By Deborah Goonan, Independent American Communities
I’m seeing more and more reports of owners that are fed up with their homeowner association’s failure to maintain the community or its amenities.
Here’s just one example from the Dallas-Fort Worth area.
Princeton Meadows HOA Locked in Pool Battle
(NBCDFW.com, Channel 5 VIDEO)
A chain and padlock secure the gate and a bright red City of Princeton violation notice is taped to the front. A glance beyond the gate tells you why. The pool is a deep green algae color with a thick film floating on the surface.
“I’m upset. I’m angry. I’ve got a daughter and we’d like to be able to swim in there,” homeowner Zach Hightower said.
“There’s a green film on the top now and with the mosquito issues we’ve been having who knows what’s capable of next,” said another homeowner, Jerry Williamson.
Both Hightower and Williamson have lived in this community for two years. Williamson loves the neighborhood and plans to retire here but says the pool is just the latest issue and the home owners organization is to blame.
“That one board member is also the managing agent for the HOA, makes all financial decisions, has all access to financials. It’s just not acceptable,” said Williamson.
People who own here pay more than $500 a year in HOA fees. Many of the nearly 220 other homeowners feel they are not getting their money’s worth because of issues with common areas and of course the current pool situation.
Read more and watch the video:
Assuming 220 homes pay at least $500 per year in assessments, that’s a $110,000 annual budget. Some homeowners apparently think the services they pay for are a bit pricey, especially since the algae-infested pool cannot be used at all.
According to the report, community manager Barbara Palmer says there’s no money. Owners want to know, where did their money go, if not to maintaining their pool?
Also according to the report, even after JP court has ordered the HOA to hand over the financial documents requested by homeowners, Palmer wants to charge one homeowner $15,000 for copies of financial records to which they are entitled as members of the HOA. Assuming ten cents per page, that’s 150,000 pages!
That’s just unbelievable!
What a shining example of HOA management/board transparency!
What’s really going on at Princeton Meadows?
For those of you not inclined to watch the 1 hour 11 minute video of the HOA annual meeting (scroll down to the lower part of the article linked above), I’ll provide some highlights:
Barbara Palmer starts off as Chair of the meeting, before it degrades into a shouting match at around the 19 minute mark.
Palmer introduces the three Board candidates, then briefly mentions there are propositions on the ballot.
From the video of the meeting, it is apparent that Princeton Meadows common areas consist of pool, a clubhouse, commonly owned green buffer zones along the main entry road; and a 1.6 acre plot of land with a retention pond.
At the 6 minute mark, Palmer explains that the pool has old equipment and needs to be resurfaced. A vote was taken at the last annual meeting to spend $25,000 to rehab the pool, but did not receive enough votes of approval to move forward.
Barbara Palmer has been a board member for several years, but also serves as the management agent for the HOA. The Association has been involved in litigation with at least one homeowner for the past 2 or 3 years.
Palmer is a board member holdover from 2008, when the developer still controlled the Association. (Turnover occurred in 2011) She signs all the checks, pays all the bills, and manages the contractors.
The meeting has just enough owners show up to make a quorum – much to the surprise and apparent chagrin of Palmer.
By a show of hands, three Board members are elected, one of whom has been serving with Palmer since 2013, and two new members for the HOA Board.
At the 19-23 minute marks, homeowners attempt to make motions to remove Barbara Palmer from the Board, as permitted in the By Laws. Another homeowner admonishes Palmer for failing to produce requested financial records, as order by JP court. (Clearly, there’s little understanding of Robert’s Rules of Order.)
At about 48 minutes, Palmer is “officially” removed from the Board, but she remains as management agent, pending the new Board’s determination to seek a different manager.
At 51 minutes, Palmer begins leaving the room with boxes of unused ballot packets, in defiance of homeowner objections.
At 52 minutes, a homeowner asks the new Board President why the HOA spent $52,000 on management and attorney fees last year. (That’s almost half of the HOA’s operating budget.) The new Board President (the one who has served with Palmer) says he cannot answer questions about the budget until he first meets with the new board. Also at 52 minutes, you can observe two homeowners walking back into the meeting room with the boxes of ballot packets that Palmer had just removed!
At 1 hour 4 minutes, the new Board President attempts to explain the 4 propositions on the ballots, but only explains 2 of them before the meeting is adjourned, deciding that members can mail in their ballot votes on the propositions, and that owners not in attendance will be mailed a packet. However, taking Palmer’s previous statements into account, the 4 propositions are:
1) Dissolve the mandatory HOA corporation in favor of a voluntary neighborhood association.
2) If the HOA remains, hire a third party management agent that has no affiliation with the developer.
3) Fund improvements for the pool.
4) Fund improvements to the retention pond.
At 1 hour 8 minutes, a homeowner asks why the HOA even has a retention pond in the first place.
As is my usual practice, when I read these reports, I see what I can learn about the Association and the community itself. I was able to identify a website.
First observation about Princeton Meadows HOA – do you see it on the screen shot of the home page?
Yes, indeed, Princeton Meadows is “a member of the Community Associations Institute – DFW (Dallas-Fort Worth) Chapter” as is Palmer.
In this case, some Princeton HOA documents are posted with public access. Now, the reader needs to realize that official documents are filed in the County where the HOA is located. What you can see on the HOA’s website may not be complete, and it may not be up to date. But it’s a place to start.
So I looked at the documents online, and learned something very interesting.
In May of 2005, while construction was still ongoing, the Declarant (Developer) unilaterally amended the governing documents for Princeton Meadows. See the screen shot below.
Note that the Developer must agree to future amendments to the governing documents as long as he owns even one lot. In addition, no member may amend the documents to remove any of the developer’s rights, AND members must obtain written consent of the City in order modify anything pertaining to the use, operation, or maintenance of common areas.
You can see how these legal “contract” provisions might make it exceedingly difficult for homeowners to dissolve the mandatory association, rid themselves of the retention pond that most owners don’t even know they own, or even do away with their pool, if the homeowners were to vote to do so.
Do you think that most of the 220 HOA members have been made even remotely aware of this amendment?
On March 23, 2011, Declarant (developer) assigned rights to the common areas over to the homeowners’ association. The signatory on that document? Barbara Palmer.
Check it out here:
Palmer has been in charge of managing Princeton Meadows for nearly 8 years!
Homeowners deserve to know how their money is being spent. But it seems like conflict in Princeton Meadows involves much more than a green pool!