Village Board and CAI Attorney Marc Markel Caves to Homeowners Demands
"We Didn't Get everything we wanted, "...But they finally agreed with us on all the principle issues"
|Article Courtesy of Huntington Village
Houston, Texas, 09/25/2002
"We Didn't Get everything we wanted", sighed HV Homeowner Palma Sales after an 11th hour settlement with Chubb Attorney Marc Markel on behalf of Huntington Village Community Association in Southwest Houston. "...But they finally agreed with us on all the principle issues"
After years of arguing ratification, CAI Attorneys Marc Markel, Clayton Hearn and HV Board President Lee Meister acknowledged that Johnson and Sales were liable only for the HVCA Annual assessment as actually recorded in the Harris County Real Property Records; $96 per year.
"This issue was never about $48", explained Homeowner Johnny Johnson. "This has been a Principle Based Issue from Day One. The HV Board did it the wrong way and today it caught up with them. I only hope it makes them think before they do it again."
In 1984 the Huntington Village Community Association (Southwest Houston) voted during an annual meeting in favor of a one year "Special Assessment" temporarily raising the $96 maximum annual ceiling on the assessment to $144. A "Special Assessment" for a capital expenditure is allowed only if a majority of 10 percent of the community agree with a vote in person or by proxy. This "Special Assessment" can only be valid for a maximum of one year. To increase the annual assessment beyond one year, the deed restrictions would require amending. Huntington Village deed restriction may be amended, but purposely this process requires "an instrument SIGNED by not less than 75%" of lot owners which must be recorded. (Recording requires that signatures be notarized).
The following year, 1985, the HV Board, pretending the assessment ceiling had been lifted, continued invoicing amounts beyond the maximum limit allowed. This action produced complaint after complaint from individual homeowners who began asking questions. If a homeowner asked how this happened, he would normally be told that a vote took place in 1984 and everything is fine. If you asked for proof of that election you would then hear "well.... we did not get all the votes then, but we are working on them..." To go beyond these questions, a homeowner found he would be marked and targeted for special treatment.
For those who may think this issue is about money, nothing could be further from the truth. This issue is not about money. Forty-Eight Dollars is not the issue in question. What is at stake is our community and our faith in the character of those we appoint to protect it. If an elected board cannot operate within the provisions of our governing documents and must cover it up using our own lawyer and our money against us when $48 is in question, then how long will it take to make that figure $480? ..... or $4800? What is Your Stopping Point? When will YOU say ENOUGH is ENOUGH?
HV's recorded deed restrictions call for a maximum limit of $96/year and has never been amended. (Amending the Deed Restrictions today requires a 75% lot owner vote) In 1984, a special provision was made allowing for a "special assessment" increase of 50% or $144 for a single year. During the years following, the board, in violation of our governing documents decided to continue billing the $144 annual assessment under the "fraudulent guise" that our Deed Restrictions had been amended and "they needed the money". A vote had indeed been taken, but a "Special Assessment" must be for a capital expenditure and can only be valid for one year. A "Special Assessment" does not constitute an amendment to our Deed Restrictions.
Over the years, several homeowners have attempted to require the board to honor the existing recorded deed restrictions and either ratify the increase by producing "an instrument SIGNED by not less than 75%" of lot owners" or return to the maximum amount allowed by our governing documents. In most cases those homeowners were viciously attacked financially and were forced to drop any legal proceedings. Their case was good and right was on their side, but they were now broke and could no longer continue to pay their private lawyer. (It requires over $50,000 to convince a law firm to accept this case against their peers even when they know you are right) In 1995 this issue again surfaced by an elected Board Member. That Board Member was forced from the board, but the correspondence continued
In 1997, several HV Homeowners submitted
the annual Maintenance Assessment of $144 billed in two checks. (One for
the Recorded $96 and One for the "questionable" Balance of $48) along with
a letter requesting proof that the $144 is the legitimate amount to be
tendered. Those checks were not only returned, but late fees and lawyer
fees were then added. After resubmitting the checks, they were again returned
dishonored. In 1998, the same procedures were followed, but this time at
the request of the HV homeowners, the Texas Attorney General joined
in asking the HV Board of Directors the very same questions. The Board
President did respond to the Attorney General in writing with the admission