Apologize in advance for long-winded post but am feeling a little robbed and looking for guidance. I am currently involved in a dispute with my HOA over past-due payments. A little over a year ago I reached out to the contact information available in the published bylaws to get several issues taken care of including regular flooding of my designated parking space due to poor drainage. After an initial response I then received permanent failure to deliver to the HOA email address. The bylaws state contact information needs to be posted in visible area, this has never happened. I attempted to reach out to the available phone numbers and left voicemails with no response. My last resort was putting a sticky note on my HOA check with my contact information requesting a response to discuss the open issues. The check was cashed with no contact from the HOA. At that point I made the decision to discontinue paying HOA fees due to lack of compliance to the Bylaws and inability to contact anyone representing the HOA. It was roughly 6+ months of no payment with 0 contact from the HOA. I have since learned the "HOA board" which is required to contain 3 members has consisted of only two people, one of which was removed as soon as they began initiating meetings again. The HOA has since contacted me now that they have assigned another homeowner as treasurer to collect past due payments. I spoke to her explaining my issues regarding the unresolved problems and concern over where the money is going with no published account transactions and no ongoing HOA meetings. She told me she would put together the financial statement for the last year which was handwritten and not previously available. I reviewed the statement and line items and provided her with the amount that I would agree to pay (obviously including HOA insurance and other mandatory HOA fees) and told her I disagreed with several line items and that other items that were listed were not being completed at my property. After not getting agreement to that amount the HOA has not contacted a lawyer who has since placed a lien on my property. I am not against catching up the required HOA payment but want it to be a justified amount with someone actually reviewing what should be charged as opposed to strong-arming a full payment with late fees included. The HOA over the previous year and a half has continuously not complied with the published Bylaws and I have a lot of frustration paying full amount for services that weren't being completed and it allows the HOA to continue acting the same without any forced improvement. Obviously I'd like to avoid an attorney as the total amount due is only 2500 dollars and it doesn't make sense to add attorney fees to that but what other approaches or steps could I take to come to a reasonable amount as quickly as possible to get the lien off of my home? I understand that attending the recently started meetings or becoming member of the board would be a way to improve which I would look to do after resolving this issue. In the short term I am focused on removing this lien and getting the current past due amount scrutinized and then paid immediately. For reference the financial statement provided has multiple line items thousands of dollars which should require a 2/3 vote from the community and also included lines for "misc maintenance" for upwards of 8000 dollars. Really feel like the money has been mishandled or used incorrectly so want to get confidence there is transparency before throwing more money away.
Any suggestions/advice would be greatly appreciated.
Something smells really fishy.
In addition to the association bylaws, you need to know what the state laws are regarding the operation and reporting requirements for HOA's in your state. You can often find this online, but plowing through it is a daunting task. Fully understanding the state statute is even more difficult. You might need to pay an attorney just to help you understand it.
Maybe you should try contacting your state attorney general's office, report your suspicion of possible fiscal mismanagement and improper reporting.
Since you seem to have read the bylaws quite well, would you be willing to lead other homeowners to challenge the existing board, such as it is? If so, you might have to try to use the bylaws to force the current directors to comply with the reporting requirements, and perhaps even replace them with a new board of directors.
Is there a requirement that the board reports the finances to the owners annually and is there a requirement for an annual meeting of owners? If so, you may need to use these requirements to force a meeting with the board.
A public meeting sounds like a good place to air your grievances. If you can get such a meeting, learn a few things about Roberts Rule of Order before the meeting.
If someone is embezzling funds, you're in for a rough ride.
I have done quite a bit of investigation on the State HOA laws as well. There is actually a push for another update to the bills surround HOA that hasn't been passed but was able to pull the previously approved bills. Quite a few of them haven't been clearly not followed. I have tried contacting the state to remove some of the legwork of me having to chase and get to the bottom of it but have gotten a lot of non follow-up or not able to help but may need to push there again. They have recently started meetings again, a part of which had discussion around the non-communication of the existing board and plans to find a management company moving forward to handle the HOA which is a positive but doesn't help the current financial situation. The lien placed on my house definitely increases the urgency and I am debating paying in full to remove the lien and then continue investigation and push for compensation back if progress is made. I am also planning to contact the treasurer directly this week to see if we can sit down 1 on 1 while I justify my case and see if we can come to a reasonable dollar amount at which point I would just pay and increase my participation in meetings etc to raise my concerns. I would definitely like to work with an attorney and think there is a definite case however worry about how quickly those attorney costs can build.
Section 27-52-160. (A) The homeowners' association shall maintain and preserve in its office complete and accurate books, accounts, and records as the department may reasonably require to determine if the association is complying with the provisions of this chapter and rules and regulations adopted in furtherance of its provisions. The books, accounts, and records must be maintained in accordance with generally accepted accounting principles, be apart and separate from another business in which the organization is involved, and retained for at least three years.
(B) At a minimum, each of the following items, as applicable, must be maintained and held in a place easily accessible to the homeowners' association's members:
(1) a copy of plan, specification, permit, or warranty related to improvements constructed on the common areas or other property that the association is obligated to maintain, repair, or replace;
(2) a copy of the association's declaration, bylaws, articles of incorporation, rules, and any amendments to them;
(3) the minutes of all meetings of the board of directors and of the members;
(4) a current roster of all members, their mailing addresses, and lot or unit identifications. The association also shall maintain the electronic mailing address or alternate mailing address designated by members to receive notice pursuant to Section 27-52-150;
(5) all of the association's insurance policies or a copy of them;
(6) a current copy of all contracts to which the association is a party, including management agreement, lease, or other contract under which the association has an obligation or responsibility;
(7) a copy of a bid received by the association in the past year for work to be performed;
(8) a copy of the association's annual budget for the past three years; and
(9) the financial and accounting records of the association, including records of receipts and expenditures, a current accounting for each member, association tax returns, and financial reports.
(C) The association's records must be maintained in this State and be open to inspection and available for photocopying by members or their authorized agent at reasonable times and places within five business days after receipt of a written request stating the specific books and records the member requests of the association. A member who is denied access to official records is entitled to ten dollars per day for the association's failure to comply. The calculation begins on the eleventh business day after receipt of the written request.
I wouldn't have stopped paying if I were you. That does nothing to help your case. You could have lawyer-ed up from the get go and continued to pay dues. And then you'd basically be in the same position as you are now, without giving them a case against you.
The situation you are dealing with is very common with tenants. They are unhappy with the way their landlord is dealing with them or the property and decide refusal to pay their rent and fees or fines is within their rights. They believe defiance is in their best interest to resolve matters. Nothing could be farther from the truth and only gets them served with a eviction notice.
You are in the same boat in believing you have the right to refuse to pay. You do not. What you have is the right to challenge the payment after the fact.
You are wrong, they are right. If you want to resolve the problem and remove the lien pay what you owe and then challenge. I deal with tenants like you and can tell you straight up being bull headed and cutting off your nose to spite your face does not work. There is a system and process to resolve issues, you need to learn the system not fight it. Moral outrage and righteous indignation is wasted time and energy. Pay what they say you own and challenge them after the fact.
I’m sure the HOA is not being run as it should.
But, I’ll bet there is nothing in the bylaws saying an owner doesn’t have to pay their dues if the HOA is not being run properly.
Sort of like not paying your taxes because you don’t like how the gov’t is being run...I wouldn’t expect either one to end well.
That is the part I struggle with. Certainly there isn't a specification in the bylaws that Homeowners can stop payment when they please. However when I reached out to the HOA through multiple attempts, there were no going meetings, and no contact information available and what was available was permanently disabled I was having a hard time understanding how to fight it after already paying the dues. I am on the same page that regardless of what happens moving forward getting the lien of my property is the number one priority. I have been avoiding a lawyer as I haven't wanted to go out of pocket against the HOA however it looks like following up with an attorney after payment of the lien may be the only option. I do now have the treasurers phone number and am going to approach her directly to see if we can work through the amount owed and come to a resolution but if that hits a dead end I'll move ahead with full payment of the lien and see what I can do following that.
Appreciate all the feedback. Like it was mentioned easier route would have been continuing payment and pushing in parallel to understand how to get financial statements audited or at least some contact back from the HOA Board.
Contact the AG and the Berkeley County Solicitor and Sheriff. Make them sweat.
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