More censorship of individual homeowners on the "community" Message Board on the HOA website.
Missed opportunity -- The Board had the opportunity to use the performance bond that was established between Ohio Township and TOA. Instead they neglected the bond until it was too late to be of any use as negotiation leverage with TOA in our transition phase.
Please submit your questions and areas of concern you would like to see answered and addressed by the Board of Directors during the September 20, 2018 open Board Meeting.
Why have there been so many questions and issues with the HOA accounting?
9/17/2018 10:12 PM
When will the HOA replace dead shrubs?
9/16/2018 10:56 AM
In the letter from the auditors of the 2017 audit, there was a paragraph stating our funds were overstated by [$ amount removed] and was caused by the management company attempting to transfer cash into the reserve fund. They stated the accounting was done in reverse and we should send a corrected tax return to the IRS to eliminate any confusion. This error is going to cost us additional monies to now pay another accountant to prepare and submit a corrected return, not to mention the taxes we paid may be incorrect. I am concerned as to the accuracy of our accounts and the fact that up until now we also had no backup copies of the quick book files. This seems like unacceptable practices in protecting our investment in this community. We need to be confident that the management company is well versed in basic accounting principles and quickbooks in order to eliminate such errors going forward. If these errors persist perhaps we should seriously consider another management company.
9/14/2018 5:02 PM
Do we really have competent people handling our finances? It was noted in the letter from the auditors (2017 audit) that the accounts were over stated thus causing our income tax return to be inaccurate. This inaccuracy will cost us more money as it was suggested by them that we should submit a corrected return to the IRS to avoid any confusion. we will now have to pay someone to prepare and submit the corrected return, not to mention the tax implications.
9/14/2018 3:50 PM
What is going on with the problems that are occurring in our finances? What happened to transparency? It appears based on the new programs and communications that we are recieving that we are losing the carefree maintenance that we all signed up for? Why aren't residences given more input in changes that are being made? Surveys? why don't we have more open meeting durning the year? What are we doing regarding the contracts that were in place last year that were poorly done? (lawn, Snow removal, management company)
9/14/2018 1:54 PM
Any additional information you would like to see shared at the meeting?
[The management company] does not respond to questions efficiently, they always claim they have to do something else (like refer everything to Board) before they even do something that is their responsibility.
9/17/2018 10:12 PM
I have had 2 dead shrubs in my backyard since I moved here in July 2016. This is now the 3rd summer and they have not been replaced. I had brought this to the attention of TOA, again as an outstanding issue at the time of transition, and again in May, June and July of this year. Each repsonse this year was "We have forwarded your request to the Transition Committee." Angela also added in the July response that "Please understand the transition process does take time." I think 3 years is too much time. I want these shrubs replaced ASAP.
9/16/2018 10:56 AM
I am concerned with the Boards insistence of censoring posts from home owners. This is still a free country and we have the right to freedom of speech. If you don’t like what someone says, block them, but others may want to see what everyone thinks, not just the board. This is the only open form of communication we have in the community and I believe it should be available to everyone. Since it is exclusive to the homeowners there is no threat of negativity about the community to the public.
9/14/2018 5:02 PM
I am also very concerned with the boards censorship of our only form of communication, the website. I believe free speech is one of our rights as citizens. If you don’t like someone’s comments you can block them but others may have interest in hearing what everyone Has to say, not just a few.
9/14/2018 3:50 PM
Being a little more transparent and open to help from all the community not just a select few. We are not utilizing the wealth of talent and expertise we have in this community. There should be term limits on people running for office and committees. If other people don't want to serve then allow them to continue.
9/14/2018 1:54 PM
7/9/2018 Homeowner email to Board Secretary and Management Company
I have not received the requested information from either of you. Again, I stress that providing homeowners with the format of the documents to be reviewed is a reasonable request. It will expedite and facilitate the examination of important documents, statements and records of the association.
This is a third request to please let us know the format(s) in which the information will be provided. As this process continues to be delayed by the Board and CCM the suspicion that the records are poorly managed and maintained increases. Record retention and management are important issues for HOAs and their residents. The questionable competence of the management company is an ongoing concern.
I am again, for the third time, submitting to you a checklist to facilitate the presentation of documents. We are simply asking that you provide us with information regarding the format of requested documents.
If you are unable to organize and present the documents in a format to be examined by homeowners, please let us know. We are willing to assist you.
Please note: Your reply has been so delayed, that the homeowners are now asking for an addition to our original request. Please include in the documents to be reviewed the JULY 2018 detailed Profit & Loss Statement. It is crucial that homeowners are aware of the itemized income and expenses for the past month.
A reasonable expectation is that an HOA management company be able to present organized, well-formatted, and accessible information to homeowners. Based on documented past experience with CCM, we are concerned with the lack of professionalism, accuracy and technical knowledge needed to accurately maintain and report financial statements. Poor document management, retention and presentation is an indication of significant mismanagement. This should be an area of concern for the Board.
I am looking forward to your timely response. I have attached the checklist of requested documents for your completion. If we do not receive the completed document by COB Thursday, July 12, 2018 we will be forced take further action.
Homeowner email to Board Secretary
Mon 7/16, 7:56 PM
May I suggest that the Board familiarize themselves with this fiduciary duty: "The Duty of Care." This duty requires that HOA Board members "must act in a prudent and reasonable manner, basically using sound business judgment, and avoiding arbitrary or capricious actions."
The Board should be less concerned with who is asking to see documents and more concerned with the questionable record-keeping, misstatements, and risk of fraud that currently threaten the well-being of our community.
We encourage the Board to follow our lead and examine the HOA's finances to insure they are being properly managed and start vetting the financial statements and related records for veracity and fraud prevention. Based on the Board's past performance we must ask: Is it prudent and reasonable to ignore missing funds, uncorrected errors, misstatements and concealment in financial statements? Is it sound business judgment to not read the HOA's largest contract before signing it?
Most importantly, we as individual homeowners, are willing to take the time, and with considerable effort, examine, analyze and assess important HOA documents. What we accomplish will assist the Board and protect the Sewickley Ridge community as a whole.
When we review and examine the documents we will have a portable scanner and other digital devices with us. There will be no need to have copies made by CCM.
From: Email message to Homeowner from the
Sent: Tuesday, July 17, 2018 12:41:27 PM
Subject: Re: Copying of HOA Documents
No digital/electronic scanning or photography using portable scanners, cell phones, or other devices will be permitted during the document review at CCM. Acting on behalf of the Board, I have made our position clear and will no longer reply to emails from you or the other requesters on this topic.
Tue 7/17, 9:07 PM
Homeowner's Response to Board Secretary
You never provided an adequate explanation about the Board's position and you did not provide answers to any of my questions. You have made it clear that you and the Board will not provide any further communication on the issue.
However, by refusing to communicate openly (and honestly) you create further evidence that the Board continually fails to deliver on their promises of accountability, fairness, open communication, and integrity.
You did not respond to our requests in an informative and honest way. You and the Board never made your position "clear" as you claim in your email.
What was actually communicated by you (and the Board) was nothing but regurgitation of legalese and obstructive language in an attempt to discourage homeowners from taking legitimate action to assess the HOA's financial situation.
How proud you all must be....
I was originally lured to build my retirement home with Traditions of America because of promotional materials that state, “If you can dream it, we can build it.”
During the sales pitch, I told the TOA representative that an outdoor living space was important to me. I told her this on several occasions. She suggested a corner lot, lot 96, to accommodate the size of the Franklin model and my outdoor living space. This was considered a “premium lot” and I paid an additional $10,000.00 for this lot. I also paid an extra $2000.00 for the “Custom Home Program.”
I was introduced to a designer. At one meeting she arranged for me to look at an outdoor kitchen and living space at one of the model homes so I could “see what was possible.” The property manager met me at the site. At a subsequent meeting the designer introduced me to “the TOA landscaper” to discuss my preferences for an outdoor living space.
At another meeting, this landscaper presented me with a drawing of his suggestions for my outdoor living space. He also gave me an item list that included prices for the project. One of the items was a commission of $23,430.00 to be paid to Traditions of America for the project. The landscaper told me that if I waited until after closing to construct the space, that I would not need to pay this commission. A friend and my daughter were assisting me with design processes at the time and witnessed this interaction. The property manager called me at home later that evening and told me that he had reprimanded the landscaper for telling me about the commission to Traditions of America.
In April 2016 I called the landscaper to schedule construction. I asked him if there would be any problems with proceeding with the project since I had already closed on the house. He replied “no problem.” He then told me that he could not schedule my project until late summer. Since I did not want to wait that long, I asked him about hiring another contractor. He replied again, “no problem.”
In May 2016 the new contractor began the project based on the drawing that “the TOA landscaper” had given me. Shortly after construction began, a neighbor who was a resident board member at the time, came to my property and told me the project was not approved. He told me to fax the plans to a different property manager at TOA in Radnor, PA.
The new contractor then had some communication with this property manager and told me that he had to modify the plan and that I ‘would not like it.” Several outdoor features had been removed including a fireplace and hot tub. TOA knew all along about the plans for the hot tub because they installed plumbing for it on the side patio. I was disappointed about the changes but decided to proceed anyway. I did not think any further paper work was required since it was my belief that this project was part of my custom home plan and the new contractor was in frequent communication with the local TOA property manager.
The rocks, which comprise the wall on the side patio, then became an issue. During a phone conference with TOA that summer, it was suggested that I drive around the neighborhood and look at versalock walls, which were alleged to be the “norm” for the community. I only found one and it was about two feet from the next house. Most of the walls that I saw were constructed of rocks. Furthermore, the TOA promotional materials state “no cookie cutter houses here.”
My rock wall is consistent with the landscaping at the entrance to the development. Several neighbors have come to me to state that they like the wall.
The notion that my wall is on “common property” became an issue. This was not an issue during the sales phase of the property. In fact, the TOA sales representative told me that I could put my driveway there. I declined because of the steep grade.
I have recently obtained a property survey, which disputes the claim that I am on common ground.
The outdoor living space that I have now in no way reflects what was sold to me by representatives of TOA. The current Board and management company began to issue fines in May of last year (2017).
· I have sued TOA for not delivering on their promise to allow the patio that “the TOA landscaper” designed and presented to me after I paid for a premium lot to accommodate this outdoor living space.
· I have sued this landscaper for detrimental reliance—I waited to start construction based on his advice and his reassurance that there would be “no problem” in doing so.
· And, I have sued the current Board and its president for harassment, arbitrary application of the rules in the community document, and interfering in a conflict that I have with other parties.
If you wish to examine these lawsuits, you may contact me. My contact information is available in the HOA homeowners directory.
Carole (Senter) Shimko
117 Patriot Lane
The board and management company must strive to ensure the proper maintenance and operation of the pool in 2018 to prevent health threats. In the event of a critical status inspection report from the health department, residents should be notified before conditions escalate to the point where a pool closure is required.
Being placed on the agenda would have given us the time needed to present information that supports the designation of gutters/downspouts as common elements.
It would also provide residents with the opportunity to ask questions and provide valuable feedback.
The Board was unable to cite anything in our governing documents that specifically prohibits residents from making a presentation to the meeting attendees as a part of the agenda.
They still said "no."
We requested homeowner access to review the Clubhouse warranty documentation and the turf assessment reports that the board hired three landscaping companies to provide.
The Clubhouse warranty documentation was required by PA statute to be sent to the Board by March 2017; the report provided by the Transaction Accountability Committee on March 3, 2018 indicated that they had not yet received any of the warranty documentation. The board has allowed TOA to delay for over one year. At the TAC meeting we were told that TOA was instructed to either provide the documents or reply in writing (by March 1, 2018) to the board that the documents did not exist. Now we are told we cannot see the documentation because it is "confidential."
The turf assessment and remediation reports were completed and discussed in the same March 3, 2018 TAC meeting. However, we are not permitted to review the complete reports. We paid for them. Why would homeowners be prevented from having access?
The board claims it can't share any information because of ongoing negotiations.
Let's remember the people "negotiating" for us are the same ones who admitted to not reading a contract for $282,265.96 in landscaping services before signing it AND committed the community to a $83,000 contract for inadequate and insufficient snow removal.
We have a community with some intelligent, capable and experienced residents. Why not reach out and utilize the available knowledge and skills? Maybe some community outreach and homeowner input would be a good idea for our "negotiators."
...Or we could just GET IN LINE AND STOP ASKING QUESTIONS.
In JANUARY, 2017 the management company was assigned to help obtain documents from Traditions of America.
Based on PA statute, TOA was required to turn documents over by MARCH, 2017.
At the last board meeting, NOVEMBER, 2017, we were informed that the board is beginning to get the documents.
JANUARY, 2018, the board is still waiting for documents. (Source: Transition Accountability Committee Minutes, 1/8/2018)
MARCH, 2018, The board is still waiting for documents!
Our HOA board neglected to follow-up on the TOA performance bond held by Ohio Township. The board had claimed, in early 2017, tthey would use the bond as a negotiation tool with TOA during the tranisition. The bond has been reduced to a maintenance bond. It is no longer viable as negotiation leverage.
Background (or how the board "dropped the ball"):
TOA posted a bond with the township. The HOA could have placed a claim on that bond and it would have certainly captured the developer's attention. Until all items are properly completed via this type of agreement the township is not supposed to release the developer's bond money they are holding in trust for completion of the claim/contract. Some of our issues such as grading and drainage could have been noted in this agreement.
Summary: The document is a compilation of items previously available on the HOA "official" website with some additional limited narrative and property photos.
This "transition" document contains the information from the "Transaction Accountability Log" with pictures submitted by residents and consultants. There are brief introductions to each section.
Appendices include a list of documents already available on the HOA website, copies of a few invoices and general correspondence.
November 19, 2018, Communications Committee Meeting Minutes:
"As discussed at the last HOA meeting, a survey is being planned to investigate community interest in gutter maintenance."
Here is the text of our July 27, 2018 email message:
Per the Transition Accountability Committee June 4, 2018 meeting minutes:
"Greg reported that he and an FMG engineer reviewed Avant Gardening’s work on drainage issues and they are almost finished."
Please provide the list of locations/addresses that received the work on drainage issues.
"Mike from TOA has been contacted to set up meetings to recap the work done and continue discussion on other items." Please provide the recap of the completed (transition-related) work.
"The committee reviewed the latest version of the Responsibility Checklist."
Please provide a copy of the latest version of the Responsibility Checklist for homeowner review.
August 29, 2018: After we sent a second request for information, here is the response we received:
" The Transition Accountability Committee is in ongoing dialogue with TOA and is monitoring the work being completed by TOA hired contractors as part of the transition process, including the work currently being done in the clubhouse. A complete report is being prepared and will be shared with all community residents as part of the agenda for the public Board meeting on September 20."
This is a statement taken directly from the Transition Accountability Committee meeting minutes, June 4, 2018:
"Shrubs around houses will not be replaced by TOA unless reported w/in the 1st year."
Professional, independent, and quality property inspections of common and limited elements cost much less than having to perform emergency repairs and then permanent repairs along with replacement of damaged homeowner property and community property.
As time goes on, a lack of proactive, preventive maintenance will lead to an increasing number of reactive repairs. Being proactive in fixing small issues can save a lot of money. Reactive maintenance results in future costly repairs and replacements.
Why be reactive when proactive maintenance not only saves the HOA money, it can pay for itself in many cases?
Identify problem areas before they get worse: If deterioration of common elements is detected early, it could save the HOA money if repairs are made before the damage becomes even more costly.
Different seasons bring different property risks. Season-specific inspections—such as checking chlorine levels in an outdoor pool during summer, leaf buildup in eaves and gutters in the fall and sidewalks for ice in winter—should be done along with regular inspections.
Example: The maintenance and repair of your home's roof and gutters are the responsibility of the HOA. The HOA has the duty to keep these elements in a good state of repair and condition.
Annual inspections are an economical way to put the HOA Board on notice each year of the effects of deferred or incorrectly performed maintenance.
All of 2017 until we made this discovery in August, 2018, the signatories for the HOA's bank accounts and over $50,000 in CD's at a local bank were the management company owner and her son.
(Source: HOA bank account statements)
There are no limits on the HOA check amounts that can be signed by the owner of the management company. (Source: management company owner and check copies.)
Community documents require that contracts over a certain amount must have 2 signatures. Some contracts from 2017 had only 1 signature, leading to questions of the contract's validity.
The management company uses online payment services for only one account. All other expenses are paid by paper checks, signed by the management company owner.
Both the Board and management company maintain too many hard copies of documents and storage practices are less than secure. Developing an electronic storage and document management plan is recommended.
There appears to be a lack of proficiency in QuickBooks software usage.
(Source: management company owner, check register, observation at Clubhouse)
The balance sheet errors were reported to the Finance Committee and management company late last year (2017) and the Treasurer received documentation of the errors on June 1, 2018.
As of September 21, 2018, no corrections have been made.
The HOA does not have its own membership cards to the membership-only warehouse clubs or an Association credit card.
Most of Sewickley Ridge HOA's supplies are purchased from the warehouse clubs. Our money is used for the purchases and the management company receives the money from the yearly reward programs for the purchases. Since it's the HOA's money doing the buying; shouldn't the HOA receive the monetary "perks"?
Also, the management company owner uses her personal credit card to purchase items for the HOA and then bills us for the amounts. Again, it is our money making the purchases and the management company receiving the credit card rewards.
(Source: management company owner)
A homeowners association should take the time to carefully review and negotiate any and all contracts it is contemplating executing. Taking time on the front end of a deal, before executing any proposed contract, could save an association substantial time, money, and frustration on the back end.