Courtesy of The Northwest Explorer
September 15, 2006
If you live in a homeowner association (HOA)
governed community, there may be many things you don't know and aren't
being made aware of, unless you're on the board of directors, are close
friends with a board member or are possibly part of an "insider's
In time, many homeowner associations become insulated from residents and
their concerns. Attending meetings can be as interesting as watching a
are 10 things anyone living under a HOA should watch for:
1. Boards lack adequate oversight and can become flawed forms of
corporate "government." Some are potential lawsuit magnets,
with homes and annual dues serving as collateral.
What if your board decides to float a loan or establish a line of credit
to finance grandiose expansions without asking for homeowners' approval?
Their actions ultimately could sink the place. According to recent media
reports, poor or unchecked financial management often tops the list of
reasons why some associations get hauled into court by lenders and
2. You might be one election away from authoritarianism. Think about it.
It just takes one rotten, egotistical apple to taint an entire board.
Maybe that's why management companies have emerged as bailout options
for many HOA's teetering on crisis. Staying on the sidelines while the
egomaniacs fight for the coveted title of "retirement compound
idiot" may be one's safest vantage point.
3. A board position may not be open to all homeowners. Some boards have
cleverly set up "election" committees to screen would-be
candidates under the guise of ferreting out the best-qualified
applicants. I've learned that some HOA board members arrange for their
spouses or HOA employees to serve on such committees, to allegedly
ensure that "proper" candidates get a vote. Anything is
possible when people with too much time on their hands get a fresh whiff
of power and influence.
4. HOA "elections" may be plagued by fraud. Do you know who
counted the ballots after your last HOA board election? Were the
counters pre-screened by board members or their "election"
committee? Were you allowed to watch the tabulation process from
beginning to end? What happened to the ballots? There may be an unspoken
reason for why the tabulation process is closed to residents.
5. Power can creep into a person's psyche at any point and affect the
way he or she views reality. To divisive board members, they're no
longer just homeowners, they're "special" homeowners and
entitled to have their opinions both heard and adhered to, without
objection from "ordinary" residents. What they say, in many
cases, becomes "retirement compound law."
6. You may never know who is in charge of the money or where it's going.
Have you seen a line item accounting of your HOA's annual spending? What
you might find could hurt "them," in a court of law or, worse
yet, in the court of compound opinion.
7. Changes can occur in association facility management as well as in
the mindsets of those running the show. Board members, for the most
part, are caring human beings like the rest of us. But not all had their
egos adequately fulfilled earlier in life.
8. Check your rights at the entrance. Like it or not, you will be
controlled by a handful of "elected" residents with
"compound police" powers to assess, fine, lien or foreclose on
your home. Don't believe it? Try missing a payment of your annual dues.
See to how long it takes your board to act. It'll be on you like a
tomcat on a toad. Try asking for repairs to a few crevasses in the
streets, however, and watch the hoops and red tape appear.
9. A handful of "elected" residents can act as judge, jury and
executioner when determining the appearance of your "home sweet
home" and everything around it.
10. State laws may not cover a majority of HOA issues. Politicians have
managed to stay out of the fray for good reason. They don't have a clue
how to fix a mess that has for years been spiraling out of control.
There's no re-election money in it.
If you're flipping frantically through the yellow pages looking for
realtors, relax. Not every HOA is headed for collapse. Even so, if any
of the above items gained your attention, then start asking some
questions and insist on getting straightforward answers.
If you're denied information, you have some recourse. A new law takes
effect Sept. 21 that allows homeowners - at a cost of $500 - to present
their disputes to an administrative law judge. The new law also could
simplify the process for recalling out-of-control HOA boards. For more
information, go to www.azoah.com/HB2824.htm.
Getting stonewalled by your HOA is no longer something you have to live
with during your retirement years.