Why do we hate our

Homeowner Associations (HOAs)

And what can we do about it?

        February is the month of love, but why, after most association's budget season, do we still feel hate toward our Homeowners Associations?



Background:
        In 2010, Colorado , like many states in the nation, adopted legislation creating more help for homeowners and regulation oversight to the real estate market.  Colorado refers to this initiative as the Division of Real Estate (DORA)- HOA Information and Resource Center.  The Office was created as the result of questions and complaints brought to state legislators’ surrounding common interest communities in Colorado.  


        In 2011, The Office prepared its first report summarizing the 3,053 inquiries and complaints:



“Prior to the Office opening, many industry members thought that we would be primarily hearing complaints about the notorious three P’s (Pets/Parking/Paint), but the reality was that the complaints were much more substantial than that, and the “three P’s” along with satellite dishes and pools, made up a very small subset of the complaints received… What we discovered was that the complaints that we received primarily involved the failure to follow corporate governance rules and procedures of the HOA; the transparency of the board of directors, particularly as it related to the finances of the HOA; and harassment and bullying of homeowners by the board of directors and management company by arbitrary fining, preclusion from providing input into the associations’ affairs, and verbal harassment.”

- DORA 2011 Report from the HOA Information and Resource Center


Why we hate our HOAs:

        Specifically, the 2011 and 2012 data shows consistent trends.  As stated by DORA, associations are not                   concerned primarily with the 3Ps, but rather, results show that approximately 83% of all complaints

        received pertained to  the following topics:


        • Failure to produce records & transparency
        • Failure to follow property governing documents – due process for imposition of fines
        • HOA Boards or Property Managers failure to listen to Homeowner concerns
        • HOA or Manager not performing property maintenance
        • Meeting and/or voting violations
        • Board member conflict of interest
        • Diversion/Theft/Fraud
        • and Harassment/ Retaliation/ Discrimination



So from this information you ask – geez, these are big issues, what do we do about it?





What do we do about it?

        When assessing an HOA Board and/or the property management company that serves your community,

         there are three main questions you should ask and analyze in more detail.



1.  Where are they focused?
        Are they focused on the “3Ps” or are they paying attention to the relevant activities that protect

        the value of a community?   If the direction is wrong, who is in charge of steering the boat to get

        everyone back on track?​

 

2.  How does the community leader communicate with homeowners?

        Are they focused on their own agendas or paying attention to the needs of the community? How does the                 agent communicate with homeowners?  Is there a formal process to allow homeowners to give input?  Are               meetings posted and public knowledge?  What is the attitude of    the agent?  Is the agent a positive

        influence, encouraging deadlines, clear expectations, and new goals?  Does  the community feel

        like a team or does the community feel like they are individuals, alone, standing on an island?

 

3. What changes need to be made to enhance our community?

        Is your community agent leveraging your community?  Do they understand what it takes to    make it a happy           home to live in, increase property values, and save for a rainy day?  Does your    agent have the

        experience and knowledge needed to make it work? 

       If you've reviewed the questions above, and have come to a harsh conclusion or just have more questions,

       its likely that your association leadership needs some help. 





Community Resources & Methods for Change:
        If you are a homeowner or board member stuck in this situation, check out our resources tab   

       here to view a list of organizations that may be able to help you.  For whistle-blower cases go to

       our resources tab and select your county website and then follow the links to the district attorney to

       file a report and, if required, file a case with local law enforcement. 



        For the day to day leadership issues of a community, as a concerned homeowner, you can also help yourself.           It’s likely that you are not alone in how you feel about the community and you can make a difference. 

        To start a movement in your community follow a few easy steps using the M.I.C.E method:


1)  Mirror personal stories
        People learn well through story telling.  Rather than raising an issue, tell a story about the

        direction you’d like your association to move towards.
2)  Inspire a common goal
        To create buy-in to your idea, create a common goal for your community that affects the

        individuals.  A “what’s in it for me” statement is very powerful to answer for your audience so that

        they don’t have to guess or interpret your message.
3)  Create a Coalition
        One person can make a difference, but they can’t create true change alone.  Throughout history

        all good leaders were great because they created a coalition army of supporters who helped to

        spread their message.
4)  Empower your Team
        Planning at the beginning of your project or cause will pay off in the long run.  Set clear

        expectations for your team on what it will mean to be involved and what rewards volunteers will

        receive in the end.  If expectations are clear in the beginning you won’t need to spend time

        micro-managing and your team will appreciate the breathing room for creativity and unique

        contributions.


        If it sounds like it’s a large goal to reach, with you against the world, your right.  In some regards it is.  But, there are many resources available to help you.  And building the pyramids started with just one person's vision and one step forward to reach the goal.  DORA is trying to address these issues, and provide community resources, but it is hard to get the information to the masses.  That’s why, we at Zeato, seek to encourage a higher standard of management in the industry and make information available to homeowners who are willing to serve as activists in their community calling for change.  If you are struggling with issues in your community, contact us, we can help.


Conclusions:

        The report certainly points out that the traditional property management model is neither truly addressing the needs of business professionalism nor does it address the new demands on the property management industry.   



        Ultimately, It is the agent (property management company or self-managed board) that is responsible for providing the technology based financial and community communication platform, the professional expertise to manage today’s associations, and a focus on providing the right service model that will result in a valuable property and a healthy place to live.



        At Zeato, we believe that the critical mix is a property management model that provides transparency in its financial transactions, vendor selection and payments; compliance with property documents and state laws; and an on-line communications platform that addresses and documents homeowner input and needs creating trust through transparency and collective knowledge. 

Communities are demanding more compassionate, competent, professional, and collaborative management of their properties.  This family-like collaboration, coupled with a business approach, founded on trust, is the key that will result in improving property values, as well as maintaining a community that is financially viable, and a great community in which to live. These are the new standards of professional property management for any community, whether managed by a property management company, or a “self-managed” community Board.