Clark Howard

What Can I Do if My HOA Is Doing a Poor Job?

If you own a home or a condo, hopefully you don’t have to worry about a homeowners association (HOA).

Although there can be benefits, especially if the people who run the HOA are great at what they do, it is an added expense in terms of fees. And many times people are unhappy with the services their HOA provides.

Still, more than 75 million Americans contend with HOAs where they live. That represents about 30% of the U.S. population.

What happens if you’re in an HOA situation where things aren’t going well? Do you have the power to do anything about it?

What Do I Do if I’m Unhappy With My Homeowners Association?

I don’t like how my HOA manager is managing our properties and money. What can I do about it?

That’s what a listener recently asked Clark Howard.

Asked Michael in Florida: "I own a two-bedroom condo, 1,200 square feet, and pay an HOA fee of $396. It is not a gated community and there is no gym. The landscaping is average and there is a pool. It is owned by a family and the "Association Manager," a family member, makes $70,000 per year for what looks to be minimal work.

"The fences for the courtyard need repair and an additional $935 is being demanded, pending board approval. I feel funds are, at the least, being mismanaged and there is even the possibility of embezzlement given the rampant nepotism. I will attend the upcoming board meeting but feel like it is a rubber stamp, having been to previous proceedings.

"Can I demand a full audit? Can the monetary value of an Association Manager be called into question?"

The only thing more stressful than a poorly-run HOA is a poorly-run HOA that’s self-dealing within the management company.

Fortunately, Florida has some newer statutes on how condo owners can assert their rights within an HOA, as Clark pointed out. Because historically, HOAs and their boards “are all branches of government all in one entity without much oversight … there are no separations of power,” Clark says.

“The greatest oversight, though, is not you going to the board meeting. It’s for you [to] run for the board itself.

“When a condominium feels out of control, and it happens a lot, the greatest power when you’re an owner is to become a board member. Be on the inside. And do what you can to make things run better.”

How To Ensure Positive Change Within an HOA Community

Because of the concentration of power within an HOA board, it can be difficult to effect change. Still, it’s good to try to form a consensus and to drum up allies in the community that feel the same way you do.

After all, one of you — either you or someone who feels the way you do — will need to grab a key role within the HOA if you’re going to get real influence.

“That doesn’t mean you’ll win if you run for the board. But what you have to do way before the association’s annual meeting, you’ve got to submit your name and whatever their procedure is to run for the board,” Clark says.

“And then you have to campaign for it with your fellow condominium owners. You have to be willing to put in that time.”

Clark has been a member of an HOA board three times, all for condominiums. He’s glad he did despite the extra work, much of which isn’t fun.

“You have to get involved if you feel like things are not going well,” Clark says. “Because it hurts the value of your units if things are in disrepair. And also hurts as the condominium fees rise. So getting involved is the most important suggestion I can make.”

Final Thoughts

The wrong group of people running your HOA can really impact the value of your home and your wallet.

Unfortunately, HOAs usually have all sorts of power that goes unchecked by any outside process. If you want to make a change, most of the time, attending the HOA board meeting won’t cut it.

Try to run for an HOA board seat yourself. Or you can try to band together with a group of like-minded people and see if you can get representation from your group within the HOA.

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