guest blog by Nila Ridings
I just read where some HOAs that provide for water in the dues are now going to start charging homeowners by the number of people living in the unit.
This topic is being discussed in a CAI attorney’s newsletter that I subscribe to. Sometimes I find the information they share of interest and other times it makes me want to barf my Sunday breakfast.
I live in an HOA where our water is factored into our monthly dues. If they tried to bill us for usage based on the number of people living in each unit that would be a joke to say the least. Why? Because we’ve had people with hair salons in their basements, in-home childcare, carpet cleaning companies, dog groomers, and probably a laundry service or two operating out of the view range of their binoculars. We had one former homeowner who managed to get the HOA to install a completely new lawn all around her unit which she watered multiple hours per day. So much so her attached neighbor declared all the watering was destroying the soil under their shared driveway and causing it to have problems. When the hose mysteriously ended up with a slash the HOA ran right out and bought a replacement so the watering could continue.
On the other hand in the decade I’ve lived in this hellhole, I have worked out of state a total of about 12 months. When I leave for more than 24 hours, I always shut the water off and drain the pipes. (It’s a ritual taught to me by my dad to prevent me from coming home to a busted washing machine, dishwasher, or icemaker hose that could do massive damage if left to flow water for days.) By these new water billing rules, I would then be entitled to a refund for having no water or sewer usage during my absence, correct? No way would my HOA ever refund a nickel to somebody they despised, even if not a drop of water was used in a year!
And then there is the other situation where nobody is living in a unit: FORECLOSURE. I’m handling the foreclosure for a neighbor who finally had enough and decided after sixteen years to just walk away. The bank sent a company to completely winterize the pipes and shut off the water. Not a drop of water has been used for months.
At one time my attached neighbor had family circumstances that left her with fifteen additional family members living with her. They used a lot of water, probably more than what she paid in monthly dues. They were there for a few years and were great neighbors. We are still friends.
I’ve had some neighbors tell me about pipes breaking in attached units and they came home to a flood. Only to be unable to locate the neighbor or bank that owned the unit where the pipe broke. One guy walked to the back of the units and could see water clear up to the top of the patio door with everything floating inside. He said it looked like a gigantic fish bowl. He was able to reach the owner who was out of town. When he told him what was happening the guy said, “Thanks for calling, I’m never coming back!” And he didn’t! He let the bank foreclose on the moldy stinking mess.
My point of presenting all these examples is that one person can use more water than another for varying reasons. So how is the HOA going to collect the exact usage from the homeowners? They can’t. It’s impossible. The only way for each unit to pay for the amount of water and sewer they use is to have their own meter. And THAT is where the cheaper way to build these crappy places has come home to roost. It was a way to save a few bucks on the construction costs only to create a nightmare down the line for the homeowners and the HOA.
I’m taking a wild calculated guess at how this is going to come out. The board or property manager will charge an outrageous water usage amount to the members they do not like. If the unit owner doesn’t pay, they will lien and foreclose on the unit. Or figure out some way to shut off the water just to that owner.
And the battles rage on in the HOAs of America!
Oh yes, and my other reason for sharing…it is just one more reason to never buy a condo or a townhouse!