HOA blames deed restrictions for delays in reconstruction following Hurricane Harvey

Meyerland Community Improvement Association seeks to amend its restrictions. But will that benefit property owners?

By Deborah Goonan, Independent American Communities

 

Last autumn, Hurricane Harvey hit homes in Meyerland, Texas, hard. Some properties took on several feet of water, and were damaged beyond repair. (See these photos from the Houston Chronicle to see flooding in Meyerland.)

And, according to a report from KHOU11 News, six months have gone by since the 1950s-era homes have been demolished, yet home sites remain vacant, as homeowners contend with bureaucratic rules from Meyerland Community Improvement Association.

 

 

Harvey victims say HOA rules are holding up recovery

Author: Jason Miles
Published: 10:07 PM CST February 16, 2018
It’s been nearly six months since Hurricane Harvey and much of the Houston area is still recovering.

In some cases, homeowners say HOA rules are their biggest hurdles as they try and rebuild their lives.

“We lived here for 43 years,” said Tony Cernosek of Meyerland. He and his wife raised three sons in the home that used to stand on the lot where we met him.

They decided to demolish and rebuild thanks to what three feet of water did to it.

“We just want to get started, get the home built, and get our lives back,” said Cernosek.

They’ve spent thousands of dollars on a new home plan. It should already be under construction on their longtime lot; but it isn’t, they say, thanks to Meyerland’s HOA.

“There are 22 sections that have different deed restrictions,” said Cernosek.

For instance, the front-facing carport they want to replicate is no longer acceptable in their section.

Although we counted at least three homes with front-facing carports or garages right around the corner.

“You would think they would do everything they could to help people rebuild,” said Cernosek.

KHOU 11 News reached out to the Meyerland Community Improvement Association.

Its General Manager said the HOA sympathizes with homeowners and is working on homogenizing rules.

“With all that said, the Association Board cannot override the lot owner voted restrictions – only new revised restrictions can change them,” Amy Hoechstette wrote in an email.

Until that happens, new projects are at the mercy of old rules.

Read more (Video):

http://www.khou.com/article/news/harvey-victims-say-hoa-rules-are-holding-up-recovery/285-519895885

Meyerland Community Improvement Association (MCIA), located in Southwest Houston, was established in the mid-1950s, when most of the subdivision was originally constructed. The HOA is governed by a 19-member board of directors. According to information posted on its website, MCIA provides maintenance of common grounds and a “patrol” contract with Harris County Police Department, Precinct 5.

Approximately half of annual assessments pays for the security contract ($237 as of 2015), and the rest pays for maintenance, insurance, and several neighborhood gatherings. MCIA works with a collections company to enforce assessment obligations.

The mid-century deed-restricted neighborhood has long been known for its garden clubs, as well as social and recreational groups serving the subdivision. According to the “about” section of MCIA’s website, the neighborhood is in a period of transition.

Today there are 2,309 homesites in Meyerland. The property continues to increase in value and the name Meyerland is one that brings to mind a beautiful residential neighborhood with strong restrictions. New and younger families are moving in. Many are second and third generation Meyerlanders who knew what they liked a long time ago and are moving back. Many older homes are now being razed and new, larger homes are being built.

 

A history of flooding

Curiously, the fact that Meyerland has been inundated by three floods in three years is not mentioned on MCIA’s website.

In fact, shortly after Hurricane Harvey devastated the Houston area, The Chicago Tribune reprinted and article (written by Peter Whoriskey and Patricia Sullivan of the Washington Post), describing the plight of Meyerland and other southeastern Texas neighborhoods coping with repeated flooding.

The cause, according to experts cited in the article, is Meyerland’s proximity to Bray’s Bayou, combined with decades of upstream development that has resulted in an exponential increase in storm water runoff into the mature, low-lying community.

Most homeowners are faced with the choice of either elevating their homes — a very costly endeavor — or hoping for an eventual buyout from Harris County. As noted in the following article, quite a few homeowners are sick and tired of coping with flood damage, and are ready to move out of Meyerland permanently.

Residents of flood-weary Houston neighborhoods wonder if rebuilding is worth it

September 14, 2017 7:55 PM

Peter Whoriskey and Patricia Sullivan
Washington Post

The suburban Houston enclave of Meyerland has long presented a facade of prosperity and permanence.

Built half a century ago on what had been rice fields, it totals more than 2,000 spacious homes, many with swimming pools, all set amid unfurling green lawns. In 1955, Vice President Richard M. Nixon attended the development’s ribbon-cutting. Michael Dell, the billionaire computer entrepreneur, grew up here.

Read more:

http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/nationworld/ct-harvey-houston-flooding-rebuilding-20170914-story.html

 

Amending the deed restrictions

It’s in this post-Harvey environment that MCIA has decided to amend its deed restrictions or CC&Rs (Covenants, Conditions, & Restrictions) for all 22 sections of the subdivision. The process, as spelled out in Meyerland’s governing documents, is likely to take at least 6 months.

During that time, lot owners working on rebuilding are stuck in a holding pattern, unless they agree to abide by existing, older restrictions.

But that’s only part of the story.

Consider that there is no guarantee that the amendment procedure will be successful. That is to say, it’s possible that MCIA will not be able to get a majority of all lot owners to agree to the proposed amendments within a 6-month time frame.

After all, some owners intend to never return to Meyerland, and probably won’t be too interested in reviewing amendments to the deed restrictions.

And also consider that some of the proposed amendments are not homeowner friendly.

 

Proposed amendments to Meyerland’s deed restrictions

The screen shot below (Source: meyerland.net) highlights MCIA’s stated purpose of maintaining appearances in each section or neighborhood.

Source: Meyerland.net

 

 

The process for amending documents is as follows:

 

Source:Meyerland.net

 

A majority of lot owners must approve amendments applicable to their section of MCIA.

 

A vintage HOA

It should be noted that Meyerland sudivision’s roads and storm water management systems are maintained by Harris County. The association has the duty to maintain some common green spaces and an entry sign, but Meyerland has no shared recreational amenities.

Restrictions in Meyerland include many pages of requirements for preserving aesthetic standards, although specific restrictions vary somewhat among the 22 sections of Meyerland.

However, there are some interesting proposed amendments that don’t involve the architectural standards. Instead, amendments propose delegating more power to MCIA.

For example…

As a vintage HOA, MCIA does not have the legal authority to impose fines upon homeowners who fail to adhere to deed restrictions and architectural standards. To settle issues involving alleged violations, the HOA or individual neighbors must take action in court.

Source: Meylerland.net

 

 

However, the proposed amended version states that MCIA or a neighboring owner would have the right to file a lien against a property for any unpaid obligations.

Source: Meyerland.net

As with most HOAs, MCIA assessments are a mandatory obligation. But the proposed addition of the power to place a lien would give the HOA a great deal more clout in collecting assessments.

And, keep in mind, the association’s right would include collecting assessments from lot owners who no longer own a habitable home in Meyerland.

The new proposed lien provision is particularly important in light of the fact that proposed amendments also seek to give MCIA the authority to impose special assessments, a right that does not appear in current deed restrictions.

Source: Meyerland.net

 

Now take a look at the current requirements for members to fund maintenance in Meyerland HOA.

 

 

Compare this to the proposed amendment. Note the addition of a provision that would establish a priority lien for HOA assessments, allowing MCIA to place its lien for unpaid assessments ahead of bank loans.

(To learn more about priority liens, see Is the HOA priority lien necessary and beneficial?)

 

Source: Meyerland.net

One can only speculate as to why MCIA would seek greater power to place liens and foreclose on liens for property owners that have been ravaged by floods since 2015.

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