Last Day for the Real Homeowners of Pine Hollow HOA to Speak Up

Will today be the last day that only members of Pine Hollow HOA can serve on our Board?

It probably will if enough people don’t show up at tomorrow’s Annual Membership Meeting.

Clearly, the Board wants to enable non-members to sit on our Board. For $10 a renter has already purchased a 10% interest in a Pine Hollow property. With tomorrow’s proposed amendment change, that $10 is all it will take to be eligible to serve on the Board.

Should a $10 fee be all it takes to determine our dues, our guidelines, and our enforcement policies?

What does a “10% interest” in a property really mean? As far as we can tell, all it means, if the Board has its way, it a lot of rights and power with no responsibilities or accountabilities.

The current guidelines require someone to be a member (a homeowner) in the HOA to serve on the Board. Does that make common sense. Why go through with this Board-driven scheme to open the Board up to non-members?

For $10 and a 10% interest. What can one get for $5? A 5% interest? What about a 1% interest for $1? Under the proposed amendment, that $1 would be enough. Does that really make sense? Isn’t there some minimum investment, some minimum stake involved in the HOA, that should be required? Is a $10 stake good enough to speak for the real homeowners of Pine Hollow?

What is wrong with the current bylaws requirement that someone be a member of the Association? Nothing, unless the person you want to sneak onto the Board isn’t a member. We don’t remember receiving an announcement from the Board about this renters’ appointment to Board. We don’t don’t remember an email from the Board asking if any real members of the Association want to serve on the Board. Do you?

Whatever you opinion and position, please show up tomorrow (Wednesday) at the annual meeting at Friendswood Library 7:00 pm to let your opinion be heard. It may be your last chance to have your vote as a real homeowner count more than someone who paid $10 to buy in.

Opening Pine Hollow’s Door to Corruption

Yesterday’s post described how the proposed bylaw amendment could allow an unscrupulous slumlord or corporation, intent only on making a profit, to take over the Pine Hollow HOA and altar our guidelines for its own gain, at the expense of genuine Pine Hollow HOA homeowners.

Maybe it seemed a little far fetched. Bet it seemed a little far-fetched to the members of the Vistana HOA, too – until it happened to them.

To read the review on Yelp, you would think Vistana is a wonderful place. And at one time, it was:

Vistana is one of the most beautiful condo complexes in the Southwest.  It comes equipped with 2 separate pools that provide barbecue pits….  The landscaping is aesthetically pleasing and maintained on a daily basis.  There is an area where you can take your pets to “handle their business” and they even provide you with waste bags.  Security patrols the neighborhood 24 hours a day, 7 days a week….  And the most important feature: location, location, location.  Minutes to the 215 freeway, grocery stores and pharmacies, Windmill library and fast food restaurants. There are also plenty of gourmet restaurants nearby if you have a more sophisticated palate.  It’s very quiet and peaceful, the people are very friendly and you’ll enjoy living in this neighborhood. Reference.

It sounds heavenly. Let’s go. Until you hear the rest of the story about what happened to this HOA starting in 2003 when power- and money-hungry interests decided to take control for their own gain…

How about this one:

Federal prosecutors have charged 11 more people in a Vistana HOA scheme to take control of local homeowners’ associations and steer business to a law firm and construction company. Reference.

Or this one:

After six years, more than two dozen guilty plea deals and four untimely deaths among witnesses or participants, the Vistana owners say they have been vindicated in their suspicions that their community association board had been hijacked so that lucrative legal work and repairs involving construction defects would be steered to particular individuals. Reference

Or this:

The conspirators are accused of stacking HOA boards to gain legal and construction defect contracts for themselves. Straw buyers were recruited to purchase condominiums at nearly a dozen developments around town and then elected to the HOA boards through bribery and rigged elections. Reference.

Criminal and civil trials are still pending in this case, so we will avoid passing judgment prematurely here. To be clear, we are not suggesting the current Board is anything like what happened in Vistana. We find the manner in the our current elections and Board appointments are being conducted to be secretive and in conflict with current election guidelines, but it does not rise nearly to the level of what happened to the owners in Vistana.

However, where money is involved – property values, rental incomes, lucrative HOA contracts – there are always those who will look for loopholes they can use to their advantage. In fact, many corporations pay attorneys to do exactly that – crawl through bylaws and codes and regulations to find loopholes to exploit for profit.

The proposed amendment to the Pine Hollow HOA Bylaw opens up exactly this type of loophole for the less scrupulous types to crawl through. And that is dangerous. If you do not think there are major corporations staking out claims in the Pine Hollow HOA, investigate who is behind more and more of the little blue signs around the neighborhood, then tune back in tomorrow to learn more.

And more importantly, mark your calendars and show up at Wednesday annual meeting. It is not too late to prevent the slide toward a non-homeowner controlled HOA Board. So far, only one of the three Board members is a non-homeowner and non-member of the Association. Don’t let it become a majority. Show up on Wednesday and vote.


When Is A Renter an HOA “Property Owner”?

Question: When is a renter an HOA “property owner”?

Answer: When someone who does own property deeds to her or him a meaningless parcel of land solely for the purpose of making her or him eligible to vote and hold office in the Association.

It might be a good idea to keep an eye on the county records for a while to see what transfers occur of small seemingly trivial parcels within Pine Hollow and then compare the names on the deeds to the list of people appointed to or running for our Board.

Should Renters Make Decisions About Our Dues?

Membership in an HOA brings with it certain rights and responsibilities.

Members – owners of property within the HOA – are responsible to pay dues and to adhere to the HOA guidelines which are established for the greater benefit of all homeowners within the Association.

With these responsibilities come certain rights, including the right to vote in HOA elections, the right to vote for changes to the rules that govern the HOA, and the right to run for office as a director of the Association.

But what happens when people are granted rights without be accountable for the responsibilities? What happens when someone is given the ability to make decisions about how our HOA is run and is unilaterally appointed as a director on our HOA board, but does not pay dues and is not accountable for adherence to HOA guidelines? Is it good for the HOA to have renters and other non-members of the HOA running our Board?

These are the questions we have to consider now that is has come to light, despite the Board’s efforts to withhold this news, that a non-homeowner has been appointed to our Board.

Renters and other non-member residents are certainly part of our Pine Hollow community, and we welcome them. There are many ways they can participate in and contribute to our life as a community, by serving on community committees that welcome new residents, plan social events, publish newsletters, etc. We welcome their ideas and their involvement.

However, it is simply not appropriate for renters and other non-members to take on policy-making roles within the Association. They do not pay dues. They are not the ones with a stake in the property values within the community. They are not the ones receiving the letters from the management company for non-compliance with Association guidelines. And they simply should not be deciding who does receive these letters or how much our dues are or how we are going to govern ourselves.


Pine Hollow HOA Board Appoints Non-Member?

The HOA management company, Graham Management, recently confirmed that Julie Bennett is now a director on the HOA Board. Since there has been no election, one can only assume that the current Board has appointed her to that position.

If so, it begs the question why her appointment has not been announced to the membership. A thorough search of Brazoria county records gives no indication that a Julie Bennett owns property within the Pine Hollow HOA.

In light of these facts, it is even more curious that the Board in a recent email to the members mentions its intention to propose, and therefore likely to seek a vote on, a bylaw amendment at the the upcoming annual membership meeting. Graham Management has indicated that the bylaw amendment to be proposed involves the definition of who is eligible to be a director.

This whole sequence of events is concerning. Why has the Board not made the announcement that Julie Bennett was appointed as a director? Why does the official Pine Hollow website try to obscure the fact of her appointment by listing Brandon Shimek under two directors’ positions? And why now is the Board making a bylaw amendment that will modify the requirements to be a director of the association. Will the bylaw amendment seek to allow non-HOA members to serve in this capacity, and if so, is this in the best interests of the membership?

Before the vote is taken, the Membership deserves full disclosure of why the Board is proposing the new amendment to the Bylaws, a complete explanation of the pros and cons of the proposed change, and an assessment of who it effects and why it is being made.  Is it in the best interest of members to have a director on the Board who is not a member of and has no financial stake in the Association?

In light of these unanswered questions, HOA members may want to think twice before filling out the proxy and thereby giving a blank check to the existing Board to continue in its path of re-defining HOA governance without any checks and balances on their decisions. Furthermore, before any members cast a vote, pro or con, for the proposed bylaw amendment, we are owed complete disclosure as to why it is being proposed and what the ramifications will be.


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