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Snipers & Terrorists

Out of the blue, an irate homeowner launches a smear campaign aimed directly at the board. It’s relentless and focused. The motivation may be some personal grievance, hatred of a board policy, disagreement on how the board does business in general or loathing for the whole HOA concept. Rather than seeking redress in an orderly and open way, however, often it takes the form of poison pen letters, back alley rumor mills or a terrorist-like assault at a board meeting.

Board meeting terrorism is designed to hold the board hostage to relentless rants and demands. This form of HOA terrorism is designed to directly challenge board authority and to disrupt the orderly process. As with any terrorist attack, the board’s initial reaction is usually disbelief. But, the cold reality of the assault soon becomes clear and the need to act urgent.

How should the board deal with this kind of attack? When presented a list of demands, should the items be discussed point by point? Should they be recorded in the minutes? What should be done?

Rule #1: Never negotiate with terrorists. The board is not obligated to discuss anything off the agenda. And it’s unreasonable to expect informed answers to firing line questions. The response should be, “Thanks for making your points. We’ll review them and give you a response in writing or consider them at the next board meeting.”

Rule #2: Don’t record a list of demands.

Minutes are intended to discuss in broad terms the business accomplished by the board. Specific motions should have enough detail to describe them and the outcome of the vote. It is not a forum for soap boxing, editorializing or where items are entered into “evidence”. It’s enough

for the minutes to state, “Mr. Sniper asked that the board consider issues relating to (general description).”

Rule #3: Control the Owner Forum. To encourage owner input, an Owner Forum before the meeting should give each speaker owner up to, say, 5 minutes to speak, so the board can get on with its business. Letting someone hold the board hostage should never be allowed and it’s up to the president to control such actions. An abusive person should not be allowed to continue for any length of time.

Rule #4: When attacked, respond quickly and firmly. When the attack becomes apparent, it’s the president’s job to interrupt and, if necessary, ask the attacker to leave the meeting. If the attacker refuses to comply, the president should adjourn the meeting and advise that such conduct will not be allowed at future meetings.

HOA terrorist attacks are designed to fan the flames of emotion and to promote rash response. The board needs to walk the high road and refuse to “dance”. While this isn’t easy when the attack is intense, the directors outnumber the attacker and with a unified response, should be able to defeat the challenge and even help point the terrorist toward a better way.

Used with permission from Richard Thompson of From Regenesis Aug. 2017 newsletter.

Expected Upkeep Enforced by our Community Association Management Firms

The staff or volunteers you occasionally see walking around your community with clipboards or tablets are your association’s covenant enforcement officers. They’re inspecting the property to ensure that everything is working properly, that conditions are safe and that nothing is reducing property values or the quality of life in your Carolina community.

In short, they’re making sure policies and rules are being followed—from pet behavior, parking and unkempt lawns, to improper exterior modifications and more. They field complaints from fellow homeowners and, if necessary, remind you (or your neighbor) when a rule has been overlooked.

The officers report their findings to the Carolina Home Association board with photos and detailed notes. Most violations are easily resolved without board action. If not, the next step is a hearing before the board—we want to hear your side of the story. Those who continue to ignore rules may be fined or taken to more extreme measures. The most serious cases may end up in court, though we try very hard to never get to that point.

Your association’s covenant enforcement officers perform a vital function, so please treat them with courtesy and respect. If you have any questions about the rules, the officers can explain them to you. Your association manager and board members are happy to listen and respond to any concerns.

When you purchased your home in one of our common-interest communities in the Carolinas, you became contractually bound to abide by the covenants that protect your association. Please review them and ensure that you are in compliance. You can find them on our website.

Why are Quorums Important to HOAs?

A quorum is the minimum number of North or South Carolina homeowners who must be at a meeting before business can be discussed. State law tells us what that minimum number is for our associations. It’s relatively low, but we still have a tough time reaching our minimum. This is a common problem in many homeowner associations.

Meetings that don’t reach a quorum must be adjourned and rescheduled at a later date. This costs the association money and creates more work for their teams. Further, achieving a quorum at a second meeting—if we couldn’t get one the first time—is even harder.

So, why bother to try again? The Home Owners Association board is legally obligated to conduct an annual meeting and it’s an important part of conducting association business. During the annual meeting, new board members are elected and the coming year’s budget is presented to the Carolina homeowners for approval. No quorum means no election and no budget. This means the current directors will have to continue serving until an election can be conducted. It also means that last year’s budget will remain in effect until a valid meeting can be held to approve a new budget.

Good news: You can be “at” a meeting in the Carolinas and across the country at the same time by signing a proxy! That’s how you assign your vote, in writing, to another person. Proxies count toward the quorum, so they’re very important to the association.

We ask you to complete a proxy form even if you plan to attend the meeting. That’s just in case something comes up that prevents you from attending. When you do attend the meeting, your proxy will be returned to you.

Since proxies are so important to achieving a quorum, you may find us knocking on your door, calling on the phone or even stopping you in the common areas asking you to sign a proxy form. We’ll do anything to achieve a quorum. Without it we can’t do business, and eventually that affects you, the Carolina homeowner.

Clubhouse Access Policy

Since the clubhouse is the “crown jewel” of many homeowners associations, having a clear access policy should be written out in your homeowner’s manual and be followed accordingly.

First and foremost, it is important to know who is using the facility. Collecting data on how and when it’s used is helpful in doing a better job of meeting your needs and improving HOA services. Daily, weekly, monthly and annual figures on the time of day the facility is used allows the HOA to budget and staff accordingly. It also helps the HOA to check records if something such as an injury report or damage claim arises.

In addition, community centers are funded by your monthly HOA fees and are a privilege for community association members in good standing, their renters and their guests. It’s also important to ensure that those who don’t live in the community—unless they’re a guest—aren’t contributing to the wear and tear such community assets.

Ensuring safety is a priority. With an exclusive access policy, minimizing liability becomes easier. Requiring those who use the facility to sign waivers and verify that they are aware of all facility rules is the most efficient way.

About the Association’s Investment Policy

Just like homeowners, the homeowners association saves money to cover large future expenses—like new roofs. Because the HOA represents many homeowners in our community, our savings are significant. It’s important to take advantage of that—up to a point—by investing the savings to earn a little extra money for the community association. However, to protect the homeowners’ money, associations often have an investment policy that guides the board in managing those investments.

Protecting the principle is the core of our HOA’s investment policy, and that requires the executive board to be conservative with the homeowner association’s resources. This protects members from well-meaning board members who may have a high tolerance for risk or who believe themselves to be capable fund managers. In fact, the policy only allows the association deal with insured, licensed and bonded agents.

HOA’s investment policies often require the management board to place all association funds in government-insured accounts or similarly protected investments, and it prohibits putting more money in one account than the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation will insure.

And finally, the investment policy provides continuity from one board to the next, which ensures that association funds are managed consistently over time.

About the Association Collection Policy

Homeowners associations adhere to an assessment collection policy to ensure the bills get paid and adequate contributions to the reserves are made. The collection policy lets you know what is required and what happens if you’re behind in your payments. The assessment collection policy answers the following questions:

  • How will assessments be collected?
  • When is a payment considered late?
  • Does the HOA charge fees for late payments and returned checks?
  • What actions will the HOA take to collect delinquent accounts? Does it suspend privileges, levy fines or charge interest?
  • How does the HOA notify homeowners of delinquent accounts? By phone, letter?
  • How will the HOA charge interest on unpaid assessments? Only the unpaid monthly assessment or the entire balance?
  • At what point does the HOA record liens against delinquent properties?
  • Will the HOA grant waivers or negotiate payment plans for delinquent accounts?

If you live in a community with an HOA, ask to see the assessment collection policy to get all the information you need.