Sunday, September 19, 2010

HOA meeting follow-up: Victory is mine

On Thursday night's Daily Show, Bill Clinton said, "I got tired of going to meetings and having everybody say intelligent things and nothing ever happened." That mostly expresses my opinion regarding meetings in general and HOA meetings in particular.

Wednesday night Matt and I took an evening stroll to our community club house, where a record number of neighbors joined us for our annual meeting/complaint session. The board member running the meeting spent the first portion of the meeting attempting to postpone the inevitable, but the only reason anyone was there was to issue concerns regarding the latest round of HOA home inspections. Once we actually got down to business, it was reassuring to hear that virtually everyone was in the same boat with violations and had the same attitudes about moving forward. Namely: what's the deal with the gutter cleaning? Why were these inspections done in the late summer? Why are our repairs expected to be complete in a matter of weeks, right before winter sets in? How are we going to avoid this situation in the future?

On the matter of the gutters in particular, it turns out that our gutters cannot simply be power washed. Instead, they must be painted. As a group we talked about how, because nearly every one of the 274 homes in our community was cited for gutter cleaning, if it makes sense to collectively all chip in for one company to come out one week and do the work. Apparently, though, our HOA cannot endorse such a move, supposedly because it would make them liable for any damages that could possibly occur to our homes.

The meeting moved on, and it still was not clear what, if anything, we were going to do about the gutters. So, Matt stood up and said, "Maybe I'm missing something, but it's still not clear to me if we are going to find a company to do this work, or if we're going to petition to have this violation removed, or if we're going every man for himself." Others nodded in agreement, and finally the board member running the meeting said we should all hold off on the gutters for the next month until the HOA reaches some sort of decision with the inspections company.

Sounds like not a whole lot got done? Absolutely. See Clinton quote above.

So, Wednesday night post-meeting I did what I do best: I took matters into my own hands and wrote a strongly worded email.

Here's what I wrote:

Hello,

We are writing in regard to violations at our residence. We have taken care of the violations we received and understood. There are two violations, though, for which we would like greater clarification and detailed photos in reference to our specific property.

First of all, we were told to re-stain our deck. In late July 2009 we power washed and stained our deck a natural wood tone. We conducted this power washing and staining at that time because we were waiting for our HOA to settle the matter of acceptable deck stain colors after several residents raised concerns. We were sure to only use natural wood stain on our deck, as that was the resolution agreed upon by our HOA. We are concerned to see that we just received this violation to re-stain our deck (dated August 5 inspection, received in the mail on September 4). Please send us photos and greater explanation to outline exactly how our property is in violation, given the fact that we had performed this operation almost exactly one year ago. We would like to know how an inspection was performed on our deck, seeing as it is high off the ground, and anyone who actually stands on our deck can see that it is beautifully finished, with water beading on it when it rains. Because it does not appear that an inspector stood on our deck, were photographers stationed on ladders to document this violation?


Second of all, we received a violation to clean/wash our front gutter exterior. The houses in our neighborhood are exceptionally tall, so we are not clear as to exactly what this means. Could you please send us a photograph of our front gutter pointing out exactly what you noticed as our violation in this regard?


Thank you for your prompt attention to this matter. We look forward to hearing your immediate reply.


Thank you,
Matt and Stephanie
Home owners

Saturday morning I received this reply:


After reviewing your inspection photos we have waived the deck and the gutter cleaning violation.  Please disregard.  Sorry for the inconvenience. 

Customer Service

Booyah!

Important point: we never received photos from the inspection company. I would bet money on the fact that they do not have inspection photos, therefore they could not review them, and therefore they had no choice but to waive these supposed violations.

How did I know my plan would work? At the start of the complaints portion of the HOA meeting, a woman in our neighborhood raised her hand, admitted that she is a nerd (which I totally appreciated), and said she has surveillance videos recording the outside of her home 24/7. So, she caught our inspection company on tape, and she quickly discovered that the inspection people were outside her home and the homes nearby for all of two minutes collectively, during which time they were neither taking photos nor writing anything down. Seems suspicious, right? Even more suspicious is the fact that almost everyone received the exact same violations, coupled with the rumor that the inspections company was getting paid per violation they recorded. (Our HOA board would not explain exactly how they were paid.) Smells a little fishy. Either way, no gutter cleaning + no deck re-staining = giant win for Matt and Stephanie!

3 comments:

  1. I'm glad that was resolved in your favor. We don't have HOAs where we live...but how do they operate? I would think it would a be community committee that everyone would work together on things. Sounds like they have their own bureaucracy and money swindling going on.

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  2. But it would seem it's still a win for the local contractor the HOA used for auditing all these "violations". Don't the home owners collectively have the ability/right to investigate why you all paid for a bogus inspection? And what was the process by which the contractor was chosen? I mean, it reeks of nepotism. Hopefully you guys ferret out the rats.

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  3. Jess and Mark, you both raise legitimate questions, and I would like to know the answers as well. I am going to follow up on our community website to see what the answer to your questions are, because those are the same ones my husband and I have had as well. Specifically, I'm curious as to how this inspection process is going to happen in the future, how exactly this company was paid (per violation?) and if we investigated any other companies. There is an elected board of five members that runs the HOA. Yes, they're volunteers, but they still really need to be held accountable.

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