Parker County Today December 2017 - Page 74

Homeowners Associations . . . the balance between protecting your home value and too much power. BY TIM MENDOLIA, Attorney At Law M of directors makes the decisions concerning the management of the association, and ultimately, your property, therefore issues of selective enforcement or harassment (enforcement of restrictions against some but not all); exorbitant fees (fees which start out as minimal but increase per violation, and ultimately may include attorneys’ fees, can quickly grow); or non-enforcement (allowing properties to be in disarray) can arise. Because of the abundance of complaints of abuses of property owners’ associations, the Texas legislature has debated many bills concerning the governance of property owners’ associations over the past several sessions (i.e., excessive fees, fines and attorneys’ fees associated such; with associations banning of political signs, American flags, solar panels; etc.) In 2015, the Texas Legislature enacted thirty-nine new property owners’ association specific laws. In 2017, they discussed more but did not enact any. The moral of the story is that if you live in a community that has a property owners’ association and deed restrictions, know the restric- tions, and get involved with the association, even if that is just attending the annual meeting. This will allow you to take part in the election of the board of directors that manages the association and, at least, be a part of the discussions concerning property in the subdivision, including your property, so that if issues arise, you will know what your restric- tions are, what your options are, and to whom to speak regarding them. Furthermore, you can make sure the association is following its own rules. It is very wise, when purchasing property within a subdivision that has a property owners’ association to personally speak to other property owners about the association before making your purchase. There is nothing worse than buying or building your dream home only to be at odds with the property owners’ association. Tim Mendolia, Partner, M&P Law Office, 6900 E. Interstate 20, Aledo, Texas 76008, 817.546.4100, a general practice, including, criminal, family, juvenile, civil, real estate, business law since 1994, and since 2003 in Parker County, Texas. Tim is a member of the Texas Bar Foundation and 2017 American Institute of Criminal Law Attorneys 10 Best Attorneys. any of us in Parker County live in subdivisions that are governed or managed by a homeowners’ association, or property owner’s asso- ciation, as they are referred in the Texas Property Code. These property owners’ associations are granted certain powers under Texas law which, most importantly, includes the right to force the sale of a home to collect moneys owed the association. It is important to note that Texas, which is known as a “debtor’s state” because of the protections that debtors are afforded within Texas law making it difficult to collect debts (i.e., home- stead laws which protect the forced sale of one home; no garnishment of wages, etc.) allows these property owners’ association the right to force the sale of a homestead which is protected from all other debtors, includ- ing the IRS, with the only exceptions being persons providing construc- tion services (i.e., mechanics liens) and county tax collectors. Title 11 of the Texas Property Code governs property owners’ associations and issues related to property owners’ associations with the most frequently referred sections being Chapter 209, which covers the governance of the associations; and Chapter 202 which covers the construction and enforcement of restrictive covenants. The property owners’ associations usually inherit restrictive cove- nants from the developer of the subdivision who filed these covenants with the county deed records prior to selling homes. These restrictive covenants bind every lot sold in the subdivision and a purchaser is on notice of them simply by them being filed in the county deed records. The rules and restrictions set forth in the filed restrictive covenants gener- ally range from yard maintenance requirements to yard signs displayed to set back lines for construction to new construction approval by some type of architectural review committee, and generally also contain fees per lot to the association for common area land and association mainte- nance. At first blush, this seems like a great way to protect your property value by having rules and regulations that all property owners have to follow within your subdivision, but what seems like a good idea can turn ugly quickly if an association is managed improperly. Generally, an asso- ciation is managed by a board of directors cons isting of property owners within the subdivision as elected by the property owners. This board 72 Zachary Q. Pettigrew, Timothy L. Richardson, Kimberly T. Mendolia, Timothy J. Mendolia 6900 E. Interstate 20 Frontage Rd. South H Aledo , Texas H 817.546.4100 H 817.546.4104 fax