HOMEOWNERs associations or HOAs. Love ‘em, hate ‘em.
My family’s experience with HOAs since we moved to Nuvali has mostly been a series of unfortunate headaches. That’s mainly because I hate the idea that anybody – strangers, actually – can control or dictate how I and my family are supposed to live and behave. My main beef against HOAs is that they seem to entitle the officers to do exactly that.
No pets allowed! No playing in the grass! No deliveries on weekends! No this, no that. It’s maddening and it’s like living in a secluded compound ran by a religious cult.
But the moment you buy or rent a house in a managed (or, to use a more accurate but slightly pejorative word, gated) village or community, you become subject to the rules and regulations (and often whims and caprices) of your HOA. You don’t like it? Then don’t live in such a community, simple as that.
Thing though is, it doesn’t have to be that way.
I’m sure you’ve heard of the nasty in-fighting in certain villages in Nuvali, particularly in Avida Settings, the pioneer Avida project in Laguna. The merits of the issues in that community aside, that is a classic example of how NOT to run a HOA. (The recently restored HOA promises to deliver change. Let’s pray that happens and we wish them all the luck.)
Residents shouldn’t be fighting, but they do. And often, that’s because they just don’t have respect for each other. It starts with seemingly innocuous incidents. In my case, the first confrontation I had with a HOA officer was when this person accosted my daughter and shooed her off the grass near the HOA clubhouse where my little girl was walking her dog. Now, I’m sure the HOA officer thought she was in the right but the fact that she made my daughter cry – there’s no excuse for that, in my view.
Then there are the bigger problems, like control of millions and millions of HOA money. We always thought that HOAs are small operations driven by resident volunteers who have nothing but community spirit driving that volunteerism. You would be wrong. These HOAs have millions of pesos of HOA dues and construction bonds, to name just two sources of funds, in their bank accounts and most HOAs, I believe, manage them properly. But some don’t and many of these infighting are because of those funds.
But, again, it doesn’t have to be that way.
The best deterrent to malfeasance by HOA officials and mismanagement is the genuine and consistent involvement of the HOA members themselves. And they don’t have to run for a seat on the HOA board to get involved, although that helps if only for check-and-balance purposes.
In fact, it doesn’t make sense for homeowners – who bought these properties with their hard-earned money, who entrust in these HOAs the security and comfort of their family – not to get involved. Leaving HOA boards to their own devices might sound ideal (most of us have day jobs, after all) but they need to be checked as well because, to twist the meaning of the idiom, they tend to break the device when they’re left alone with it – like, you know, children.
As the experience of many HOAs has shown, these boards need oversight. And it has to come from the members themselves because you don’t really want the government to get involved in disputes and problems within your community.
How do you get involved? Attend meetings, even if you just sit there listening to an expat’s unintelligible grumblings. Vote. Volunteer. Take action. Let your board and fellow members know that you’re around. Criticize board actions that are not right. (How? Depends on how your parents brought you up.) Amplify your thoughts to them. Use social media if you have to (but be careful about spreading gossip in Viber groups; those channels are helpful but they can be quite toxic if you’re not circumspect). If the board seems to be misbehaving, point that out and, if it ignores you, organize your neighbors and friends.
You have the right and duty to do these things as a homeowner.
So yes, love ‘em or hate ‘em but you can’t live (in your wonderful, blissful, peaceful managed community) without ‘em. (Andres Enojado/Lifestyle Laguna)
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