Study explores HOA power relationships of condo owners

By Deborah Goonan, Independent American Communities

IAC is pleased to announce the recent publication of an HOA case study co-authored by West Liberty University Professor Michael J. Marshall, PhD, HOA Warrior author Shelly Marshall, and administrator of Independent American Communities, Deborah Goonan.

The article, entitled HOA power relationship, problem-solving, and communication patterns during a major building renovation construction crisis, which was published in the journal Housing and Society (October 13, 2018), documents a case study of residents and owners of a condominium association in the midst of controversy involving the discovery of serious structural defects.

About the HOA case study

The study followed the interpersonal communication of dozens of condo owners over a nine-month period, beginning with the association’s discovery of defective stucco and wood rot in framing of many of the community’s apartment-style condominium buildings.

An evaluation of structural damages led the condo board to rely on the management company to identify a contractor to make extensive repairs. However, the proposed cost to shore up and rebuild portions of multiple buildings in the community exceeded $10 million. Without a sufficient reserve fund, the condo association sought approval from unit owners to enact a special assessment. The financial hit to owners: roughly $28,000 per unit.

The study followed the difficult process of deciding what should be done about their problem. Initially, a sizable group of angry and upset condo owners rejected the board’s special assessment. Months of conflict followed, with much blame-shifting and opposing groups accusing each other of incompetence, self-serving motives, or irrational behavior.

Communication patterns were classified and summarized, and characteristics of opposing groups were analyzed, through each stage of the crisis. The research also included post-crisis interviews, to determine the ultimate outcome for members of the condo association.

The study also examined the prominent power relationship and interpersonal conflict between the board-management alliance and the concerned unit owners alliance.

The article can be accessed by clicking on the following link:

People Hands working together

Purpose of the HOA case study

As previously discussed here on IAC, despite the fact that more than 60 million Americans reside in association-governed communities, research on HOA issues is severely limited.

Other than consumer satisfaction surveys funded and conducted by industry trade groups, and minimal statistical data on new construction of HOA housing by the U.S. Census, academic research is rare.

The majority of studies conducted by non-industry researchers examines economic and political impacts of deed restrictions or HOA governance on property values.

(See Studies conclude that HOAs, CC&Rs have little to no impact on property values of mature communities.)

The authors recognize an unmet need for research focused on the human side of the equation, specifically, the social impacts of shared ownership housing, as well as significant group problem-solving challenges faced by residents.

About the co-authors

Michael J. Marshall, PhD, is a Professor of Psychology at West Liberty University (WV), and a practicing clinical psychologist with extensive research experience in applied psychology.

Shelly Marshall, B.S., is an HOA rights advocate, author of the HOA Warrior book series, and a best-selling Hazelden author of numerous addiction recovery books. Her professional experience also includes research, training and public speaking.

Deborah Goonan, B.S., is the Administrator and author of Independent American Communities (IAC), a Housing Consumer Education blog. IAC documents legal, social, and economic challenges in U.S. association-governed common interest communities (HOAs).

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