Homeowner's associations & townhouses?

soozMay 19, 2004

I don't know if this is the correct forum to post this, so I'm posting it at a number of forums in the hopes of getting some insight into this...

I'm living part-time in Idaho while I work in CA, and just bought a townhouse, and so I pay association fees. We pay our own water and sewer, but cable and driveway snow removal is included in the association fees. We do however have to shovel the snow in front of our own door/walkway every 24 hours or we are charged a $25/per incidence fee. The assoc dues also pay for lawn service and watering the lawn.

Spring clean up was for us to work for 3 hours, or be charged $75--if we didn't work and didn't pay, they'd put a LIEN against our property!!!!

Is this normal? Is this the standard of practice for other townhouses that owners have to do spring clean up? It wasn't even like we were allowed to clean up our own areas--we were assigned areas, like clean out underneath ALL the pine trees, etc.

I didn't read ANYTHING about this in the CC&Rs before I bought the place. Gee, if you are elderly or infirm, you'd be paying thru the nose!!!



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Was that not in the CC&R's? I'd be complaining to the board, and saying that needs to be rectified. When you buy, you should be able to find out ALL the requirements--fees, chores, etc.

I live in a self-managed co-op. We don't have a financial fine if we don't carry through our duties. But we do have peer pressure, and if someone didn't want to do anything, they COULD find that the board had passed a "do or pay" requirement.

The thing is, if that stuff needs to be done, would you rather do it yourself, or pay to do it?

Sounds like your HOA decided it was silly to pay $$$ to a landscaping service for basic, grunt work. And they may also have felt that such work would build a sense of community (it does, I can tell you that).

The other thing is, if they don't institute the fine, a lot of people will blow it off, and end up taking advantage of the people who DO show up.

I don't think it's common, but it's not unreasonable.

There may be ways that the elderly or infirm serve that you don't know about. They may pay a smaller amount as a "service fee"; they may be told that they can spend their hours doing things like stuffing envelopes, delivering notices to buildings, or making coffee for the neighbors on the work crew. Or, they may just get a pass--out of charity.

I sometimes get grumpy (my DH gets more so than me) about the time I have to spend dealing w/ co-op matters. But if I owned a HOUSE, I'd have even more to do. And I do OWN--I *am* the landlord.

I think your big beef is that this requirement was hidden.

    Bookmark   May 19, 2004 at 11:56AM
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If it is not in the CC&Rs, IT IS NOT LEGAL.

They can't change the rules and assign things without a vote and informing all the owners.

    Bookmark   May 19, 2004 at 8:11PM
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Sigh...welcome to the "wonderful" world of HOAs. I'd rather live under a bridge than ever own a condo or townhouse again.

    Bookmark   May 20, 2004 at 12:49PM
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Thanks for the input and replies.

I the CC&Rs don't have Spring Clean Up listed, nor does it list anything about shoveling our walks. The CC&Rs, however, need to be updated as they were established in 1980 so I'm sure when they are updated, this stuff will be included. I'll be speaking at the next HOA meeting in June regarding some of this stuff.

I guess what bothers me the most is the "bossy" and threatening way this was done. You WILL do this, you WILL do that, or WE WILL MAKE YOU PAY andif you don't pay, we WILL put a lien on your property!!! Okay, perhaps it's the same folks doing the same things, and other sitting on their duffs who never help, and these bossy people are just frustrated at it all, so they have to sound bossy. Bossy just doesn't work with me as well as reasonable requests work!

As for the Spring clean up, instead of threatening to charge everyone who doesn't participate $75 for 3 hours of clean up, why don't they just hire a local high school kid thru the career center on campus...there's enough adults in the association to supervise! We sure wouldn't have to charge people what breaks down to a 3 hr minimum at $25/hr for that! The going rate for general yard cleanup is minimum wage, or perhaps $8 to $10/hr if you hire your nephew!

I'd definitely like the choice to clean up around my particular townhouse first, then extend my clean up to the community part of the property.

Also, I always think it's good to offer people a choice, like, would you like to clean out the pine detritus under all the trees or would you like to pull the weeds alongside the 3 carports. (Then, when this is done, you go to the person with the clipboard and see what's your next choice, until you have put in your 3 hours of spring cleanup).

Again, thanks for the input!


    Bookmark   May 20, 2004 at 11:26PM
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Sooz, you bring up valid points. But just one quick note - 'hire a local high school kid' doesn't necessarily work. It actually becomes more complicated than that. First, you have to find a kid that is willing to work. That can be no small feat. A 'nephew'? Sounds good. Until someone complains that you are hiring your relatives instead of theirs (believe me, it happens). Then, because the kid is a nonprofessional, you need to worry about what happens if he hurts himself. Does the HOA have insurance to cover that sort of thing?

I'm not trying to argue with you or go against you on this. I know it is frustrating. But having served on an HOA board for 3 years, I know how the simplest thing can turn into the biggest hassle. We have about 100 homes in our HOA. Therefore we have about 100 'paying customers' we are trying to keep happy. It takes a lot of patience and diplomacy. And then a lot more patience.

I'm glad you want to attend your HOA meeting. But be nice and hopefully they will be happy to listen. If you go in there with guns blazing, you'll look just like all the others, and that won't accomplish much.

Good luck.


    Bookmark   May 21, 2004 at 8:15AM
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Having been on both sides of an HOA- as an owner and as a board member, all I can say is that the saying "Power corrupts" is never more evident than in this type of situation. And not to get too deep into cliches, but "If you can't beat 'em, join, 'em" is also the best advice I can give you.

HOAs run on politics, so use your diplomacy first, save the big bombs for the big battles. I fell from grace with one influential old dragon, who persuaded the rest of the board that because I always paid my dues on the date they were due, rather than earlier, that I owed late fees for every single month I had lived there, which was in excess of ten years. She almost made it fly, too!

    Bookmark   May 25, 2004 at 12:04PM
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