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The Home Front

(Above) Park Place condominiums from across Montgomery Ward Park on October 10, 2013.

Is it possible that tens of millions of Americans – quietly residing and paying their assessments in condominiums and homeowner associations nationwide – are not happy campers?

16-Jan-17 – A new national survey by the Coalition for Community Housing Policy in the Public Interest has found that 81 percent of community association residents surveyed feel that “lack of transparency” and “poor communication” are major problems of HOA and condo life.

65.9 percent are “very dissatisfied” and 15.1 percent are “dissatisfied” because of transparency and communication issues.

A whopping 72.6 percent of condo and HOA owners surveyed said they were generally “very dissatisfied” (51.2 percent) or “dissatisfied” (21.4 percent) with the whole concept of community association living. And, 60.8 percent of survey respondents urged that community associations should have more government oversight and regulation.

Chicago currently has about 12,235 condo and homeowner associations containing approximately 305,000 residential units, according to a comprehensive directory, the 2016 Association Evaluation Report on Illinois Condominiums and Homeowner Associations. Association Evaluation, LLC, is a Chicago-based real estate technology firm that rates the livability and stability of condo and homeowner associations.

Sara Benson “Our 2017 CHPPI survey, which rates the level of concern on more than 50 commonly reported topics and issues, found that a broad spectrum – from voting and election procedures to power of the board to fine owners – were viewed as major problems within condo associations and HOAs by respondents,” said Sara Benson (left), a CHPPI advisory member and president of Association Evaluation.

“Regarding transparency, a shocking 67.4 percent of community association residents say that prior to closing on their home they were not told that an HOA or condo association has a legal right to foreclose on the property if the owner becomes delinquent on assessments, fees, dues, and fines,” noted Shu Bartholomew, a CHPPI advisory member and host of On The Commons, a weekly radio show broadcast from Fairfax, Virginia.

“I am not aware of any state that requires associations to disclose to a buyer that an HOA or condo association has the power to foreclose on a homeowner to collect alleged money due,” said Bartholomew (right). Shu Bartholomew

“These amounts may be legitimate dues, but also fines, attorney’s fees, or other junk fees. Housing consumers should be told before they complete the sale.”

Bartholomew said some 59.1 percent of survey respondents reported that they did not even know prior to closing that their condo or HOA board had the power to issue fines.

The on-line, opt-in survey’s preliminary results were gathered from more than 500 owners residing in condominium and HOA communities in Arizona, California, Florida, Illinois, Kansas, Missouri, Nevada, Texas, and a host of other states coast-to-coast.

The survey will conclude on January 31, 2017. Visit www.CHPPI.org, take the survey, and see details of the initial 2015 CHPPI survey report.

Survey results of special interest group are suspicious

According to the Community Associations Institute there currently are more than 337,000 homeowner associations where more than 68 million people reside across the United States. CAI is a trade association and special interest group that primarily represents attorneys and property management companies servicing homeowner associations.

In a survey on community association success published by CAI in 2016 it was reported that only 12 percent of respondents are dissatisfied with their HOA. However, that suspiciously low percentage still translates into 8.2 million very unhappy residents.

One of the biggest attractions of shared-community ownership is the so-called “carefree living” aspect. There are no yards to maintain, grass to cut, snow to shovel, windows to wash, decks to stain, or roofs to repair. All an owner must do is sit back, pay his or her monthly assessment, and enjoy the recreational amenities.

Photo by Steven Dahlman And, condo ownership also can be a good lifestyle choice for singles, retirees, and smaller families not in need of larger spaces.

Another attraction of condo and HOA living is the hefty tax breaks – federal and state tax deductions for mortgage interest and property taxes that are handed to owners.

However, critics of community associations say owners really are “subject to double taxation” because they not only pay real estate taxes to local municipalities, but also are required to pay monthly assessments for common areas.

For example, owners in a private community association must pay for snow plowing and upkeep of private roads, maintenance of private streets and lighting, upkeep of storm-water retention basins, and other common-area amenities within the HOA or condo association’s jurisdiction.