Last year, the N.C. legislature appointed the House Select Committee assigned to gather input from the public and recommend changes to laws that affect HOAs. The committee held several public hearings last year, and we saw some legislation passed - House Bill 165, which I discussed in my Aug. 19 column found here: bit.ly/pPRA4K.
The committee held another public meeting again this week to seek input from homeowners on what changes, if any, are needed to the laws governing HOAs. Some 45 homeowners from across the state spoke at the meeting - some were board members, others were simply concerned homeowners.
A little over half of them spoke favorably of HOAs and thought the law needed few if any changes. Others thought sweeping changes were needed to protect owners from overbearing HOAs.
Serving on an HOA board is often a time-consuming and thankless job. The vast majority of HOAs that I work with are well-run by dedicated and intelligent volunteers. There are other HOAs with boards that may mean well, but don't always make good decisions because of lack of training or education on how HOAs are supposed to run, or because they don't seek advice from professionals when the circumstances warrant.
On rare occasions, I have encountered HOA board members who are corrupt or egotistical, abusing their position of authority, pursuing vendettas and personal agendas, and making their neighbors' lives miserable. Such people are the exception.
On the other hand, I have found that often the most vocal critics of HOAs are people who bought a home in an HOA-controlled community without understanding the ramifications, or people who simply refuse to follow the rules and standards of the community.
Training for leaders
The original version of House Bill 165 introduced last year (which did not pass), while well-intended by the legislature, would have placed enormous administrative burdens on HOAs and their management companies. Legislation requiring the certification and licensing of professional community association managers has been pending in the legislature in one form or another for several years, but the legislature has never acted on it.
There are ample resources for training and education available to HOA volunteers who want to do their job well. The most well-known is the Community Association Institute (CAI), a national organization. There is also a state chapter of CAI.
Community leaders in Union County have formed the Union County Neighborhood Leaders Forum, which periodically holds conferences. HOA-USA.com, started in North Carolina by a Raleigh businessman, has a wealth of information available on its website.
Questions to settle
Some have called for laws requiring mandatory training for HOA board members. Training is a good thing for the leaders of any organization.
Should we make training or certification a prerequisite for a homeowner to serve on his or her HOA board?
HOAs have a hard time finding enough volunteers to fill their positions. Mandatory training could discourage some homeowners from volunteering. If certification standards become mandatory, what state agency would monitor compliance? How would it be staffed and funded?
If HOAs were no longer allowed to bring foreclosure actions to collect delinquent assessments, what other effective and cost-efficient method would they have?
There are no easy answers. The members of the House Select Committee have their work cut out for them.