Non Monetary Claims Against HOA's

A Non-Monetary Claim against my HOA? Say what?!

What you may not know (or want to hear) about non-monetary claims against HOA’s

In our ongoing series about Director and Liability Insurance, we have covered the importance of ensuring your HOA board has the correct policy (not just an endorsement), the difference between endorsements and policies, and discrimination lawsuits (one of the most common lawsuits facing HOA’s today).

 

The second most common lawsuit is a non-monetary claim, which are quite confusing….

Let’s set up the scenario: You live in a property that has a pond, surrounded by large, mature palm trees. The community overlooks the pond and trees, but the HOA board decides to remove some trees. The homeowners surrounding the pond can not put a price on those trees removed, but the removal of such trees potentially just lost them some real estate value. The owner can’t exactly put a price on the trees now, or in the future, because he feels the aesthetics of the community have been ruined.
This is a non-monetary claim against the HOA.The plaintiffs in this case file a claim that does not have a monetary value to it. D&O Liability packages need coverage that have a built-in exclusion to deny these types of claims.
This again leads us back to why D&O liability coverage is so important, and making sure your HOA has an inclusive package, as opposed to an endorsement. It will save your board money and headaches.
Think about this: When a lawsuit hits the desk of the HOA board, they have to defend themselves. If you don’t have appropriate D&O coverage, you may be pulling out the checkbook to pay the attorney retainer for thousands of dollars, as opposed to having the correct coverage for significantly less.
5 Ways to Discourage Vandalism in the HOA

5 Ways To Discourage Vandalism in Your HOA

How can your HOA prevent or discourage vandalism or theft in the HOA community?

 

1) The first answer is easy. KNOW YOUR NEIGHBORS. Meet your neighbors, interact at social gatherings, take a moment to walk next door and say hello. Generally speaking, we all recognize our neighbors, right? Conversely, we recognize people or elements that are NOT part of our community.

 

2) Utilize E-mail! An email blast system about suspicious activities or persons to all members of the community will help keep everyone on the look out, in case you missed them at that last board meeting!

 

3) Speak to your children. Talk to your kids about their responsibility to the community. Encourage them to take pride in where they live and also recognize their neighbors in their community. Taking the time now to instill these habits in your children, will pay off in the future to discourage vandalism, keep communities clean, maintained, and safe.

 

4) Create a well-lit neighborhood. Get your board involved! Well-lit areas discourage vandalism and loitering. If your HOA is near a large park, bus stop, or parking lot, you may notice a lot of people congregate in these areas. If your HOA is well lit, the chances minimize of unwanted guests hanging out in your neighborhood.

 

5) Did you know the electric company will help you file a report? If you notice damaged or vandalized utility equipment, you can contact SRP directly and they will handle the situation with law enforcement. Don’t ever try to intervene!

 

What has your HOA implemented to help deter vandalism? Any success stories you’d like to share? We would love to hear from you, so would other communities in our area!

HOA Management Homeowner Rights Planned Development Services

Your Rights as a Homeowner in an HOA

What are my rights?

As a homeowner in an HOA, you have certain rights including:
  • A responsive and competent community association
  • Honest, fair, and respectful treatment by community leaders and managers
  • The right to serve on committees, run for election, and attend all board meetings
  • Access appropriate association records
  • Prudent financial management of fees and other assessments
  • Fair treatment regarding association obligations, such as the opportunity to discuss payment plans and options before the association takes legal action, and the right to appeal decisions
  • Receive all rules and regulations governing the community association before purchase and settlement or upon joining the community
For more information about your rights as a homeowner in a PDS Homeowners Association, please contact us! We are always here to help in a moments notice. The Community Association Institute is also a great resource. CAI focuses on educating community managers and association management companies, however they have valuable FREE resources for homeowners as well!
Handling Bees in the Phoenix Valley HOA

Handling Bees in your HOA

What’s all the buzz about?

You may have seen many recent headlines about bee attacks in Valley neighborhoods. Here’s what you need to know, along with tips on how to prevent and handle bee attacks:

 

Bees are present and active year long in the Phoenix Valley. However, during the summer months, they are much more aggressive. A majority of these aggressive swarms are the Africanized honey bee. The africanized honey bee has less venom, but travels in larger numbers. They are also much faster than the regular honey bee. They usually nest in outbuildings and sheds so be very careful when entering these areas. Listen for buzzing as you approach!
THE ATTACK:
  • These bees will defend their nests aggressively when approached or disturbed. This includes people or animals within 50 feet of the nest. Someone using power equipment (like a mower) can alert the bees within 100 feet.
  • They swarm fast and will give chase for a quarter of a mile. If attacked, keep running and protect your face. Do not jump into a pool, as they are known to hover above the water and wait to attack the invader. Attacks can last for up to 10 hours.
  • Do no strike the bee. When this occurs, the bee sends off a defense pheromone, which will bring it’s colony (up to 60,000 bees in some cases) to its defense.
If you locate a nest, do not try to remove the nest yourself. Call a pest control company to clear the area safely. If you see someone being attacked, call 911 immediately.

Discrimination Lawsuits against HOA’s

What you may not know about discrimination lawsuits against HOA’s

Immediately we assume discrimination cases deal with race or gender. In discrimination cases against HOA’s (the most common D&O claim facing us today) it usually has nothing do with either. So, what are they about?

Let’s set up the scenario: A property manager drives through a neighborhood taking note of violations of by-laws – such as a home being painted blue. They proceed with the standard notification process of violation. However, the homeowner feels they are being discriminated against and files suit. After all, their neighbor painted their house white 2 years ago. Why are they being treated differently?

How about the homeowner that was told by the board they could not build a fence. Unknown to the board, a previous board member had allowed a different homeowner to build the same fence. Now the homeowner has filed a discrimination suit against the board and the property manager.

Why?

Simple. A precedent was set by previous board members in both scenarios. This is where HOA boards can get in trouble. They don’t know what was approved prior to them serving on the board.
This again leads us back to why D&O liability coverage is so important, and making sure your HOA has an inclusive package, as opposed to an endorsement. It will save your board money and headaches.
Think about this: When a lawsuit hits the desk of the HOA board, they have to defend themselves. If you don’t have appropriate D&O coverage, you may be pulling out the checkbook to pay the attorney retainer for thousands of dollars, as opposed to having the correct coverage for significantly less.

HOA Director and Officer Liability Insurance

Be aware of what is excluded in your Directors and Officers (D&O) Liability insurance

 

The D&O liability policy is the most overlooked and misunderstood policy amongst HOA boards. In the past few years, liability claims against HOA directors and officers has been on the rise.  Frequently the claims include breach of fiduciary, breach of contract, non-employment discrimination, employment practices liability, and wrongful foreclosure.
Non-monetary and discrimination cases take the lead in lawsuits against HOA boards. And most commercial insurance packages do NOT cover these claims.
Why are they discluded then? A D&O endorsement to the policy is relatively inexpensive, about $150-$200. However, if you read the endorsement closely, the first couple paragraphs state inclusions, but the remaining 3 paragraphs state exclusions. Remember this saying…”You get what you pay for.”
Conversly, stand alone D&O policies are written to protect HOA’s and include protection for those most common discriminatory lawsuits.

Your HOA needs the following in Directors and Officers Liability Insurance provisions:

  • At least a $1 million dollar limit – higher limits are available or increase coverage with an umbrella policy
  • A broad definition of “Wrongful Acts” that includes discrimination and harassment
  • Full prior acts coverage
  • Coverage for non-monetary damages/claims
  • Coverage for breach of contract
  • Coverage automatically extended to volunteers, committee members, and spouses of board members.
  • Defense costs – at least $1 million limit for defense costs
Education is key to understanding all the components of a sound D& O policy. It is the job of your broker to explain this to your board. It may be worth it to request a meeting with your broker and review your D&O today!

HOA’s and Fee Policies

HOA late fees and collection policies.

the always difficult and controversial subject….. 

HOA’s must have strong fee policies in place that are clear, have an intended course of action, are uniformly enforced, and encourage prompt payment. If they don’t, things can get sticky.

That is why we suggest your HOA addresses fees and collections in a timely manner, and more importantly, communicate the policies regularly.

 

Let’s define some fees on your statement:

Admin fee –  a fee that is applied for monitoring delinquent accounts and sending out reminders that dues have not been paid.

Late fees -This fee is applied if the assessment payment has not been received by the due date. The fee should be set high enough to encourage on-time payments, but within what the laws allow.

Fines – are applied for violation issues that were not corrected in a timely manner or according to your HOA’s CC&R enforcement policy.

 

Can HOA fines be disputed?

Yes, disputes or appeals to these fees must be made in writing and submitted to the Community Manager. The Board of Directors of your community will review your appeal at their next Board Meeting. You can also submit an appeal directly on our website.

Flexibility for distressed homeowners…..

Remember that flexibility in a policy should also be considered. The board should have some leeway to accept temporary payment plans for distressed homeowners or unforeseen circumstances. Make sure your HOA has this policy documented also, so there are no discrepancies in consistency.

Open Meeting Law Builds Trust with your HOA

Part III: The 411 on Arizona’s Open Meeting Law

Arizona Open Meeting Law on “Executive Sessions”

By now you should be caught up to speed on the Arizona Open Meeting Law and why it is beneficial for HOA’s.
We have one last issue to cover, which are “Executive Sessions.”

Can my HOA close a portion of the meeting to members?

The answer is “Yes.” An Executive Session closes the meeting to members but ONLY to discuss the following:
  • Legal advice from an attorney for the board or HOA.
  • Personal, health, and financial information about an individual member of the association, an individual employee of the association, or individual employee of a contractor for the association.
  • Pending or contemplated litigation
  • Matters relating to job performance, compensation of, health records, or specific complaints about an employee of the association, or employee of a contractor for the association (who works under direction of the HOA).
  • Discussion of a member’s appeal of any violation cited or penalty imposed by the HOA.
We hope you found the series on the Arizona Open Meeting Law informative. Please share your knowledge about this important topic with your members.
And thank you Mulcahy Law Firm for contributing to this article!

 

HOA Agenda Process by Planned Development Services

8 Steps in the Consent Agenda Process

If you read our previous blog post on what consent agendas are, and when your HOA should use one, you might be wondering what’s next. Here are the 8 steps you need to get started….

How do we correctly implement the consent agenda process into our HOA Board meeting?

1. When preparing the meeting the agenda, the president (or designated chairperson) determines whether the item belongs on the consent agenda.

2. The president prepares a numbered list of the consent items as an attachment to the meeting agenda.

3. The list and any supporting documents are included in the board’s agenda package ahead of time (at least sufficient time for the members to read the list and documents prior to the meeting).

4. At the start of the meeting, the chair must ask members which items they wish to be removed from the consent agenda (Click here to review a list of what is included on a consent agenda).

5. If any member requests removal of an item, for any reason, it must be removed.

6. The chair now decides whether to take up the removed item immediately or place it on the regular agenda.

7. When no more items are removed, the chair (or secretary) reads out the number of remaining consent items. The chair will state: “If there are no objections, these items will be adopted.” Then, after pausing for objections, the chair will state: “As there are no objections, these items are adopted.” Continue this process until there are no objections.

8. When preparing the minutes, secretary must include full text description of the resolutions and reccomendations that were adopted in the consent agenda.

Good luck and contact PDS if you would like more information about running HOA Board meetings, Elections, or Agendas.

Open Meeting Law Builds Trust with your HOA

Part II: The 411 on Open Meeting Law

Arizona Open Meeting Law on “Emergency Meetings”

If you read our last post outlining what the Arizona Open Meeting Law is and how it affects HOA’s, you should be up to speed on the guidelines.

But what about “emergency meetings?” Can these be closed to HOA members? As long as your board follows these guidelines, they are in the clear:

  • The HOA board must record minutes and must include a statement of the grounds of the emergency meeting. The minutes and statements must be read and approved at the next scheduled board meeting.
  • If the board meets over the phone, they must have a speakerphone in the meeting room that allows association members to hear all parties speaking if they so desire.
  • If the board meets informally, they must still follow general open meetings requirements, even if action wasn’t taken during the informal meetings.
What are your thoughts on the Open Meeting Law? Does it protect the public and officials? We hope you share these insights with your board members to protect your HOA from possible litigation if these provisions aren’t followed! Ready for the next session on Open Meetings? Click here for Part 3 of this series.
Thank you to Mulcahy Law Firm for your contribution to this article!