HOA Boards are better than anything playing at the Winspear. What should be the stuff of banality and tedium are often filled with grade-school antics. Since posting the email@example.com email address, a few readers have supplied their own stories to add to my own. Here’s a sample…
Imaginary Degrees and Intimidation
One reader spoke of a “fancy” building where in order to get her way, one resident pretended to be a lawyer in order to intimidate and bully fellow neighbors. Turns out there was a code violation (because codes change over time) that the HOA board (rightly) wanted to bring it up to code. This faux lawyer was part of a cadre of pitch-fork wielding villagers telling the HOA that the item was grandfathered in – this even after the City of Dallas inspectors cited the complex for the code violation. “The legal advice she gave when demanding her way was incorrect and caused turmoil and mass hysteria, thus stopping the board from getting things done.” Several HOA board members resigned because of the “hateful, personal attacks at Board meetings and via phone calls and emails” instigated by this woman and her bamboozled followers.
Later, when a neighborhood-changing issue was raised, this same self-accredited “lawyer” sharpened her pitchfork and became one of the most vocal critics. Resurrecting her battle tactics, she again sent out “crazy, long winded emails … to cause worry and fear among the residents.”
While one person can certainly cause a ruckus, this HOA apparently had a history of refusing to keep the building up to snuff with shabby lobbies and hallways with old/smelly carpeting. This writer also spoke of years of mismanaging funds. Some of this can be explained by complacent owners and a history of closed-door HOA board meetings (in complete violation of Texas law). Complacency and exclusion are a recipe for disaster – like leaving a 15-year-old in a mall with a credit card.
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If it Ain’t Broke…
Fixing non-existent problems is another HOA problem. Turns out a new HOA board member didn’t like the security in the building. Once you’re in the elevator in most high-rises, you can go to any floor. This man didn’t like that and wanted to have floor-specific entry fobs, and prevent stairways from opening on any floors except the roof and ground floor.
This is a very social building with neighbors routinely visiting their neighbors. Were these new security procedures put in place, residents would have to go to the lobby to get buzzed up to their neighbor’s home. Ludicrous.
This building had no history of security issues and no one could remember the last robbery. So the rest of the HOA board rightly killed the idea.
Added detail on the gentleman in question: He maintained a multi-million dollar estate less than a mile from this condo building, using the condo for storage and to garage his Ferrari and Lamborghini sports cars.
Another reader wrote a long missive about a building where nary an HOA board meeting is held without spending time to pat themselves on the back for some real or imagined triumph. It’s like the game show Family Feud where no matter what the answer given is, everyone shouts “good answer, good answer.” Bending the truth doesn’t seem to matter to these folks either. A recent self-congratulatory session boasted of updated infrastructure and being able to spend significant monies on a project without a special assessment. Somehow, conveniently forgotten was a 2012 special assessment that covered much of the infrastructure repairs they were boasting about.
When someone simply does their job, there’s often one woman (always the same) jumping to her feet, as if she’s found the Lord, to endlessly natter-on about how wonderful and special this person is. She’s the same one who can also be counted on to shout down any opinion that doesn’t match her own (a graduate of the Fox News School of Charm) while heaping cloying praise to her friends on the HOA board.
This is the same woman who commented in an HOA board meeting (and subsequently immortalized in meeting minutes), “that nothing but lemons should be put down disposals. She had experienced a clogged drainpipe when she put carrots down the disposal one Thanksgiving when she had thirty guests for dinner.” This was part of a 232-word “summary” of her gushing from just one meeting.
For the others stuck in these meetings, there’s little choice but bring a glass of wine and endure these love-ins. I’m guessing their mommas didn’t hold them enough as children.
The Common Good
All of these “bad” stories are in sharp contrast to another reader’s less fancy building that had setup and followed a well-run maintenance schedule with proper planning to keep things up to date and in good repair – new roof, air-conditioner and renovated lobbies. Owners feel like a team to ensure the building (and their investment) were secure and attractive.
This dovetails another reader’s experiences where an encompassing and very long-range plan has been maintained for decades mapping out all the potential maintenance the building would require from boilers to carpet. There’s never been a special assessment and the plan is distributed to all residents annually so they know exactly what’s being done that year. Maintenance runs like clockwork and so there’s no fussing about doing what’s needed because budget is there.
And it’s this planning and openness, coupled with informed and engaged residents, that seem to be the key to better performing HOAs. The good news for those in more problematic buildings is that there are elections every year.
Old Lady Brigade
Sometimes I riff a lot on older people and particularly older ladies. But in my defense, even when readers write to me, it’s rarely about crazy old men (shorter lifespans?) and my own experiences seem to revolve around the loonier members of the fairer sex. As for age, high-rises are disproportionately populated by older people. One of the columns I’m working on is a chart of Dallas high-rises and their percentage of owners claiming the “over-65” exemption on their taxes. So far, precious few buildings I’ve measured have an age distribution remotely resembling the general population.
But it sometimes goes beyond population statistics as one reader wrote, “Cognitive decline causes older folks to either make bad decisions or be unable to make any decision. They are afraid they will not have enough money to last until their death, so they won’t spend even when the roof is bad. And they do not care about resale value because they believe they will never need to sell. ” Or as I say (even to my older friends), we all age but some just get old.
This vertical retirement home ethos is mirrored in a conversation I overheard of a neighbor lamenting the lack of a cafeteria in the building. And one building manager on tony Turtle Creek shared his own stories of craziness and indolence that required patience to overcome. Change, in his building, arrived in a hearse.
Remember: Do you have an HOA story to tell? A little high-rise history? How about a home in need of a renovation or one that’s complete with flying colors? Shoot Jon an email. Marriage proposals welcome! firstname.lastname@example.org