Are you stuck in a neighborhood with an HOA board that has gone rogue by not following its own rules or not taking care with your HOA fees? Know someone in an area where nobody knows who is supposed to maintain the roads? You might be living in a “zombie HOA.” Here in West Virginia, we have great neighbors, but we don’t have an effective way to protect our neighborhoods from rogue and zombie HOAs.
We are on our own with no clear law that allows our legal system to address serious HOA problems. Until a law is passed that brings government oversight over HOAs, like any other business, nonprofit, or governmental organization, the problems will only get worse. We’ve been told by lawyers that you can try and fix things by suing your HOA — but that means shelling out thousands for a lawyer, if you can even find one, and perhaps get satisfaction. But here in West Virginia, homeowners need better legal tools to keep HOAs following the rules and protecting our home values.
At Homeowners Voice, we have been getting complaints from homeowners across the state, and we have found there is little protection from outrageous situations. And home property values are likely being dragged down too, according to our discussions with real estate agents. What real estate agent wants to sell a house in a neighborhood with a rogue or zombie HOA? In the past year, our state legislature has introduced legislation to begin to address the mess, including by our State Senator Patricia Rucker. HOAs are mock municipalities, often in charge of our roads, water management, and other infrastructure in our neighborhoods but with little oversight or capacity to handle these vital services for us. Of course, many HOAs have great leadership and follow the rules and we applaud them.
It’s difficult to solve a problem without knowing how bad the situation is. So at Homeowners Voice, we are reaching out to you, the homeowners, to ask you to let us know about your own HOA. We have an online survey if you are concerned about your own HOA. We may follow up with you or your neighbors, but will not release people’s names without their permission. The results will be made public and given to state elected officials. And as we craft legislation working closely with state agencies, county governments and with you, the homeowner, we will keep you informed of the progress.
Daniel Bennett is the Executive Director of Homeowners Voice, a 501(c)4 nonprofit organization. His career has focused on the intersection of technology, government and civic engagement. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or 304-207-0710. For more information about Homeowners Voice and it’s “Stuck with Slow Internet” resources to assist homeowners visit HomeownersVoice.com.By Daniel Bennett