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Friday, July 25, 2014

DPOR CIC Ombudsman ignores violations of the Condominium Act

The CIC Ombudsman's determination letter of July 21 addresses six issues. Only three issues were stated in the June 27 Notice of Final Adverse Decision.

For the three issues, references to specific sections of the Condominium Act were provided in the Notice of Final Adverse Decision.

The Ombudsman's determination letter ignores ALL references to the Condominium Act clearly stated in Attachment 1 to the Notice of Final Adverse Decision.

Friday, June 27, 2014

Mail filters set to direct anonymous mail to trash

Comments must include NAME, EMAIL, UNIT NUMBER.

Notice of Final Adverse Decision filed with DPOR, CIC Ombudsman

DESIRED ACTION from Common Interest Community Ombudsman, DPOR, Virginia

A. Direct the Association to annul (void) the 2013 election for the Board of Directors

The Condominium Act § 55-79.77.D, "votes appertaining to any unit may be cast pursuant to a proxy or proxies duly executed by or on behalf of the unit owner, or, in cases where the unit owner is more than one person, by or on behalf of all such persons."

At the 2013 Annual Meeting, homeowners were denied the opportunity to cast a vote for the candidate of their choice because the proxies mailed to homeowners did not specify any candidates for election. The proxies were mailed concurrently with the call for candidates!

There are three situations that in and of themselves render an election null and void. They are:

1- Failure to follow the procedures for giving the first notice of the date of the election shall require the association to conduct a new election;

2- The failure of an association to mail, transmit or personally deliver a copy of a timely delivered information sheet of each eligible candidate to the eligible voters;

3- The failure of the written ballot to indicate the name of each eligible person.

The 2013 election to the Board of Directors violates the Condominium Act.

B. Forbid the Association from exempting homeowners paying monthly assessments

At the 2013 Annual Meeting, two names were drawn and the lucky homeowners were exempted of one month's assessment. We can't find any authorization for the drawing in the Minutes of Board Meetings. Moreover, exempting any homeowner of paying the monthly assessment violates the Virginia Condominium Act.  Specifically:

The Condominium Act, § 55-79.83.D Liability for common expenses: “shall be assessed against the condominium units in proportion to the number of votes in the unit owners' association appertaining to each such unit”

§ 55-79.83.F Liability for common expenses: “It remains the policy of this section that neither a unit owned by the declarant nor any other unit may be exempted from assessments made pursuant to this section by reason of the identity of the unit owner thereof.”

§ 55-79.71.E Amendment of condominium instruments: “Except to the extent expressly permitted or expressly required by other provisions of this chapter, … no amendment to the condominium instruments shall change … (iii) the liability for common expenses”

And where does it stop? Exempt one homeowner, two homeowners, … ?

We're reminded of another withdrawal from Association funds without Board authorization — to defend two Board members in a criminal case filed by the Arlington County Attorney.

Exempting any homeowner from paying the monthly assessment violates the Condominium Act and sets a bad precedent — regardless of how the Board describes it.

C. Direct the Association to implement the requirements of § 55-79.75:1

The Board proposes using an "unofficial Facebook Group" administered by four Southampton homeowners to satisfy the requirements of § 55-79.75:1 of the Condominium Act.

§ 55-79.75:1. Distribution of information by members requires:

A. The executive organ shall establish a reasonable, effective, and free method, appropriate to the size and nature of the condominium, for unit owners to communicate among themselves and with the executive organ regarding any matter concerning the unit owners' association.

B. Except as otherwise provided in the condominium instruments, the executive organ shall not require prior approval of the dissemination or content of any material regarding any matter concerning the unit owners' association.

The Association has no rules governing the operation of this "unofficial Facebook Group”. It is up to the group’s administrator to decide who may join the group, what content is permitted, and how long they choose to continue their sponsorship of this group.

The "unofficial Facebook Group” does not give notice of meetings and does not keep minutes of meetings as required by § 55-79.75.

Further, Facebook collects information from comments posted by group members and uses it to target them for advertising. Homeowners should not be subjected to targeted advertising from Facebook in order to take advantage of § 55-79.75:1.

The "unofficial Facebook Group” does not satisfy the requirements of § 55-79.75:1


VIA PRIORITY MAIL #9114901230801364264718
Department of Professional and Occupational Regulation
Office of the Common Interest Community Ombudsman
9960 Mayland Drive, Suite 400
Richmond, VA 23233-1485

Vet could lose home for displaying small US flag

A veteran could lose his home because of a small American flag he has placed in a flower pot in front of his home.

This is the sort of thing that happens when condominium boards are given authority to fine homeowners. There are ways of enforcing the bylaws without it.

For many years, Southampton enforced bylaws by taking away homeowners' parking privileges.

More recently, even without the authority to fine, the Board has unlawfully fined homeowners. Give them more authority, and your home could be at risk.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Board proposes using Facebook to satisfy a requirement of the Condominium Act

At the June 19 Resolution Conference, the Board proposed using Facebook to satisfy the requirements of the Condominium Act, § 55-79.75:1 — Distribution of information by members.

Specifically, they proposed using an "unofficial Facebook Group" administered by four Southampton homeowners. This seems reasonable provided a committee is assigned this task at a meeting of the Board of Directors. However, the "unofficial Facebook Group" is no longer available.

The Newsletter Committee could be renamed the Communications Committee, and like all committees it would have to comply with § 55-79.75 — Meetings of unit owners' associations and executive organ.

The Newsletter Committee is superfluous. Minutes of meetings, and communications from the management agent, tell homeowners all they need to know.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

No response yet to formal complaint

FORMAL COMPLAINT, March 27, 2014

Failure of Cardinal Management to provide Minutes of Committee Meetings, and to keep proper Minutes of Executive Sessions of the Board of Directors.

1 — Cardinal Management has failed to provide Minutes of Committee Meetings pursuant to a formal request.

On March 7, 2014, pursuant to Association's Resolution No. 13–1, I requested a copy of the minutes of the most recent meeting (i.e. the last meeting held) of the following committees:

1. Architectural Control Committee
2. Building and Grounds Committee
3. Community Standards and Covenants Committee
4. Swimming Pool Committee
5. Financial Committee
6. Newsletter Committee

Having not received a response from Cardinal Management, on March 18, 2014, I requested Cardinal Management to make available for inspection these same records.

The Condominium Act § 55-79.75.B imposes the same requirements for notice to members, meetings, and record keeping on Committees of the Association as it does on meetings of the Board. It requires the Association to make these documents available for inspection "upon five days written notice". Resolution No. 13–1 lists charges for copies.

2 — Cardinal Management has failed to keep proper Minutes of Executive Sessions of the Board of Directors

The minutes of the February 20, 2014 Board meeting state neither the "purpose for the executive session" nor the "vote on such contract, motion or other action”.

The Condominium Act § 55-79.75.C states: “The executive organ or any subcommittee or other committee thereof may convene in executive session to consider personnel matters; consult with legal counsel; discuss and consider contracts, probable or pending litigation and matters involving violations of the condominium instruments or rules and regulations promulgated pursuant thereto for which a unit owner, his family members, tenants, guests or other invitees are responsible; or discuss and consider the personal liability of unit owners to the unit owners' association, upon the affirmative vote in an open meeting to assemble in executive session. The motion shall state specifically the purpose for the executive session. Reference to the motion and the stated purpose for the executive session shall be included in the minutes. The executive organ shall restrict the consideration of matters during such portions of meetings to only those purposes specifically exempted and stated in the motion. No contract, motion or other action adopted, passed or agreed to in executive session shall become effective unless the executive organ or subcommittee or other committee thereof, following the executive session, reconvenes in open meeting and takes a vote on such contract, motion or other action which shall have its substance reasonably identified in the open meeting. The requirements of this section shall not require the disclosure of information in violation of law.”

The purpose for the Executive Session shall be only that which is permitted under § 55-79.75.C. It does not permit an Executive Session to discuss a complaint against the Management Agent or the Board, unless it is to “consult with legal counsel”.

This is a continuing issue and was presented at length during the 2008 Annual Meeting of the Association and by letter on April 22, 2008 to David S. Mercer (Agent, Southampton Condominium) in which I stated “there is no record in the minutes of an “affirmative vote in an open meeting to assemble in executive session” and/or motion stating “specifically the purpose for the executive session” pursuant to § 55-79.75.C.”

DESIRED ACTION

1 — Make available for inspection the records formally requested on March 7, 2014, i.e. the minutes of the most recent Committee meeting held prior to March 7, 2014 (for all six committees).

2 — Confine Executive Sessions to purposes specifically stated in the Condominium Act § 55-79.75.C; in the minutes, state specifically the purpose for the executive session; following the executive session, reconvene in open meeting and take a vote on such contract, motion or other action; reasonably identify its substance in the open meeting.

Drawing for assessment free month violates the Virginia Condominium Act

At the 2013 Annual Meeting, two names were drawn and the lucky homeowners were relieved of one month's assessment. We can't find any authorization for the drawing in the Minutes of Board Meetings. Moreover, relieving any homeowner of paying the monthly assessment violates the Virginia Condominium Act.  Specifically:

§ 55-79.83. Liability for common expenses: “shall be assessed against the condominium units in proportion to the number of votes in the unit owners' association appertaining to each such unit”

§ 55-79.71. Amendment of condominium instruments: “Except to the extent expressly permitted or expressly required by other provisions of this chapter, … no amendment to the condominium instruments shall change … (iii) the liability for common expenses”

We're reminded of another withdrawal from Association funds without Board authorization — to defend two Board members in a criminal case filed by the Arlington County Attorney.

On July 1, 2014 we learned that the lucky winners of the 2013 Annual Meeting lottery were Feketekuty in Unit 706A who received $349, and Crouch in Unit 708B who received $392.

Friday, June 20, 2014

Board votes not to void unlawful election

Last evening, the Board of Directors voted not to void the unlawful election held on October 10, 2013. At the 2013 election, absentee owners and those not attending were denied the opportunity to vote for the candidates of their choosing.

The situation arose because the notice for the 2013 annual meeting at which directors were to be elected was given concurrently (indeed in the same letter) with the call for candidates and the Proxy Form. Obviously, candidates cannot be listed on the Proxy Form if the call for candidates is not issued well before the Proxy Forms are printed.

The Board has recognized this failing in response to a homeowner complaint. The March 7, 2014 response states, "We will be mailing a call for candidates well in advance of this year's annual meeting." Indeed, this is how elections were conducted under better management.

In essence, the Board recognizes that the 2013 election was not properly conducted, but chooses to accept its results anyway.

The proper course of action is to declare the election void. Those "elected" on October 10, 2013 should be considered appointed to their current position on the Board until the next annual meeting.



Friday, May 23, 2014

Five directors absent at complaint resolution conference

Five members of the Board of Directors — Bernie Alter, Lynn Ferenc, Diane Talaber, Laura Larson, Desiree Lomer-Clarke — were absent from the complaint resolution conference scheduled for May 22, 6:30 PM at the Aurora Hills Library. Absent a quorum, the conference could not be held.

PS: The resolution conference is now scheduled for June 19.

Friday, May 9, 2014

Friday, April 25, 2014

Complaint resolution conference scheduled

In accordance with the Association's Internal Complaint policy a resolution conference is scheduled to be held on Thursday, May 22, 2014 at 6:30 pm at the Aurora Hills Recreation Center. It will address the homeowner complaint filed October 15, 2013. The conference is open to all members of the Association.

Complainant's response to Management Agent follows:

Regarding the Reviewing Entity, I would like to draw attention to Southampton Resolution 13-2, ARTICLE 1, Section 1.1(d).

Since my complaint is against actions taken by the Management Agent and the Board of Directors, according to the above referenced Resolution 13-2, the Board should appoint "other Association members to serve as members of the Reviewing Entity or serve as the Reviewing Entity Chair."

Furthermore, according to Southampton Resolution 13-2, ARTICLE 1, Section 1.2(a), meetings and Resolution Conferences must be called by the Reviewing Entity — not by the Management Agent.

Therefore, your scheduling the Resolution Conference is premature. Resolution Conference must be scheduled by the Reviewing Entity which has yet to be appointed.

Perhaps, the Board and I should each suggest three "other Association members to serve as members of the Reviewing Entity or serve as the Reviewing Entity Chair." From the six suggestions, three or five may be picked to serve as the Reviewing Entity.

Regardless of the composition of the Reviewing Entity, pursuant to Southampton Resolution 13-2, ARTICLE 1, Section 1.2(a), the Management Agent agent does not have the authority to schedule the Resolution Conference.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Cardinal Management has failed to keep proper minutes of executive sessions

The minutes of the February 20, 2014 Board meeting state neither the "purpose for the executive session" nor the "vote on such contract, motion or other action”.

The Condominium Act § 55-79.75.C states:
The executive organ or any subcommittee or other committee thereof may convene in executive session . . . Reference to the motion and the stated purpose for the executive session shall be included in the minutes. The executive organ shall restrict the consideration of matters during such portions of meetings to only those purposes specifically exempted and stated in the motion. No contract, motion or other action adopted, passed or agreed to in executive session shall become effective unless the executive organ or subcommittee or other committee thereof, following the executive session, reconvenes in open meeting and takes a vote on such contract, motion or other action which shall have its substance reasonably identified in the open meeting.
The purpose for the executive session must be only that which is permitted under § 55-79.75.C. It does not permit an executive session merely to discuss a complaint unless it is to “consult with legal counsel”.

This is a continuing issue. It was presented during the 2008 Annual Meeting of the Association and by letter on April 22, 2008 to the Association's attorney David S. Mercer.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Cardinal Management has failed to respond to a formal data request

On March 7, 2014, we requested a copy of the minutes of the most recent meeting (i.e. the last meeting held) of the following committees:
  1. Architectural Control Committee 
  2. Building and Grounds Committee
  3. Community Standards and Covenants Committee
  4. Swimming Pool Committee
  5. Financial Committee
  6. Newsletter Committee
The request was filed pursuant to Association's Resolution No. 13–1.

The Condominium Act § 55-79.74:1.B requires the Association to make these documents available for inspection "upon five days' written notice". Resolution No. 13–1 lists charges for copies.

The Condominium Act § 55-79.75.B imposes the same requirements for notice to members, meetings, and record keeping on Committees of the Association as it does on meetings of the Board.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Cardinal Management suggests class action suit against this blogger

According to the draft minutes of the February 20 Board meeting, Tom Markell, Cardinal Management, suggested that homeowners file a class action suit against this blogger. Mr. Markell would do better to tend to his own job.

Cardinal Management have failed to implement Virginia Condominium Act § 55-79.75:1. Distribution of information by members, and haven't kept proper minutes of meetings.

The February 20 Board meeting mentions a 30-minute Executive Session. The Virginia Condominium Act § 55-79.75.C requires (as we have pointed out repeatedly in this blog):
The executive organ or any subcommittee or other committee thereof may convene in executive session to consider personnel matters; consult with legal counsel; discuss and consider contracts, probable or pending litigation and matters involving violations of the condominium instruments or rules and regulations promulgated pursuant thereto for which a unit owner, his family members, tenants, guests or other invitees are responsible; or discuss and consider the personal liability of unit owners to the unit owners' association, upon the affirmative vote in an open meeting to assemble in executive session. The motion shall state specifically the purpose for the executive session. Reference to the motion and the stated purpose for the executive session shall be included in the minutes. The executive organ shall restrict the consideration of matters during such portions of meetings to only those purposes specifically exempted and stated in the motion. No contract, motion or other action adopted, passed or agreed to in executive session shall become effective unless the executive organ or subcommittee or other committee thereof, following the executive session, reconvenes in open meeting and takes a vote on such contract, motion or other action which shall have its substance reasonably identified in the open meeting. The requirements of this section shall not require the disclosure of information in violation of law.
The minutes of the February 20 Board meeting state neither the "purpose for the executive session" nor the "vote ... [in] open meeting". The purpose must be one stated in § 55-79.75.C. The substance of the vote must be reasonably identified.

Mr. Markell, if you see anything false on our website, do tell us. We will gladly remove it. A true statement is not libel. Libel is a published false statement that is damaging to a person's reputation. Absent libel there is no basis for a class action suit.



Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Virginia’s legislature is poised to pass a bill that would allow homeowners associations to charge fines

"Virginia’s legislature is poised to pass a bill that would allow homeowners associations to charge fines not laid out in their declarations. . . .

"On Monday, a Senate committee approved a bill that would allow such fines for violations of an association’s rules as long as the declaration does not explicitly ban them. Under another, such fines are limited to $10 each day of a violation for 90 days or a one-time $50 charge. The bill would require that “a reasonable opportunity” to correct the violation be given as well as a hearing before the association board."

Also see "The Virginia HOA Power Grab"

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Tips for election of condominium directors

The election held last October was at the least severely flawed if not unlawful.

Pursuant to the Condominium Act § 55-79.77.D, "votes appertaining to any unit may be cast pursuant to a proxy or proxies duly executed by or on behalf of the unit owner, or, in cases where the unit owner is more than one person, by or on behalf of all such persons."

At the 2013 Annual Meeting, homeowners were denied the opportunity to cast a vote for the candidate of their choice because the proxies issued did not specify any candidates for election. Indeed the proxies were issued concurrently with the call for candidates!

Here are a few tips for having a successful election from the law firm of Inman & Stickler. Here is the election process recommended by the Pavese Law Firm of Florida.

Under what circumstances must a condominium election be voided and redone?

In Florida, under the administrative rules [Chapter 61B-23, Fla. Admin. Code] there are three situations that in and of themselves would render an election null and void. They are:
1- Rule 61B-23.0021(4) …Failure to follow the procedures for giving the first notice of the date of the election shall require the association to conduct a new election, if the election has been conducted… 
2- Rule 61B-23.0021(7) …The failure of an association to mail, transmit or personally deliver a copy of a timely delivered information sheet of each eligible candidate to the eligible voters shall require the association to mail, transmit, or deliver an amended second notice, which shall explain the need for the amended notice and include the information within the time required by this rule… 
3- Rule 61B-23.0021(9) … The failure of the written ballot to indicate the name of each eligible person shall require the association to mail, transmit, or deliver an amended second notice, which shall explain the need for the amended notice and include a revised ballot with the names of all eligible persons within the time required by this rule…
If Virginia law is similar to Florida law, the Southampton election held last October must be voided.

Friday, January 24, 2014

Board continues to circumvent requirements of Virginia law

The Board continues to circumvent § 55-79.75.B which requires that "at least one copy of all agenda packets and materials furnished to members of the executive organ or subcommittee or other committee thereof for a meeting shall be made available for inspection by the membership of the unit owners' association at the same time such documents are furnished to the members of the executive organ." The Association website is woefully out-of-date. Minutes of meetings since August 2013 have not been posted to the website.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Is the Board circumventing the open meeting requirements of Virginia law?

A homeowner complaint which was scheduled to be discussed on November 14, 2013 was neither on the Agenda nor in the Management Report.

Does the Board intend to rule on this complaint in secret? Has it learned nothing from past complaints?

That is a willful violation of § 55-79.75.B:
The executive organ shall not use work sessions or other informal gatherings of the executive organ to circumvent the open meeting requirements of this section.
It is also a violation of § 55-79.75.C:
No contract, motion or other action adopted, passed or agreed to in executive session shall become effective unless the executive organ or subcommittee or other committee thereof, following the executive session, reconvenes in open meeting and takes a vote on such contract, motion or other action which shall have its substance reasonably identified in the open meeting.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Southampton condominium holds sham election

Southampton condominium held another sham election at the annual meeting on October 10.

Three candidates were elected to the Board of Directors by "acclamation" — a procedure not found in the condominium covenants.

One of the three elected did not submit the required Candidate Statement. The statement of a fourth candidate, submitted on time and in the proper format, was not presented to members to vote upon.

A catered dinner — paid for by one of the candidates elected, and publicized at the expense of the Association, was enjoyed by members.

The customary, end-of-year financial statements were not made available to members.

An "Internal Complaint" has been filed by the fourth candidate. The full text of the complaint follows:

1 — ANNUAL MEETING PACKAGE GROSSLY DEFICIENT

The October 10, 2013, annual meeting package mailed to unit owners on September 11, 2013 contained no financial information, no candidate statements, no issues to be voted upon. There was no way for an absentee owner to vote for the candidate of their choice.

Yes, the absentee owner could give a proxy to someone else, but they couldn't direct how the proxy should be voted since candidates for election to the Board of Directors were not listed on the proxy. I did not receive a reply to my email of October 1 expressing this concern.

Neither the annual meeting package nor the Association website contained financial information and minutes of meetings to allow one to cast an intelligent vote. The most recent financial information at the Association website was for 2011. The most recent minutes of meetings available were for August 2012.

2 — CANDIDATE STATEMENT WAS NOT MADE AVAILABLE TO UNIT OWNERS

The notice of annual meeting stated “a property owner desiring to be listed as a candidate on the election ballot” must submit a “one-sided  8 1/2 by 11” statement to Cardinal Management by October 7, 2013.

My candidate statement was delivered to Cardinal Management on October 2, 2013 — USPS Tracking Number 70131090000125656499.

My statement was not distributed at the annual meeting. My name was not on the election ballot, and it was not made available to unit owners who chose not to attend the meeting.

Who made the decision to exclude my candidate statement? There was no notice of a meeting to consider this issue. This is third time that I have been excluded from the full election process, and received no explanation for this unprecedented action. Why? Is it racism or bigotry?

3 — CONTINUING VIOLATION OF § 55-79.75.

§ 55-79.75. Meetings of unit owners’ associations and executive organ requires “at least one copy of all agenda packets and materials furnished to members of the executive organ or subcommittee or other committee thereof for a meeting shall be made available for inspection by the membership of the unit owners’ association at the same time such documents are furnished to the members of the executive organ”.

This information was not made available to unit owners “at the same time such documents are furnished to the members of the executive organ” for the annual meeting. It has not been made available to unit owners for meetings of the Board of Directors for at least the past two years despite notices to the Board.

4 — CONTINUING VIOLATION OF § 55-79.75:1.

§ 55-79.75:1. Distribution of information by members requires (1) “a reasonable, effective, and free method, appropriate to the size and nature of the condominium, for unit owners to communicate among themselves” and (2) “the executive organ shall not require prior approval of the dissemination or content of any material regarding any matter concerning the unit owners’ association.”

No procedure exists to implement this requirement of Virginia law.

5 — DRAWING FOR FREE MONTH OF ASSESSMENTS VIOLATES COVENANTS

The Southampton newsletter received today states "there will be two drawings for a free month of assessments" at the October 10 meeting of the Association.

Condominium Declaration, ARTICLE VII, states "the Unit Owners Association shall not . . . change the pro rata interest or obligation of any residential Condominium Unit as shown in EXHIBIT "E".

Condominium Bylaws, ARTICLE IX, state "Each member shall pay . . . a monthly sum . . . equal to one-twelfth (1/12) of the member's proportionate share".

Releasing any unit owner from paying their pro rata share effects the amount paid by all unit owners, i.e. changes other unit owners’ pro rata share.

And why only " two drawings"? Why not 5, or 10, or 50? Where does one draw the line?

6 — CATERED DINNER SERVED AT ELECTION

A catered dinner was served at the election venue. It was paid for by a member of the Board of Directors (whose term was expiring) who was running for election. Invitations to the dinner were included in the election package mailed to unit owners at the Association’s expense.

DESIRED ACTION

1 — The annual meeting held on October 10 be declared annulled, and a new meeting held within three months.

2 — All candidates statements should be made available to all unit owners at the same time that proxy statements are made available to them.

3 — Within three months, rules be implemented to comply with § 55-79.75. All “agenda packets and materials furnished to members of the executive organ or subcommittee or other committee thereof for a meeting shall be made available for inspection by the membership of the unit owners' association” on the Internet and on the condominium premises “at the same time such documents are furnished to the members of the executive organ.”

4 — Within three months, rules be implemented to comply with § 55-79.75:1. The rules should provide (1) “a reasonable, effective, and free method, appropriate to the size and nature of the condominium, for unit owners to communicate among themselves” and (2) “the executive organ shall not require prior approval of the dissemination or content of any material regarding any matter concerning the unit owners’ association.”

5 — The Association should cease and desist from exempting any homeowner for paying the their pro rata interest or obligation of any residential Condominium Unit as shown in EXHIBIT "E" of the Condominium Declaration.

6 — To assure a fair election all candidates should play by the same rules. Activity at the election venue that is not sponsored by the Association should be forbidden.

7 — Within thirty days, provide all records, documents, minutes, emails relating to the decision to exclude my candidate statement from the ballot, and for not making it available to all unit owners.

8 — Within thirty days, provide a copy of all candidate statements submitted for the October 10, 2013 annual meeting.

Under what circumstances must a condominium election be voided and redone?

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Catered dinner at annual meeting raises questions

Including a privately paid dinner at the election venue raises many questions. Such an event would not be tolerated at any county, state, or national election. What makes it appropriate for our election?

We understand that the catered dinner to be served at the election is to be provided by a private party. While the generosity of the donor is to be commended, it would have been more appropriate to fund a separate "Meet the Candidates" event like some condominiums do.

Who authorized the inclusion of this invitation in the official newsletter? What are the criteria for including such information at the Association's expense?

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Annual meeting package incomplete

The October 10, 2013, annual meeting package mailed on September 11, 2013 contains no financial information, no candidate statements, no issues to be voted upon. How is an absentee owner supposed to vote?

Yes, the absentee owner can give a proxy to someone else, but they can't direct how the proxy should be voted. They must have the option to do that if they so choose.

And how does the management assure that the proxy holder has been authorized by the homeowner to vote their proxy?  To avoid fraud, proxies are issued bearing a unique number and name(s) of the person to whom the proxy was issued.

The Association website is also missing financial information and minutes of meetings to allow one to cast an intelligent vote.

Friday, September 27, 2013

Free month of assessments violates covenants

The Southampton newsletter received today states "there will be two drawings for a free month of assessments" at the October 10 meeting of the Association.

Condominium Declaration, ARTICLE VII, states "the Unit Owners Association shall not . . . change the pro rata interest or obligation of any residential Condominium Unit as shown in EXHIBIT "E".

Condominium Bylaws, ARTICLE IX, state "Each member shall pay . . . a monthly sum . . . equal to one-twelfth (1/12) of the member's proportionate share".

Releasing any unit owner from paying the pro rata share effects the amount paid by all unit owners, i.e. changes their pro rata share.

And why only " two drawings"? Why not 5, or 10, or 50? Where does one draw the line? Whatever the Board wishes to do must be consistent with the condominium covenants. The "two drawings for a free month of assessments" are not.

Furthermore, according to § 55-79.71.E, "Except to the extent expressly permitted or expressly required by other provisions of this chapter, or agreed to by 100 percent of the unit owners, no amendment to the condominium instruments shall change . . . (iii) the liability for common expenses".

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Southampton Board reviews policy on fines, finds it unlawful and issues refund

"The Board concluded that the late fee would be removed from your account and the collections practices would be reviewed and revised in order to ensure compliance with state statutes and recent court rulings." — Tom Markell, Senior Property Manager, July 30, 2013

The "late fee" violated ARTICLE IX, Section 5 of the Bylaws. Apparently the Board was unaware of this.

In late August, the Board issued a refund check, but they continue to show the unlawful late fee on the condo fee payment coupons.

If the Board believes the late fee is needed, they should change the Bylaws — lawfully, this time. They should return the fines unlawfully assessed against a homeowner for his red door.

Monday, July 15, 2013

County approves 22-story building, Whole Foods for Pentagon City

At its meeting on Saturday, the Arlington County Board gave the go-ahead for the construction of a 22-story apartment building in Pentagon City that will also house a Whole Foods.

Friday, July 12, 2013

A year on, trash container remains in public view

One year on, the trash can is still here. It's been moved from the back of the unit to the front.

Bylaws, Article X, Use Restrictions, Section 4 (h) is clear, "Trash and garbage containers shall not be permitted to remain in public view."

There was a time, under earlier Board of Directors, when the trash container would have been removed long ago — and it did not require fines.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Board stops enforcing the Bylaws?

We hear from those that attend Board meetings that the Board has stopped enforcing the Bylaws because they now realize they have no authority to fine homeowners. This is inexcusable — it amounts to a unilateral surrender of their fiduciary duty.

Past Boards found lawful ways to enforce the Bylaws without resorting to fines.

For example, if the outside mailbox is in violation of the Bylaws, the Board can give notice of violation to the homeowner and state the consequences.

In this instance, the consequence could be having a contractor remove the mailbox, leave it at the owners entrance, repair the wall if needed, and the Association would bill the homeowner. Bills not paid would eventually become a lien on the property or turned over to collectors.

The Board has been pretty creative when it comes to roof colors (we understand that homeowners weren't clamoring for a change, and the paint job cost double what it cost in the past*). Surely, it can come up with creative ways to enforce the Bylaws — past Boards did it.

*If this is incorrect, send us documentation with the correct figures.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Outside mailbox approved by Board?

Bylaws ARTICLE XI, Section 1 prohibits changes to the exterior of units unless "approved in writing as to harmony of external design, color and location".

Was it "approved in writing" by the Board?

Were homeowners advised this issue was on the agenda? Were homeowners provided the minutes of meetings? No.


Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Unlawful fines still being imposed on homeowners


The Board of Directors has yet to rescind its policy of imposing unlawful fees or fines on homeowners.

In a previous post, we reported on a "late fee" of $50 being imposed on a homeowner. The homeowner wasn't informed that a monthly payment had not been received, and the first notice to the homeowner was a collection letter from Cardinal Management.

Fees or fines, unless defined in the condominium covenants, may not be imposed.

Under ARTICLE IX, Section 5 of the Bylaws, any monthly installment "which is not paid within ten (10) days after it is due, shall bear interest at a rate not to exceed nine percent (9%) per annum".

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Why do we need this blog?

Why do we need this independent, homeowner-moderated blog? See what we wrote on February 5, 2010 — repeated below.

ONE, for several years, despite being asked to do so, the Board has failed to comply with Code of Virginia, § 55-79.75:1 Distribution of information by members. Specifically:

A. The executive organ shall establish a reasonable, effective, and free method, appropriate to the size and nature of the condominium, for unit owners to communicate among themselves and with the executive organ regarding any matter concerning the unit owners' association.

B. Except as otherwise provided in the condominium instruments, the executive organ shall not require prior approval of the dissemination or content of any material regarding any matter concerning the unit owners' association.

TWO, cover up of a check drawn from Southampton funds given to Handley (Treasurer) while she and Thompson (President) were awaiting trial on a charge of grand larceny. [The defendants were found "not guilty" — the prosecuting attorney, who was changed about an hour before trial, was not fully prepared.]

THREE, on two occasions (2001, 2008) this moderator's statement was not included among the candidate statements in the election package sent to homeowners. To my knowledge, no other candidate's statement has ever been excluded from the election package. No legal justification was provided.

FOUR, repeated and continuing failure of the Board to comply with the Code of Virginia § 55-79.75 Meetings of unit owners' associations and executive organ — Sections B and C.

These violations continue and yet another has been added to the list: unlawful fines.

We've been asked to attend Board meetings if we have a complaint. We choose not to until the Board corrects these ongoing violations.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Secretive Board of Directors

The Southampton Board of Directors has set a precedent. They don't want their contact information displayed here.

We've displayed this information for years. There's never been a problem with this in the past. Some Board members say it's a security issue.

If this is a security issue — which we don't accept, millions of Americans are at risk.

Friday, March 8, 2013

US housing: is the recovery real?

There are currently 9.8 million vacant housing units in the US, but only 1.74 million of those homes are listed for sale on the MLS. The banks are holding most of their distressed properties off the market to keep prices high, and the banks are controlling the number of underwater homeowners who are allowed to sell via short sales.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Board may not impose fees or fines not specifically included in covenants

Fairfax County’s Olde Belhaven case set a Virginia precedent that HOAs cannot claim powers, such as imposing fees or fines, that are not specifically included in their covenants.

"It's a game-changer" for perhaps 10,000 condo and homeowner associations across Virginia, according to Pia Trigiani, attorney for Southampton Condominium.

Southampton covenants do not specifically permit the Board to impose fees or fines in addition to the monthly assessment.

Furthermore, even if a fee or fine were specifically included in the covenants, it must be imposed after the homeowner has had an opportunity to present his case.

In at least one instance, the Board issued a collection notice for an unpaid assessment (almost 4 months after it became due), plus a $50 "late fee", without any prior notice to the homeowner that an assessment had not been received.

Another homeowner was fined several hundred dollars for having a non-standard door, and was threatened with continuing fines. He finally installed a standard door before selling his condominium.

§ 55-79.84 of the Virginia Condominium Act does permit a "lien on every condominium unit for unpaid assessments levied against that condominium unit".

Sunday, February 10, 2013

May the Board fine homeowners for covenant violations?

The feud that consumed Fairfax County’s Olde Belhaven would span four years and cost the community as much as $400,000. The case set a Virginia precedent that HOAs cannot claim powers, such as fining, that are not specifically laid out in their covenants.

The Shadowood Condominium Association in Reston imposed fees for things like having the wrong color blinds.  A Fairfax County judge ruled that Shadowood can’t make up rules and impose fees if they are not in the development’s original master deed.

“It’s a game-changer” for perhaps 10,000 condo and homeowner associations across Virginia, according to Pia Trigiani, an Alexandria lawyer with extensive expertise in community association law, and recent president of the Virginia Bar Association.

The Board appears to have wrongly fined the owner of this red door.

Thursday, January 31, 2013

Southampton employs new management company

Cardinal Management Group is our new management company located at 4330 Prince William Pkwy, Suite 201, Woodbridge VA 22192.

Tom Markell, Community Manager, is available at (703) 565-5009. Nicole Tavano, his assistant, is available at (703) 565-5007. David York, Accounting, is available at (703) 565-5301.

The condominium website is http://southamptoncondominium.com/

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Decal required in "RESERVED" space only

The January 9, 2013 letter from the Community Manager regarding new parking stickers states, "If you fail to meet this deadline your vehicle may be towed." The deadline is January 31, 2013.

We sought clarification from Nicole Tavano, administrative assistant, and received confirmation that stickers are required only for "RESERVED" spaces — as they have been since the parking plan was first established.

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Retroactive collection of 'unassessed condominium fees'

Letter to Management company

Mr. Markell:

I have carefully reviewed your letter of December 20, 2012 and the enclosed tables. I note that the budget calls for the cited 3.43% increase in condominium fees over last year. I also note that the letter states that "the increase will go into effect beginning in February and last through October." The statement is incorrect and, thus, misleading to the Owners.

Based on the Assessment Breakout Schedule, the 3.43% increase will be collected over the last 8 months of FY13 (Feb. to Sept.) but the actual increase went into effect beginning October 2012. In truth, the HOA is making retroactive collections over the final 8 months of the FY. (Does the HOA have the authority or power to charge and collect fees retroactively?)

For example, if a 3.43% increase became effective on February 1, Type a unit owners would pay $352 per month, not $355. The extra fee is to retroactively collect the increase from October 2012 to January 2013.

I realize that this may be a small dollar point in the scheme of things, but accounting accuracy is required when fiduciaries are handling other people's $1,030,292.
On behalf of my fellow owners, I would appreciate a prompt correction to the letter of December 20, 2012, as to the commencement date of the increase. Further, I would appreciate the Board looking into whether or not it may retroactively collect previously unassessed condominium fees.

Thank you.
Steven Levine

Owner: 1729B South Hayes St.

2631 S. Grant Street
Arlington, VA 22202

Friday, September 21, 2012

A more cost-effective and equitable parking plan

We can cut costs and have a parking plan that's more fair and easier to enforce.

Issue each unit one parking permit, for the RESERVED spaces only, to hang from their rear-view mirror. It would have the unit number on both sides in bold letters about an inch tall.

I was at an apartment complex in Herndon today that does this. They use a plastic permit about the size of a cell phone.

Currently each of the 220 units have an assigned space, and are allotted two stickers each to park in the 68 unassigned (RESERVED) spaces — no sticker is required for owners (and whoever they permit) to park in their assigned space.

The problem is that this plan can have 440 cars competing for 68 RESERVED spaces. It’s also costly to administer.

Issue one movable permit, bearing the owner’s unit number, to each owner. The owner, or his guests, may then use this permit to park in any RESERVED space.

This proposal would not change the use of assigned spaces, but there would then be 220 cars (instead of 440 cars) competing for the 68 RESERVED spaces.

It would reduce administration costs because each owner gets one permit with their unit number (no need for street names since unit numbers do not duplicate).

The management agent would not have to track who has what permit. Parking enforcers would need only to see if cars in RESERVED spaces have the movable permit. Unit owners would not have the hassle of sending registration information to the management agent.

If an owner loses the pass, do what Arlington County does, issue a new permit at the beginning of the next year.

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Color, satellite photo of neighborhood

To view a color, satellite photo of the neighborhood, plug in the address at http://neighbors.whitepages.com/

Thursday, June 21, 2012

No response to window replacement request


On March 6, 2012 we submitted the required information to Steve Peacock (CMS) seeking approval to replace windows. We stated, that time is of the essence so that we don't lose the 40% discount we've been offered. 

Since we have not received any decision within the required 90 days, "approval will not be required and this ARTICLE will be deemed to have been fully complied with." — Bylaws, Article XI

Timeline
December 24, 2011 — Letter from Sentry Management listing Steve Peacock, Community Manager
March 6, 2012 — Request (with plans and specifications) to Steve Peacock re. Replacement of windows and sliding glass door
March 6, 2012 — Corrected request  (with plans and specifications) to Steve Peacock re. Replacement of windows and sliding glass door
April 30, 2012 — Letter from Sentry Management listing Peter Ordonez, Community Manager
June 6, 2012 — 90 day period for decision by the Board of Directors expires

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Is anyone enforcing the bylaws?

Apparently not. A neighbor has been complaining for weeks, but bylaw violations continue. — see Bylaws, Article X, Use Restrictions, Section 4 (h)

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Saturday, March 17, 2012

CLEAR Internet: excellent to painfully slow

Back in June 2010 we reported on CLEAR's Internet service. For the most part it was excellent, and reasonably priced. It's still reasonably priced, but it now ranges from excellent to painfully slow.


With download speeds often below one MB/sec, it's impossible to watch Netflix like CLEAR's banners proclaimed in June 2010.

Posted to YELP

UPDATE April 25, 2012 — For the past month, download speeds have been consistently excellent, i.e. between 9 and 10 MB/sec.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Architectural control

According to Benny L Kass, attorney and columnist for the Washington Post, the following will be valid defenses by a unit owner when the board tries to seek enforcement of the architectural standards:

· Arbitrary and capricious actions have been taken. The architectural standards must be applied fairly and consistently, across the board and in good faith. They cannot be selectively enforced. It is improper for a board or its architectural review committee to pick and choose the enforcement of the covenants.

· Delays, or "laches," have occurred. This means that the board has permitted a lengthy time to elapse before taking action against a unit owner. For example, one court has ruled that a board's six-month delay in filing suit against an unauthorized fence barred the board from enforcing the covenants. If a unit owner is in violation of the architectural standards, or at least the board believes there is a violation, the board must begin prompt action to assure compliance.

· A waiver has been granted to another owner. Basically, if the board fails to enforce a covenant in the case of one homeowner, it may be prohibited from enforcing the same standards against another homeowner in a similar situation.

According to the Condominium Act, § 55-79.80:2, the "unit owners' association shall have the power, to . . . assess charges against any unit owner for any violation of the condominium instruments or of the rules or regulations promulgated pursuant thereto . . . [C]harges so assessed shall not exceed $50 for a single offense, or $10 per diem for any offense of a continuing nature, and shall be treated as an assessment against such unit owner's condominium unit for the purpose of § 55-79.84. However, the total charges for any offense of a continuing nature shall not be assessed for a period exceeding 90 days."

"Before any such suspension or charges may be imposed, the unit owner shall be given an opportunity to be heard and to be represented by counsel before the executive organ or such other tribunal as the condominium instruments or rules duly adopted pursuant thereto specify."

Friday, February 17, 2012

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Roof colors: good, bad, ugly




Does having different color schemes comply with the Condominium Declaration? Declaration Article XI.B, requires "a uniform plan for the development and operation of the Condominium."

At the very least, the Board could have polled Association members as to whether or not they would like a uniform color scheme throughout Southampton.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Is this any way to run an election?

We received a letter from the management agent informing us of the October 13 Annual Meeting, and a proxy form for electing homeowners to serve on the Board of Directors. Just one problem: How does one complete a proxy form when there's no information on the number of vacancies on the Board, and a listing of candidates?

Monday, June 13, 2011

Doesn't the red door look better?

This door has been in place for several years, so the Board may have lost the legal right to do anything about it.

The condominium documents require uniform rules for the operation of the condominium.

Presumably, what one owner is permitted to do, others may not be prohibited from doing — this door sets a precedent for the red door.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Nice door. Can we have one like it?

The Declaration, Article XI.B, requires "a uniform plan for the development and operation of the Condominium." Does this mean that the rules, decision, etc. with respect to the other door, apply to this door?

More on architectural control.

If you wish to comment, note rule at top of page: "Comments must include a name, email address, and unit number."

Monday, April 11, 2011