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Ask the HOA Expert: Design Review Committee, HOA Donations, Billing for Handyman

Question: My HOA’s Design Review Committee conducts approval and denials on homeowner requests using email with no face-to-face meetings. What about the open meeting concept?

Answer: Committees are not under the same restraints as the Board to meet in open sessions which are accessible to members. Email is okay for the Design Review Committees when the answer is “Approved” but when there is a denial, the petitioner has the right of appeal and a face-to-face meeting with the Committee and, ultimately, with the Board if necessary. The Committee should report and summarize its actions to the Board at regularly scheduled meetings.

Question: A Board Member is proposing that the HOA donate to a children’s charity amounting to $5 per year per member. Is this appropriate?

Answer: Charities are a wonderful thing but it’s not appropriate to donate money out of the HOA budget. A great alternative has been developed by McNary Estates Homeowners in Oregon. Each year, McNary hosts a community wide garage sale. The HOA charges each garage sale host $10 to pay for advertising. Each visitor is required to bring a can of food for the local Food Bank. Result: McNary donates several tons of food each year, the event attracts volunteers from all over the city, the news media gives it high profile coverage, the Mayor publicly praises the HOA, the members make money and the HOA members have an enduring source of pride. This event is now an annual tradition. Another benefit is that McNary homes for sale get much more attention during the event. All do well by doing good.

Question: One of our homeowners petitioned the Architectural Review Committee to add a dog pen along the side of his home. Before the Committee could respond, he installed a chainlink enclosure. The Committee informed him by certified mail that he needed to replace the chainlink with wood fencing but he has refused the certified letter. Can he avoid the requirement by simply not accepting the letter?

Answer: Legal notice requirements vary from state to state. But as long as the notice was delivered legally, it is binding whether it’s accepted or not. It’s best to serve notice several ways (First Class Mail, Certified Mail and door posting) to defeat the “I didn’t know” defense.

Another suggestion: The Committee clearly has no objection to the dog pen, just the look. Since the chainlink fence is already up, why not consider allowing him to add wood slats to it rather than have to rebuild the whole thing? If shielding the contents is the goal, it can be achieved without a total rebuild and will probably encourage quicker homeowner cooperation.

Question: Our HOA is considering hiring a handyman for random maintenance type jobs. The Board is concerned that this person might be considered an employee. Does it makes sense to have the management company run him through the company’s payroll system and bill costs back to the HOA?

Answer: It is common for smaller HOAs to use handyman services provided by the management company on an as needed hourly basis. The management company then controls and assigns work to various HOA clients and keeps the individual fully employed while each HOA gets a good value from a part-time service.

Question: Our HOA maintains a road that costs a lot to repair. We heard that a neighbor HOA recently transferred ownership of their road to the city and disbanded the HOA in order to eliminate this burden on the homeowners. Have you heard of this before?

Answer: Before wasting a lot of energy, contact the city and see if there is any truth to the rumor. Most cities and counties welcome HOAs because they can transfer maintenance responsibility to the HOA for parks, streets, street lighting and other things they traditionally supply. So, it’s unlikely that they would welcome this offer. However, even if true, you’re still a long way from completing a dissolution of the HOA. It is a legal entity that impacts the title of every homeowner and the lenders that have liens on those properties.

You need to consult with a knowledgeable HOA attorney in your location for what is required to accomplish this. It is usually very expensive and next to impossible.

For more Ask the HOA Expert, see Written by Richard Thompson for Copyright © 2020 Realty Times All Rights Reserved.