From what I can tell, Homeowners Associations (HOAs) are about as beloved as the IRS -- a necessary evil that people want to have as little to do with as possible.
Which means I must be an aberration, since for about 25 years I was the secretary for our HOA, Spring Lake Estates Recreation Property, Inc. here in rural south Salem, Oregon.
That meant I not only had to attend almost every meeting of our HOA board for a quarter century, I also had to stay awake enough to take notes and write minutes that were close enough to what actually happened to be approved by the board at the next meeting, by which time, thankfully, most board members couldn't remember what occurred very well.
But seriously, or let's say even more seriously, I enjoyed being the HOA secretary for the most part.
Our meetings were informal, often filled with gossip, jokes, and laughter. We welcomed the occasional property owner who would come to a board meeting out of curiosity, because they were interested in an agenda item, or had a problem they wanted fixed.
Partly things were so relaxed because we're an old development, formed in the early 1970s, without CC&Rs. So we have few rules, just some charmingly archaic deed restrictions like "No poultry in commercial quantity." So if you've ever wanted to have a lot of chickens on your property, right up to a factory farm level, give us a look-see.
I resigned a few years ago after Dumb Stuff #1 our board did. I'd put considerable effort into fashioning a trial web site for our HOA using software from a company specializing in this. About a third of our 96 members signed up for the site and liked its features: calendar, message board, online documents, and such.
However, a few nit-pickers in our community worried that the web site wasn't secure enough, even though it required a password to access it and didn't contain any sensitive information.
The fact that we were behind the Internet times, lacking the ability to let our members quickly know about "breaking news" such as water test results for our community lake, which got a lot of use during the summer months, was ignored by our HOA board. That lack of neighborly concern caused me to bail out on being secretary.
Since, the board has had two short-lived secretaries, each lasting about a year, and now is on a third. That tells me that either I should be admitted to the HOA Secretary Hall of Fame or I am even crazier than I thought for spending so many years laboring in the secretarial trenches.
My wife has served on the board for many years, too many for me to remember. This month she lost her re-election bid by one vote, so she's now an outsider like I am. But we still are keeping tabs on other dumb stuff our HOA board is trying to do, which led us to spend a frustrating couple of hours yesterday at the Annual Membership Meeting at the Spring Lake picnic area.
This gets me to Dumb Stuff #2 our board did. Well, actually just the board president, who keep saying at yesterday's meeting, when the discussion about my next dumb stuff #3 got a bit heated, "We're now in Executive Session! Only board members can speak."
The president obviously didn't know what an Executive Session actually is, a fact I was pleased to remind her about today, along with the other board members, in an email I sent to them. Here's a few excerpts.
Dumb Stuff #3 a few misguided members of our HOA board are trying to inflict on our community concerns trying to change how our bylaws can be amended.
This obviously is a big deal, because the bylaws for an HOA are akin to the United States Constitution, the core guide to how the HOA operates. Our bylaws say that the bylaws can only be amended in this way:
The By-Laws of this Corporation may be amended, added to, or replaced only when approved by a mail vote of the majority of the membership of the Corporation.
Now, it seems obvious to my wife and I, seemingly along with anyone else who can read English, that a "majority of the membership of the Corporation" means 50% plus one of our 96 property owners, each of whom gets one vote for each lot owned (a few people own more than a single lot). So roughly 49 votes would be needed to approve a change to the bylaws
This also is the view of a land use attorney we hired after our HOA board indicated that it wanted to start making bylaws changes that only required a majority vote of those returning ballots.
Since we have a rather apathetic group of property owners (many people live in rural areas like ours because they want to be left alone), this would mean that if, say, 10 out of the 96 property owners returned a bylaws change ballot, six votes would enable that change to pass.
Which seems really wrong, since a very small minority could make changes to the bylaws that affect everybody in our community.
Yesterday we made some strong arguments against that interpretation (or rather, misinterpretation) of how our bylaws can be amended, including the possibiity of a lawsuit by disgruntled property owners who don't appreciate having the HOA board ignore what the current bylaws say.
Pleasingly, our board voted to get a legal opinion from another attorney before moving ahead with bylaws amendments. That was good news, so hopefully I'll be able to scratch Dumb Stuff #3 from my list of HOA grievances fairly soon.
I'll end by saying that I do have considerable sympathy for the current HOA president, even though I don't think she is doing a very good job. This cartoon is apt.