By Deborah Goonan, Independent American Communities
It’s election season in many homeowners,’ condominium, and cooperative associations. Unfortunately, it’s also the time of year we see and hear many reports of HOA election disputes.
Take, for example, Southland Owners Association in Stone Mountain, Georgia.
WGCL news CBS46 interviewed several homeowners who are frustrated with the operation of their HOA. A fairly large group of owners decided to do something about it. They got involved, arranged for some new candidates to run for three open seats in this year’s board election. They say their candidates won, but incumbent board members refuse to accept election results.
But 3 of the ousted board members say those election results don’t count, and they aren’t going down without a legal fight.
One of those board members just so happens to be state Senator, Gloria Butler (D). Butler describes herself as a dedicated community activist and great-grandmother, who has served DeKalb County since 1999.
Although an elected official of the state would not be able to serve on city council at the same time, it’s perfectly legal for a State Senator to serve on her HOA board.
That’s because most modern HOAs are legal corporations, not official units of local government.
This political reality is another example of the awkward intersection of public (state and local) and private HOA governments.
Homeowners say HOA board members refuse to give up seats even after election results
Monday, May 28th 2018, 4:25 am CDT WGCL Digital Team
STONE MOUNTAIN, GA (CBS46) – Homeowners are demanding action in a metro Atlanta neighborhood.
Residents at the Southland Community in Stone Mountain recently voted to remove their homeowners association’s current board members, saying what they’re doing is illegal and that they have the documentation to prove it.
Lennett Rogers has lived in the Southland neighborhood for 18 years and she says the current HOA board is ignoring the homeowners, refusing to honor the votes of a recent election for new board members.
On the HOA board is state senator Gloria Butler. Someone this community feels should step up and do whats right.
Read more (video):
A bit of research reveals that this is not the first election dispute in Southland. Lynette Rogers and other members sued Southland Owners Association in 2011, contesting a previous mail-in ballot election held in February and March of 2010. (See CRITTENTON, et al. v. SOUTHLAND OWNERS ASSOCIATION, INC., et al.)
One of the arguments then, as now, is that the board insists there is a minimum voter participation rate (quorum) for the HOA’s election to be valid. Incumbent board members claim that the most recent election did not bring in enough total votes to meet that requirement.
But homeowners challenging Butler and two others on the HOA board say that the official Declarations (CC&Rs) state that no quorum is required for the annual election of board members.
HOA board members won’t talk to the media. And Southland’s HOA website, administered by property management company Homeside Properties, doesn’t list names of board members on its public homepage. All other information about the association is password protected, requiring a login authorized by the property manager or HOA.
And the industry trade group calls elections in HOA-ville “democratic?”
I have a better term for elections in association-governed communities — litigious.
Real estate industry stakeholders such as community managers, HOA attorneys, and generally, any business owner or professional that earns profits from association-governed communities, insist that homeowner apathy is the root of all HOA problems.
Get involved, they say. Attend meetings, they say. If you don’t like the way your community is managed, volunteer your time and serve on the board, they say.
As if it were simple and easy to vote out the “bums” or oust a rogue, dictator-like board member.
But Southland owners have been trying to change their board of directors for eight years!
And the fact that a state legislator serves on the board of Southland Owners Association has far-reaching implications.
How receptive are state and local politicians to housing advocate and consumer protection group efforts to reform and regulate association-governed communities — especially if law makers also happen to serve on one or more HOA boards? Are these elected officials likely to be interested in protecting the rights of housing consumers, or maintaining the status quo?
Or are they are more interested in preserving and expanding the power of HOA governing boards, while making it difficult or nearly impossible to hold them accountable?