N.M. from Nevada writes:
Dear Mister Condo,
Where I live just outside of Las Vegas, my HOA painted our homes five years ago with paint that was supposed to last ten years. Now (only five years later) they are spending our money to paint again. They did not inspect nor did they allow us to vote to repaint and our dues are going up. Are they allowed to do this? If the paint failed it could be the painters fault, but it didn’t. Perhaps the new painters are “close relatives”?
Mister Condo replies:
N.M., if the Board has offered no reason for painting buildings 5 full years before they were due to be painted again, I can see why you are upset. Without knowing the full history of your community it is difficult to ascertain why they would spend all that money a second time when the paint that was applied just five years ago. I am not from your part of the country so I have no local expertise on how long paint should last. Here in the Northeast, I usually hear that paint and stain needs to be reapplied every 5 to 7 years before it fades and fails. It is possible that baking in the famous Nevada sun wears the paint quicker and, even though it may not look to have failed, there may be a history to the paint fading or failing in less than 10 years. Perhaps the Board is taking proactive measures to see if they can get a longer life out of the paint by applying a second coat before the first coat has failed.
Regardless of why they have painted the buildings again so soon it would appear they need to do a much better job of communicating with HOA residents like yourself. At first glance, I am inclined to say that it sounds to me like your Board is doing a very good job of protecting the homes in your community but a poor job of explaining why they are taking the actions they have taken. Most complaints that cross my desk are from unit owners who complain that the Board waited too long (until the paint was actually showing signs of failure) before the buildings were painted. That leads to additional costs such as replacement of rotting wooden boards that were left unprotected. Those communities then have wood and carpentry costs to add to the expense of paint maintenance.
There are many items that need to be replaced or repaired even before they fail. This may fly in the face of conventional wisdom as some individual homeowners do not repair items until they fail. For instance, if you own your own home and the roof isn’t leaking, you may well wait 25 or 30 years to replace the roof. In an HOA, if the roof carries a 20 year warranty and it fails on Year 21, the insurer covering the resulting damages is very likely not going to honor the claim because the HOA would have failed to replace the roof after its useful rated life. It is a matter of proper association governance, minimization to risk exposure, and just proper maintenance that your HOA makes the decisions to tackle capital improvement and maintenance projects like the painting you are describing.
Association dues routinely go up year after year, just as the expenses incurred by the association go up every year. It is a matter of simple inflation. Everything costs more and dues from the unit owners within the HOA are only one revenue source for the association. Instead of criticizing their behavior and making accusatory statements like the painters may be “close relatives”, may I suggest that you volunteer your time to serve on a Committee or on the Board of your community and get a first-hand look at what the requirements of governing such an association entail. It is an important job. It is, sadly, sometimes thankless. However, without volunteer leaders to serve the association, the community would perish. Perhaps a “thank you” note to those volunteers is more in order than an accusation that they are hiring “close relatives” to perform the work of the association? Something to think about, N.M.. All the best!