Sunday, September 16, 2012

Is there any such thing as a 'good surprise' in an HOA?

This past weekend, my husband and I decided to go house hunting for my brother and his wife. There were two new townhouse developments going up near our community and we decided to check them out and report on our findings. The first community seemed like a really good fit for my brother and his family but we decided to take a peek at the second community just to compare.

When we tried to turn into the parking lot for the second development, we were directed to turn around and go back to our own community which was apparently hosting the developer's sales center in our Clubhouse! Imagine our surprise when we heard this news. The sales center had nothing to do with our community at all. When we trudged down to the Clubhouse and asked why this developer would have a sales center inside an entirely different community, we were told that a "deal" had been worked out with the country club months ago.

Was I annoyed that our HOA board had not informed us that our 24/7 manned security was perhaps not so secure now that the community would be open to the general public to accommodate a sales center for a community down the road? You betcha. At the very least, it would have been nice to have been informed of the situation without having to find out about it by chance. As with most things in life though, it is usually easier to ask for forgiveness than for permission so perhaps that was our board's reasoning.

After I simmered down, I realized that in the 4 months since this questionable arrangement had already been in place, nothing bad had occurred in my community. It was business as usual, reinforcing the old maxim that ignorance is bliss.

I have several options at this point. I can continue to fume over the fact that we, as members, were not made aware of this situation and let everyone in my community know about the surprise I stumbled upon. I can overlook it entirely as the Sales Center will be relocated outside our community at the end of November according to the nice sales lady with whom I spoke. I can also look for the positives by acknowledging that the Sales Center has done no harm and might have actually exposed our community to potential future buyers who were more impressed with our community than the one they were trying to visit. No, I have not yet made up my mind about the path I will ultimately take but I am leaning towards the last option.

This experience has reminded me as an association attorney what others might feel about their HOAs on a daily basis. While it is not impossible, there is rarely a joyful surprise in an HOA. More often than not, the surprises in HOAs are of the variety I've described above where boards have taken actions or refused to take actions that might surprise, shock or dismay the members. Of course, the reaction to those surprises are what define who we are as members and as people.

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