KATY MAGAZINE NEWS
September 17, 2018
Natalie Cook Clark
With master-planned communities comes homeowner associations and in some cases, misunderstandings and complaints. While HOAs have responsibility to maintain shared spaces and enforce aesthetic rules of homes, some Katy homeowners think they go too far in some cases and not far enough in others.
Most longtime homeowners have received a "mow your yard" or "trim your trees" demand letter at one time or another and it has not been a problem to correct. But there are many other frustrated Katy homeowners that can't seem to get the HOA to make simple improvements in their neighborhoods or to allow them to make modifications or changes that seem so ordinary. Frustrated Katy homeowners have turned to social media to express frustrations they are having with their HOAs. Below are just a few of numerous of complaints from homeowners in Katy.
CINCO RANCH HOME NOT MOWED FOR SEVEN MONTHS
"A house in North Lake Village has not been mowed since October. Squatters were there for 7 months. HOA keeps saying their crew will mow the yard but week after week. Nothing." -D. Wallis, Cinco Ranch (Editor's note: the home was mowed the day after this photo went public on a community forum.)
REMOVE YOUR DOLL HOUSE
"I had a girls doll house built in my backyard and the HOA sued me claiming it was an “outbuilding”. I sent in photos of the dollhouse with a little swing etc. they would not stop. I live on the golf course so I sent them 30 photos of boy forts but they would not drop it. I went to all my neighbors and had them elect me president of the neighborhood so I could fight for the dollhouse. I soon found out that once I was on the board they had to pay for my attorney to defend me against their lawsuit. The dollhouse stayed in my backyard for 16 yrs"- D. Catron, Kelliwood Links
NO STREETLIGHTS FOR THREE YEARS
"No one ever drives around to check street lights are working but they are sure to report a trash can being left out over 6 hours!! Our street lights have been out for 3 years!! I’ve complained but to no avail...."- L. Carpenter Cunningham
"Lakecrest Communities...Still Developer owned. Hired A Management Co. Will not turn over control to homeowners until 100 percent built out. Will not have Annual meeting. Has offered to relinquish control twice to us and has since pulled out of the agreement. We are approx 85-90 percent built out. We have terrible services sub par amenities. We pay an extraordinary amount of Dues to the Developer and have no say in any budgeting or contract negotiations. We had to force them to finally fire one of our contractors. There is no communication between homeowners, Management company and Developer. No one returns calls, No one responds to Emails. I have had to go the the Management Co, in person to seek information....."- R. Shearer, Lakecrest Communities.
"I live in Churchill Farms, our HOA is the absolute worst I’ve ever experienced and most of the community agrees. Both the HOA and the management company have arbitrarily made decisions for our community without having met quorum at our meetings and posted notices about HOA meetings just 24 hours before they’re scheduled to happen. They have outright lied to the community about amenities/upgrades."- J. Franco, Churchill Farms
"We have our yard mowed weekly and receive multiple letters from the HOA about weeds in the yard and flower beds. Certainly there is a better way to spend our money than by sending these notices to homeowners whose yards are always kept in good shape."- A. Jinks
Does anyone have an email to contact the HOA about landscaping issues? This entrance has looked like this for several months and it needs to be addressed. - A. Dee, Cinco Ranch
Response from HOA's
"Home Owners Association's job is to retain property value which is very important in Harris County where we have no zoning," explains Don Mach, president of Nottingham HOA's for thirteen years.
BAD EXPERIENCES ARE RARE
"Like most things, you only read about the bad experiences which just don't come up that often," says Mach. "In Nottingham we have older homes, most built in the late 70's and most people have the attitude that it's my property and I can do what I want. Well if you lived out by yourself you could but when you live in a community you can't raise pigs or run a trucking company. In my 14 years of serving on the HOA I've only experienced 2-4 people not meeting deed restrictions." But Mack would likely agree that restrictions in Nottingham might be far less stringent than restrictions in Cinco Ranch or some of the newer home communities.
NOT A POLICE FORCE
"We're tasked with maintaining the financial health and quality of the neighborhood so home values can rise not decline," says Corey Zollinger, on the HOA board of Silver Ranch. "We are not a police force. We send letters over a four month period and give residents a lot of chances to do the right thing."
WHAT AN HOA CAN AND CANNOT DO
Zollinger says a lot of homeowners are confused as to what they can and cannot do. "They assume that parking, lights, drainage, etc. is all a HOA thing and it just isn't, says Zollinger. "We can, however, be advocates and help in those areas. I feel that we are the voice of reason, the rational person to voice and address concerns."
Another big misconception is that HOA members get paid. "We are volunteers who want to serve our community. I'm very busy and I make the time to serve so when people complain but then aren't interested in working on the issue, I just don't have time for people who don't volunteer," says Zollinger. Many homeowners wonder why HOA's need to be volunteer based considering the inordinate amount of money homeowners pay for annual HOA fees.
DIFFERENT RULES FOR DIFFERENT AREAS
"Every subdivision is different. For example I know that in Cinco Ranch you can't park cars out on the street after dark," says Mack. Newer and larger communities will also have higher HOA fees because of the extra amount to landscape, maintain, etc.
HOA's are proactive in looking out for the best interest of the community. "We were very fortunate during Harvey but we were also proactive in communicating with our residents. Nextdoor and other avenues of social media were key in communicating with people to clear and keep clear storm drains. We also told people to keep their water level in their pools down and to look after each other to help prevent flooding," said Mack.
WHAT CAN HOMEOWNERS DO?
HOA representatives admit things are not perfect, but their role is to protect and better our communities. Here are helpful suggestions for what you can do to get a situation addressed.
Stay in communication
Communicate with your representative and ask for specifics as to what needs to be done.
Don't Ignore Letters
Handle the issue promptly if possible, and if not, communicate with the HOA and let them know your plans to correct.
Try to be solution-oriented instead of demanding or abusive, which never helps to get your needs met. Ask for the precise rule in question so you don't misstep again.
If you feel you are being ignored or your questions aren't answered, you can follow up. Send photos if you think it will help them understand what you're talking about.
Attend Meetings and Volunteer
Attend meetings to learn specifics about your neighborhood's concerns.
Churchill Farms, a community with a large amount of HOA concerns has a meeting this Tuesday, September 18 at Shafer Elementary 7pm. This community has had a lot of concerns with how the HOA is using community space in addition to concerns over lack of communication.
Have you had good or bad experiences with your HOA? Do you serve on an HOA board? Share with us your experiences below in comments.