More Money Down The Drain

guest blog by Deborah Goonan

Yet another case of shoddy construction, this time a failing storm drain and a sinking retention pond in Michigan. Over several years, homeowners of Windridge Estates HOA have experienced cracked foundations and basement windows, shifting soil in their back yards, and movement of retention walls, as the shoreline of the nearby pond crumbles into the water.

The HOA lacks the means to make the needed repairs, so the City of New Baltimore has agreed to “help” by setting up a special assessment district, in order to collect $1.45 million from homeowners over the next 10 years. Each lot will ultimately be taxed roughly $6500.

That’s in addition to any regular HOA assessments and property taxes they have paid all these years the problem has gone unaddressed.

The HOA Attorney argues that the City should pay at least 18.5% of the cost, since City roads drain into the pond when it rains. In this particular HOA, the City maintains the roads and easements, but not storm drainage. This illogical arrangement is amazingly common in HOAs.

Several questions come to mind.

First, how did this storm water system get approved by the City Inspector? Second, why isn’t the developer on the hook to pay for these repairs? Third, how much will this end up costing City taxpayers who do NOT live in Windridge Estates?

Local governments have been abdicating responsibility for maintenance of major infrastructure for decades. But retention ponds and underground stormwater pipes are notoriously difficult and expensive to maintain and repair, even when they are constructed properly. Repairs almost always involve precise engineering design, heavy equipment, and moving around large amounts of soil. How do local governments justify dumping this responsibility on a volunteer Board and the disproportionate expense on unsuspecting homeowners?

In the meantime, one unfortunate recent buyer just got a fine welcome to the community. The seller hadn’t disclosed problems with the pond, and now the buyer is on the hook for his share of the cost. Just goes to show how affordability of your home in an HOA can be wildly unpredictable.

Oh, and as I’ve mentioned before, but it bears repeating: a lot adjacent to a retention pond is NOT a “lake view” or “water view” for which a buyer should pay a premium.

(read the story, check out the photos, here)

 

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About

Ward Lucas is a longtime investigative journalist and television news anchor. He has won more than 70 national and regional awards for Excellence in Journalism, Creative Writing and community involvement. His new book, "Neighbors At War: the Creepy Case Against Your Homeowners Association," is now available for purchase. In it, he discusses the American homeowners association movement, from its racist origins, to its transformation into a lucrative money machine for the nation's legal industry. From scams to outright violence to foreclosures and neighborhood collapses across the country, the reader will find this book enormously compelling and a necessary read for every homeowner. Knowledge is self-defense. No homeowner contemplating life in an HOA should neglect reading this book. No HOA board officer should overlook this examination of the pitfalls in HOA management. And no lawyer representing either side in an HOA dispute should gloss over what homeowners are saying or believing about the lawsuit industry.

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