Great article by Susan McFarland, and it points out many of the reasons why I won’t live in a HOA controlled community:
KELLER – Some residents in the Hidden Lakes subdivision in Keller say that the homeowners association board “fired” most of its volunteers without warning and is barring residents from board meetings.
Those residents also complain that the developer is using HOA money to pay for landscaping services from a developer-owned company instead of seeking bids and also using association money to make repairs that are the developer’s responsibility.
After numerous attempts to reach the two developer-appointed board members, Elby Beal and James Gresset, and the management company, Premier Communities, a response was sent via email calling all the allegations “completely false.”
“We conduct the business of the HOA in accordance with Texas law and our bylaws, rules and procedures reflect the latest changes implemented in the last legislative session,” the email states.
“The residents elected a homeowner to the board in March of this year and some of the committees were eliminated. The homeowner representative on the board is very active, competent and engaged with our community. The majority of our residents tell us they are very pleased with the changes that were implemented and the amount of communication and input they receive on a monthly basis.”
Multiple attempts to get a response from the homeowner elected to the board, Todd Almand, were unsuccessful.
Disputes between HOAs and residents prompted the Texas Legislature last year to try to rein in the power of some groups. New rules that took effect this year include measures to ensure voting rights for all members and require open meetings and open records. Among the requirements, HOAs must provide 72-hour notice of a board meeting and open their meetings to homeowners.
There is some question, however, about whether the law applies to developer-controlled boards because of a section written into the law that states the law doesn’t apply to meetings of a board during “development periods.” That is apparently intended to give developers freedom to make construction decisions while working out in the field, without having to stop and call a board meeting.
Noting that the master-planned community of about 1,800 lots is almost fully developed, Mike Thomas, chair of the HOA’s safety committee, said, “It is high time the developer turns control of the board to the homeowners.”
But he said it appears the exact opposite has happened.
“They eliminated oversight and communications,” Thomas said. “We are only getting their spin. That’s their story and they are sticking to it.”
Hidden Lakes resident Steve Hillanbrand says issues with the board began when some residents began to challenge the board’s decisions last year. At that point, the developer, who had never appeared at a meeting before November, took over, he contends.
Without notice, he said, the board in mid-May eliminated five committees including the committees responsible for reviewing contracts and overseeing financial decisions.
Thomas said 15 to 20 volunteers were eliminated without notice. “I really have heartburn when you take people who have volunteered for as long as they have and say, ‘We don’t need you any more,’ ” he said.
“I just don’t think morally they are doing the right thing,” Thomas said. “It may be legal, but is it moral or ethical? I’m not sure … To just get rid of all those volunteers? Why would they do that?
Hillanbrand also said that the board meetings are now being held privately.
“We wanted to go to a meeting and were denied,” he said. “It was not posted, they would not tell us where it was going to be held. They refused to.”
Hillandbrand, who has started a website, www.homeownercontrol.com, to inform residents about recent changes in the way the board is operating, said he and others raising questions simply want to be in the loop on how the association’s money is being spent.
That’s also a concern to Cory Langley, chairman of the long-range planning committee.
He said that during the May 15 “firing of the volunteers” meeting, the board sprung on the group a large landscape project.
“They hired a landscape company, and in the presentation they talked about how the project was going to be handled by my committee, yet no one had even briefed me about anything,” Langley said. “Just the lack of communication and being kept in the dark is concerning …That is our concern. There is no oversight.”
Beanie Adolph, HOA reform project director of the Texas Housing Justice League, said the industry blocks openness and is “extremely shrewd.”
“This is one of the main things that we have begged for, open records and open meeting access. All the other organizations that are subject to it do fine,” Adolph said. “The question is why does this industry fight it?” People want to see the books.”