Moretz Law Group - Community Associations and Business Lawyers

Thursday, February 22, 2018

NC Community Association Mediation Program (CAMP) Now Available

For homeowner in North Carolina homeowners associations, access to a mediation process, for their HOA-related grievances, recently became much more accessible.

In 2013, the North Carolina legislature passed a law encouraging homeowners associations and aggrieved members to agree to voluntary, non-binding mediation to resolve HOA-related disputes (see our 2013 blog discussing the law here).  The law has mostly gathered proverbial dust, and we have not actually seen any owners or HOAs avail themselves of it.

Recently, the North Carolina Chapter of the Community Associations Institute, a group which gathers no dust and is deeply involved with educating homeowners and property managers throughout the state, began offering mediation services through its new CAMP program (CAMP stands for Community Association Mediation Program).  In full disclosure, we as a firm are members of CAI-NC, and we strongly believe in its mission, education and advocacy. We are excited that this new program may provide a cost-effective means for working out HOA disputes without the necessity of court proceedings.

CAMP Program Details
The program offers to locate an experienced mediator with significant HOA experience, who is either a professional community manager or an attorney, to preside over an owner-versus-HOA dispute. 

The cost for this process is $500.00, which is evenly split between both sides. The fee ensures a minimum, 2-hour mediation, although the parties may engage the mediator for longer time periods, paid by the hour.  

Neither party is required to hire an attorney for representation during the mediation, although the parties may be represented by counsel if they wish. 

How Parties Enter the CAMP Program
Since mediation is voluntary, both parties must agree to mediation by filling out an online application on the CAMP webpage. Each party must pay its half of the mediation fee at this time.  

Upon submitting the required forms and paperwork, a mediator will contact the parties within thirty days. The mediator is permitted to speak with the parties before the mediation commences, and to hold separate meetings or discussions with the parties prior to or during the mediation. 

The mediator may also request the parties to provide a written statement summarizing the dispute and to request the parties to submit all documents supporting their claims and the dispute.

All information received by the mediator will remain confidential.  The mediator’s role is that of a settlement facilitator; the mediator does not render a decision about which side has the better argument or would win the case if a lawsuit were filed, but assists the parties in reaching a mutual settlement.

It remains to be seen whether the CAMP program will breathe new life into the statutory mediation program, although hopefully it will result in more disputing parties finding “common elements” to resolve their disputes. If you have any questions as to how your association could use the CAMP program, or any other HOA-related questions, please contact us.

Monday, February 12, 2018

8 Homeowners Association Collection Laws

It's HOA collection season, so our HOA Ninjas want to remind you of the 8 laws of HOA collections to help your homeowners association help its members pay their assessments on time. 

Following these laws will collect more dues more quickly, and keep your HOA in compliance, so you'll have the best chance to win any potential court cases that may arise.

HOA Collection Laws

  1. Collect early and often
    • Don’t delay collections in your HOA. You don’t do the HOA or the homeowner any favors if their balance mushrooms to an amount they can’t pay all at once – then payment plan costs, interest, late fees and attorneys’ fees can start to stack up, and they all hurt your association’s cash flow.
  2. Follow your policies
    • Have a written collections policy and follow it with each and every homeowner. Not only does this allow your board members to avoid pleas from their neighbors to cut them a break, but it also insulates your HOA from accusations of discrimination, which can arise when everyone isn’t treated the same.
  3. Prioritize collections
    • Someone on your board needs to be responsible for making sure collections is a regular monthly habit, and they need to be honest and accountable to the board for the numbers at every meeting. If you don’t have such a person, get professional help.
  4. Make payment easy
    • Does your HOA accept credit cards, ACH payments, personal checks, even cash? Why not? The first rule of business is to make it easy for the customer to pay.
  5. Keep contact info current
    • If your homeowners association doesn’t have current email addresses and telephone numbers for its members when they are current with their dues, take our word, members probably aren’t going to share that information when you’re in “bill collector” mode. Have a system to update contact info based on checks, emails and phone calls your HOA receives.
  6. Stay alert to clues
    • The broken window theory suggests that failing to police small crimes sends a signal of decay and lawlessness which can lead to bigger problems. Keep an eye out for homes that suddenly seem to be less-well maintained or have an increase in violations. These could signal changes in the home that could impact your association economically.
  7. Show respect and expect respect
    • Every HOA member is a neighbor and deserves respect from the board, property managers and attorneys. Showing respect and understanding can be one of the best ways to get a sum collected and turn a potential adversary into an advocate – we’ve even gotten thank-you notes from homeowners we’ve collected on.
  8. Never give your opponent ammunition
    • Violating fair debt laws or failing to treat all homeowners equally can land your homeowners association in hot water that will cost you thousands in attorneys’ fees to escape. Always follow all laws and your covenants, bylaws and policies to a T – you’ll be glad you did in the off chance the case does wind up in court. Just remember everything you learned in kindergarten and you’ll stay clear of most regulatory violations.
Following the above laws won't guarantee collection, but they will make the process stronger, more accountable, and more successful. If you have any questions, give us a call at (704) 721-3500, or fill out the form on our website.