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Reader needs to contact board about sidewalk damage

Q: I unfortunately live in a planned unit development. The association is responsible for the front landscape and I am responsible for the sidewalk from my drive to the front door. A tree has sent a root under my sidewalk cracking it. I contend that the association is responsible for the damage since the tree root that broke the sidewalk ( I have photos) is beyond my control and therefore the break is the responsibility of the association. I’m quite sure that if I took out the front tree, the association would rightly say it was my responsibility to replace it.

What is your opinion?

A: I reviewed a copy of the covenants that pertain to maintenance responsibilities in your community. The association is responsible for the maintenance of plants, grass, trees and desert landscaping in the frontscape and common areas of the community. The homeowner may not perform any maintenance of the landscape area unless the homeowner has obtain approval from the association. The association is not responsible for the sidewalks, driveways and utility connections between the homeowner’s unit and the main lines.

Generally speaking, when a sidewalk is broken, it is often caused by the roots of a tree. Assuming that you have not specifically sent a written letter or have not specifically addressed the issue with the board at a board meeting, you need to first communicate with the association.

The letter should ask for the management company to have its inspector meet you so that he or she can see the broken sidewalk and the tree.

If the board through the management company states that it is the homeowner’s responsibility per the covenants, you need to send a second letter, return receipt requested, to both the management company and to the board of directors informing them that you will fix the broken sidewalk.

You should inform the board that if the roots are found to be under the sidewalk where the crack is located, that you will not only take photographs but will leave the sidewalk opened for either the management company or the board to review.

If this is the case, you should ask the board to pay for the cost of repairing the sidewalk and for correcting the landscape issue — the board’s landscape company may be able to cut the root to prevent further growth under the sidewalk.

If the board or management company takes no action, the homeowner could sue the association for damages in small claims court for reimbursement of the cost to repair the sidewalk.

One final precaution, you should specifically obtain approval from the board that your landscape company will be taking the appropriate action as to the tree causing the damage.

Q: I have lived in my home for 10 years. During that time the homeowners association has tried at least three times to ban street parking. Each time the vote failed to pass. Now they have unilaterally banned parking on one side of the street.

Its rational is that the city of Henderson requires an emergency access lane due to the width of our streets.

I don’t care one way or another. It was an occasional pain to have to navigate between cars parked on either side of the road. However, this could increase speeding. So I have mixed feelings on this issue.

However, shouldn’t the community management have known there was a code requirement? Or was this code enacted recently and if so, does it apply retroactively? The HOA board said nothing. The community manager (this is at least the second one we have had) does not reply to either e-mails or telephone calls.

I also have another issue with our management company. I have had direct debit (not bill pay) of my HOA dues since it was offered. Company A was in charge when they raised the dues by $1. For some reason, they failed to increase my dues the first month. Three months later, I received a bill for the $1 plus late fees and penalties. I called and only got voice mail with no response to my message. Three months later, I get another bill for the $1 plus more fees and penalties. This time I sent a registered letter and still no response.

Three months later (nine months total), I get the same bill. This time I went to the HOA meeting and presented my case. The HOA treasurer had no record that I owed anything.

A vice president of the overall company was at the meeting. He directed the community manager to call me the next day. When the community manager did not contact me, I called the vice president two days later and he had the management treasurer call me and sort it out. I noticed that in the next minutes we had a new community manager.

I don’t know why there was a change, since the HOA board did not inform us.

The dues went up to $1.50. This time I got a bill for the $1.50 but not the full amount. Not wanting to repeat the previous fiasco, I sent in a check for the $1.50 with a note about my bill pay. They kept the $1.50 and deducted the new dues from my account.

They, too, have ignored my telephone calls. So I have been trying to get to a HOA meeting to resolve this as well.

Can you help?

A: In response to your questions, the banning of parking on one side of the street for emergency access is not a new ordinance. The banning has been in existence for quite some time for those streets that are not of a certain width.

Should the community manager or the management company have known of this ordinance? Not necessarily. It would almost be impossible to stay current with all of the various ordinances that could affect the management of an association and the unfortunate fact is that for many of the ordinances, management companies have no knowledge of them nor do the municipalities inform the management companies.

Having made that statement, if your management company has been working with your board to ban the street parking three times, you would have thought that the management company would have contacted city of Henderson during the first two attempts.

In selecting management companies, there are many questions that a board can ask prior to making a decision. Boards need to know the policies of the management companies as to how they operate — in this case, how does the management company respond to homeowner issues?

There are some management companies that offer only specific hours for telephone calls from the homeowners and others require written communication only, as for example, when responding to violation letters (the rationale is to have a written trail in order to maintain due process).

Since the past or the current community manager has responded to e-mails or to telephone calls, the homeowner can complain to the board. You may want to contact the owner of the management company.

One final comment. According to NRS 116.31085 subsection 2, a board can not meet in executive session for the purpose of renewing, modifying, terminating or acting upon any contract (accept contracts with attorneys). The board must discuss and vote on these contract matters at the open board meeting.

Barbara Holland, certified property manager, is president and owner of H&L Realty and Management Co. To ask her a question, e-mail support@hlrealty.com.

 

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