This is a followup to an earlier post entitled “What Do I Do When I am Really Mad At My HOA.” As
you can imagine I have received many emails from people who wanted to tell me why. Even without those emails, I know why it happens. Many boards are secretive, short on people skills, manned by volunteers trying to do a difficult job without any formal training or pay. In other cases there simply is not enough money to go around and the place is starting to show it, and the board gets defensive. Some boards are belligerent, mean and nasty, or dominated by one or two directors who are, and who intimidate the others. And some owners are simply not cut out for HOA or condo living. They don’t like rules, neighbors, noise, compromise, or anything else about living close to others. Yet here they are, frustrating the board or their neighbors, or both.
In being totally honest, which is it in your situation? Have you done all you can to support the association, such as serving on the board? Have you done all you can to gather facts rather than acting on conjecture when criticizing the board? Have you followed the rules? Have you made any effort to attend meetings, read newsletters, find out what is happening, hand over suggestions or resources, paid your “dues” so to speak.
Two words tend to pop into the average person’s mind when they get really fed up with the board:
recall … and … sue. Those are almost always the first words out of the mouths of people who contact me for a consultation who are upset with their boards. I want to sue! We want to recall the board! If I said right off the bat I don’t do litigation and hung up, I would miss the opportunity to talk to owners about
better ways to resolve their problems. I would have missed helping many, many owners find solutions they could live with, before they found themselves owing an attorney thousands of dollars for being lead down a difficult road, sometimes a dead end.
So I say, I don’t do litigation, but perhaps you want to consider whether there are better options. Or, I can assist with recall, but it is an expensive process given my experience with the types of complications that arise because of California elections law or the hurdles placed in front of well-meaning owners by boards who either are ignorant of the law or hire an attorney that knows how to put up hurdles.
Here are some things that an owner should know before plunging into litigation: once you are in, if you find out you have a bad case and try to get out, you may have to pay not only your attorney fees, but the other side’s as well! You cannot dally around in litigation to “test the waters” without considerable risk. If you are wrong, or don’t have enough proof to support your case, it could end up in disaster. And as to recall, if you go around and get signatures of neighbors on a petition to recall the board or a director, and expect the director or board to step down without a fight, you are misguided. THEY have YOUR money to spend on fighting! And if you are the only one with the beef, and you cannot enlist allies, find another way to solve your problem. And even if you do find allies, it better be for the right reasons, meaning because there really is cause to go through with the recall and sufficient support and resources to back the effort. Because a bunch of malcontents without a case will just end up in worse shape than they were before starting the battle.
You may think I am being harsh, but the truth is I am being honest, and real, and you won’t get that from every attorney you talk to. Heading into battle without the proper armor or weapons never fares well.
In other words, educate yourself before you get a mindset that litigation or recall is the only way to settle a grudge or difference of opinion. Sometimes, the best course for owners I have counseled is to shut up and put their house up for sale, yes, even in this market. Starting a war with your board (or neighbor for that matter) only creates the need for extra disclosures that make it difficult to sell. And embarking on a course that has a risk of costing multi-thousands of dollars without any guarantee of success can make a loss in this housing market seem more palatable.