even dozens of small ponds with houses closely surrounding each pond. In many cases, owners with lots adjacent to these open spaces have paid extra for their pond view!
Well, what happens if that pond was not properly designed or constructed? Or what if your homeowners’ association does not maintain it properly – either because they don’t know how to maintain a storm water pond or they cannot afford to do so?
You can end up with all sorts of headaches – foul-smelling, algae choked water, massive fish kills, ponds that leak and become little more than mud puddles, ponds that overflow their banks and cause flood damage, or, in the case of one family in Frisco, Texas, shoreline erosion and landslides that threaten your personal property and safety.
Video coverage, WFAA Channel 8 News, (With yard eroding, Frisco family appeals to City Hall)
More photos, details at Dallasnews.com, (Frisco homeowners in fight over disappearing back yard)
Now here are a few more things that your real estate agent or the media are unlikely to tell you:
The developer hands over maintenance responsibility to the HOA as soon as possible, because it’s expensive to maintain a storm water system, and especially bodies of water.
Another expense involved with ponds – liability insurance. This is a costly necessity for your HOA, because every year, a few people tragically drown in one of these ponds – they accidentally fall into a pond, or they lose control and drive into the water.
While the developer controls the HOA, generally before construction is completed, he or she appoints the HOA Board of Directors. That effectively provides a shield against legal liability for construction defects. After the storm water system is handed over to the HOA, there is a very short time period during which your HOA can attempt to make the developer pay for repairs. Quite often, the statute of limitations runs out before the real problems become apparent.
Of course, usually, the developer will blame damages on the negligence of the HOA Board to adequately maintain the system. That appears to be the strategy that Shaddock Developers, Ltd. is using with Lone Start Ranch HOA.
And if the developer fails to take responsibility, all homeowners in the association must share the cost of correcting the problems.