Dear Homeowner in Harvest Bend the Meadow:
As you are probably aware, the Annual Homeowners meeting was held on Tuesday, March 14, 2006.
What you are probably not aware of what happened during, or shortly after, the meeting, including the following:
3 Board Positions were up for election: 2 current Board members were up for re-election and one completely open spot.
1 Current Board member was re-elected, one was not re-elected and two new Board Members were elected by those homeowners present and by the use of proxies gathered by one or more of the board members allowing them to vote for whomever they pleased.
After the election, the meeting turned contentious. A lot of comments were made about the need to uphold deed restrictions.
By the next morning, one of the newly elected Board Members resigned from the Board.
At the time of this writing, the required Executive Session of the Board of Directors has not yet been held to determine the positions (such of President, Vice-President, etc.) pursuant to the by-laws of our community.
Some members of the Board of Directors, without convening an Executive Session, and without notifying all Board Members, got together and “appointed” someone to take this newly vacated position, thereby circumventing the election process, and possibly violating the will of the homeowners if not the intent of the by-laws. At this time, the identity of the new Board Member remains unknown to the Management Company and most, if not all, of the homeowners.
All of this is highly irregular and begs a question.
Why didn’t these Board Members put the runner-up from the election the night before on the board instead conspiring to “appoint” whomever they wanted, without notifying all the Members of the Board, the Management Company or the Community members themselves? Would it not have passed the smell test in the light of day?
The main attitude of this new Board is to strictly and aggressively enforce the Deed Restrictions, using their own conceptions of normalcy as the standard for all. What this current Board deems “running the Board in a businesslike manner” means that if you do not comply to their standards and comply quickly, they will use extraordinary means to force you not only to comply, but to pay the extra fees associated with that compliance, including the costs of what they perceive as their own “personal hammer” and first weapon of choice, the Association’s attorney. Of course they don’t have to pay for this hammer themselves; they are using the dues and assessments of 300 homeowners to pay for this service, thereby enabling them to enforce their own pet peeves. It is ironic that you could help pay for the instrument of your own doom.
The enforcement of Deed Restrictions is a tricky thing. What you may think should be against the Deed Restrictions, such as having potted plants around the yard or not having weeds, is not. That is considered part of the landscaping. While other more trivial items, such as leaving your trash can by the side of the house, is against the Deed Restrictions.
Here are a few examples of what the Board of Directors determined were actionable items requiring a warning letter: garbage cans left in front of your home, BBQ pit left in front of your home, trees not trimmed higher than 8’ from the ground near a sidewalk, travel trailer left in front of your home, satellite dish visible from street and basketball goals present. Any letter generated for one of these “infractions”, no matter how trivial, costs the Association $30 each and comes out of monies that would otherwise be available for other expenses.
The Board of Directors also wishes to embark on a program of “forced mows”. This has never been done by any previous Board of Directors in our neighborhood. What this program would entail is a letter from the Association to an “errant homeowner” warning of the intent to have a 3rd party mow and edge that property owner’s yard. The owner would be given anywhere from 7-10 days to rectify the situation. If it has not been corrected to the satisfaction of the Board, another letter will be sent setting an additional period of time in which to comply. Again, if it is not done to the satisfaction of the Board, the Board will hire and pay a service to mow and edge the homeowner’s yard. The homeowner will then be billed for the cost of this service. However, you have to ask yourself, if the homeowner could not afford to pay for a service in the first place, then how would they pay for this service chosen by the Board? Again, the likely outcome would be for the Board to incur this cost, pay it and never receive re-payment. The Board would then seek re-payment through collection agencies and other means. The cost to the Homeowners Association: $30 for every letter; $50 (or more) for the service to mow and edge and, ultimately, more frequent and higher assessment increases to get them out of the hole they have dug rather than occasional increases to keep up with naturally rising costs.
You should be aware, that several years ago, another Board of Directors embarked on an aggressive campaign of deed enforcement against an errant homeowner. This aggressive enforcement ended up costing the Association around $20,000. While the association did place a lien on the offending party’s property, the homeowner ended up declaring bankruptcy and the home was foreclosed on. In the end, the Association received very little, if any, re-imbursement for the attorney fees paid to pursue this homeowner. By the way, the aggressive campaign did not
yield the expected results of enforcement and only drained our cash reserves which have never fully recovered.
Don’t forget, the Board of Directors of the Homeowners Association has the power to foreclose on any home that does not pay the fees. It is not an idle threat. Only a few years ago, an elderly lady in the Champions area lost her home due to non-payment. In this situation, the lady did not receive her bills. Because this Association aggressively enforced Deed Restrictions, much like what is being proposed here, her home was foreclosed on, sold at auction and she was evicted.
We are all running on tight budgets. Being forced to pay extra would be devastating to most families’ cash flow. If you are not able to pay the extra fees when they occur, as part of the process they will be put in the form of a lien against your home title. That means that once you sell your home, that amount will have to come out of your equity, if any is available.
I think we can agree that everyone should adhere to rules. However, taking an extremely aggressive stance in enforcing these rules costs all of us money. Money that none of us have at this time. What we do have is each other.
We have less than 300 homes in our community. These are our friends and neighbors we are talking about, not our business competitors. Of course, some people are less friendly and neighborly than others. Operating in a businesslike and aggressive manner in such a small area will inevitably incur some anger and resentment. It is not easy living next door to someone who is angry and resentful toward you and/or other neighbors. Wouldn’t the neighborly thing to do be to try and diffuse the situation before it escalates to such a level of “forced mows” or liens? I think we can all agree that we want a tidy and nice community, but is the definition of “neighborly” going after those that live in your neighborhood or possibly directly next door, and forcing them at the “end of a barrel” to comply with certain rules, the barrel in this case being a court order? Why not instead, offer your expertise and assistance? Most people do not purchase a home and instantly become a “yard expert”. While some people can get the hand of mowing quite easily, maybe they have a hard time edging. Other people may have a weedless flower bed, but have brown patches all over their yard. Wouldn’t it make more sense for neighbors that do well with edging and getting rid of brown patch to share their expertise with the ones who do not rather than having the Homeowner’s Association send out Attorneys to make them do something? It would cost less and live up to the definition of the word “neighbor”.
The other end of this equation is that most people will not be able to pay these fees. The current Board of Directors intends to shift money presently budgeted for amenities, such as the swimming pool and perhaps the extra security patrols by the Constables to make it available for these aggressive attorney fees. Unlike other neighborhoods which have thousands of homeowners to share the costs and have much larger budgets, this will mean that our Homeowner’s Association will lose badly needed money and the Homeowners will loose the ability to fully utilize the very things they thought they were going to get by moving into our community.
There are a few of you who would not care if the operational hours of the pool were reduced but many of us do care. It is part of the “package” that makes this community a desirable place to live and this package was never forced upon anyone. Each and every one of us agreed to help pay for the community operational expenses through our yearly assessments when we signed our deeds and moved in. It is ironic that the Board, in an effort to boost property values, may actually be making decisions that will not. For example, this is a perfect community for new families with children. Would they consider the purchase as strongly if the pool were unavailable to their children at convenient times?
What you can do:
If you agree with this current Board of Directors and their philosophy of aggressive enforcement, do nothing. That also means that if you get a letter or, even worse, a suit filed against you, you have very little recourse with this Board of Directors except to comply and pay, even if you disagree;
Or, you can show up at the Reid Road M.U.D. building on Monday, March 20. A closed door meeting is scheduled. There is a good chance the Board will not allow us in the meeting, but our very presence would at least show the Board our concern and show them which way the wind is blowing.