YOU AND YOUR HOMEOWNERS ASSOCIATION
You have now settled into your new home. Most of the boxes are unpacked, the curtains are up, and you are ready to venture forth into your new community to find out what it's really like. One of the first things you are likely to hear about is the "Homeowners Association". Or perhaps you have been unpacked for some time and you know there is a homeowners association, but you have never really understood what it's all about.
This "Information" is for both of you; the new homeowner and the homeowner who has been around for awhile but still has questions about the association. First, it will familiarize you with the purpose and operation of your homeowners association. Second, it will also provide you with information on how you can be sure that your association is operating effectively, to protect your investment and your community.
In contrast to many other neighborhoods, our community/subdivision has a little bit of common property. Mainly the Three - (3) entrances of our subdivision which includes the perimeter fence line and which surrounds our community.
Eckhert Crossing is a subdivision with a "Mandatory Homeowners Association", which makes anyone who purchases a home in our subdivision an automatic member of the association (with the exception of renters). Now as a member of the association you must pay an annual assessment, (which is currently $125) to the Association for your share of the expenses to maintain and operate the subdivision.
The Eckhert Crossing Association has the opportunity and responsibility to promote the health, recreation, safety and welfare of the residents of our community.
Our Association is a private, non-profit corporation in which all property owners are automatically members and have certain rights and obligations. The Association is sort of mini-government, operating under legal documents that we will discuss later. In an "Association", the "Board of Directors" acts for the welfare of the subdivision.
Your interests as a homeowner lie with the continuing success of "Your Association." If the Association functions well, your property values and the lifestyle you have chosen for you and your family will be maintained and improved.
WHAT IS A HOMEOWNERS ASSOCIATION?
When developers first started building large housing developments, everyone agreed that having property shared by all owners was a good idea. But one question remained, "Who's going to take care of of the property, and maintain certain standards for the homeowners?'
Local government would not take responsibility because the land was privately owned. Eventually, the developer would sell all the homes and go on to build another project. The developer would not be as responsible as we wanted them to be, so that left us, the "Residents", to take control of our own subdivision.
Eckhert Crossing was planned back in the mid-1990's, and we (the residents) legally reorganized and took over in October 1997.
WHO AND WHEN?
Like a person or a nation, our Eckhert Crossing Subdivision/Association has a life history of its own: a birth, an infancy, an adolescence and a maturity. It has changed greatly from phase to phase. The developer and their professional people conceived and designed the Subdivision/ Association and its common property. They gave birth to it in certain legal documents and appointed an initial Board of Directors. Then they nurtured and guided the Association through the early growth of the development, when the Association was dependent on the developer for finances and leadership.
As Eckhert Crossing grew, the Association became independent of the developer's support and control. Now completely on our own, we can develop, operate and maintain the properties within the Eckhert Crossing Community. The homeowners in Eckhert Crossing elected 5 members to the Board of Directors, to operate the Association. All Board of Directors live within the subdivision and many of them have full or part-time jobs and some may even be retired. The Board is assisted by a Management Company, which is hired by the Board of Directors of our Association.
WHAT DOES OUR ASSOCIATION DO?
The major responsibility of our Association is to protect our investment and maintain the common property owned by the residents/members of our Subdivision/Association. This is done by providing the proper maintenance at all the common areas and monuments at all the entrances in our Subdivision.
Our Association has other responsibilities too, such as enforcing the Covenants, Architectural submittals and landscaping maintenance. It represents the interests and concerns of all the homeowners to local and state governments and their agencies. It also sets up an effective communication system among the residents through our Board of Directors, Block Captains and our Subdivision Newsletter.
There are some things that our association can not do. Our Association is not a partisan political organization and as such can not promote the endorsement of candidates for political office.
However, our Association may be active on civic issues, which affect the property values or interest of our Subdivision.
The Association also is not a forum for individual resident complaints against his or her builder or other residents. These kinds of matters should be settled between the individuals involved or on a case by case basis when deemed necessary with the involvement of the Board of Directors and the appropriate Committees/Teams.
HOW DOES YOUR ASSOCIATION WORK?
Our Association is administered by a Board of Directors consisting of 5 individuals: A President, Vice-President, Secretary, Treasurer and a Member at Large. All of which are elected by the residents of the Subdivision to represent the Eckhert Crossing Subdivision/Association. These terms of office are staggered to insure continuity within the Association. The Board of Directors positions are determined annually by the newly elected Board of Directors, at their first annual Board meeting following the Annual election.
The Board is assisted in its duties by the Committees/Teams of our Subdivision/Association. In our Association there are several Committees/Teams, such as: Architectural Review, Beautification, Civics, Deeds, Safety and Newsletter all of which prove to be essential to our Subdivision /Association. They advise as well as assist the Board and the Board in turn gives strong support to each Committee /Team. You may wish to take a more active role and serve on the Board, be a Block Captain for your street or be on a Committee/Team. If you do become actively involved in your Association, you may find it a rewarding, educational experience. It will benefit both you and the Association.
Each homeowner is involved in the Association, by virtue of paying their annual assessment on time and voting at the annual meeting. There may be a time when the assessment of the homeowner’s needs to be increased, but only as the Board deems it justified.
When residents fail to pay their assessment, the Association must cut back on its operating services. Perhaps the lawn care is curtailed so that there are more weeds than grass surrounding our Subdivision. The Subdivision doesn't look like it used to, and more "For Sale" signs appear. Property values drop drastically and residents start moving even before they sell their homes. After a few years, many homes are abandoned, the lender and/or the government may take over, and everyone faces major losses on their long-range investments.
This example is extreme, surely, but it can happen. That's why it's so important, that our Association take early steps to collect delinquent assessments. If gentle prodding does not work, and as a last resort, a "Lien" may be placed on the property.
A Lien is a Legal document, with a claim against the property (once filed with the County Records) that your house can not be "Sold or Re-financed" until such amounts on record are paid in full. Also, this "Lien" is the first "Legal" step to foreclosure.
As a homeowner you have a responsibility, too. Prompt payment of your assessment is vital. If our Association must spend its time and money to collect your assessment, it will harm the Association, and eventually, you.
When any group of people, no matter what size share property, rules must be set down for its use. These rules and their enforcement are essential to preserve the property values of our Subdivision.
When the developer plans his project, he develops a set of legal documents which establish the Subdivision/Association, governs its operation, and provides rules for use of all properties in the Subdivision. These legal documents may vary, but in our Eckhert Crossing Association, they consist of the following:
Articles of Incorporation: establish the Association and it purpose, structure and powers.
Bylaws: establish rules for the operation of the Association through the Board of Directors, officers, and its membership meetings.
Declaration of Covenants: detail each owner's property rights and the conditions on use of their property, and their rights and obligations in the Association. In this article we will refer to them as the "Covenants".
The Covenants are very important rules in your day-to-day living. They are set up to make the sharing of common property and the use of individual property convenient, for you and all others involved and not to make things difficult. Covenants usually cover both use of shared property and use of individual residential properties.
No matter what the intentions of the rules are, someone will usually break them. Our Association must act quickly and firmly on such problems. Our Association has the power of enforcement and must continually use it to be effective. Without proper enforcement, these Covenants mean very little.
Inoperable vehicles in plain view, excessive noise and landscaping improvements without Architectural Review Committee approval are some examples of concern within our Sub-division. These examples are covered within the Covenants.
Usually a friendly word or simple written notice from the Management Company will be enough to correct the situation. If the problem continues, the Board of Directors will request assistance from an Attorney, who can take a homeowner to court and present the Associations position. However, every effort will be made to avoid going to court. Not only is it costly, but it can also cause ill feelings within the Subdivision. (If you can not find your copy please contact the Management company).
THE ARCHITECTURAL REVIEW COMMITTEE
Our Eckhert Crossing Association Covenants provide us with an "Architectural Control Committee", which is one of our most important and active Committees. This committee is set up to insure that your individual creativity is not stifled, but also to insure that the integrity of the original subdivision design is preserved. You can paint the entire inside of your home any color you desire, whether it's Red, Black, Purple, Green or whatever you choose. It's only the exterior of your home that is of concern to this committee and the Association.
Our "Architectural Review Committee" or ("ARC") tackles such issues as: fences, home additions, sheds, patio covers and landscaping. This committee reviews all submitted plans for exterior alterations, done to your property. They make sure that the improvement will not be a "Drainage" problem, or a violation of our "Covenants".
It is important that you are familiar with the "Architectural Guidelines" and always work with the Committee when making ANY exterior changes to your property. This will avoid any unnecessary expenses or embarrassments to you as a homeowner. If you see flagrant violations of these "Guidelines" by other Association members, you can do your part by calling it to the attention of the Deeds Team, or by mailing in your complaint.
THE BEAUTIFICATION COMMITTEE
The Beautification Committee is a committee who furnishes us with landscaped entryways, maintains our common property within the subdivision and other projects that will improve our community appearance.
THE CIVICS AFFAIRS COMMITTEE
The Civics Affairs Committee is a committee who sole purpose is to bring neighbors together, and get them to know one another. They organize the social functions and activities/events for the Association. Annual activities/events include: the "Annual Block Party" (usually held in the early spring), a "Christmas Dessert Gathering" and a "Halloween "Safe" Candy Table". Maybe more, with ideas from the residents to this committee?
DEED/CODE COMPLIANCE TEAM
The Deed/Code Compliance Team “D” Team is a team that is equally as important as the "Architectural Review Committee". This team goes throughout the neighborhood, to ensure that our neighborhood is staying within the guidelines set out in our "Covenants" and those of the City, so that your property values will be maintained.
THE NEWSLETTER COMMITTEE
Communication within the Association is vital. The Association can not expect you to be interested in all Association activities if you don't find out about them until it's too late, or don't find out at all. Now "Person-to-Person" contact is usually the best form of communication and there is rarely any suitable substitute for it. However, Eckhert Crossing supplies you with a newsletter called "Neighbor to Neighbor". This is a publication "For the People of Eckhert Crossing"; to keep you informed of the issues at hand, local or otherwise.
Eckhert Crossing finds it very important to have a "Newsletter Committee". Not only do they provide a newsletter to inform the residents about its upcoming meetings and events within the Subdivision /Association. The newsletter can also serve as a mobile "Bulletin Board" with want ads, items for sale, services for hire and almost anything else that the residents would like to see in their "Newsletter".
The Association meetings also serve a vital function. The Town Hall meetings, along with the Annual meetings, are well publicized within the newsletter. Also, signage is posted at all the entrances of the subdivision, giving notice at least 1 week in advance. The meeting place will change from school to school, but will still be within 3 miles of the subdivision. All Association members are encouraged to attend meetings, whether the Annual, Town hall or any special meeting that will effect the Eckhert Crossing Subdivision. If you want your voice heard, this is the place to have it heard. Current Subdivision/Association business is discussed at these meetings, and important discussions and decisions are made. This is why your attendance is so important in our decision making process.
THE SAFETY COMMITTEE
The Safety Committee was formed to provide ideas, to help keep our community a safe place to live in. The committee has implemented a program called Cellular On Patrol (C.O.P.), and with help from volunteer homeowners, allows us to patrol the neighborhood to deter crime. Both day and night with the use of a cellular phone that is directly connected with the police department. Also they have had 4 streetlights added to the subdivision and they encourage homeowners to keep an eye out whether during the day or night and to keep in touch with your neighbors.
Know if any of your neighbors have visitors coming to visit. Remember they need to hear from you, be involved, and if necessary call the Police for the sake of the "Neighborhood/ Subdivision/ Association”. Do not let any one-commit crimes in our “Eckhert Crossing Neighborhood”.
We have talked about Block Captains throughout this letter. Now, Block Captains keep you up to date with what’s happening in your neighborhood. This group of people assists the Board and other Committees by getting the word out to their neighbors. So, please volunteer to be a Block Captain for your street.
No type of communication is complete without a method for airing disputes and grievances. You will be totally frustrated if there is no way to bring your problems to the attention of the Association.
The Eckhert Crossing Homeowners Association handles grievances in several ways. You are encouraged to contact any of the Board of Directors, any Deed/Code Compliance Team member, or your Block Captain. In person, by phone or by mail to our physical address with any concerns or complaints, that you want heard or need help in solving. NO COMPLAINT or CONCERN will ever go unanswered. All our meetings include on the agenda a Question & Answer time. If we cannot answer your concern at that point and time, schedule an appointment with the Board ASAP.
Never hesitate to bring a Concern or a Complaint of any type to your Board of Directors, to the Deeds Team, or your Block Captain, they are here for just that purpose. If these "CONCERNS" are not addressed quickly, these small problems can quickly turn into big ones. So if something is bothering you, please let us know ASAP, and please bring along any ideas that you might have.
Professional, efficient management is the ideal means, to reduce worry for the homeowner that assures that property values will be maintained. The Board of Directors selects the “Management Company” and evaluates their progress on a regular basis.
Your Association carries policies of insurance on any common property for which the Association is responsible. This coverage provides adequate protection from liability suits that may be filed against the Association. It also covers acts of the Officers and Agents working for the Association. Association policies do not cover your individual home and your personal possessions, so you should have a homeowner's policy, which protects you against fire, theft, and personal liability.
Sooner or later you may wish to sell your home. Now this is just as important as when you bought it and this is why you should proceed just as careful. Although there are no requirements in the Eckhert Crossing "Covenants" on selling ones home, the Association would be grateful knowing your intentions. When you sell your home, you or your agent are responsible for informing the new owner about the "Mandatory Homeowners Association", and how it operates. Show them your Covenants, and explain the reason why this information package was made. You might leave them the latest newsletter, so they can catch up on the most recent issues. Tell them whom to contact about being the new owner (i.e.. a Board of Director or the Management Co.).
Each year some families are faced with offers for a company promotion, contingent on a two- or three-year relocation to a different city. Then some family questions arise: "What shall we do with our house?", "Do we have to sell? or "Can we rent it?"
Many families decide to sell, while others decide to rent out their home. If you decide to rent out your home please inform the Association. Remember "Renters" are just as responsible in following the "Covenants", as if they were the homeowners themselves. Lets them know what the rules are ASAP and please notify us of a forwarding address, so we send you information on the Association such as the newsletter and your annual assessment reminder.
A FINAL WORD
The key to a successful "Association" is the support and enthusiasm of its membership. Members need to realize that the Association wants to know about their concerns or complaints, and needs to have resident volunteers for the "Committees /Teams". What good is a "Association" without participation from its members?
Imagine Subdivision without a Board of Directors, any Committees/Teams, any Block Captains, or even a Management Company. Services provided by the Association would cease. Grass and weeds would grow around the perimeter of the subdivision, the monuments would be overrun by weeds and the bushes and trees would become very unsightly to the public passing by and to the visitors passing through. Property values would soon fall, "Covenants" would not be upheld, broken down and abandon vehicles would soon clutter the streets, gangs will start to run through our neighborhood, graffiti would be on our perimeter fence, maybe on our own fence and cars.
Granted these are extreme examples, but these are things that you can stop just by being involved in your Association. Yes it would be a gloomy picture, and in reality it may never happen. However, it never needs to start happening, if your Association has your support.
Be actively involved in the Association. Volunteer to serve on the Board, or on any Committee/ Team, or even be a Block Captain for your street. Lend your talent where it will be the most helpful. Here are some ways to help out your Association:
1.) Pay your assessment on time.
2.) Cooperate with the Association, follow the rules, and help where you can.
3.) Participate in a meaningful way.
Remember the value of your home depends greatly on the quality of life in your subdivision and on the success of your Association. Please give your Association all the support you can.
WE WELCOME YOU AND YOUR FAMILY TO THE
ECKHERT CROSSING SUBDIVISION