Q&A: When the HOA Is Not Doing Its Duty

Q. We have reason to believe that our 'little community' is not being run as the HOA that it was set up to be. Our bylaws are not being followed and procedures are not being maintained. And we seem to be getting extra charges due to our board needing more money 'for bills,' but they don't allow us access to the financial disbursements to see how that money is being spent. Can you advise us on how to make the necessary changes of our board members and manager and turn our community around to the way it started out?

                                        —Owners Revolt

A. “Wow!” says Stuart Lieberman, an attorney who represents unit owners in community associations for the Princeton-based firm of Lieberman and Blecher. “This sounds like a bad situation. Wouldn't it be nice if it was an unusual complaint? But it is not unusual. Community associations consist of people and behave like people: some are very good, some are very bad, and most fit somewhere in the middle. If the reader's grievance is true, this homeowners association may be a very poorly run association.

“Rules and bylaws are there for a reason, and that's not just to look pretty. Bylaws, rules, and regulations have the force of 'law.' They need to be followed by the unit owners, the board and the management alike. When new unit owners come into an association, they have a reasonable expectation that the bylaws will be followed.

“When a board ignores bylaws and rules, it is acting in an arbitrary manner. Instead of conducting business the right way, it is making it up as it goes along. Which may be fine if a person lives alone in a single family home and wants to make decisions as such. But it clearly is not fine in a community association where everyone who moves in is aware that bylaws exist and must be followed. 

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