D.M. from Hartford County writes:
Dear Mister Condo,
I live in a 55+ Active Adult HOA of single family units. Last year, myself, and some neighbors, power washed our units (for the betterment of the community), after years of failed promises by the Developer & Board. Months later, the Board contracted (for a discount fee) for power washing, offered to those owners who wish to participate, at their expense. Obviously, I (and other owners) did not need this service since it was recently done. Earlier this year, the Board made the decision to reimburse only those owners who participated in the group discount. They refused me a partial discount. They reportedly will power wash those units that have not had a power wash (at least once), on an “as needed” priority or as long as the funds last. This appears to be selectively discriminatory to me: the use of common funds in an unequal, unfair decision. There is no guarantee that I will ever get any benefit (partial re-imbursement or power washing of my unit at the expense of the HOA). I am considering deducting my cost from my monthly condo fee?
Mister Condo replies:
D.M., from what you have told me, you have a right to feel discriminated against and to cry foul over how the common funds have been used. That being said, when you and your fellow “early washers” opted to have your decks power washed you did so at your own expense without any expectation that the HOA would pay for the work. So you both have some skin in the game at this point. The real question for me is did the Board act with prejudice against you and the other “early washers”? I can’t say as though your claim of “discrimination” would hold up based on what I see here. That being said, you have every right to question how the community’s funds have been spent. I am not an attorney so I cannot tell you of your legal rights here but you should begin with an examination of your HOA’s governing documents. My guess is that the decks are limited common area (for exclusive use of the HOA unit owner that the deck is attached to) and that the maintenance expenses of that deck are the responsibility of the unit owner, not the HOA. If that is true, the HOA may have mistakenly offered to reimburse for the power washing. Perhaps what they meant to do was to negotiate on behalf of the HOA members to get a better price from a power washing contractor who offers a discount for multiple decks being done at one time. If that is the case, HOA members who took advantage of the deck power washing would simply return the reimbursement from the HOA for the cost of their deck cleaning. If your HOA documents state that the association is responsible for the deck upkeep and power washing then you truly had no business hiring your own contractor to power wash your own decks regardless of the empty promises of the Board and/or developer. The fact that the Board-sponsored power washing was performed a few months later doesn’t help your case either. My advice at this point is to investigate that the Board did not act inappropriately (looks more like a misstep than malice to me) and make sure that the proper channels are followed next time this comes up. And, of course, to enjoy your clean deck! Best wishes!