11 “Natural” Laws of Community Associations

/ Owner - February 4, 2013

Like science, community associations also have certain immutable “natural” laws that exist outside of state or federal legislation.  This is my take on them:

1. Community associations are going to continue to be THE major component of new development

Unless the American populace makes a complete 180 on taxes, multi-unit developments that allow local governments to collect full taxes and not pay out for full services will be the norm rather than the exception. By requiring associations be formed, in return for greater density (profits), local governments can use the excess income to offset rising costs, so they won’t have to lay off friends and family. Until the majority of us come around to the thinking that increasing local taxes is a good thing, you can expect mostly HOA’s and condo’s.

2. State legislatures don’t have a clue as to what to do to “fix” HOA’s and condo’s and will do as much (or more) harm as good when they attempt to

They will therefore continue to “tweak” laws, in response to interest groups; resulting in more confusion for association boards and owners, as well as greater costs and liability.  The major issues that need to be addressed start with the conception and creation of the association, and that bumps into developers and their lobbyists; and……

3. State legislatures will not seriously offend the major interest groups – home builders, real estate agents, mortgage bankers, or developer attorneys.

The best way to help ensure the possible success of an association is to make sure its developed and built well, that full disclosure takes place, and that the developer is held to a high standard including their responsibilities as the first board of directors of the association – all of which the largest and most powerful interest groups have no real desire to see in legislation.

4. In every association there is at least one hero and one a**hole

You may not know who the hero is yet, but just about everyone knows who the other is. The key to a successful association is to find and elect the hero(es) and defuse, unseat or get the a**holes to move.

5. Given the choice, the majority of owners would rather not fund reserves

In Florida, they don’t buy green bananas and the state legislature gave condo’s the ability to “opt out” of fully funding reserves, which is why you’re seeing so many in such dire financial straits today. Let’s face it, the majority of owners don’t think they’ll still be living in the same home 10 years from now, so see no reason to fund reserves.  Owners just don’t understand why associations can’t have huge credit card balances like they do.

6. Documents are not carved in stone.

Your documents were originally written by an attorney working for the developer and designed to assist that developer.  Change them to fit the owners and the times when it makes sense or when needed.

7. It’s not the association’s fault

The association is a legal entity and has no inherent personality – the people who live in it and the people they elect to run it make it great, or make it miserable, or somewhere in between.

8. It’s the pole, stupid!!

Community associations do not remove your constitutional rights. First, the constitution doesn’t grant unrestricted rights, no matter how what you think (or what some people write). You still can’t yell “Fire” in a crowded theater; libel and defamation can make freedom of speech costly; and you can’t plant a flag pole in property that you either don’t own or that you’ve agreed to the controls the CC&R’s place on them. You still can put your flags and signs inside your home and be just as patriotic or political as the next guy.

9. I don’t need no stinkin’ professional

Given the choice, the average association board will ask legal questions of its manager, neighbors, an internet forum, relatives, people driving by, or a ouija board, before paying the attorney to give them the correct answer. Once they have the correct answer, 50% will ignore it.

10. No matter how much you may wish or pray or legislate, human nature in community associations is the same as human nature outside of community associations

As long as people are electing people to govern people – there are going to be arguments, letters, fines, court cases, arbitration, mediation, hard feelings, politics, favoritism, screw-ups, etc.

Democracy is messy – it goes with the territory. Nobody likes to be told what to do, or disagreed with. The difference between your association and the local, state and federal governments telling you what to do – is that you agreed to let the association do it (and don’t blame the association if you didn’t read or get the documents).

11. Don’t rely on the media to tell your side of the story unless you actually provide it

The news media loves underdog stories, and someone fighting their association always comes across as the underdog.  They present their side of the issue and then you see “No comment” from the board or manager.  If you don’t get your side of the story to the media when they need it to air or go to print (or post today), then don’t expect to get much coverage when you actually get around to it.

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