Written by Richard Thompson
Question: We apply barkmulch to our planting beds every year. A member complaints of the smell, dust and sloppy application by the contractor. What are your suggestions?
Answer: In cooler, wetter climates, barkmulch application to planting beds is highly advisable. Besides consistency in look and curb appeal, it has several practical functions of reducing weeds and reducing irrigation water needs.
Question: Our HOA has a natural area with tall trees, natural ground cover and a small wood chip covered pathway. An adjoining homeowner has appropriated a portion of it by permanently leaving lawn chairs and a table in this area. Can we require them to remove their possessions?
Answer: No homeowner has exclusive rights to the general common area. Ask them to remove their furniture or move it for them.
Question: We have a homeowner who hasn’t paid dues since closing on the property six months ago. We have sent out notices and they all come back Unable to Forward — No Address. We are limited to a 1% late fee. Since our dues are only $100, the late fee is hardly a deterrent. What can we do?
Answer: If you don’t already have one, the board should adopt a formal Collection Policy which details the procedures and penalties. The policy must conform to any specific requirements found in your governing documents. If the governing documents state a 1% late fee, the members need to vote to change it or eliminate it and allow the board to use its discretion (usually the best option).
Finally, it’s generally advisable to use a either a knowledgeable attorney or professional collection service if your letters don’t solve the problem. They have ways of tracking down missing owners and getting them to pay.
Question: We have an issue with termites and mice. Do HOAs typically take care of insect and rodent infestations?
Answer: Yes, if the HOA has common wall construction. Since pests move from unit to unit, the only practical way to eliminate them is to treat a whole building and the HOA is the logical one to do it.
Question: Can the board spend reserve funds for day to day operating expenses. I realize this is not a smart thing to do but is it prohibited by federal or state law?
Answer: There is no federal statute that deals with HOA reserves. Some state HOA statutes have provisions about how reserves are spent like California, Oregon and a few others. However, if the HOA’s governing documents don’t forbid it, the board can spend reserves for operating expenses. As you say, it is not a smart thing to do unless the reserve money is only being borrowed for an emergency or unanticipated shortfall. If the board is regularly under budgeting and using the reserves to make up for it, things must change. Reserves are intended for specific and future renovation, not the board’s poor budget planning.