Today, I’ll travel to Jefferson City to testify before a Senate committee in favor of the Uniform Planned Communities Act, which is Senate Bill 230, sponsored by Sen. Joan Bray.
I have testified in support of the UPCA at two or three times previously. I’m not a lobbyist, and I testify for myself at my own expense, taking off work to do so. Here’s why:
The UPCA is a set of statutes that establish a formal relationship between those who develop real estate and those who purchase real estate that includes with it common elements (such as streets, water systems and sewer systems, detention ponds, clubhouses and pools), for which the lot owners are to be assessed for maintenance, repairs, insurance and replacement. As introduced, the bill would only apply to subdivisions having 12 or more lots. If there are no common elements, then the UPCA would not apply.
The UPCA, like the highly successful Uniform Condominium Act adopted in Missouri in 1983, requires that the developer create a homeowner association (HOA) to be responsible for common elements, with the HOA to be initially controlled by the developer, with control passing from HOA board members appointed by the developer to board members elected by the unit owners as lots are sold. The HOA powers are specified, so that there is a uniform and fair process for approval of budgets and imposition of assessments.
For the past 10 years, I have worked with frustrated developers, lenders, lot purchasers, regulatory agency personnel, and local government officials to attempt to solve problems that the UPCA would have prevented. The problems involve street maintenance, subdivision covenants that leave out important provisions (such as ownership and control of the water system and responsibility for road maintenance or a process for approving a budget or collecting assessments).
In some instances, the developer has failed to create an HOA, even though an HOA is mentioned in the subdivision covenants prepared by the developer, and the homeowners end up in bitter litigation over the rights and obligations with the developer or among themselves relating to the common elements. Such litigation is much less frequent with condominiums, where the Uniform Condominium Act has established and clarified these issues.
Much real estate development in Missouri takes place outside of cities and counties with subdivision regulations, and it is not likely that many counties will adopt subdivision regulations in the near future. To some extent, the UPCA would require that subdivision covenants include provisions regarding common elements that are typically addressed by subdivision regulations.
In the past, the legislators have not been convinced that the UPCA is needed. I can provide many examples of how the UPCA would have provided a mechanism for preventing many problems that are difficult and expensive to solve, without entailing significant expense to developers or homeowners.