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Archive for March 27th, 2015

Beware of the HOA

Ok, so I’ll admit it, my relationship with the animal that is the HOA management company is a bit of Jekyll and Hyde or love at times and dislike immensely at other times. I understand that the role of the HOA is to step in where government can’t get the job done, but of late I’ve seen a whole lot of abuse.

Most management companies charge buyers a fee at settlement so that the management company can update their records with the new name, address, telephone number and email of the buyer purchasing the property.  I think all of this is important information to have on hand when managing a community. The fees charged range from $45 to $200.  In my opinion anything over $50 is outrageous and gouging. Especially since many HOA management companies never really get around to actually updating the information. This leaves me questioning; exactly what is it that the HOA management companies are charging for?  I think that if buyer information isn’t being updated that’s tantamount to theft or willful negligence.

There is an association here in Durham that rigorously enforces that trash cans be removed from curbside the day of collection.  That’s fair and right; what isn’t fair and what isn’t right is that this particular HOA management company has Durham Neighborhood Services; a city department funded by taxpayers, come onto private property and drive the neighborhood’s private streets and tag unit owners and tenants who neglect to bring their cans in by sundown on the day of collection. If its private property the city has no business enforcing HOA rules; the duly paid property manager needs to do their job and get out there and can patrol for trash cans.  I did manage to set the city enforcer right on this one with a digital photograph of the “private road” sign after he insisted to me that he would never venture onto private property to enforce city code.

Finally, there is the strong hand weak hand paradigm which I see as pervasive in associations and their management companies. In my neighborhood typically parking infractions bring down an iron fisted strong hand on the transgressor. However, leave your trash cans out at the curb 365 days a year and you are treated with a feather light weak hand. Replace doors with permission but wait a brief time to paint them; hard handed chastisement; yet replace a front door with a non-conforming door, neglect to get permission; stall and delay in finally getting permission; refuse to remove the non-compliant door; weak hand so much so that years later the offending door is still up and no one is doing anything about it.

So what’s the solution for those buying real estate in communities with an HOA and HOA management company? Educate yourself; know that if an association was formed decades ago that the covenants and rules of governance might be weak, outdated and inadequate. Like anything else, time has a way of healing and adapting to deficiencies. Read the neighborhood covenants and rules and review the manager’s contract. If time permits, attend a board meeting or review meeting minutes before buying. Drive the neighborhood at different days and different times; observe lawns, gardens, garbage cans, parking and what you observe happening day to day. Once you buy, send your information to the community manager and insist that they acknowledge that your information has been updated; failing to do so may cost you thousands of dollars. Lastly, once you close on your property, get involved with the board of directors, know your stuff and don’t be afraid to be a squeaky wheel. Many boards and managers are acutely aware that their residents are complacent and operate from that premise.

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