HOA, condo & co-op news digest (Dec. 1, 2019)

By Deborah Goonan, Independent American Communities

HOA news highlights for homeowners, residents, housing advocates, and stakeholders in the HOA industry.


A well-written report of the futility of being the “condo critic.”

Johnny Ray, 59, A retired resort developer from Michigan, purchased a condo at 3360 S. Ocean Blvd. several years ago, with the intent to retire to sunny South Florida.

But he soon discovered a plethora of problems with the way the board was running the condo association. He tells the Palm Beach Post about contracts with unlicensed trade workers, and a pool contractor on the payroll who never showed up for work.

Ray is also suing the former condo Treasurer, who sold Ray his unit, without disclosing an impending special assessment.

As usual, when he confronted the condo board about their unsavory management practices, Ray was ignored, then shunned for speaking out.

Ray has chosen to sell his condo, and leave the mess behind. Most of the other owners are oblivious to what’s happening. And the condo board still denies any responsibility for hiring pool staff with a prior criminal history and unlicensed contractors.


Paradise lost: Condo management drives Palm Beach retiree to despair
By Wendy Rhodes | Palm Beach Post
Posted Nov 21, 2019 at 7:07 AM


Condo association cuts fees in hopes of generating more sales

In a rare move, Water Tower Place condo association chose to substantially lower its condo fees next year. According to a report in Crain’s Chicago, fees will drop by about one third: for a 2,750 square foot unit, from $2,550 to $1,750 per month.

The condo board says the association has a healthy $28 million reserve, and a well-maintained building, so they can now afford to drastically cut assessments to be more competitive with units in new condo buildings in the city.

Water Tower is a 70-story multi-use building, with residential condominiums on the top 40 floors, above a hotel and commercial properties. Condos list for up to $2 million.

A shopping mall occupies the first seven floors of Water Tower. Last week a 65-year old woman died when she fell from the seventh floor, as reported by the Chicago Tribune.

So, is the condo board planning to cut services, or merely taking a short-term view of the future? Or, is Water Tower’s management admitting that residential condo association fees have been artificially inflated for many years?


Water Tower’s condo board slashed fees. Will it speed up sales?
Monthly assessments will be cut by about a third. Real estate agents see it giving units in the building a competitive edge in the market. 
DENNIS RODKIN | Crain’s Chicago Business | November 27, 2019 08:20 AM


HOA shuts down annual holiday light show fundraiser for sick children

Earlier this year, Auburn Hills HOA informed Brent Waldrep that he can no longer rely on his holiday light show to raise money for his favorite charity, The Rainbow Connection.

For the previous 10 years, thousands of people have visited the dazzling light show at the Waldrep, donating money to help grant wishes for critically ill children.

The HOA attorney calls the light show a ‘nuisance,’ threatening legal action if Waldrep chooses to defy HOA rules and go ahead with the holiday light show.


Legal threat could shut down dazzling Auburn Hills holiday light show, hurting charity
By Dave Spencer | FOX 2 Detroit
Published November 19 Auburn Hills

County Treasurer seeks assistance for relocated seven residents of condemned condominium

A few weeks ago, local leaders condemned the New Harbor Condominium complex. The condo association has been in financial trouble for years, the majority of its units foreclosed for nonpayment of taxes and utility bills.

As noted in an earlier post on IAC, the pattern of decline at New Harbor Condominiums is familiar to many condominium associations int he U.S. First, most of the units are purchased by landlord investors. Then several of those investors refuse to adequately fund maintenance and operation of the complex. Deterioration is inevitable.

Berrien County Treasurer Bret Witkowski and Benton Harbor Interim City Manager Ellis Mitchell now seek help for seven people who are displaced by the condemnation.


Treasurer Seeks Help For Displaced Condo Residents
WSJM News Radio | November 29, 2019


Homeowner laments her cold-hearted HOA, neighbors in dispute over temporary RV

Pam Navari, her husband and school age son were forced out of their home last December, after it was damaged by a fire. The Navaris and their attorney have been fighting the insurance company ever since. They’re still waiting for a settlement so they can start rebuilding their home.

This summer, faced with the dilemma of finding a place to live near their son’s school, the Navaris purchased an RV, and parked it in their driveway. The situation is supposed to be temporary, while the family works toward restoring their home.

The city of Madison said they’d allow the Navaris to park in their driveway and temporarily live in their RV — but only if their HOA was ‘ok with it.’

But Annandale Estates Homeowners Association is not willing to allow the family to live in their RV parked in their driveway. They say the covenants don’t allow it, and that some of their neighbors are concerned that the presence of an RV will reduce property values.

Now the city of Madison has ordered the family to move the RV, or they will face fines and even possible jail time. They have a court date later this month.

As usual, the HOA refused to talk to reporters, and would not allow the media to attend a meeting between the Navaris and the board of Annandale Estates.

The homeowners are shocked that their neighbors and their HOA can be so un-empathetic.

Unfortunately, this kind of cold-hearted ‘the rules are the rules’ mantra is typical in HOA-ville U.S.A.

Here’s an important question to ponder: Is it right for city government to ignore the greater good, and simply yield to an HOA and its covenants?


Madison couple facing jail time for keeping RV in driveway
Navari family living in camper while waiting to repair damage from house fire
Megan West | WAPT 16 News | Updated: 8:19 AM CST Nov 13, 2019

South Carolina

Will South Carolina be the first state to do away with HOA foreclosures?

South Carolina representative Todd Rutherford, D-Richland, pre-filed a bill that would eliminate HOA foreclosures.

Rutherford and homeowners in favor of ending HOA foreclosures say that HOAs often abuse their power to seize a home from an owner who falls behind on payment of HOA assessments and fees.

Even worse, in South Carolina, an unpaid fine imposed by an HOA can turn into an assessment delinquency, also subject to lien and foreclosure.

HOA industry managers oppose the bill. They say that it’s necessary for community associations to keep their power to foreclose on the homes of owners who don’t pay or won’t follow the rules.

It’s not surprising that industry special interest groups favor HOA foreclosure, because they stand to lose the power to collect thousands of dollars from each homeowner who attempts to save their home.

Typically, when a homeowner falls behind on HOA fees, even by a few hundred dollars, their account is sent to collections. Then attorneys typically pile on their legal fees, sometimes up to ten times the amount of the original debt owed to the HOA.

As previously noted here on IAC, the fee gouging HOA collection practice is widespread in HOAs across the U.S.

While the HOA and collection attorneys usually get their money following foreclosure, a homeowner may lose tens of thousands of dollars in equity, over what started out as a relatively small debt.

Rutherford’s bill would only apply to owners of primary homes in single family planned communities. The bill,H 4741, does not apply to condominium associations, where members typically share ownership in multifamily or attached dwellings.


New S.C. bill could limit HOA power by eliminating foreclosures
By Samantha Kummerer | November 25, 2019 at 7:13 PM EST – Updated November 25 at 11:42 PM


It’s official: Establishment of Timberlake Watershed Improvement District

Last month, 122 out of 156 property owners in the Timberlake community voted to establish the Timberlake Watershed Improvement District.

The board of the improvement district will issue bonds and incur debt needed to pay for dredging Timber Lake.

After decades of deferred maintenance, homeowners finally agreed to tax themselves to remove sediment from their beloved lake, saying they want to prevent catastrophic floods like the ones they experienced in 1995 and 2016.

For more information on the history of Timber Lake, see this February 2019 post on IAC.

The lake homeowners association lacked the authority to collect fees to support  a long-overdue dredging project, as well as rebuilding the dam. Once the WID receives its financing, it can begin the long and complex process of restoring Timber Lake.

Some life long residents say it should not have taken 30 years to get this far.


Watershed Improvement District clears final hurdle, paves way to dredge lake
By Sarah Honosky shonosky@newsadvance.com | The News & Advance
Nov 19, 2019


HOA takes on traffic control by installing “slow down” signs

Here’s an example of a huge burden heaped upon the shoulders of an HOA board and the homeowners who fund their association.

A pedestrian fatality last December forced the HOA to take action to prevent a similar tragedy. As a privately governed community, Bristol House Condos in Reston, had to figure out how to get drivers to slow down on South Lakes Drive, where a teen was hit by a car while trying to cross at an intersection.

Rejecting the expense of traffic signals and speed bumps, the HOA chose to install new signs warning drivers to slow down to 10 miles per hour. But they’re also considering imposing fines against drivers who continue to speed in the community.

In other words, homeowners and residents are left to deal with a substantial safety hazard and liability, due to a combination of poor traffic planning and non-involvement of local law enforcement.


Virginia Community Installs Its Own Traffic Signs After Teen’s Death
By Juliana Valencia | NBC4
Published Nov 29, 2019 at 8:12 PM

U.S. / National

HUD asks FTC to put an end to companies selling fake assistance animal documentation

Last month, U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Secretary Ben Carson requested the Federal Trade Commission to investigate online companies selling fake assistance animal certifications.

Landlords and leaders of HOA-governed communities hope that the FTC puts a stop to residents who use false certification paperwork to bring their pets to communities with no-pet policies.

For several years, homeowners, residents, real estate and HOA trade groups have complained about neighbors who claim the need for an emotional support animal, based upon a certificate they purchased online, and without a valid medical need.

As a result, potentially thousands of residents share their homes with dogs, cats, small ponies, chickens, reptiles, and other exotic animals, even though community covenants or lease agreements disallow pets.

When residents fake the need for an assistance animal, housing providers tend to doubt the legitimate needs of the disabled.

Carson also makes it clear that people with legitimate disabilities are not required to spend thousands of dollars on “worthless documentation to keep their assistance animal in their homes.”

According to HUD guidelines, an official letter from a licensed health care provider is sufficient to document the need for an assistance animal, where a disability is not already obvious.

Carson says illegitimate documentation constitutes deceptive trade practice that warrants investigation by FTC.



Calgary, Canada

Residents complain that their condo association delayed bed bug pest control

According to CBC News, condo rules often require the owners of an individual unit to pay for extermination of bed bugs.

But that puts residents at the mercy of a single neighbor who might be unwilling or unable to pay for expensive pest control services.

Besides, experts say it’s ineffective to treat a single unit in a multi-family condo or apartment building. When bed bugs are discovered, they recommend that condo associations and landlords treat the entire building all at once.


Condo bed bug infestation a ‘losing game,’ says pest control company
‘Every time I’d move anything I’d see bed bugs,’ says renter of a Saddle Ridge condo
Colleen Underwood · CBC News · Posted: Nov 26, 2019 6:11 AM MT | Last Updated: November 26 ♦♦

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