Millions of dollars unaccounted for, a neighborhood divided, lawsuits, shoddy repairs on some units, shunned members, bully boards, depreciating property values, lies, finger pointing and a thoroughly unpleasant place to live. It must be a) a Bentley Little novel, b) a horror movie, c) an isolated incident or d) one of many dysfunctional homeowner associations across the country?
If you guessed d, give yourself a pat on the back. The stories, the details, the incidents just keep repeating themselves over and over again from the Atlantic to the Pacific and all points in between. Is it something in the water or do they clone incompetent people and put them in charge of YOUR home and your most valuable asset?
Nila Ridings joins us On The Commons this week. Nila has been right in the middle of a fight to save her home, her sanity and her health. She is a frequent guest blogger and writes extensively on these issues. She often hears from other homeowners who are having problems and looking for help. Not surprisingly, finding someone to explain the problems and offer help is a bit like looking for a needle in a haystack. Today Nila tells us, from her personal experience, what it is like being trapped in the crosshairs of an HOA that simply won’t let go. She also tells us how some of our best intentions can cause those we love some serious headaches. And she shares some valuable advice.
3 thoughts on “Nila Ridings”
I feel Ms. Riding’s pain. Her HOA Board is seemingly quite similar to mine. The conflicts presented are really about the Board controlling her because they are control freaks and simply do not like her. My HOA Board (and property manager), also spread disinformation about me because; I publish facts and photographs on a community Facebook page, Unofficial: The Townes at Mountain Park Ranch, https://www.facebook.com/TheTownesatMPR?ref=aymt_homepage_panel; I talk with my neighbors; The Board is penny-wise, pound foolish; Board members are unable to accept disagreement without it affecting their self-worth. I’ve learned I cannot change them.
HOAs are only as good as the sitting Board. Until the day we no longer have HOAs, being a Board member should require training and certification. It will help filter-out the bad ones. And, wouldn’t it help if HOAs had a governing agency populated with experienced business, finance, landscape, architectural, real estate, and legal professionals that Board members and homeowners alike could engage? Homeowners should not have to sue (their neighbors) and be constantly fought and harassed by their HOAs/attorney/property manager over issues outlined in the contract. The oversight agency—referees to ensure fair play—could intervene and mediate. They could also help curb bad behavior by all parties.
I find Ms. Bartholomew’s suggestion of no new HOAs moving forward to be excellent.
TF–so many think that training and certifying volunteer members would help–unfortunately, that will make the problem worse–the best people to be on boards do not have time as it is. They have lives and jobs and interests that do not make them want to serve on boards in the first place. Only the ones least suited seek that power out (In many cases).
Then who does the training? It is generally the the CAI who knows that if they don’t get the ear of the board member from the beginng, they lose control. CAI influenced board members are told they MUST enforce the CC&Rs, it is their duty, if they let it go it is a dereliction of duty. They tell directors that they must rely on “professionals” and if they take the advice of professionals (as opposed to common sense) they will not be held liable for mistakes–so lawyers and managers tell directors what they must do, which includes hiring vendors, enforcing and enacting rules, getting a collection agency, suing and forclosing.
It has become a real problem–to ask directors to be trained becasue the ones with the drive and money to do it, will do it to their benefit rather than the rights of the homeowner. It is a vicious cycle right now.
There may be a solution in requiring every homeowner to be onthe board in rotation–I think Debra Goonan suggested this–it has merit. We do need broad solutions, but giving the CAI more power over boards is not the solution. I hope we find something soon..
The best solution would be to reduce the responsibilities, power, and authority of HOA Boards.
We can start by shifting responsibility for essential services back to a local government entity. Owners are paying for these services with assessments, and quite often, getting inadequate service or paying inflated costs for certain services performed by no-bid contracts with HOA vendors. Essential services include: police protection and traffic control, maintenance of roads and storm water drainage, maintenance of retention ponds/canals/dams that provide flood control and protect downstream taxpayers, lighting and traffic signs and signals, contruction and operation of water/sewer utilities and/or wells, maintenance of natural resources such as forested areas and wetlands, etc. These services are so important to public interest, and should be publicly administered, not left up to private organizations.
As for maintenance of multifamily construction, local and state oversight and administration is ciritcal, since 99% of Associations and private community management companies lack expertise in construction, the trades, architecture, and engineering that is necessary to develop a long-term operations and maintenance plan to ensure the health and structural integrity of residential buildings. Decisions about how to maintain condos and townhouses must not be left to developers and then passed onto volunteer owner boards! Regular safety and health inspections must occur, as well as financial audits and reserve studies.
As Shu says — there is currently NO ADULT SUPERVISION.
If we make the job of serving one’s community less onerous and less profitable for private HOA vendors, and divert money toward property taxes rather than HOA assessments, that will prevent a great deal of conflict and financial problems that arise from poor management.
And, of course, we need common sense when it comes to rules. But, in my opinion, the problem runs even deeper than HOAs abusing the power of enforcement.
Ideally, we’d consider state or federal judicial review of each community’s CC&Rs and ByLaws, striking provisions that are not in the public intersest because they unreasonably limit personal rights and freedoms. Because many provisions are written to benefit developers, HOA Boards, and owners of amenities or commercial properties — thus the terms are unconscionable — we must strike these provisions, too.
Prevention of problems is always prefereble than trying to fix them after they occur!
Although I favor term limits for Board service, I believe it was Sara Benson who suggested rotating owners on the Board.
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