Homeowner fights HOA on deliquent fees

Q: I’m an avid reader of your column regarding homeowners association rules and regulations. It’s always interesting and informative, keep up the good work.

I have a rental house in the Monaco subdivision at the Buffalo Drive and Desert Inn Road area. Have never been late on paying any of the semiannual association fees.

Last December, I probably misplaced the statement for the fee, so I missed the payment, subsequently it went to collection.

To make a long story short, I went ahead and paid the dues plus collection fees totaling $408.

The dues were only for $120 plus a $10 fine. The remainder of the amount was for the collection fee.

I also provided the management company my PO Box number, so I won’t miss any mail.

On Sept. 28, I went to my PO Box, there was a delinquency notice from the association stating that I’m late for the July assessment; please send $120, plus a $10 fine.

I immediately wrote a check for $130 and sent it out to the management company.

On Sept. 30, the mailman knocked on my door to deliver a certified mail from the same collection company demanding payment totaling $424.10.

I was stunned and furious. How can these people do this?

They sent out a delinquent notice and then two days later, actually one day, as Sept. 29 was a Sunday, they sent it to collection.

Before the Sept. 28th delinquency notice I did not receive any bill for the assessment in June, which the association’s management company said is when the bill was mailed and no late notice or any correspondence concerning the unpaid balance.

I received it in July or August. It wasn’t until Sept. 28 that I received the delinquency notice, and immediately it went into collection.

Can these people do that?

I am so upset that I decided to fight these people this time. This is borderline harassment and blackmail.

I wrote a letter to the board of directors, requesting them to call off the collection process and waive the collection fee.

However, the management company said it would forward the letter, but they won’t be able to have a determination until next time the HOA board meets in December.

In the meantime, I also requested to put the collection process on hold so they can’t tag on any more fees, and I don’t know if they will do that or not.

I would like your advice on this matter. If the board plays hard ball and denies my request is there any recourse for me to contest the harassment?

I have read in your columns that I probably can file a complaint with the state’s ombudsman office.

How much does that process cost?

I would love to hear from you concerning this matter. Thank you so much for you time and attention to help me resolve this matter.

A: First, I would like to thank you for the nice comments. They certainly start the morning on the right foot.

Here is part of the problem. You assessments are due semiannually. Apparently two semiannual payments were delinquent. In both cases, your account was turned over to a collection company.

It is interesting to note that there is no law which requires an association to send billing statement to the homeowners. It is just assumed that homeowners know when their assessments become due.

Having stated that fact, most associations do either send out billing statements or provide coupon payment booklets to the homeowners.

Although, I do not know your association’s delinquency/foreclosure policy, I would expect that a courtesy or a delinquency notice would have been sent to you prior to sending the account to collection.

You should obtain a copy of the collection policy from the association. Such a policy was first mandated by the state Legislature in 2009.

If the association did not follow its own policy and procedures, you would be able to challenge its actions and have a better case in getting a refund for the collection fees.

However, whatever collection policy your association may have, it is probably no longer valid, as the Legislature mandated a new collection policy for associations, effective Oct. 1.

I will address this new law in a week or two in my column, but the bottom line is that associations will have to wait at least 60 days before sending any delinquency letter to their homeowners. More to come on this topic.

Q: Many residents in our community, including a recent former HOA board member, were not pleased with the job that our current landscaper has been doing. So the board had our management company call for sealed bids from other landscapers.

According to our manager, all of the competitors were bidding on the job based on what our current landscaper was doing.

At a quarterly HOA meeting, our manager announced that our current landscaper opted not to submit a sealed bid and wrote that he would be charging somewhat more next year.

Thus, he ruled himself out of the closed bidding contest.

One of the bidders had the best bid by far and the company was well trusted. Thus, the choice seemed like a no-brainer.

However, before a vote could be taken, there was an extended discussion, mainly by our HOA president, who communicated by phone from Mexico.

He was supporting our current landscaper, who had refused to enter the bidding process. It was especially surprising when the president stated that our current landscaper would not be raising his rates, which was contrary to what our community manager reported he had in writing.

Since the HOA board has a fiduciary responsibility to serve the community both financially and in respecting the closed bidding process, is it appropriate for the board to be considering our current landscaper? A lawyer friend of mine said that this sounded like bid-rigging.

A: If the current landscaper opted out of submitting a bid, the board should not consider renewing his contract, but should be making a selection from the bidding companies.

Barbara Holland, certified property manager, broker and supervisory certified association manager, is president and owner of H&L Realty and Management Co. Questions may be sent to the Association Q&A, P.O. Box 7440, Las Vegas, Nev., 89125. Fax is 702-385-3759, email is support@hlrealty.com.

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