To be fair, this is more specifically about the companies that are paid to manage HOA affairs by larger associations, like the one we are part of at Bayport in Alameda.
Sadly, I have yet to experience any of these firms that actually care enough to use some common sense, or even to act in a way that is in the best interest of the members that they work for. That said, I doubt any of them see themselves as working for the home owners. I sometimes suspect they don't even see themselves as working for the board of directors of the HOA (who represent the members).
Or perhaps their own performance is measured in some way based on the number of these notices they send out. As if that was some indication that they were doing their job.
Bayport switched a few years back to a company that was promised to be better than the one the builder had selected to be the initial management company, though that was not setting the bar very high. The company we now have is Massingham – an Associa company. Where they win over the previous one is that they can handle the monthly billing without messing it up (at least, they have so far). They also have a presence on Twitter, via their parent company, and seem to be responsive there. That's where the advantages end it seems.
When it comes to the violation notices they are just as petty as any other company I've seen with the issues they raise. Worse still, they are incredibly vague and non-committal about it too.
The letter introduces the list of violations with this sentence (underlined as shown):
The most recent site inspection report noted that the item(s) listed below for your home might not be in compliance:
So, they are not sure about it; it is just that they might be a problem. The item list though is not a list of items at all. Instead it is a single demand, in bold typeface:
Please move the BBQ by the front entrance.
Now, the BBQ in question is something we use as a planter, and stands about a foot high and probably 18″ in diameter. It is also tucked into a corner and near impossible to see from anywhere but our front porch.
That demand is also not very precise. I could move it on to the lawn, for example, and have complied with their demand. Obviously, I am not going to do that, at least not until I have filled it with colorful flowers. Or perhaps I should read it as saying I need to move my BBQ to be 'by the front entrance' instead of hidden away in the corner. Again, probably not until it has flowers in it.
The last time they sent one of these vague notices I asked why they had not included photos showing the issue. Surely somebody in the inspection team has a camera on their phone; would it be that hard to take a picture?
To make up for their lack of photos, I took three of my own this morning showing the front entrance to our house from both corners on the public walkway, and also straight on. The BBQ/planter in question is on the left side of the porch area, behind the half wall feature our house has, so really the only place you could ever hope to see it from would be the right side of the house, facing it. Here is that angle, from the sidewalk taken Thursday morning:
Can you see it? It is between the chair and the front half wall, right in the front corner. And it is invisible from the pathway. You need to walk up the path towards our front door and peer round the wall, or you need to walk to the back corner of the lawn area before you have the right viewing angle to see the BBQ at all.
It is also in the same place it has been since we moved in, 6 years ago. Now, Massingham has not had the contract that long, but I have communications from them dating from January 2011, so they have been doing this for over 2 years now. How many times have they walked down our street and not noticed it, or seen it and not felt that it might be not in compliance? Do they do these inspections less frequently than once a year? Or are they just terribly inconsistent?
I asked a Massingham VP those questions today and discovered that the inspections happen monthly, and that our BBQ has been on their list since October. What happened then to have the inspector notice it even though it had not been seen before he couldn't say. And why it took several months to send a letter he couldn't say for certain either; most likely a matter of priorities.
I also asked him how he felt the board or even the site manager could make an informed decision about whether having our BBQ planter in the porch was an issue when the report doesn't describe the BBQ at all. Nor do they take photographs of violations. For all they know it could be a full size gas grill sitting in the porch. He agreed, but felt with the large number of “violations” they report each month (he said around 100) it would become difficult to keep track of. Strikes me they need to get an app for their smartphones and file electronic reports as they walk around.
Something being difficult to do doesn't give you a free pass to ignore it, especially not when you are accusing somebody of breaking a rule. Not capturing a photo to support the claimed violation in my mind just means they have no case at all. If I was on the board, I would be asking for more information.
The analogy I used to explain this to him was how would he feel if he received a letter from the local police department saying he might have run a red light, and must pay a fine. But they have no evidence at all to support the claim.