• Seahawks ’12th man’ risks wrath of Washington HOA

    Tue, October 1, 2013 by Bill Vogrin with no comments

    Dale Carlson raises his "12th Man" flag in front of his Snohomish, Wash., house on Sunday as the Seattle Seahawks came from behind to beat the Houston Texans, 23-20 in overtime. His homeowners association has ordered the flag down as a violation of HOA covenants. Photo by Genna Martin / The Herald     Dale Carlson cheers as he watches the Seahawks score a field goal in overtime to secure a 23-20 win over Houston on Sunday at his home in Snohomish. advertisement | your ad here Photo by Genna Martin / The Herald

    Dale Carlson raises his “12th Man” flag in front of his Snohomish, Wash., house on Sunday as the Seattle Seahawks came from behind to beat the Houston Texans, 23-20 in overtime. His homeowners association has ordered the flag down as a violation of HOA covenants. Photo by Genna Martin / The Herald

     

    Like many sports fans, Dale Carlson is superstitious.

    Last season, he flew his “12th Man” flag in front of his house in Snohomish, Wash., every day while the Seattle Seahawks were alive in the NFL playoffs.

    Until his homeowners association stepped in, that is, and told Carlson the flag violated HOA covenants.

    “I had to remove it and took it down, and the following week they lost that game,” Carlson said of the Seattle’s loss to Atlanta in January.

    Despite the warning, Carlson raised it again Sunday and watched the Seahawks pull of a stunning 23-20 come-from-behind overtime victory over the Houston Texans.

    Carlson isn’t saying that his flying of the 12th man flag helped Seattle win, but he doesn’t want to take any chances.

    So he’s hired an attorney who says Carlson has legal protection to fly his 12th Man flag on Seahawks game days.

    Read more here at the HeraldNet.com:

    http://www.heraldnet.com/article/20131001/NEWS01/710019936/Flag-flies-in-face-of-rules

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  • HOA election dispute turns into brawl, injuries and lawsuit

    Wed, May 15, 2013 by Bill Vogrin with 1 comment

    rancho mirage.

    A dispute over election results for a homeowners association board turned ugly recently in Rancho Mirage, Calif.

    According to the Desert Sun newspaper, a brawl erupted after 52-year-old Thomas Moore reportedly shoved 70-year-old Reesa Manning, who had been elected to the board. The woman had been opposed by Moore’s partner, Donald Searle.

    After Moore shoved the woman, police say, he was attacked by five other men.

    Moore was hospitalized after suffering a seizure and neck injuries during the Feb. 17 incident.

    Now, Moore  is suing the Springs Community Association, the HOA, board members, several homeowners and the security company hired to provide security to the association, according to his lawsuit filed in Riverside County Superior Court.

    Moore is accusing the HOA and numerous others of violating his civil rights, intentional infliction of emotional distress, and negligence. He wants at least $25,000 in damages.

    Read the full story at this link.

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  • LAWMAKERS PASS HOA-RELATED BILLS IN FINAL HOURS OF SESSION

    Thu, May 9, 2013 by Bill Vogrin with no comments

     

    Colorado Statehouse

    Colorado Statehouse

    Water-guzzling Kentucky bluegrass and other non-native turf can no longer be mandated by homeowners association covenants under a bill that passed the General Assembly and is awaiting a signature by Gov. John Hickenlooper.

    If Senate Bill 183 is signed into law, as expected, it also would stop HOAs from punishing homeowners whose lawns die during times of drought and water restrictions. It was among four last-minute HOA-related bills that passed in the finals days of the 2013 session. A fifth passed earlier.

    Known as the xeriscape bill, SB183 still allows HOAs to mandate native grasses on lawns. But not any turfs that have not “been hybridized for arid conditions.”

    Molly Foley-Healy, an attorney with the Community Association Institute who tracks HOA bills in the Legislature, said the turf rules would apply in new communities where homeowners are installing new lawns and when homeowners seek HOA permission to relandscape their lawns.

    “It doesn’t retroactively apply,” she said.

    HOA LawHOA boards still can regulate the type, number and placement of drought-tolerant plants in a lawn, she said. And it won’t prohibit a homeowner from installing bluegrass and another thirsty turf, if they like. But the common mandate that a lawn must be 50 percent bluegrass would be outlawed along with penalties for any lawn that dies amid watering restrictions.

    “We think this bill is a pretty good idea,” Foley-Healy said of CAI, which represents residents of HOAs, board members, HOA property managers and other related businesses.

    Lawmakers also sent Hickenlooper House Bill 1277 which would require community association managers, management company executives and those who directly supervise managers to be licensed in Colorado.

    The professional managers and their supervisors would have to hold CAI credentials or a similar certification from another trade association and be able to pass a state test demonstrating a knowledge of state laws governing HOAs as well as basic finance and budget skills.  The bill requires managers to submit to background checks and fingerprinting, and to pass a state test to obtain a license.

    David Stiver of Team Strategy

    David Stiver of Team Strategy

    David Stiver, founder of Team Strategy, one of Colorado Springs’ HOA and property management companies, has a problem with the law specifying CAI credentials as a route to certification.

    “I think it’s inappropriate,” said Stiver, who said he’s a CAI member. “That’s like saying you have to be a member of the NRA to qualify for a qualify for a license to carry a firearm in Colorado.”

    Complaints about property managers in HOAs — single-family home neighborhoods, condos and townhome complexes —  led to the move for licensing. Supporters argued the estimated 500 property managers need to demonstrate they are qualified to handle large sums they collect in dues and fines, to understand legal contracts and to oversee open meetings and abide by laws governing liens and foreclosure on the estimated 2 million Coloradans living in 8,000 or more HOA communities.

    Another bill headed to the governor, HB1134, would require all HOAs, no matter how large or when they were created, to register with the HOA Information Office and Resource Center. The bill was heavily amended from its original form and no longer expands the office and to grant it investigative and enforcement powers against HOA boards.

    Foley-Healy said the bill orders further study of the need for a watchdog function. The experiences of states with aggressive HOA enforcement agencies, including Nevada, Virginia and Florida, will be included in the study.

    Also in the late hours of the 2013 session, lawmakers passed HB1276 to revise the way HOAs collect delinquent dues and fines, and setting specific rules for pursuing foreclosure actions against homeowners passed and awaits consideration by the governor.

    It requires HOAs to have specific collection policies that include mandating a delinquent homeowner be offered a payment plan and be given six months to get caught up before pursuing foreclosure.

    “The CAI supported them all,” Foley-Healy said. “We worked closely with legislators who sponsored them and we felt they reached a nice middle ground.”

    Earlier, lawmakers passed SB126 requiring HOAs to accommodate owners who want to install electric car-charging stations in a complex parking lot. It has been signed into law.

    See links to the exact bills and more details on my blog.

    Colorado Statehouse

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  • MATTRESS RECYCLING BUSINESS GETS OUT OF NEIGHBORHOODS AND GETS BIG BOUNCE

    Mon, February 11, 2013 by Bill Vogrin with 1 comment

    Tim Keenan started a recycling business in his home. Six years later, Colorado Mattress Recycling has grown into a business with a dozen or so employees. It fills a 14,000-square-foot warehouse on Fillmore Street.

    Once Tim Keenan got his business out of his garage, to appease his homeowners association, and out of the Hillside neighborhood, to appease code enforcement officers, and relocated into a true warehouse, it really took off.

    Now, six years later, Keenan’s business has a new location and new name: Colorado Mattress Recycling. And it’s enjoying a big bounce with about a dozen employees and plans to expand in other cities and, perhaps, even out of state.

    While his focus is mattresses — he charges just $5 for dropoffs — Keenan recycles just about anything.

    Sometimes, he recycles things beyond what anyone would expect.

    Colorado Mattress Recycling has grown into a business with a dozen or so employees. It fills a 14,000-square-foot warehouse at 410½ Fillmore St.

    He recycles “broken” televisions into working models that hang on his wall.

    And the fluids he drains from machinery become diesel fuel he puts in his big pickup truck.

    Then there’s the human recycling Keenan performs.

    Of all the items Keenan recycles — the wire, cotton, polyester, quilt, polyurethane foam and even coconut husk — it’s the people that may be his biggest success.

    Keenan hires men from halfway houses and shelters and gives them work in his warehouse, tearing down beds and mattresses, baling the materials and shipping them out.

    “We take guys nobody else wants,” Keenan said. “They are some interesting guys. Everybody’s got a story.”

    He also employs family, including his mother, Laura Keenan, who seems a little shocked at her son’s success.

    “I remember when he came to us and told us what he was going to do,” she said. “Of course we wanted to encourage him. But we wondered how he’d make a living.”

    Now, she’s a believer, working full-time with him at the warehouse. Her son has convinced her of the value of taking someone else’s trash and turning it into cash.

    “It’s exciting work,” she said. “There’s always something to do. And I wouldn’t call it a ‘cause’ but we do believe in recycling.”

    Keenan, who will be 28 in March, was attracted to the business when scrap metal hit $200 a ton.

    But his HOA in Stetson Hills wasn’t thrilled when Peterson Air Force Base started dropping off old beds at his home and he began stripping them in his garage.

    So he moved to a house in Hillside that happened to have a commercial warehouse in the back. He thought it was perfect until a neighbor complained and the city informed him recycling is only allowed in industrial zones.

    That was in 2010. Keenan moved to a small warehouse, expanded and then moved again.

    In August, he settled in a 14,000-square-foot warehouse at 410½ Fillmore St., behind a pawn shop. It didn’t take long before it was brimming with old mattresses, box springs and more.

    His crews hustle in the cold warehouse, stripping out the springs, separating foams and cloth, even picking out tiny brass eyelets for recycling. A huge baler compresses the materials into 1,200-pound bundles that are shipped off. He sells materials across the country.

    Tim Keenan, owner of Colorado Mattress Recycling, said one of the hardest parts of his job is finding buyers for all the byproducts of the mattresses. Besides cotton, polyester, quilt and polyurethane foam, the mattresses yield coconut husks call “coir” and another product called “shoddy.”

    One company buys the steel springs to be melted into rebar.

    He has a foam buyer in Utah. He sells raw cotton to a couple ginning businesses.

    There is coconut husk, called “coir,” that he sells.

    Another material known as “shoddy” becomes carpet pad and automobile insulation. Foam salvaged from beds also gets reglued into carpet pad and into automobile upholstery.

    Keenan keeps the names of his buyers private. They are a valuable trade secret and the key to success as a recycler. Same with the institutions that supply the bulk of his beds, like the Air Force Academy and retail bed stores.

    “It’s hard to sell some of this stuff,” he said. “That’s the reason nobody else is doing this. The hardest part is finding buyers.”

    It’s the hardest part now that he no longer has to worry about HOAs or code enforcers or upset neighbors

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  • HOA’S $50 PARKING FINE BALLOONS INTO THOUSANDS

    Sat, December 22, 2012 by Bill Vogrin with 3 comments

                                                                               UPDATE — UPDATE —- UPDATE

    In 2009, I introduced Side Streets readers to Ron Pace under a headline: “Pace is loose!”

    In the column, I reported that a judge had described him as loud, profane and even annoying.

    But the judge had sided with Pace in his battle over neighborhood covenants and assorted other issues with the Woodmen Hills Metro District, which has been a mess for years with its seemingly constant bickering, infighting, recalls and failed efforts to expand powers and fees.

    At the time, Pace declared he was sick of the fighting. The disabled vet vowed to sell his house on the sixth fairway of the Antlers Creek Golf Course in unincorporated Falcon, northeast of Colorado Springs, and move.

    I figured it would be the end of the story.

    As usual, I was wrong.

    Pace, 48, never did sell.

    Instead, he stayed and remained a vocal critic of Woodmen Hills officials. He fought them over the way they enforce rules, conduct district business and more.

    He probably should have moved. If so, he’d have saved thousands.

    Pace and his wife are facing about $5,000 in legal fees  after he lost a fight over a restraining order filed against him in 2011 by a homeowners association manager who felt threatened by him.

    But that’s only the half of it.

    Pace and his wife again are preparing to go to court  in February over a $50 parking violation issued by the Filing 11 HOA that has ballooned to $4,600.

    “My truck was parked on the side of my house like I’ve parked it since 2006,” Pace said. “They said it was eight to 18 inches past the front corner of our house and that’s not allowed.”

    Seems outrageous to think any HOA would fine someone over such a petty infraction.

    On Monday, Jan. 14, 2013, I heard from a Woodmen Hills Filing 11 HOA official who explained the HOA board’s side of the story.

    Chris Galloway, vice president of the HOA, said the property manager noted the parking violation during a semi-monthly enforcement survey of the neighborhood.

    Galloway said Pace was not singled out and easily could have remedied the violation without any fine.

    “The first time we send a courtesy letter saying please take care of this,” Galloway said. “Then we send a warning letter. Finally, we send a third letter which is a fine ranging from $25 to $50.”

    So how did it reach $4,600?

    Galloway said Pace declined to deal with the HOA management company after his restraining order defeat. Instead, he called the HOA’s attorney directly.

    “They warned him he’d incur attorneys fees personally,” Galloway said. “He circumvented the system.”

    Of course, Pace sees it as a vendatta and, when we spoke in December, he declared: “This is retaliation.” Typically, he barked it, punctuated with profanity.

    It’s this type of gruffness that has made some people who manage Woodmen Hills and serve on its board scared of Pace. They feel threatened by him. And he is prone to making veiled threats.

    In his defense, some HOAs get out of control. Power-hungry board members sometimes punish people they don’t like and, as the judge in 2009 said, Pace isn’t always very likeable.

    Once this latest mess is resolved, he has vowed again to leave.

    “As soon as my kid graduates in the spring, I’m outta here,” he said. “I’ll be happy to leave.”

    For everyone’s sake, I hope so.

    Life is too short to spend it worried whether your truck is parked 18 inches too far from the house.

    Follow this link to my Nov. 18, 2009, column about Ron Pace and Woodmen Hills.

    To read an associated blog post about that column, click here.

    For more information about Woodmen Hills, read this blog.

     

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  • HOA BOARDS WILL SHARE DOCUMENTS, EMAILS, MORE

    Thu, December 20, 2012 by Bill Vogrin with 3 comments

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    If you volunteer on an homeowners association board, you better create a new email account, quickly, for HOA business only.

    And be prepared to operate with greater accountability to your fellow homeowners.

    A new state law taking effect Jan. 1, 2013 mandates new levels of transparency fromf HOA officers while its takes steps to protect the privacy of the 2 million Coloradans living in HOAs, or covenant-protected communities.

    How much does the law change life in an HOA?

    Consider those neighborly directories of names, phone numbers and email addresses of residents that are published by many HOAs. They can no longer be routinely distributed.

    “Those kinds of directories now require written consent of the owners before they can be distributed,” said Lenard Rioth, longtime HOA attorney. “The new law requires personal identification and account information, including the telephone numbers and email addresses of owners, must be kept private.”

    However the privacy protections in the bill, passed by the 2012 General Assembly, do not apply to board members. They are required to publish their own email addresses.  And they must be prepared to release all emails related to HOA business and decisions.

    “My recommendation to all board members is that they get separate email addresses from their personal email accounts,” Rioth said. “If they use their personal email accounts for HOA business and there’s ever litigation, they may be forced by a judge to produce all their personal emails from their family and friends.”

    The new law was contained in House Bill 1237, written by Rep. Angela Williams, D-Denver,  and the Community Associations Institute, an HOA management industry group.

    It was a response to all the complaints about a lack of HOA board transparency, as reported by the HOA Information Officer last year.

    It specifies which documents – covenants, bylaws, financial statements, board decisions — must be maintained, for how long and how quickly they must be produced by the state’s 8,000 HOAs. And it bars HOAs from demanding the purpose of an owner’s document request.

    It lets boards meet and vote via the Internet. But online chats and votes must be documented and available for owner inspection.

    And it declares as private HOA records of covenant violation actions.

    “In the past, if an HOA cites an owner for say a barking dog violation, that owner will demand to see all the covenant violations actions for barking dogs in the last 30 years,” Rioth said. “They want to argue they are victims of selective enforcement action. This will prevent that selective enforcement defense.”

    Now, get your email accounts set up and get written consent before you send out those directories!

    Follow this link to the Colorado General Assembly’s final draft of House Bill 1237.

    To read the Colorado Home Owners Association Law blog about the new law, click here.

    This link takes you to a cheat sheet on the new law with all the details written by the Denver law firm Winzenburg, Leff, Purvis & Payne.

    Click here to reach the Homeowners Association registry and complaint website. It is part of the Department of Regulatory Agencies, or DORA, in its Division of Real Estate.

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  • HOA LANDSCAPE DISPUTE COULD COST FAMILY ITS HOME

    Thu, December 13, 2012 by Bill Vogrin with 1 comment

    Richard and Alisha Cuevas bought this home new in 2005. They may lose it in foreclosure after a dispute with the Northgate Highlands Homeowners Association left them facing $15,000 legal bill and $10,000 in unpaid dues, fines and other fees.

    For the third straight Christmas season, Richard and Alisha Cuevas are living away from their Colorado Springs home.

    Even worse, because Richard has had to chase jobs around the country, they live apart. He’s in Texas while she and their three kids are anchored in New Mexico.

    Meanwhile, their home sits empty in the Northgate Highlands neighborhood on the far north end of Colorado Springs. They say it’s uninhabitable due to construction defects that caused a mold infestation. They are suing the builder, Lennar Colorado, to fix it.

    But the main reason the family is gone is because they lost a war with the homeowners association and were hit with fines so steep that Richard Cuevas, 49, had to come out of retirement as an airplane mechanic and find work to cover the bills.

    Cuevas said he and his wife intended to raise their children and spend the rest of their lives in the home, which was new when they bought it in 2005. But it hasn’t worked out that way.

    His story is a warning to anyone thinking covenants aren’t binding or those threats of daily fines and attorneys fees can’t be enforced and collected.

    Richard Cuevas alleges construction defects are causing his house and others to sink. He said windows leak and mold has made the house uninhabitable. He is suing builder Lennar Colorado, which denies the claims but declined comment due to the litigation.

    After Cuevas missed an October 2006 deadline to complete the landscaping, the HOA got its attorney involved. The situation escalated and got personal. Besides his alleged construction defects, Cuevas was enduring drainage issues due to natural contours of the neighborhood compounded by the way neighbors graded their yards.

    By 2009, Cuevas’ yard remained the only one in the neighborhood with unfinished landscaping as Cuevas tried to force the HOA to intervene with the builder and against his neighbors.

    He wanted new windows installed like other neighbors had received. He wanted mold removed from the walls. He insisted the house is sinking and needs its foundation reinforced. Again, he is convinced several neighbors had similar repairs done for free by the builder.

    And because he blamed the HOA for not taking up his cause with Lennar, he still refused to complete the landscaping.

    “My builder has repaired many homes in the neighborhood but will not do mine,” Cuevas said. “They take care of the HOA board members, but not me.”

    Cuevas alleges selective enforcement of covenants by the HOA. He alleges conspiracies. He sees racism by white HOA officials against him, due to his Mexican heritage.

    Richard Cuevas alleges poor design and changes to the natural contours made by neighbors grading their yards led to chronic flooding in his yard. He wanted the Northgate Highlands Homeowners Association to intervene and refused to complete his landscaping until his issues were resolved.

    The HOA president did not return my calls seeking comment. But I pushed Cuevas to explain why he refused to finish the landscaping, incurring the wrath of the HOA.

    Aren’t construction defects an issue between him and Lennar, not the HOA, I asked? The association only polices landscaping and parking and paint colors, right? It’s not a consumer affairs agency, I suggested.

    “If everyone in the neighborhood is experiencing the same problems, why won’t the HOA help them out?” he said. “Isn’t that what the HOA is for?”

    So years of angry email exchanges and confrontations led Northgate Highlands HOA to sue. And it won an injunction against Cuevas in 2010 and was awarded $15,000 in attorneys fees.

    This is a recent statement from the Northgate Highlands Homeowners Association to Richard and Alisha Cuevas detailed the dues, late fees and interested owed on top of the $15,000 in attorneys fees the HOA won in a court case against the family.

    The family was given another year to finish the landscaping but it never happened. The HOA put a lien on his house and garnished his wages, collecting about $9,000 to date.

    But he still owes thousands more — plus another $10,000 in delinquent HOA dues, daily fines and interest.

    And the family is facing foreclosure on the home.

    All because Cuevas decided to defy the HOA over the landscaping issue.

    The family had a brief reunion last week as their lawsuit against Lennar was argued in a four-day trial in district court. Cuevas brought in experts who testified the house lacked proper flashing and caulking and other defects they said caused mold that was making the family sick.

    Lennar brought in its own experts and denied any construction defects.

    The case is in the hands of a judge and it could be weeks before a ruling is issued. But that won’t settle the case. I fully expect appeals by either side that loses.

    And, meanwhile, Cuevas is back in Texas and his family in New Mexico. He often flies to visit them but hates the living arrangements.

    I asked Cuevas if the fight was worth it. Does he wish he’d simply completed the landscaping and focused on his complaint with the builder?

    “I did the right thing,” he said. “I pulled my family out. They were all getting sick.”

    How it all ends depends on how the lawsuit with Lennar ends. If it ever ends.

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  • EAGLE-EYE HOA CATCHES PAINT TRIM MISMATCH . . . 12 YEARS LATER!!

    Fri, March 30, 2012 by Bill Vogrin with 5 comments

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    Carol Zier was shocked when she opened the letter from her Villages at Sand Creek Homeowners Association management company and discovered she was being ordered to paint the trim on her little shed.

    And she was given just 30 days to get it done.

    Carol was puzzled. The trim on her shed doesn’t need to be repainted. It’s not peeling or chipped.

    That’s not the problem, according to the HOA.

    Her trim is the wrong shade! It’s not an exact match to the trim on her home, the HOA declared.

    And it doesn’t matter the trim has been the same color 12 years. Git ‘er done!

    “I am just totally blown away by this,” Carol told me. “If you look at it, you wouldn’t even thing the shade is different.”

    Carol assured me she wasn’t some covenant scofflaw who picked fights with the HOA. She’s always been a law-abiding HOA resident since she and her husband, Jerry, bought their home in 1999.

     Heck, she said, Jerry served on the HOA board before his death in 2003.

    “I always pay my dues and I work hard to keep my home looking right,” Carol said. “And I never complain about things in the neighborhood they need to fix.”

    So I drove out to her tidy home in the Villages at Sand Creek, a 141-acre, pie-shaped neighborhood off of Airport Road with about 500 homes developed in the late 1990s at the confluence of Sand Creek and its east fork. A city walking trail runs along the creeks with HOA-owned walkways providing access between a homes, including Carol’s.

    In the evening sun, I studied the paint trim on Carol’s house and then on the shed.

    I took some photos and brought them back to my editor, Dena, who studied them. She concluded the house trim was a “sandy” color and, by golly, the shed trim was more of a “putty.”

    Her exact words: “The horror!”

    She was being sarcastic. (She often gets that way when editing my columns.)

    Anyway, I guess it’s true the colors don’t match.

    But, really? Who has time to go around conducting CSI analyses of trim paint on hundreds of homes? If it’s so close that it escaped detection 12 years, why go after it now?

    I called the HOA for an explanation.

    Board member Bob Ricketts said the 12-year delay puzzled him, too.

    And, I asked him, if the HOA can spot Carol’s trim mismatch, how did it miss the six-foot-tall fence along the HOA-owned walkway that runs next to her yard?

    The wood on the fence is bare, ugly, rotting wood.

    Even worse, Carol said a piece of the fence blew down last spring and the HOA declined to fix it saying it was her responsibility.

    Ricketts said he was unaware of the fence issue and promised to look into it.

    I’m guessing Carol will be forced to paint her shed trim long before that fence is ever painted. Wanna bet?

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  • SHOULD HOA MANAGERS BE LICENSED, REGULATED BY STATE?

    Wed, November 9, 2011 by Bill Vogrin with 5 comments

    Michelle Green

    Michelle Green has worked in the homeowners association management business 15 years. She manages the Flying Horse Homeowners Association as an employee of Hammersmith Management.

     It’s more than just a job overseeing enforcement of covenants, collecting dues and hiring maintenance and landscaping crews.

    Green has devoted many personal hours and money to taking classes and getting certified, by an industry peer review group, in various aspects of the business.

    She’s proven her proficiency at record-keeping, handling financial statements, perusing insurance policies, navigating government regulations of HOAs and more.

    In fact, this week she’s mailing in her final exam for grading as she tries to earn certification as a Professional Community Association Manager, or PCAM, from the Community Associations Institute, a nationwide umbrella group for managers like her. Green is a member of the Southern Colorado Chapter of CAI.

     Achieving PCAM status is the pinnacle of HOA management.

    So it bothers her that a lot of people out there seem to wake up one morning and decide they are HOA managers and start trying to run large associations.

    “Anybody can hang a shingle on the door and call themselves a management company with no previous experience,” Green said. “They’ve got the checkbooks for the associations. They are doing the financials. They should be monitored so associations don’t lose money or get embezzled.”

    In fact, HOA fraud is problem. I’ve written about several HOAs victimized by crooks posing as managers.

    But a more common problem is simple mismanagement by rookies which leads to huge legal and financial disputes within an HOA.

    Complaints against HOAs are so widespread the Colorado General Assembly created the HOA Information and Resource Center to get a handle on the nature and seriousness of the problems. See previous blogs about the HOA office.

    Aaron Acker, HOA Information Officer, spoke to a group of property managers on Feb. 15, 2011, in Colorado Springs.

    After nearly a year of taking calls, Aaron Acker, the state HOA information officer, is preparing a report to be delivered to lawmakers during their 2012 legislative session.

    Leaders of the CAI’s Rocky Mountain chapter fear the report to be a less-than-glowing assessment of HOAs. They expect shock and outrage. To minimize the anticipated fallout, they have made a preemptive strike.

    Last week, the Colorado chapter of the CAI asked the state Department of Regulatory Agencies, or DORA, to initiate an investigation of HOA managers to determine if it’s time for them to join manicurists, barbers and boxers among the dozens of professions licensed and regulated by the state. Check out the list of all the professions licensed by the state!

    Green is all for licensing and regulation.

    “It would be beneficial for HOAs and their boards if managers were monitored and licensed,” she said. “Managers are handling thousands of dollars, if not millions. Nail technicians and hair stylists all have licensure. Why should someone managing your homeowners association be any different?”

    Good question.

    I also spoke to Chris Pacetti, a Denver-area manager who is also chairman of the Rocky Mountain CAI’s manager licensing committee. He says the group asked for the investigation by DORA in advance of Acker’s report.

    Pacetti said licensing is not new. Nine states and Washington D.C. have enacted manager licensing or certification standards and seven more states are debating the idea.

    His group envisions a two-prong test for managers.

    One would test an applicant’s skills and knowledge in managing homeowners associations. The other would test for knowledge of Colorado law regarding HOAs.

    They would be similar, Pacetti said, to the tests given for basic certification in the industry.

    For example, to reach the first rung on the property manager certification ladder, Green took a two-day course followed by a 100-question multiple-choice test.

     Then came the CMCA or Certified Manager of Community Associations exam and another 100 questions. After she logged five years in the industry and passed those two tests, she took the AMS to earn accreditation as an Association Management Specialist.

    Now she’s seeking the PMAC.

    Green and Pacetti think it’s reasonable to expect every property manager to have a basic education and command of issues before taking the reins of a homeowners association.

    But it’s not guaranteed that DORA will agree when it concludes its Sunrise study, likely in 120 days or so.

    Attorney Jerry Orten tells me the Legislature studied the issue in 1990 and concluded that new rules were needed to bond managers and protect HOA finances by mandating separate accounts for finances and strict accounting to HOAs of their finances. But lawmakers did not order licensing.

    Orten believes licensing would elevate the overall level of servivce to homeowners, resulting in fewer complaints to the new HOA information office.

    To recommend licensing managers, DORA must decide the request satisfies three key criteria:

    1. Whether the unregulated practice of homeowner association management harms the public and whether potential for harm is easily recognized.
    2. Whether the public needs and can be reasonably expected to benefit from occupational competence.
    3. Whether protection for homeowners can be achieved by other means in a more cost-effective manner.

     In other words, DORA must find that licensing is needed to protect the health safety and welfare of homeowner, that there is a public need and similar benefit is not available by other means.

    Of course, if DORA declines to initiate licensing, individual lawmakers can bypass the agency and simply introduce a bill requiring it.

    Stay tuned, HOA fans!

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  • WILL WOODMEN HILLS COVENANTS EVER BE ENFORCED?

    Sun, October 23, 2011 by Bill Vogrin with 1 comment

    Woodmen Hills is a subdivision of about 2,200 homes in Falcon, an unincorporated community northeast of Colorado Springs along U.S. Highway 24.

    .

    NO, is the answer to the headline if a determined group of Woodmen Hills residents get their way.

    The Woodmen Hills Metro District wants the El Paso County Commission to give it the authority to enforce covenants in filings 1-10 of the subdivision in unincorporated Falcon, northeast of Colorado Springs.

    Only the 900 homes in filing 11 have a homeowners association enforcing covenants. The other 1,200 homes, in filings 1-10, have covenants attached to their homes but no active HOA to enforce them.

    And that’s the way many seem to like it.

    When the metro district began enforcing them in 2008, resident Chuck Warne led a group of residents who sued to stop.

     

    .

    A recreation center in Woodmen Hills.

    In May 2009, a district judge slam-dunked the  Metro District.

    Then, in June 2010, the Court of Appeals upheld the judge’s decision.

    Case closed, right? Ha!

    The metro district is determined to get authority to resume policing violations of covenants — rules governing parking, landscaping, fences, trailers and such.

    On Thursday, they tried to convince the El Paso County Commission to give it the authority as part of a new “service plan” it is seeking.

    The proposed service plan also would allow the district to raise its maximum debt authorization to $53 million from its current $16.2 million cap. And it would give the district a maximum mill levy of 60 mills. I found it interesting the covenant issue generated the most controversy.

    Residents lined up to denounce the metro district and its previous efforts at enforcing covenants and to plead with the five commissioners to strip the provision from the service plan.

    Among those testifying was Chuck Warne, who moved to Woodmen Hills in 2003 and sued in 2008 to stop the enforcement.

    “You’ve got a very small group of people trying to impose their will on the majority of people,” Warne said. He said if residents want covenant enforcement, they can do it themselves.

    “It’s up to the residents themselves if they want covenant enforcement,” he said. “They can create an HOA under their home rule powers. We don’t need the Metro District involved. They don’t listen to the people. They don’t care.”

    Larry Bishop

    Before Thursday’s hearing, Metro District manager Larry Bishop said many residents want covenants enforced and his board is responding to that demand.

    “There’s a misunderstanding about whether the metro district is going to become a dictatorship and force covenant enforcement down peoples’ throats,” he said. “Voters will decide. It will be a simple ballot question: Shall covenants be enforced in this filing?”

    I’ve spoken to folks in Woodmen Hills who would welcome the proposed vote in May 2012 and the enforcement of covenants.

    They say there are too many RVs and trailers parked on the streets and other issues.

    But it was enforcement horror stories that got the attention of commissioners Amy Lathen and Darryl Glenn last week.

    “We’ve heard outrageous examples of abuse,” Lathen said, adding that she’s never gotten a request for enforcement from Woodmen Hills residents. “But I’ve heard many complaints.”

    The commission delayed action until December. I’m guessing whatever the decision, the fight will go on.

    Here’s a link to an independent Woodmen Hills Info website.

    To read briefs filed in the appeal, click here.

    Follow this link to the Court of Appeals decision upholding the judge’s decision.

    The attorneys for the metro district wrote this letter explaining their position.

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