A Blog Entry
A while back, we wrote pretty much an introduction to Condominium or Homeowners’ Associations. I wrote that my husband and I were blessed (still are) to have landed where we did, with fantastic neighbors and many other attributes. Since our neighborhood was all new construction, I made the analogy of moving in being like freshman year of college, where you probably knew no one, and your roommate and dorm mates were luck of the draw.
Fast forward four years, I now feel a little more schooled in how HOAs work. Some of our and our neighbors’ experiences have been nightmarish, but there have also been bright spots as well.
Our development came to a consensus within the first year that our management company was disastrous. No organization. No returned calls or emails, ignored work orders, forced ridiculous rules.
We learned, too, that it is very difficult to fire your property managers. There are contractual and legal hurdles, budgets and subcontractors. And even though we voted for a board of directors, the property managers had the ultimate authority to approve or disapprove any requests. And by the time the brief tenure of the board was up, requests had to start all over again!
There are common sense policies in place in our development’s bylaws. Speed limits, landscaping continuity, architectural approval, common use of the clubhouse, etc.
But there are a few that make us laugh out loud, such as the posting on the dog park fence that it closes at sunset. Really? Try explaining that to the dogs and their owners when nature or boredom sets in.
Then there’s the rule on when you can or can’t put up holiday lights, and when you are required to bring them down. Tell that to those who take advantage of favorable weather to get them up, or the people who keep them on because they celebrate the Orthodox Christmas later in January.
There are the complainers, the nitpickers, the policy wannabe enforcers.
But I have to say, that kind here are few and far between. They’re just more vocal. We truly are blessed with a warm, cooperative community.
In the meantime, our new board that hit the ground running has fired the irresponsible landscaping contractor (as an example, our own irrigation system cover was run over and smashed to smithereens, leaving plastic shards as far as 20 feet away, exposing dangerous electrical wires).
The new board also managed to fire our previous property management company, and we now have a new and improved, friendly system that seems to be working.
The new board and all of its subcommittees have worked tirelessly to donate their time and remarkable talents to save all of us from higher HOA fees. The volunteerism is incredible. We’ve got retired engineers, construction managers, gardeners, decorators and guys with trucks and lots of implements. We don’t hire caterers; we do potluck which is more popular anyway.
We’ve fixed our own bridge, cleaned debris from under it, planted over 50 new trees that were free from DNREC, and weeded the berms tirelessly. We’ve placed pavers at the dog park and pickleball courts in areas with lack of drainage after a rainfall.
The pickleball courts were repaired by a few of our players. The clubhouse and neighborhood trees were all decorated with donated ornaments from neighbors. My husband and I spent an afternoon stringing countless strings of lights donated from our dog people around the dog park, illuminating it for hours every night for those nocturnal canines, and it looks pretty.
My point in explaining all of this is to emphasize that HOA communities can unite to get things done, rather than as my father in law would say, “pay the man.” It has all been voluntary, and many new friendships have been sparked.
As for the new management company? People are quite satisfied, and so are we. That irrigation cover that was carelessly run over? Our new rep from the new property manager came over personally and immediately to see it, and it was replaced within two days after waiting more than 30 with the previous outfit.
Here’s hoping your neighborhood communities are as energetic and diligent as ours.
By Bridget FitzPatrick, Resident Journalist