Volume 2, Issue 3
Home Owners Associations
Volume II Issue 3
By Robert McConnell Productions
This section is for everyone who is currently living in a homeowner’s association or thinking of buying a home which might be located in a homeowner’s association or in a development that has covenants but no association. We invite you to e-mail us with ideas that you have found helpful to improve meetings, interpret covenants, or places to go to get help with solving homeowner association problems. We will post those ideas to our page under this section. If you have a problem, e-mail us with your problem and we’ll try to help.
Robert McConnell Productions
Here it is October, 2001. It’s beautiful here. We haven’t had much rain and the leaves are beginning to turn. The Pacific Northwest is beautiful in the fall with mild temperatures – fifties and sixties. So what is going on in our association? A minor battle – and over what? The rules. Yes, the rules and which ones we obey. I finally backed out and said I was not going to argue any more – get an attorney to explain this to you. Here is a classic e-mail that I received from the husband of a board member. He was on the board with me (Janet) but decided to let his wife run instead. It’s only been trouble. The trouble arose when I questioned how they were going to handled the budget notification. We have been going back and forth but I thought his e-mail was classic of those who only want to follow the rules they find convenient. The following is the e-mail and then my response. Then you find out what an attorney that the board is interviewing to hire says about what rules apply to what.
I thought that the idea of our Board and Association was to keep it as simple and easy to work, so that the Association could get our area back into some semblance of being a community. All I see, that we have accomplished is to increase the hard ship on the board to function in everybody's best in trust by bringing up a point of order or quoting a state law or a bylaw out of context to suite a few, for no gain.
We are not the State Senators, Eagles or any other large origination. We are just a group of homeowners trying to meet on common ground. I can see that this is not going to work when a person need's to watch every word or action for fear that it might not be according to Parliamentary procedure.
Dear Association Member,
I’ve been giving a great deal of thought to your e-mail today. Two years ago, when we were having problems with the Board of Directors who sent out assessments not founded upon the governing documents, and who did not let the members speak to the problems at a meeting, the association membership supported a letter that I composed to rectify this situation. At that time you were behind my request that the state laws, the bylaws and covenants be followed. No one on the current board was protesting my action, but signed that letter that would bring an end to an unjust assessment. I now find it very ironic that those members who were clamoring for democracy and obedience to the rules are now asking that the rules don’t be followed because it disrupts the sense of community.
For the past fifteen years I have been studying the many facets of democracy and the preservation of community. From my research and work in this field, I have discovered that without law and obedience to the law there can be no community, no harmony, and no working together for good.
Leaders today, and ancient worthies, found that without a group’s agreement and obedience to law there is anarchy and confusion. Hammurabi, one the greatest kings of Babylonia, discovered that his kingdom could not prosper or be safe without the foundation of law. He was the first to codify laws. It is call the Code of Hammurabi, which influenced many Near Eastern Cultures. This code had legal provisions, which covered such matters as "false accusation, witchcraft, military service, land and business regulations, family laws, tariffs, wages, trade, loans, and debts. The main principle of the code was that ‘the strong shall not injure the weak’. The code set up a social order based on the rights of the individual and backed by the authority of Babylonian gods and state." (Information from World Book Encyclopedia.)
Some think that it even influenced Moses who discovered that if his people were to keep their freedom they too must have laws to obey. In fact Moses father-in-law suggested that he train members of his group to be judges so that they could settle disputes that arose concerning the law.
We know that our country was founded upon laws – the Constitution and Bill of Rights. State, county, and local governments are constituted of laws. We have laws that regulate almost everything. As citizens we are expected to know the law, and obey the laws, so that we can be good citizens in our communities. Those elected to office to represent us are also expected to know the laws and obey the laws. This is an absolutely essential principle of our country and our culture.
It is when we disobey the rules that we have problems ,or when we decided to choose which laws we want to obey that we have problems. I was thinking to day about the speed limit sign that the board got the county to put up. Why did the board do that? It wanted to protect the children in our neighborhood from getting run over by speeding cars—a very worthy cause indeed. When that sign was put up everyone was expected to obey it. That is the great thing about our country. We trust that the citizens will obey the laws that are adopted—and not just when the police are watching.
So Robert and I aren’t try to cause trouble as some may think, or that we are being too picky. We want all the laws to be obeyed—not just the ones that some think are convenient to obey. We also want to point out that it is a protection to the board members and the members of the association for all the laws to be followed and obeyed. This lack of obedience and respect for democracy was what got the last board in trouble and the members up in arms. It also protects the board from lawsuits. And it protects the members from tyranny and unfair practices by their elected board members.
No we are not State Senators, Eagles or any other large organization. We are a Homeowners’ association incorporated under the RCW 24 corporate code for non-profits. We send a statement to the Secretary of State yearly stating who our are elected officers. We are also to following the codes concerning Homeowner Associations. Each elected board member has a legal and fiduciary responsibility to obey these codes. The only common ground we can meet on is our governing documents. If you want to meet on common ground then I suggest that we follow the basic principles of democracy which include:
Obey the governing documents
Equality, fairness and Impartiality—basically do unto others as you would have someone do unto you.
The majority rules, but the rights of the minority and absent members are protected.
Everything is conducted in openness. The members have a right to know.
If all of us followed the basic principles of democracy there wouldn’t be all this fuss.
The other important thing to considered about community is that if members do not like the laws, then they can propose amendments to the laws. This is what we are right now trying to do in our bylaw committee.
Henry Robert says this: "Where there is no law, but every man does what is right in his own eyes, there is the least of real liberty." (and I would add –the least of real community.)
The Board of Directors in hiring an attorney sent questions to the candidates. Robert McConnell asked the following question:
We are incorporated under the laws of the Sate of Washington. Which laws govern our association –state laws or our associations’ own bylaws and covenants?
Since I have not asked permission to publish his answer I will give the general idea:
He said we are subject to the Washington Non-profit Corporation Act and to the Homeowners Association Act. The governing documents have authority over our development and owners/members. These laws set minimum standards, but he adds "the applicable laws provide certain requirements which cannot be overturned by your governing documents." He also said Washington case law governs the association and so do certain Federal laws like the Federal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act and provisions from the FCC regarding satellite dishes and antennas. "It is also important that the Board is aware of the due process requirements under the Washington State and Unites States Constitutions." This is my kind of man!
A Classic Answer and Reply
Received your letter on your opinion of Article 24. Yes, we are incorporated under Article 24 and I do follow the by laws and covenants of our association. Nowhere in Article 24 did I find where it mentioned Homeowners Associations. It does cover 'Domestic Corporation' though.
I also found out by reading Article 24 that it says our by-laws and Articles of Incorporation are our the governing documents we are to follow. Like I said to you on the phone, I have no problem with Article 24. I believe it is not as strict as Article 64.38 anyway.
Now to answer the part about being obedient, that is for dogs and cats and other types of animals - to fall in line and be obedient. Yes, I did sign your letter about the dues and did agree we have the right to speak at regular meetings. I believe that by being "obedient" you are telling me that I must follow your lead at all times. I think that maybe you ought to reassess your values and thoughts. Ask yourself, are you doing what YOU want or what is best for the association and following our by laws as they are written.
Dear Association Member,
I believe you misunderstood what I wrote in my e-mail. I do not expect people to fall in line under "my leadership" just obey the laws that apply to our organization. I believe the laws apply equally to all--that's all.
Thanks for stopping and helping Bob and I pick up the litter today at the entrance.
PS. There is a bylaw committee meeting tomorrow night.
Links to other realted articles:
Parliamentary Internet Newsletter, Dec., 2000 (about the Florida count & other election abuses)
Parliamentary Internet Newsletter, Jan., 2001 (about how to avoid election abuses)