People spend much of their lifetime saving money to buy their dream home. But even a dream home can become a nightmare if a dysfunctional Homeowners Association is involved.
Heather and Joe, proud owners of their new dream home, were excited about getting their landscape installed. With great expectations of how lovely their home would look, they went to Home Depot to pick up some colorful petunias and drought-tolerant succulents.
But within days of the initial planting, the nightmare began when they received a “Cease and Desist” order from the homeowners association: “YOU ARE IN VIOLATION of Rule 28.2(a) which requires that all exterior work receive approval before commencing any such work. You were apprised of the rules when you bought your unit and you have intentionally disregarded said rules. You must stop all work now in progress and appear at the next meeting of the Board of Directors to give an account of your actions and to make your case for why you should not be fined, as well as ordered to remove the offending work.”
“The offending work?” cried Heather. “What we planted is beautiful! Who could possibly take offence to petunias and drought-tolerant succulents?”
Joe, always a man of action, immediately did a deep dive into the 3-inch stack of paperwork given to him and Heather at the close of escrow. They’d merely skimmed this mountain of impenetrable legalese because Heather and Joe were excited to close escrow and start making their new home into their dream home,as they envisioned it. They weren’t interested in the fine print of community association. He finally found the right page and there it was: Rule 28.2(a)!
“What business is it of the homeowners association what we plant? The only thing that should matter is that our new landscaping is beautiful and enhances the appearance (and value) of our neighborhood! Who died and made them king? This is OUR home!”
This may seem an extreme example, yet it is, unfortunately, all too common.
My dream is that Heather and Joe’s experience becomes a thing of the past – something that grandparents tell their grandchildren about the “olden days” when community associations bullied and terrorized members of their community. My dream is that homeowners will love their communities (and their Community Associations). My dream is that they and their families will experience the magic that comes when neighbors and community leaders make them feel welcomed and cherished – rather than feeling that their every move is being watched by the task master who is ever-alert to the slightest infraction of “the rules” which will lead to discipline and a black mark on their “permanent record.”
Is this too much to ask? Am I just a starry-eyed dreamer?
Not at all! I’ve been doing community association work for literally all of my life.
I’m a second-generation community manager. My mother, Nora, was one of the founders of the industry – not just here in San Diego but across the United States.
She put me to work in the family business when I was just a child. I eat, breathe, and sleep this business. It’s in my DNA.
I have seen the best and worst of this industry. I have a passion for creating professionally-managed communities that their members love and respect. I desperately want to infuse our communities with kindness and consideration.
The world is a hard enough place to navigate without having to deal with cranky and stern community association boards and fuss-budget, disciplinarian managers. Just because the community association is a corporation doesn’t mean its leaders should neglect the needs of the residents. Where in the “rule book” does it say that we have to be unkind to run a financially-fit community? There’s no reason that we can’t find the right balance between engaging in sound management practices, keeping the community well- maintained, beautiful and safe, and providing a warm, welcoming and kind community experience.
I was at a meeting of a small community just last week and almost every owner had received a letter requesting some kind of improvement to the front of their home. Many people came to the meeting and most were upset until they learned that the letters were part of an enhancement plan that would benefit everyone, enhance appraisals and beautify the entire place. Once the shock wore off and owners realized we were in this together then a spirit of cooperation took over and real progress was had by all.
It’s all about good communication, being kind and considerate, and painting a vision that everyone can buy into. It’s about finding more ways to say “yes” and fewer ways to say “no”. It’s about having a Main Street attitude, rather than a Wall Street attitude. It’s about flexible, can-do servant leadership, not about rules and regulations. It’s about kindness and civility! Is that too much to ask?
The reach and impact of the community association industry is deep and wide.
There are more than 300,000 community associations in America, serving the needs of more than 60 million households. Their cumulative annual revenue is 40 billion. They are served by an estimated 2 million plus board members, with another 400,000 residents serving on communities, and employing 80,000 managers of one sort or another.
Creating community associations that build upon the hopes, dreams and aspirations of their members is my dream! I will fight for this with my last ounce of strength! This is not an impossible dream! Will you dream the dream with me, and join the cause?