Tulsa Metro Area, Oklahoma, October 2020 — When COVID-19 first hit, the HOA industry as a whole, like many other businesses, was thrust into confusion and uncertainty. Many people are unaware that most homeowner associations are Oklahoma Not-For-Profit Corporations and thus have all the same rights and are subject to all the same limitations as other corporations. In fact, HOAs have three primary roles: they are a corporation, they are a community, and they are a government all wrapped in one package. When the PMI Green Country office saw that HOAs would be eligible for Economic Injury Disaster Loans, we sprang into action and applied for these advances for all the communities we manage. As a result, we were able to secure thousands of dollars in forgivable loans for our clients. These funds are currently being used in scholarship programs for owners within the PMI HOA portfolio who have lost their jobs during this pandemic. I, Hank Henningsen, leader of our HOA Management Division, have been in HOA management for over 22 years, and have written a lot of letters to homeowners within HOA communities. These letters generally state that someone has violated a rule or that they owe the HOA money. The most fun I’ve ever had writing a letter in this industry was when I informed one of our homeowners, who had lost her husband during the pandemic, that her HOA dues were covered for the year and that she didn’t need to worry about paying the bill.
Along with expectations that our clients may have a hard time economically this year, COVID-19 has brought up many questions for HOA communities. How do we hold an annual meeting or an election if our meeting venues have shut their doors? Where can these communities meet when libraries, school cafeterias, and even churches have closed their facilities? Should the pools be allowed to open? This past summer, the answer to that was simply, “It depends on who you ask.” Does the HOA have to write new rules for their clubhouse and community pools to ensure social distancing? It depends on who you ask. Who will enforce this, and does the HOA have a responsibility to enforce social distancing? It depends on who you ask. With all the “rules” changing on an almost daily basis, and with a comparatively weak overlying legislative blanket governing this industry in Oklahoma, we are calling on Oklahoma legislators for help. When it comes to statewide legislation for HOAs, Oklahoma is a good 40 years behind the rest of the country.
I am currently the only HOA manager holding both the CMCA® and AMS® credentials
working in the state of Oklahoma. PMI Green Country is the only management company with a
credentialed staff in Oklahoma. I believe this is partially because the national homeowner
association management credentialing agency, Community Association’s Institute (CAI), does
not have an active chapter in Oklahoma. This in itself is a problem because there are no
regulations for minimum experience or education required for managers of these communities.
Many are self-managed by volunteers who have no training or knowledge of best practices in the
HOA management industry. Many HOAs are being operated based on “the way it’s always been
done” rather than according to the documents and laws that are in place to provide operating
parameters. PMI Green Country is prepared to do its part to bring this industry to a level of
professionalism that is equal to or better than that seen in other states around the country. We
can do this, and we need your help.
When people purchase a home within an HOA, most have an expectation that if their
neighbor leaves their trash can out for weeks at a time, parks a nonworking vehicle on blocks in
their front yard, or fails to fix their falling-down fence, the HOA has the tools necessary to
compel compliance. If an owner doesn’t pay their HOA dues, it is expected that the association
has the right to file a lien, collect attorney’s fees, and add late fees and penalties. Currently, there
are no state laws that give an HOA board of directors the authority to impose fines for violations,
add late fees to delinquent assessments, or even file a lien on a delinquent property. If these
authorities are not written within the association’s Deed of Dedication or Declaration, there is
nothing at the state level that will help. There’s nothing at the state level that will allow a board
to institute new rules governing the condition of the homes within the communities or of the
common areas. There’s nothing that allows the board to vote remotely or via email or even hold a
Zoom meeting. There are no processes within the court systems that will allow a judge to make a
determination of proposed amendments to the association’s documents if the inherent
amendment processes are unattainable. If these types of things are not written into the original
covenants of the association, it is very difficult and very expensive to have them added later.
Many people living in an HOA in Oklahoma still have to deal with unsightly neighborhoods because a huge majority of HOAs have only two ways to enforce something: they can suspend their vote at the next HOA election, or they can hire an attorney to sue the owner for injunctive relief. Most HOAs cannot afford to sue a homeowner if they refuse to follow a simple rule. Most HOA boards don’t want to sue; they want to be able to impose an effective fine structure. Unfortunately, most of the original documents that form HOAs in Oklahoma do not afford that authority to their boards. Overall, in the two years I’ve worked in Oklahoma, I’ve found that HOAs do not have the tools to meet the expectations of those who would join and enjoy living in these types of communities.
PMI Green Country has gathered volunteer representatives from communities all across
the Tulsa area to form a collaborative task force that will offer input to any state legislators who
wish to develop state laws like those that have proven helpful in other states such as Colorado,
Arizona, and Texas. Oklahoma is in a great position to take the best ideas and the best laws from
other states and set this industry on a course to better equip, educate, and enforce. The
involvement of land developers and home builders is also needed in these discussions. This is a
call to action. Oklahoma has a lot of catching up to do, but we are poised and in a great position
to help create and define what HOAs can be in Oklahoma. Let’s get together on this and show the
rest of the country that Oklahoma is ready, willing, and able to take HOAs, condominiums, and
all common-interest communities to the next level!
PMI Green Country, Inc., a property management company specializing in residential, HOA,
and condominium management, was voted “Best Property Management Company in Broken
Arrow” three years running.
If you would like more information about this topic, please call Hank Henningsen at 918–940– 8811, ext. 103, or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.