Volume 2, Issue 1
Home Owners Associations
Volume II Issue 1
By Robert McConnell Productions
This section is for everyone who is currently living in a homeowner’s association or thinking of buying a home which might be located in a homeowner’s association or in a development that has covenants but no association. We invite you to e-mail us with ideas that you have found helpful to improve meetings, interpret covenants, or places to go to get help with solving homeowner association problems. We will post those ideas to our page under this section. If you have a problem, e-mail us with your problem and we’ll try to help.
Robert McConnell Productions
It’s been a year since we’ve given an update about the workings of our Homeowner’s Association. A lot has happened.
First it took us three months to get the financial records and another three months to get something to an accountant to try to figure them out. When the account auditing the books could not figure out how things were entered, my husband finally took things into his own hands and called the previous treasurer who would not speak to us. Her husband, who had entered the payments into the computer, finally came to a meeting and explained how he had enter payments into the Quicken program. We had a vacancy on the board and he was elected to fill it. This helped us keep financial continuity in the association.
Second, we made sure that all board meetings were open to the members and that they knew when and where the meetings were held. We used the conference room of the public library for board meetings. Since we were a non-profit organization, this room cost us nothing.
Third, we kept the members informed of what we were doing at our meetings. We divided the neighborhood into seven areas. Each board member was assigned an area. We went door to door getting each person’s name, address, phone number and e-mail address. We then asked if they owned the property or rented it. We then checked this against our records. We also gave each person a paper with the names, addresses and phone numbers of the board members. We each highlighted our own name for our section and encourage the members to contact us if they wanted to bring something to the board’s attention.
Fourth, we had an association meeting in December to present the audit to the members and to ask them how many association meetings they would like to have a year. Those present voted to have four meetings a year.
Fifth, we had a fall clean up day, and this spring we painted the school bus stop shelter and the sign that said "Canta Rana". Some members were so pleased that they paid their assessments. One man complained.
Sixth, Robert McConnell was able to get the association a free Web Page.
CAN AN ASSOCIATION BE DEMOCRATIC?
This year I have attended two events put on by Community Association Institute. For those of you that are not familiar with this association, its purpose is to educate members of Condo and Homeowner’s associations about the laws concerning associations, and provide other helpful information. The first event Bob and I attended was their annual trade fair with various workshops. These workshops had to do with governing documents, keeping accurate accounting records, how to enforce the rules in the documents, getting insurance, planning ahead for repairs, and other topics of interest.
Most of their workshops are for Condo owners.
The second event that I attend was their ABC’s class for Condo and Homeowner Associations. It was primarily to educate board members about the responsibilities and duties of this office.
One of the points brought out over and over again is that the way Condo and Homeowner associations are created. They are not meant to be democratic but autocratic. The laws, the covenants and bylaws put the power into the hands of the board of directors, not the members. Differ state statues give varying powers to the members. Each state usually has some law that allows the members to counter some actions of the board of directors. It is very important for members of associations to study these laws carefully.
The guest speaker at the first event that we attended in the Fall of 2000 used to live in our state and help write the state codes for Homeowner’s Associations. He was especially pleased with the way the code was written for handling the budget. In our state the board of directors prepares the budget and then submits the budget to the association members to ratify. But the budget isn’t ratified in a normal sense whether a majority vote approves. It states that a majority vote or larger rejects the budget. This kind of twisted thinking is what is operating in Condo and Homeowner Associations. He also said that when he presented a budget to the associations that he works with he always has a party at the same time. Last year he brought in a magician. The idea that he presented was to keep them entertained so that they didn’t question the budget.
In all the meetings that I attended it was brought out that these associations are not democratic. They always state however, that you must keep the members informed.
So the question is, can homeowner and condo associations be democratic? We believe so. I want you to consider something. In ancient Greece, when for 200 years they had democracy, the entire male population gathered for a meeting to hear proposals, discuss them and vote. Often 6000 (yes, six thousand) met at one time. They decided taxes, how to spend the money and whether they should they go to war. They voted people into office and removed ineffective officers and officials. And they did this in an orderly manner. They all knew the rules. They certainly took their government (self-government) seriously. Now if this could be done then, why can’t it be done now? Why do we have to have just four to seven people running things? Isn’t it time that we all take this seriously?
WHAT CAN WE DO?
The first thing to do is to educate yourself about the state laws governing your association. Then study thoroughly your governing documents. Then get a thorough education in parliamentary procedure. Think about what it means to be in a democracy and the responsibilities it demands.
After you educate yourself, start talking to your neighbors. Get them interested in self- government and the affairs of the association. Attend board meetings. Join Community Associations Institute. There is a great deal to learn here especially if your association owns buildings in common. If this is the case, it is imperative to know what is going on and how your money is being managed. Their bi-monthly magazine will tell what is happening in other associations and warn you against pitfalls that might land you in the courts.
Think democratically (and I don’t mean political party – I mean think in the terms of everyone having a voice). Then find a way to amend your covenants and bylaws to reflect this.