Each homeowners association is different

Published: Monday, January 23, 2006 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Sunday, January 22, 2006 at 10:08 p.m.
I take umbrage at Angela V. Woodhull's characterization of homeowners associations as three ring circuses in the Jan. 16 Sun opinions page. Her experience with them might be substantially different than mine.
Obviously a lot of people find them satisfactory considering their popularity, at least for those who are concerned with protecting their neighborhood and property values.
Although it is true that many functions performed by neighborhood associations are also carried out by various governmental agencies, many are not. Of those that are, I've found out that there is a wide margin of difference be- tween their interpretation of what they will give attention to and what I think they should act on.
We have an informal homeowners association in Kenwood whereas our neighbors in Haile Plantation have a formalized one. Their dues are mandatory and around $500 a year, more or less, depending on which area one chooses to live. Our dues are $10 a year and are voluntary.
They enjoy certain benefits we are not entitled to such as a clubhouse, pool and tennis courts as well as certain upkeep provisions. Both have covenants that detail what owners can and cannot do.
They have enforcement methodologies that allow them to hold homeowners to strict compliance with well-defined standards. We do not have contractual arrangements but do have covenants that broadly define what is acceptable.
The problem with a voluntary association such as we have is that we do not have the muscle to enforce the covenants but rely on voluntary donations to take violators to court as well as to carry out certain upkeep requirements. Even at $10 a year, several dozen residents refuse to help finance needed actions. Nevertheless, we are able to maintain our neighborhood in prime condition.
We also have many who contribute their time, money and equipment as is necessary. After the last hurricane we needed to remove 127 trees and replace them. With voluntary labor and equipment we did a $10,000 job with less than $800, all of which was contributed.
As president of our association, I try to resolve petty problems by negotiations and compromises that usually work OK. Recently we have had to take an out-of-town developer to court for violating half a dozen provisions of our covenant.
I put out a quarterly newsletter to keep residents posted on what's going on. I have asked for a replacement as president but have had no takers so we will muddle along.
There are a number of homeowners associations, each with its own peculiarities. If you don't like one, try another. If you don't like any of them, move into a nonregulated neighborhood and hope that you don't wind up with some trashy neighbors and no recourse.
Earl C. Carlson is president of the Kenwood Homeowners Association in Gainesville.

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