(Editor’s note: The first two questions from this reader appeared in October of 2013. For a refresher please view these questions and answers at http://askmistercondo.com/volunteer-condo-leader-issues-in-volunteer-state/ and http://askmistercondo.com/volunteer-state-condo-issues-continue/)
C.P. from Tennessee writes:
Dear Mister Condo,
Here I am again! I appreciate the information you gave me before regarding our problems with the HOA board here in Tennessee. They had a meeting in October and only 7 people showed up. We have 152 units and 3 board members. They are having another meeting next week. I have realized that even hiring a lawyer won’t help if enough people out here don’t care to get involved and see to it that our documents are followed. Our charter and master deed require 67% of votes to make a change in either amendments or common areas. They said the amendment passed for them to be paid at 62%. And NO ONE got to see the votes but them! When they finally sent us our annual budget in October (that was due in July) I said we needed to be able to vote on it and they said we don’t get to vote on it, it is whatever they want it to be.
Everyone I know who lives in a condo gets to ratify their budget and elect their board. I asked them why we only had 2 board openings to vote on and they said they had decided to stagger the elections (which is not how it says in our documents and we never changed it). Then as soon as they decided they were the new board (no one else got to see those votes either) they said they get to CHOOSE the 3rd director, so there was no vote later on the 3rd director (who is also our treasurer). They have given gift certificates to members who have been volunteers for certain things out here (including me a couple years ago when I was doing the newsletter). I called them on it because I knew it was wrong but couldn’t get them to quit doing it. I quit doing the newsletter rather than deal with them. I wondered how people felt about that or if they even knew it and how it was put in our financial records. I managed to get hold of copies of a couple checks to Krogers for gift cards. One was on our financial report as “supplies” and another was on the financial report as “roof repairs”! They had to know it was wrong or they would have told the truth. If they lied there, where else have they lied on the books? Some of us have been trying to get them to do an audit but no response. I guess I know why.
Anyway, I (and some other ladies) will be going to all the neighbors this weekend with a flyer to try and get them to become involved in our HOA. If they aren’t willing, I guess I will just have to accept all this mess as they do, but it is so hard for me. I hate injustice.
Thanks for all your guidance and support. I get a lot out of reading your responses to others, too. I will let you know how things turn out.
Mister Condo replies:
C.P., grass roots efforts like you are describing may be your only method of rallying the unit owners to start participating in their community’s governance. There is clearly wrongdoing going on at your community association. It is up to you and your fellow unit owners to take the necessary actions to correct it or it will continue and go unpunished.
The good news is that you haven’t reported anything horrific so far. By horrific I mean things like large special assessments levied against unit owners, large amounts of cash missing from the common fund, contracted workers doing projects for Board members on the association’s dime, etc.. It seems the worst so far has been the improper ratification of the budget, some election shenanigans, and a cover up for some gift cards which I assume were for low dollar amounts. None of these are likely to be your association’s undoing but they don’t speak well of how the Board’s governance practices.
As I mentioned last time, you really need some legal guidance in the form of a qualified attorney to get the association back on track. From what you have described so far I still strongly recommend you get in touch with your local chapter of CAI at http://www.caitenn.org/contact.html. Good luck.