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Dysfunction in HOA-ville USA (November 2019)

By Deborah Goonan, Independent American Communities
debgoonan@icloud.com

Today’s HOA news roundup highlights a persistent pattern of negligent HOAs and bitter conflict between owner-occupants and investor-owners. Plus, an HOA attorney urges board members to regulate speech on social media.

Colorado

Why did it take 6 months for this HOA to repair this resident’s kitchen?

Sometimes, a little intervention from your local TV investigative reporter gets your HOA to take action.

Imagine living with an unusable kitchen for six months!

This was the condo nightmare of Daniel Neelands, of Thornton, Colorado. Six months ago, a pipe burst in the wall, flooding his kitchen. The water damaged the drywall, insulation, appliances, and electrical wiring. Needlands says he’s been eating a lot of tuna fish and crackers ever since.

Even though Colorado state law requires condo associations (and landlords) to address these kinds of maintenance issues, what’s a homeowner to do when the HOA drags its feet responding?

Instead of suing his HOA, Neeland turned to local media for help.

Soon after Shaul Turner of KDRV FOX31 Problem Solvers looked into the issue, the HOA finally worked with their insurance company to schedule repairs.

Think this can’t happen to you? Think again. Water leaks from old or faulty plumbing are quite common in multifamily buildings. And when things go wrong in in a condominium, it can take months for the association’s insurance company to coordinate claims with the unit owner’s insurance provider.

Source:

A veteran was waiting months for his HOA to repair his kitchen. Then, the Problem Solvers got involved.
POSTED 10:22 PM, NOVEMBER 18, 2019, BY SHAUL TURNER, UPDATED AT 10:23PM, NOVEMBER 18, 2019


North Carolina

Towing contractor for NC HOA tows, sells solider’s car while she was deployed

Jabria Ross has spent many months in the Alabama National Guard, assigned to the Texas border. While deployed, she parked her car at her mother’s condominium complex. Ross’s mother says she informed her condo association about her daughter’s vehicle.

But when the tags expired on the car about two months later, the condo association had it towed by SL Recovery, owned by Chlonn Williams.

A WBTV investigation found that SL Recovery has a history of filing false information about the vehicles it tows, then filing liens for unpaid towing and garage fees, and selling vehicles at auction.

The owner of Carmatix told WBTV that he regularly buys SL Recovery vehicles at “private” sales. North Carolina law requires towing companies to notify vehicle owners before it holds a public auction, rather than a private sale.

The IRS has also filed more than $111,000 in liens against SL Recovery for failure to pay taxes.

Source:

Charlotte company tows, sells soldier’s car while she was deployed
By David Hodges | November 14, 2019 at 8:06 PM EST – Updated November 15 at 8:39 AM CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV)


Pennsylvania

Conflict bubbles up at troubled HOA planned community

According to the Pocono Record, Pennsylvania State Police arrested 7 residents of Pine Ridge, a private, HOA-governed community in Pike County.

Two females and five males are accused of threatening maintenance staff at the community.

Pine Ridge has been in the news in recent years, due to its controversial policy of publishing names of owners who are behind on paying their HOA fees. IAC posted an article on the troubled community in 2016.

As usual in HOA-ville across the U.S., the public is often prevented from obtaining details about serious conflicts that happen on private property.

Source:

7 arrested at Pine Ridge By Brian Myszkowski | Pocono Record
Posted Nov 18, 2019 at 2:48 PM


California

Why does this attorney favor regulating speech about HOA on social media?

An HOA attorney from California shares his opinion that HOAs should Strictly regulate speech on social media. Here’s one notable nugget from his October legal blog post:

The lack of regulation on social media communications can cause neighborhood tensions and smear the reputation of a community, causing a negative effect on property values.  This has led many homeowners associations to develop protocols and guidelines with regard to social media.

TLG Attorney, Reuben D. Kim, Esq. goes on to list recommendations for regulate owners and residents of HOA-governed communities. And, in the attorney’s opinion, an HOA website or social media platform is a marketing tool, not a public forum. According to Kim,

This requires a collective and conscientious effort to maintain a positive reputation for the neighborhood.  The association’s and the homeowners’ social media representations of the community should be considered marketing.

Board members should always remember that at the end of the day, the homeowners association is a business.

Kim says HOAs can and should stick to the facts, and monitor and limit speech on the community’s official Facebook Page. In fact, he recommends setting it up as a closed group that is open only to members of the community.

Here’s the problem.

Many HOA industry attorneys prefer to think of HOAs as “managed communities,” whereas most owners and residents consider their HOA to be a hyper-local neighborhood government.

A majority of Californians either own or live in a common interest development, under the governance of a homeowners, condominium, or cooperative association. They don’t view themselves as minions of a business corporation, subject to strict regulation by their HOA bosses.

Most residents consider their HOA to be a political governing body — albeit a “private” version of government. Many expect their HOA social media groups to be a community forum that invites free speech.

But, as this article illustrates, the HOA-industry doesn’t see it that way. That’s why I often explain to property owners that their Constitutional free speech rights permit them to start their own dissident websites, Facebook pages or groups, or electronic newsletters — separate from their official HOA online presence.

Important side note: An owner-managed website of social media platform should not use the same name as the HOA.

I should also note that not all HOAs operate as de facto local government. There are exceptions. For example, consider condo associations that operate primarily as vacation resorts, with ownership shared by many individual investors.

Many early condo associations from the 1960s and 1970s were never intended to be residential communities. That’s why the industry adopted their business model. It’s why many attorneys and some owners cling to the idea that an HOA is a business, despite the fact that most HOAs have evolved into a hybrid corporate government over the past 4 decades.

Source:

The Modern Age of Social Media and the Need for Regulation Within Homeowners Associations
October 22, 2019|by Steven J. Tinnelly, Esq.


Owners fed up with non-resident investors managing their condo association

Massachusetts

According to the MetroWest Daily News, non-resident investors control the board of Century Estates condominium complex in Framingham.

And the community is in shambles. Overflowing trash dumpsters. Cockroaches. Mice. Break-ins. Possible squatters.

But the owner occupants who pay $350-$450 per mont in condo fees have few options to force the condo association board to address deferred maintenance in the housing complex.

They’d like to elect new board members, since 4 out of 5 current members own property at Century Estates, but don’t live in the community.

Consistent with a pattern of failing condominium associations nationwide, a majority of units at Century Estates are investor-owned: 222 out of 293, according to the condo board.

According to homeowners, condominium bylaws “require more than 50% of condo owners to be present at a meeting in order for an election to take place.” Without that quorum of owners in attendance at the annual meeting, there can be no election of a condo board.

Despite efforts of dozens of homeowners to finally get to know one another and organize a reform effort, there’s little chance of success.

With a corporate voting system that assigns voting rights to the property one owns, and not the person who resides in the community, it is mathematically impossible for owner-occupants to outvote the non-resident investors who are neglecting the property. ♦

Source:

We don’t have a voice.’ Framingham condo residents fight for a say in decisions about the property. By Jeannette Hinkle | MetroWest Daily News
Posted Nov 18, 2019 at 6:44 PMUpdated Nov 18, 2019 at 8:05 PM