Thursday, Feb. 7, 2008

Seat Pleasant homeowners association wants more transparency

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Some residents in a Seat Pleasant-area homeowners association say they are concerned with the HOA’s practices, but the management company that oversees their property says it is doing what it can to move the community forward.

Members of the Central Park Homeowners Association, who live in the Central Park community on Daimler Drive, are concerned its board members are not adhering to the association’s bylaws — dating back to the early 1970s — such as requiring at least five days notice prior to a scheduled homeowner’s association meeting.

Former HOA president Kathy Covington said current president Clorine Williams runs meetings despite lacking the required quorum of 51 percent of homeowners present for a meeting. There are 110 townhouses in the community.

Resident Harry Easley, 82, said he is also frustrated with the lack of explanation for changes in the community, such as an increase in 2006 from $5 to $15 in delinquent homeowner’s association fees.

LaChett Landrum, a representative of Central Park’s new management company, A Landlord Solution, began consulting with Williams in December 2007. Speaking on behalf of Williams and the board, Landrum said the current board has inherited the problems of previous HOA boards when it comes to following its bylaws. However, Landrum said a true quorum is having the majority of board members—at least five out of nine—present during a meeting.

Landrum said the board can enforce rules and regulations and impose fines such as the delinquency fee increase if necessary, but they do not have the ability to change the bylaws without consulting community members.

‘‘The board is desperately working to maximize the usage of the money without increasing the dues,” Landrum said. ‘‘Is the board perfect? Absolutely not. But they’re working on bettering the community.

Landrum said the community is operating with the original bylaws from the early 1970s. A revised copy of the bylaws created in the1990s was never approved because it contained a paragraph in the ‘‘Restrictions on Use of Units and Common Elements” section stating no more than 10 percent of Central Park homes could be leased to Section 8 housing recipients. Run through Housing and Urban Development, the Section 8 program allows low-income families to use 30 percent of their income to pay rent while the government pays the rest. Landrum said she is working on making copies of the original bylaws available for every resident.

‘‘That is total discrimination and you cannot do that,” Landrum said. ‘‘Because of that, Section 8 has moved in. So no one was violated or discriminated because of that.”

The county’s Office of Community Relations is registering every homeowners association like Central Park’s with its Common Ownership Communities program. Program Manager Daria Bailey said the program, which started in late January, provides education for residents on staying active within their groups and information for management companies on providing for residents’ needs.

Bailey said some of the major problems plaguing homeowner’s associations in Prince George’s County are failure to pay association dues, lack of resident participation in meetings and inability to establish a quorum, meaning business can never be conducted.

‘‘The biggest problem I would say, is people do not understand their governing documents over their association,” Bailey said. ‘‘You have bylaws, and how the association is to conduct day to day business.”

Landrum hopes residents who have problems with the board will make suggestions about improving conditions in the community instead of starting conflict.

‘‘From this point on, don’t just bring the problem,” Landrum said. ‘‘You’ve had enough opportunity. Introduce the problem, but come up with a solution for it as well. That’s what a community is about, helping each other.”