By Deborah Goonan, Independent American Communities
State by state, residents share similar complaints about their community homeowner associations
A collection of news reports of common complaints about association governed, common interest communities.
INDIANA – Residents say AG office should hold HOAs accountable
According to this CALL 6 report, 95 residents of HOAs in the state of Indiana have filed consumer complaints against their associations since 2016, but most of those complaints have been dismissed.
Betsy Isenberg of the Consumer Protection division of the Indiana Attorney General’s office says that most HOA complaints fall outside of the department’s jurisdiction. The AG primarily investigates HOA complaints involving suspected financial misconduct or fraud.
As is the case in virtually every state in the U.S., complaints about inconsistent or abusive enforcement of covenants, or failure of the association to properly maintain the common areas fall outside of the scope of duty for the AG office of Consumer Protection division.
And that presents a huge problem for housing consumers, whose choices are limited to the following:
- sue their HOA in civil court (a potentially costly and stressful endeavor),
- attempt to oust their board of directors (rarely an easy task, sometimes impossible),
- move out if possible,
- or simply put up with abuse or poor service from their HOA.
CALL 6: Homeowners say state can’t do enough about HOAs
4:37 PM, Jul 24, 2017
8:41 PM, Jul 24, 2017
INDIANAPOLIS — Some Hoosier homeowners believe the Indiana Attorney General’s office does not have enough authority to intervene when they’re having a problem with their homeowners association, or HOA.
Approximately 960,000 people in Indiana live in a neighborhood with a community association, and these residents pay $1.1 billion a year to maintain their communities, according to the Community Associations Institute.
Homeowners associations do a slew of things including setting rules for fences, and supporters say they help protect and enhance property values.
However, some Hoosiers believe the state of Indiana is not doing enough to intervene when there is a problem with an HOA.
More than 95 consumers have filed unverified complaints with the Indiana Attorney General’s office about HOAs since 2016, records show.
However, most complaints are closed because of insufficient evidence, no violation found, or the agency does not have jurisdiction, records show.
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MASSACHUSETTS – Flag restrictions and abusive fines
According to another report from Boston 25 News, A woman has been fined for displaying the American flag on her front door over the 4th of July holiday.
But, in my opinion, the more important part of the 25 Investigates story is that Liberty Commons Condo Association seems to be on a fining spree, invoicing over $49,000 in fines over the first nine months of 2016 alone.
A set of Rules and Regulations is posted on the Liberty Commons blog maintained by the board President. It states that nothing can be hung on the exterior surfaces of doors and windows without permission from the board of directors. (See section 1.5)
It is unclear whether or not these rules and regulations are consistent with official Covenants and Restrictions on file with the County.
And it is also unclear how the federal Freedom to Display the American Flag Act of 2005 applies to Liberty Commons, because the Flag Act does allow for association governed communities such as Liberty Commons to enact and enforce restrictions as to exactly where and how the American flag can be displayed. That’s a huge, gaping loophole that homeowner, condo, and cooperative associations regularly exploit.
Clearly, homeowners are fed up, and at least one state legislator vows to take action.
25 Investigates: Woman fined for hanging American flag on her front door
by: Eric Rasmussen, Erin Smith Updated: Jul 24, 2017 – 11:32 PM
BOSTON – A Leominster woman was forced to pay a fine for hanging an American flag on her own front door – a move that has one state lawmaker calling for action to protect patriotic homeowners.
Elizabeth Heller called Boston 25 News Investigative Reporter Eric Rasmussen because she said it “isn’t right” that her condo association forced her to take down the flag she hung in celebration of July 4th at her complex – ironically named Liberty Commons.
“I was appalled,” said Heller. “This was the flag that was hanging on the outside of my door on July 1.”
Property managers sent Heller a notice for having a “prohibited personal item” and fined her $20 per day over three days.
“I’m like, you live in the United States, these men fight for your freedom and you’re telling me to take my flag down?” said Heller.
Heller’s condo board restricts decorations to an “18-inch diameter circle or square.”
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NEBRASKA – HOA enforcing “nitpicky” rules for back yard decks
In this Omaha community, Westin Hills Townhome Association provides maintenance for some, but not all exterior improvements. The Covenants, Conditions,and Restrictions (CC&Rs) posted on the HOA management website here, do not specifically list maintenance of decks as a duty of the HOA. On the other hand, the CC&Rs specify that homeowners must get approval from the Architectural Committee before painting or otherwise modifying any exterior surfaces.
Here are the relevant excerpts from the CC&Rs. Can you see how vague and confusing they may be to homeowners? Would you conclude the owner or the HOA is supposed to maintain the decks?
To answer this question, the owner would have to know whether or not the deck was orginally constructed by the home builder or later added by the owner. Considering that home construction began in 1998, it is safe to assume that many of the homes have turned over to new owners by now, and current owners may not be certain as to who installed their decks or when they were installed.
This next screen shot explains that the owner must perform some exterior maintenance. But it also states that homeowners must essentially get permission from the HOA Architectural Control Committee (ACC) before painting any exterior surface.
In the WOWT News6 report posted below, one of the homeowners that has received a violation notice from the HOA attorney say that her decks has always been painted white, and that she has merely repainted, adding a fresh coat of the same color.
If the color was approved when the deck was originally built, why does it require reapproval now?
Here is what is particularly disturbing about multiple owners getting letters from the HOA Attorney. In Section 2, the CC&Rs state that the HOA “may, at its discretion, in the event that any Owner of any Lot in the Properties has not (sic) maintained, replaced or kept repaired the premises and the improvements situated thereon in a manner satisfactory to the Board of Directors” the board may vote by 2/3 to enter a homeowner’s property, make repairs and modifications to bring the home into compliance, charge the homeowner for any work done by the HOA’s contractors, and the cost of that “maintenance shall be added to and become part of the assessment to which such Lot is subject.”
In other words, homeowners who have painted their decks the “wrong” color in the opinion of a few people on the ACC and board face the threat of a lien for unpaid assessments if they refuse to either repaint their decks an approved color, or if they refuse to reimburse the HOA for taking it upon themselves to repaint the deck.
Homeowners feel decked by their association
By Mike McKnight | Posted: Mon 8:15 PM, Jul 17, 2017 | Updated: Tue 11:55 AM, Jul 18, 2017
OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) — A shock in the mail for some homeowners in a northwest Omaha neighborhood. A demand they change the look of their decks or face possible legal action.
Her freshly painted white deck may cause squinting but Sheila Lyons says it’s not an eyesore. The homeowner said, “And by doing what I did I feel like I’m protecting the wood so it doesn’t rot and fall apart.”
Though claiming her deck has been white for 11 years, Sheila got a letter from Westin Hills West Four Homeowners Association requesting a natural wood color.
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