Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Bored Meeting

...and now an unadulterated attack on those easiest of targets: The Home Owners' Association.

For those of you not "lucky" enough to live in a covenant controlled community and not having the "pleasure" of dealing with HOAs, let me start by explaining the problem. The HOA (theoretically) is a good idea. Their job is to democratically control community standards and keep the value of your property up by making sure the community is maintained and looking good.

In practice, however, my personal experience is that these groups tend to degenerate into a group of busybodies who have nothing better to do who are suffering from Napoleonic Complexes. In extreme situations, they become semi-autonomous oligarchies spreading vitriol through the community until no sane person would want to be on the board.

This is what has happened with my HOA. Last night was the monthly board meeting and I went to attend to discuss a few issues I had. Including the fact that they had (apparently) decided that we, the homeowners, no longer had any interest in being notified as to the financial status of the community association or what they were doing. I asked about whether we still published the community newsletter. (The answer given immediately was "yes, of course we do.")

"I seem to have not received one lately, could I have a copy of the latest one, please?" I requested, surprised at the response and its immediacy.

"Here you go!" Said the representative of the management company who handles our complex proffering the most recent newsletter.

"Uh," I continued... "Is this a typo?" The date on the newsletter was more than a year in the past.

"No." I was assured, that was the correct date and that was the "current" newsletter.

"So," I pressed. "What you're saying is that we still publish a community newsletter, but we haven't actually had any news for the past sixteen months." Nobody seemed to notice the irony of their response in light of the facts. I know of no periodical that claims to be current in any interval of more than a year. But then, I may just be an idiot.

The rest of the homeowners started discussing their issues. One gentleman in particularly was particularly upset about issues in his area of the complex. When he noted that the concerns he had could lead to serious injury and lawsuits, he was placated calmly. Funny, last time I pointed out that lawsuits were possible, the community management representative had told me (and rather pissily at that) "Go ahead and sue the board! They carry insurance against lawsuits!"

But for me, the real fun was when we got to the financial statements. I asked a question and received the curt response that I didn't know what I was talking about. (I seem to remember being the treasurer of the association for a few years, but again... I could be wrong.)

When he got to the "Cash Reserves" issue (which apparently had been asked about at a previous meeting) a little mathematical gymnastics was performed... we were given the figures for the last eight years. These figures represented the balance in the account. The figures were broken into two sets, the previous four years when the current board had been sitting and the previous four years when the last board had been sitting.

These two sets were averaged. This was an interesting (sort of - if you're interested in that sort of thing) but meaningless piece of data. The property manager tried thereby to show that this board had done as well as the last.

"But," I pointed-out, "Our cash reserves are now about twenty percent less than they were four years ago. The last four years, the balance has trended downward... the previous four it had trended upward."

I pointed out that if your bank balance had gone from $100 to $400 over a period and then had gone from $400 to $100 over an equal period at a different time, the average balance for the two times was still the same, but I'd rather be in the earlier period than the later.

"But we're spending money." Said the manager.

"That's precisely the point." someone else chimed in.

"And what about inflation?" Asked another homeowner. "Is it wise for our reserves to be shrinking while the dollar is getting weaker and the price of everything is going up?"

This argument too, was dismissed.

The board then closed the public portion of the meeting. I listened to them do business long enough to realize that there was no discussion of actual important topics forthcoming. I guess I will have to run for the board again and try to shake things up. It's hard being a Cassandra!

Wherever you are today, I hope you'll have an excellent day!

Don Bergquist - August 19, 2008 - Lakewood, Colorado, USA

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