Who Are These HOA Bullies? (Part 3 of 3)
In Part 1 of this series, we looked at how and why HOA’s (Homeowner Associations) were created, and learned that you – the homeowner – are part of the HOA. Since you’re not the bully in question, we’re going to take a look at the next likely culprit: the HOA board. In Part 2 of this series, we looked at the HOA Board as the possible culprit, and learned what you – the homeowner – can do to be part of the solution.
HOA PROPERTY MANAGERS – ARE THEY THE BULLIES?
Let’s look at the next likely culprits: the property management company. In most HOA’s, the actual management of the community is turned over to a licensed property management company. HOA dues pay for this service and it’s generally a necessity since the average volunteer board member is not trained to handle all the duties of HOA management.
Property management companies often have a team of people (some small, others quite large) who manage a wide variety of tasks. They respond to calls and emails from homeowners with questions, conduct on-site property inspections and write violation letters, pay the bills for the HOA (contractors, utilities, repairs, property taxes, etc.), prepare reports for the board, solicit bids for repairs/improvements, attend HOA board meetings, etc. HOA board members work with the property manager to focus on concerns that need immediate attention, such as a storm that knocked down trees on a common area playground. The property manager can offer advice on HOA matters the board has never dealt with that the property manager has handled in other communities.
Property management companies work with local banks to manage the HOA’s finances, service companies who perform duties such as landscaping or building repairs, and yes – lawyers. Lawyers are crucial to the proper management of an HOA. Why? Remember when I said your HOA’s governing documents are legally recorded and enforceable in a court of law? The lawyer(s) will be the one(s) who handles this when needed.
Lawyers work on the HOA’s behalf to recover late assessment dues, for example, so that the HOA can remain solvent and pay its bills. And yes, lawyers charge high fees just like doctors or other skilled professionals. That’s why a $100 assessment can turn into a $500 bill, and continue to rise from there. Your HOA governing documents will describe how and when late fees occur. Remember, the property manager is legally obligated to mail a late notice to the address on file, but they aren’t required to play detective to hunt you down and remind you of your obligation. This is one area where HOA’s are quickly labeled as “bullies”, when a homeowner faces losing their home due to failure to pay HOA assessments. While administrative mistakes can happen, in most cases, the HOA board along with the property management company and the HOA attorney have all followed the rules, and the governing documents explain the consequences of not paying your assessment on time.
When it works well, the HOA board and property management team are valuable resources that keep an HOA in good condition financially and aesthetically. There are times when it doesn’t work well, and you, the HOA member, can address this through the appropriate options provided in your governing documents. The HOA board has the authority to fire a property management company that’s not fulfilling its obligations. HOA members (the homeowners) can volunteer to be board members, and remove those who aren’t doing their jobs properly.
The next time you hear or read about an HOA “bully”, remember that an HOA is made up of the homeowners, who elect volunteer board members to work with a property management team (usually). The property manager is licensed and experienced in dealing with governing documents, state statutes and laws, and will assist the board in properly managing your HOA community. And in most cases, there’s usually not an actual “bully” involved.
(You can read Part 1 and Part 2 of this article by clicking on the links above.)