Home owners association issues.
May 27, 2005 5:42 PM   Subscribe

We're having issues getting communication from and outstanding problems resolved with our townhouse homeowners association president.

We've lived here about 8 months. The entire time we've been here, trying to get something fixed or have legal documents owed to us actually given to us, has been like pulling teeth. We tried to get the master insurance document to see what was covered so we could insure accordingly and thoroughly and it took months, literally. We've been trying to get our rotten leaking bulkhead replaced and two pieces of rotten wood fixed for the entire 8 months we've been here. We've called and sent a letter regarding issues and while he acknowledges the letter and returns calls nothing is getting done. 8 months later we still have 2 pieces of rotten wood on the outside of our unit and a rotten bulkhead, and now the landscaping company employed by the H.A. is doing a shoddy job around our unit.

Because we got the repairman's number ourselves, we're getting our bulkhead replaced finally. The HA president insists he's been trying to call the guy and never got a return call. We called, got a return call and the repairman was down the next day for the estimate. The rotten wood on the outside of our sliding door is still rotting away. The HA President actually asked if I was planning on replacing the slider, because if I did, it'd be easier and cheaper for him to replace the rotting wood. There's nothing wrong with the slider at all, and no reason for me to pay to replace it to make their job easier, I'm afraid. The other piece of rotten wood is on a window sill and is now starting to fall off the front of our townhouse.

We pay our condo fees each month in a timely manner, so at the very least we feel like we should at least be getting our lawn mowed in a somewhat decent manner (we're not expecting Fenway Park here, just having the lawn mowed evenly) and have these structural issues resolved for what we're paying for. I know this guy doesn't get paid for the president position, and we were totally willing to give him some slack, but he's clearly not making an effort. On top of that, he's a miserable communicator when issues arise that we should be made aware of. We follow the rules per all the set association regulations (which took over a week for our closing attorney to get from the guy), and have always done our best to be considerate neighbors and appreciative of the president's efforts, but we've reached our limits with this guy. This is the first home we've owned, and hopefully, we're going to move on to bigger and better real estate in 2-3 years, but in the meantime how should we proceed to get these issues resolved and better deal with this guy in the future?
posted by jerseygirl to Home & Garden (5 answers total)
Have your neighbors had the same issues? This is something that's only going to get resolved by either a big nasty lawsuit that will drive everyone's HOA dues up (the reason I'll never live anywhere with a HOA) or by all the residents banding together and figuring out which loophole in the HOA bylaws to execute (for instance, a vote of no confidence from a majority of homeowners to force the appointment of a new president). The guy's gotta go if everyone else is having problems with him. If no one else is having problems with him, then figure out what y'all did to tick him off...
posted by SpecialK at 6:46 PM on May 27, 2005

First, find out if the common property is actually being managed by a professional company, and if so, start communicating directly with that company.

Second, get yourself on council. Chances are the AGM is coming up soon. I suggest you snag the treasury position: dollars to donuts the accounts are a mess beyond belief, and you'll be able to do a great job of bringing it under control.

Third, be patient until you're on council. The presidency job is entirely voluntary, and if the council is fractious or there are pain-in-the-ass owners, it's small wonder he's given up.

It's too late now, but you really should have had access to the last few GM and AGM minutes, council minutes, account balances, and strata rules. I sure as hell wouldn't purchase a condo without having all of that stuff in my hands long before closing.

Hope you got a good deal. If the market cooperates, you can make some decent coin, and condo ownership is typically far less costly than home ownership. (Been there, done that, am currently hemorrhaeging money on renovating the house. All the condo needed was new paint and new duradeck...)

Oh, and first-and-a-half: follow-up every phone call with correspondance, so that you've got text to back up your word.
posted by five fresh fish at 6:51 PM on May 27, 2005

I'd guess:

(a) That you belong to an association with relatively few (say, less than 40) units;

(b) That the association hasn't hired a professional management company for administrative functions (like providing copies of documents, and arranging for repairs);

(c) That the association has problems getting enough members interested being on the Board, and so the President is one of the very few who volunteered to be on the Board;

(d) That other association members know that the President isn't doing a good job, but aren't willing to do anything about it (like replace him); and

(e) Unless you can change (c), you have absolutely no reason to expect anything better out of the current President, or anyone else to replace the current President.

In short, if almost everyone in the association thinks that paying dues on time, and being appreciate of whoever volunteers to be on the Board, is sufficient participation in the affairs of their association, then you - and others - can probably look forward to problems for as long as you live there.

P.S. Documenting your problems is pointless if (c) and (d) are true. And you have absolutely no grounds to sue if a volunteer member on the Board doesn't perform his/her unpaid job in an adequate manner (except for theft or fraud).
posted by WestCoaster at 7:48 PM on May 27, 2005

SpecialK, I haven't really asked the neighbors I know. Some of them are newer than I am, and I know they very much keep to themselves, but the ones who have been here, I am unsure if they are friendly/friends with the president. Simply from a visual inspection, no one seems to have the same kind of blatant issues.

FFF, we did have copies of the budget, account balances, expenditures for the last 2 years, bylaws, trustee operating guidelines and strata rules before buying. It did take a good week to 10 days for the guy to make my closing attorney a copy.

WestCoaster, you're right on a and b, and most likely correct on c and d too. I happily expressed interest in attending meetings, really being a part of things and helping out on several occasions and he, shockingly enough, never really got back to me on it.

I guess what it boils down to is, how do I pressure him effectively to get this done? I presume I must have some legal rights (I'm in Massachusetts) as the outstanding issues are noticeable to the eye and have an effect on the value of my unit. Should I be sending registered letters? Do I need to engage a lawyer, not to sue but, to start sending correspondence to get the work done in a timely manner? Is there something I can do equally as assertive, without engaging a lawyer? I don't want to sue (I don't want to drive up the monthly dues on my neighbors, it has nothing to do with them) but I want these issues resolved and I think waiting 8 months is excessive and I'm willing to bet he hasn't even contacted someone regarding the 2 remaining outstanding issues.
posted by jerseygirl at 3:39 AM on May 28, 2005

I think your original post showed an example of doing it yourself and getting it done. Why not continue with that?

"Mr. President-guy, we need to get X repaired. That's covered under the condo maintenance agreement, is it not? Great, I'm going to contact Repair Service and have them come in and fix it; do you want the bill to go to you directly or shall I have them send it to Treasurer-guy?"

Take the work off his plate and get things done yourself. Just get the condo corporation to pay for it.
posted by jacquilynne at 7:11 AM on May 28, 2005

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