Question: Does the homeowner association have the right to restrict home security system signs in the common area outside of the homes?
Answer: The HOA has the right to limit signs in the common area and sometimes what is placed in home windows. The main concern is curb appeal. Uncontrolled signage creates a cluttered look and reduces property values. Small security stickers on the window can and should be allowed.
Question: Should we include landscape items in our Reserve Study? How about insuring trees?
Answer: It's wise to include "Landscape Renovation" and "Treework" in the Reserve Study. All bushes and trees have a limited life. Bushes die and outgrow their location. While trees usually have a long life, they require corrective pruning that should be done every 3 - 5 years and is expensive. Hiring an arborist to do a comprehensive inventory and report of the trees also makes a lot of sense. If each tree is tagged and referenced in the report, maintenance can be easily tracked. Consistent corrective pruning will extend the lives of the trees and keep them looking good.
Insurance for non-income producing trees provides limited coverage for claims related to fire, lightning, explosion, riot, aircraft, vehicles, vandalism and theft. Most of the claims are related to vehicle damage. Wind, freezing and pest claims are not honored. And the insurance does not actually insure the trees for value but provides replacement in standard nursery sizes. In other words, that wind fallen 80 foot douglas fir will probably get you an 8 foot replacement. Based on the coverage available, $5000 coverage will cover quite a few replacements.
To avoid the possibility of insect infestation, use native trees that are hardy and pest resistant. If you already have those prone to insects, consult with an arborist for the proper preventive maintenance or cut them down and replacement them.
Question: Our board often spends money outside of the scope of our governing documents. What can we do to control this?
Answer: Why is the board spending money outside of its authority? Are the documents vague on what the homeowner association is responsible for? If this is the case (and it often is), the board needs to establish clear guidelines on what the HOA will, or won't, spend money for. It’s called "A Budget". If one isn’t adopted each year, any expense is fair game.
Question: I don't feel the board spends money in our best interests. I protest by withholding payment until year end. Recently, I received a notice saying if I didn't pay, they would put a lien on my home. Can they do this? Am I wrong to protest this way?
Answer: I assume your concerns are for the HOA as a whole and not for personal issues. Withholding assessments in protest is not the way to get your point across and, yes, the board has both the right and duty to process collection on delinquencies. Your points should be made in writing to the board. Whether they act on them or not is another question. If they don't and you feel strongly that they should, I encourage you to run for election so that you can have a direct affect on the outcome. It's every owner's duty to serve.
Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org