If you live in a condo complex, the board is one of the most important organizations you’ll work with. And if the members don’t pull their weight and properly run your building, that lack of effort will be felt by all residents. That’s why it’s important to choose a building that has a decent one. Here’s what you can do if you don’t. Excessive fines. Unjustified foreclosures. Poor building maintenance and management.
The ways a condo board can tamper with the livelihood of a building’s residents are both many and varied. It’s why it’s so critically important that you do your homework before you purchase a condominium. Because otherwise, you’re putting money towards an investment that could, in the worst-case scenario, leave you homeless or destitute.
A building that has a good HOA board attached to it now might not have one in the future. Leadership positions change as people sell their properties and grow tired of dealing with board politics. A good board can quickly shift over to a bad one - one that doesn’t follow the same standards as its predecessors.
This seems to be what happened in Houston’s Sugar Branch Condominium Complex, which is currently at the center of an ongoing lawsuit. According to the Houston Chronicle in August, the Sugar Branch Condominium Association is allegedly committing fraud, conspiring to drive homeowners into foreclosure through excessive and arbitrary fees that they may buy the units themselves at a bargain. It’s an extreme case, but one that drives home a somewhat unpleasant reality around HOAs in the state of Texas.
Simply put, there isn’t enough of an enforceable framework in place to protect homeowners, condo owners especially. The Texas Uniform Condominium Act does set far-reaching guidelines for what condo boards can and cannot do. Unfortunately, it has no state enforcement power.
In other words, unless the condo board is directly breaking the law in some way beyond TUCA, it falls on individual owners to hold their board accountable. If that sounds unreasonable to you, that’s because it is. Texas to date is one of the only states without a regulatory agency to hold HOA’s to a certain standard. That means you have two options if your board isn’t doing its job.
Try to get onto the board yourself or vote out the board members who are causing problems. Sue the board.
Neither option is particularly attractive. The good news is that if you’re frustrated with the actions of your condo board, then you probably aren’t alone. There are likely others in your building who feel the same. Talk to them. Host meetings to discuss what you can do about the state of your building. Pool your resources and work together to get your board back up to standard. Because at the end of the day, you’re all part of the same neighborhood. And neighbors should stick together.