Tuesday, 14 August 2018
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This Old House - Do-it-Yourself

Ask the HOA Expert: Restricted Activities

Written by Posted On Tuesday, 22 May 2018 19:57

Question: One of our homeowner's kids would like to raise chickens in the backyard. Our governing documents restrict this activity. Any advice to head off this public relations issue?

Answer: Most HOA governing documents restrict raising poultry and other farm animals or local laws may do so. If this is something like a short term 4-H project, it's probably no big deal. If it is an ongoing production facility for eggs and meat, not a good idea. The main issues are sanitation and noise (particularly from roosters).

Question: I recently had a leak in my unit that damaged wall and flooring and I am in a battle with the HOA regarding who is responsible for the repair charges. My unit is in a mid-rise condominium. The leak was coming from a rooftop chiller pipe that feeds the air conditioning units for me and several neighbors. The plumber determined that the pipe was leaking because of improper soldering. The board says neither the plumbing repair or damage to my unit is the HOA's responsibility.

Answer: This is a classic example of why all HOAs (particularly the common wall kind) should have a clear Areas of Maintenance and Insurance Policy that defines who (owner or HOA) is responsible. This policy should identify all building and grounds components and where the dividing line is between common and non-common. Most governing documents are not precise in defining this so the board needs to adopt a policy that gets more specific. This policy not only helps avoid disputes but directs the various insurance companies concerning their responsibility to cover certain damage claims. The importance of this policy cannot be understated.

Typically, the HOA is responsible for repairing common plumbing lines. Since the plumbing line in question serves multiple units, it is considered common. Damage repair to units caused by the leaking pipe, however, is usually the unit owners' responsibility unless the HOA neglects to perform plumbing repairs in a timely manner when informed by a unit owner. For a sample Areas of Responsibility Policy, see www.Regenesis.net

Question: A homeowner is requesting a copy of a violation letter that was sent to another homeowner. Are we required to provide that?

Answer: Unless state law requires sharing this kind of information, a violation issue is a private matter between the board, management and offender. Such information should not be shared with other owners.

Question: What is the proper protocol for a special assessment? Should the board hold a special meeting to announce it with the homeowners, then follow up with a letter to all of them?

Answer: If the board has decided to move forward with a special assessment, it should definitely hold an informational meeting to discuss the reasons and to answer questions. It is possible that there will be people that take exception to the special assessment and want to express that opinion. They have a right to do that as long as they are civil.

The board should attempt to respond to all questions and concerns if possible. Trying to respond to "I don't have the money" is a waste of time even if true. Special assessments are never pleasant and there will always be some that have a problem paying them due to disability, unemployment, divorce, too cheap, etc. Going forward, the board should have a long range plan to avoid them in the future by setting aside adequate reserve funds to avoid special assessments. It would a good thing to point this out to the members now.

For more innovative homeowner association management strategies, subscribe to www.Regenesis.net.

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Richard Thompson

Richard Thompson owns Regenesis, a management consulting company that specializes in condominium and homeowner associations. He is a nationally recognized expert on HOA management issues.

Regenesis publishes The Regenesis Report, a monthly newsletter for HOA boards, developers and managers. To subscribe, go to Regenesis.net. He can be contacted by email at rich@regenesis.net.

www.regenesis.net

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