Condo Fees Are Through the Roof – Help!

Many owners feel the way these owners do:

“My wife and I feel our HOA fees are outrageously high.  When we first purchased our condo our fees were in the $350 range.  A few years later the entire complex needed to fund total deck replacements.  Our monthly HOA fees doubled for a few years to pay for the decks.  Once completed the fees stayed at the same level to build up our reserve.”
My response: I trust the fee increase was approved by the members. It only takes a majority of a “quorum” to approve such an increase (a quorum being equal to more than half of the owners) If not then such an increase would violate Civil Code Section 1366 limits.
The email goes on: “Additionally, the accounting firm we use claims our fees are in line with other complexes in the area equal is size (50-75 units).  I asked to see the study and was given a copy but the complexes used for the comparisons are hidden.  I am told they will not divulge them and to me a study based on secrecy is totally useless/invalid.  Their word in this has been strongly used to encourage the increase desired by the Board.”
My response: I am not surprised the names of the other complexes were redacted – the assessment would be private information.
More points in the email: “After doing some research on my own looking back at condo sales the past year in our area my facts show our lower value condos ($250K and below) have HOA fees equal to the most expensive units in town ($450K and up).  I am shocked!”
My response: Sorry to say that many HOA and Condo associations have deferred maintenance and serious shortfalls in the reserves. Some are doing more to catch up than others.  So I am not surprised at considerable differences in the assessments.
One last question in the email sent to me: “My question, is the accounting firm able to keep the facts of the study our HOA paid for private?  I have asked our HOA President for the info but he is holding a hard line and not giving me what I want, just the facts.”
My response: Again, the information as to other associations which is held by a vendor is private information and I have to say that I would be hesitant to recommend disclosing the association names.
Probably not what anyone wanted to hear, but there are boundaries that should be honored by vendors. If the association agree to disclosure of the information, that is one thing, but absent that consent, it’s better not to disclose them. This does not automatically mean the information provided is useless. It may be helpful if it relates to similarly situated complexes. And to a potential buyer, it certainly could make a difference in the marketability and affordability of the units.
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