Dietmar Voitel is trapped in an HOA Twilight Zone and it’s making him crazy because none of his neighbors seem to care.
He lives in the tiny Canterbury neighborhood within the Ridgeview at Stetson Hills subdivision. As some yards around him go to weeds and a few houses deteriorate, his Canterbury homeowners association board is AWOL.
The board, in fact, evaporated, leaving no one to oversee covenants like parking and weeds and paint colors.
“Our HOA is coming unglued,” Dietmar told me. “We no longer have a board. And the HOA members are not interested in coming to meetings.”
A number of HOAs have gone dormant around the Springs over the years. But Canterbury is different.
Thanks to an odd decision by the last remaining board member, the board has been vacant but dues are still being collected by Colorado Association Management , a subsidiary of Associa, a national HOA management company.
CAS collects $150 a year from each of Canterbury’s 55 homeowners. CAS uses the cash to pay the association’s taxes and mails notices of meetings no one in Canterbury attends.
That’s about it.
CAS does no covenant enforcement, no inspections, no architectural control. Just collects $8,250 from homeowners, pays itself $3,000, calls it a day.
Oh, and CAS pays an HOA attorney for collection services on delinquent accounts.
“They are collecting money and doing nothing,” Dietmar said. “How can this happen?”
It happens because the last board member to serve — before he sold his house and moved away in early 2010 — signed a contract with CAS authorizing it to handle HOA finances. The fine print included a clause that automatically renews the contract each year, whether there’s an HOA board or not.
CAS branch manager Greg Smith said he sympathized with Dietmar and shared his frustration.
“Mr. Voitel wants the association revived,” Smith said. “He wants a thriving community to help improve property values. He wants us to do inspections and covenant enforcement. But we can’t. We’re not authorized to do it.”
Most surprising is that the neighbors seem fine with it. In May, Voitel and his wife, Jean, contacted every neighbor, exposing the dues payments and trying to gauge their interest in the HOA. They also invited everyone to a meeting which Smith coordinated. Only one other homeowner showed up.
Jack Scheuerman, an attorney who represents 170 HOAs, said Canterbury is unique.
“I just don’t see this,” he said. “Apathy to this point is unusual. Usually, it’s just the opposite – people get too involved in their HOA.”
Scheuerman said it would an involved and expensive process to dissolve the HOA, which is a legal corporation with specific rules and fiduciary obligations and responsibilities.
It would be best, he said, if three homeowners took control by gathering support either through attendance at a special meeting or by collecting proxies.
Dietmar would like a thriving HOA. But he’d be happy with any decision of the neighborhood.
“I want things to run properly,” Dietmar said. “But we don’t necessarily need an HOA. If they want to dissolve it, let’s do it. But let’s stop paying for something that gives us absolutely nothing in return.”