Suppose you are buying a home in a subdivision. You don’t see many occupied houses in the subdivision, which is not in a city or town. But you see a water wellhouse and storage tank and maybe an odd looking structure that must be a sewer treatment plant or pumping station. You don’t see any signs indicating that these belong to a local government entity. You wonder who maintains the streets, the water system and the sewer system. The answer is that a homeowners’ association (HOA) is responsible for maintenance and operation of these essential facilities.
But where is the HOA? You can’t find it in the phone book or on the internet. The public records are sketchy.
But lots of people need to contact HOAs. Escrow companies want to collect their assessments at closings. Government agencies need to know who to contact about drinking water samples. Homeowners need to know how to help and who to complain to. Real estate salespeople want to know what to tell buyers about the amount of assessments and what the HOA does.
My law firm, Styron & Shilling, is hoping to make it easier to find the HOA for any subdivision in Missouri, and we’re starting with HOAs in Stone, Taney, Christian and Greene counties by building a HOA database that we’ll post on a website.
An HOA (often called a “POA,” for property owners’ association, or “COA,” for condominium unit owners’ association) is given responsibility for water and sewer systems, streets, clubhouses, and pools. HOAs also have design-approval committees and enforce subdivision rules established by the declaration of covenants, conditions and restrictions of the subdivision (often called “subdivision covenants,” “CCRs,” “restrictions” or “the declaration”), which are recorded in the county land records. State and local regulations often require developers to form HOAs to take care of common elements of subdivisions, when no government entity is willing or able to do so.
The HOA is usually a non-profit corporation, incorporated by the subdivision’s developer. The members of the HOA’s initial board of directors are the developer and the developer’s employees. However, developer sometimes overlook the actual incorporation of the HOA, even though it is mentioned in the CCRs. Or they form it, but use a different name than the one in the CCRs. Or they form it, but fail to file annual reports with the Missouri Secretary of State, and the HOA’s corporate charter is administratively dissolved. Sometimes, frustrated purchasers in the subdivision incorporate another HOA, with the same name or a different name than the original, and it takes over the HOA functions.
Brooke Lewis and Alicia Schmitt, legal assistants for Styron & Shilling’s Branson office, have combed the public records for HOAs in Stone, Taney and Christian counties. They have found more than 200 HOAs mentioned in CCRs, corporation records and court filings. Brooke and Alicia have not been able to find and verify contact information for many of them.
The public portion of the HOA database will simply provide a point of contact for the HOA for each participating subdivision or condominium, that we’ll identify with reference to recorded plats. From there, each user of the database will be responsible for confirming the extent of the HOAs’ responsibilities and whether the HOA listed is authorized to collect money and operate essential facilities.
If you are a board member of an HOA (including a condo association) in Stone, Taney, Christian or Greene county, or are interested in the Missouri HOA project, please call Styron & Shilling, 417 334-4455, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.