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Bev's Burner
Some's Hot, Some's Not 

By B.K. Carter

"Bev Carter is the owner/publisher of the Fort Bend Star, winner of numerous state and national awards. She has been a voice of Fort Bend's largest circulated newspaper for 30 years."


 

Correction.....In this column last week a typo of a dropped zero caused my point to be missed. It should have read, “...remind yourself that the DOW Jones dropped from about 13,000 on January 2, 2008 to 8175 on Oct. 27, 2008. That was before the election and was the largest drop we’ve had in many years. That’s a drop of 4868 points."

Homeowner’s Assn....The subject of homeowner’s associations is far too complex to have a definitive discussion in depth in this small space. However, a few weeks ago I received two calls in the same week from residents with stories about their homeowner’s associations.

The problem with HOAs is that one wants their HOA to be strong and effective in order to protect and maintain a neighborhood’s property values. If a neighborhood becomes run-down due to abandoned cars, homes in disrepair, etc., it affects everyone in the neighborhood and makes it difficult for neighbors to sell their homes.

Yet, one hears horror stories about over-vigilant HOAs with Nazi-like methods that patrol their neighborhoods with offense books ever at the ready.

And the dirty little secret that most people never run afoul of is the propensity of hired attorneys who make their fees by attaching onerous fines and interest to unpaid HOA fees. One wonders if there is a move to foreclose on homes in order to make a land grab.

The association’s lawyers tell the board to enforce every rule and take homeowner’s to court. They say if exceptions are made, the whole neighborhood falls into chaos. Of course, the lawyers get paid every time an owner is taken to court.

Consider a widow we’ll call Resident R, who lives in Quail Valley which is subject to the rules and regulations of the Quail Valley Fund.

Although I lived in Quail Valley for many years and never ran afoul of the Fund, I never got behind on my annual association dues either.

Resident R did. Her salary was cut in half, and she made the mistake of skipping two years of dues. She said the first thing she heard about it was a letter taped on her door saying her house would be foreclosed. She called the Fund and was referred to the accountant and told by someone there that she could work out a payment plan.

She said the first mistake she made was going to an attorney who wrote the HOA a letter. “That just made them mad and gave their lawyers a chance to file other things, including two liens on my house.”

Resident R at that time owed two years of HOA dues for a total of $650. She went to the HOA attorney’s office, Hull and Associates, to give them a cashier’s check for the $650 for the two years, but the employee there, a David Turner, told her the amount was now $1001 which included the fines, interest, and attorney fees. She said he took her $650 check and told her he wanted the rest immediately. She offered to pay $200 a payday until the rest was paid, but she said he said, “No, I’m going to sue you.” She said he was abusive and rude.

The day after cashing the check, she said a third lien was placed on her house and the lien was signed by Fund manager Cecil Willis. She again offered to make a payment arrangement and was told by the attorney that they were going to sue.

Resident R said she had paid her dues promptly since then and got a letter from the court in Oct. 2008, saying her case had been dropped for want of prosecution. However, in December, she received another letter saying she was due in court in January.

When she got to court, the HOA claimed she owned $2225 in addition to the $650 she had already paid in 2007.

She was scared and since the HOA agreed to take a payment plan, Resident R is currently paying the $2225 on a monthly basis.

She said, “I paid for 26 years, and missed two years. They treated me like a common criminal.” She said she called the Fund one time and the lady answering the phone said, “I know YOU. You owe us money!”

I’ve never had anything but pleasant relations with the Fund, but I will have to say when I called to inquire about this, I was told that Resident R was a “troublemaker.”

I sometimes think that HOAs collect so much money and hire personnel who have too much time on their hands. So to justify their salaries, they drive through the neighborhood to try to find something wrong.

For example First Colony Community Association (FCCA), the largest HOA in the area, has 9800 plus homes in its jurisdiction and collects $679 per household per year. That’s about $6 million a year. It employs 29 personnel full time and various part-time seasonally.

I recently had a $5,000 landscaping job done on my house in FCCA. Hardly had the plants received their first watering when I received a letter from FCCA which stated that I had not planted my shrubs close enough to hide the slab. I guess FCCA doesn’t know that plants need a little room to grow. I talked to my neighbor who had recently landscaped his yard, and he told me he received the same letter.

Then a resident of Greatwood called and said when he had one side of a new fence installed after Ike, the contractor hadn’t notched the top of the slats like the rest of his fence. He received a letter from his HOA in Greatwood.

He said he would prefer that the HOA address the issue of houses in disrepair in the neighborhood rather than his “notches.”

Much publicity was given several years ago when a Spring Branch area widow lost her home to foreclosure by a HOA. It eventually resulted in a change of Texas laws concerning foreclosures.

But problems still exist and several laws are before the legislature this year to address those.

As Resident R says, “You think you own your property, but you really don’t. The homeowner’s association can not only tell you what to do with it, but make you pay for the privilege.”

I believe there are wrongs on both sides. I think HOAs should be very careful about their use of lawyers and lawsuits. It shouldn’t become a “racket.”

And homeowners have the obligation to take part in the governing of their neighborhood. Attending the HOA meetings should be important and the HOA should make them welcome.

We’ll talk more about HOAs later.

Short takes.....Do you, as I, sometimes think that about 100 greedy you-know-whats solely caused this whole economic morass with their huge compensation packages based on making money on paper? They encouraged this whole sub-prime mess which seems to be the root of all our troubles at this point.

And, are you amused, as I am, about the wall-eyed, hissy fit the Republicans are throwing about Barack Obama, a Democrat, being the President. They are simply beside themselves and it doesn’t look very manly, seemly, or adult.

They need to behave as the loyal opposition, but they shouldn’t act like school yard bullies. Actually, they need to shut up for a while and let the President make it or fail on his own without constant nit-picking from them.

 

Contact bkcstar@earthlink.net, if you would like to express your opinions/views regarding the column. Write a SIGNED letter to the editor with valid day time phone number--name can be withheld by request.

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   Last Update:
April 30, 2009