Home Owner Associations - Not Always Without Huge Drawbacks

Survey Relays Home Owner Concerns About HOA Living

Article Courtesy of The Southwest Florida Online

By Don Browne

Published October 24, 2015


Seventy-million Americans may reside in condominiums and homeowners associations, but it is not a perfect lifestyle.

One of the biggest attractions of shared-community ownership is the so-called “carefree living” aspect. Often, there are no yards to maintain, grass to cut, snow to shovel, windows to wash, decks to stain or roofs to repair. All an owner has to do is sit back, pay his or her monthly assessment, and enjoy the recreational amenities.

However, the community association lifestyle often isn’t always pretty. A new national survey by the Coalition for Community Housing Policy in the Public Interest found that 95 percent of community association residents feel that “lack of transparency” and “poor communication” was at least a moderate problem, while a shocking 84 percent felt that it was a “very serious problem.”

“Our survey, which rated the level of concern on 26 commonly reported issues, found that a broad spectrum—from voting and election procedures to power of the board to fine owners—were viewed as major problems within condo associations and HOAs by respondents,” said housing advocate Sara Benson, a CHPPI board member.

“An overwhelming 93 percent of survey respondents felt there is at least a moderate problem within their condo or HOA’s power of the board to issue fines,” noted housing advocate Deborah Cassano Goonan, a CHPPI board member based in Florida.

A whopping 96 percent of those who were surveyed said they believe there is at least a moderate problem in their condo or HOA with “apathy and lack of involvement.” Eighty-eight percent of respondents said there is at least a moderate problem with “unreasonable limitations on residents’ rights in HOAs, and 86 percent said there is a moderate problem with “discrimination against owners.”

Seventy-two percent of all respondents said they have been involved in a “significant dispute” with a condo or HOA, one that was difficult to resolve. “The president ran the HOA like Captain Bligh,” said an owner in an HOA community in Rancho Palos Verdes, CA.

“There’s so much wrong with the HOA concept. It’s the blind leading the blind,” said a condo owner in Fort Myers, FL. “Many HOAs are a con game, like a Ponzi scheme, devised and implemented by crafty lawyers, unqualified property managers, and inexperienced board volunteers.”

“A huge number of HOA boards are out of control,” said an owner of single-family home in a Texas HOA. “Many HOA board members have not read or do not understand their own governing documents so they are failing to comply with them. Some board members, committee members and management companies are involved in conflict of interest situations.”

“Detailed financial records should be easily accessible to all owners in condo associations and HOAs, and the board of directors and management companies should be transparent to all owners,” said an owner in a townhouse community in Houston, TX.

Forty-percent of those who replied to the survey said they have filed a complaint against their condo or HOA with a state agency. Thirty percent of the respondents said they have “taken legal action” against their condo or HOA as a plaintiff. Nearly half of all respondents said that HOAs “need to be significantly reformed.”

In 2010, a survey by the Community Association Institute found that more than half of the nation’s HOAs were facing “serious financial problems.” In 2013, Association Reserves, a California company that helps associations with budget and operational issues, noted that 72 percent of association-governed communities were underfunded, up from 59.5 percent a decade ago.