SIDE STREETS: New HOA boss says we're not just a big bunch of complainers

BILL VOGRIN Updated: February 28, 2013 at 12:00 am • Published: February 28, 2013

Are residents of the Pikes Peak region just a bunch of complainers or what?

For the second consecutive year, Colorado Springs ranks No. 1 in the number of complaints registered with the state HOA Information and Resource Center.

The news was contained in the recently released annual report of Colorado’s homeowners associations by Gary Kujawski, an attorney who was appointed in late October as the new state HOA Information Officer.

Kujawski said he doesn’t view the region as whiners.

“In Colorado Springs, the number of complaints is up there,” Kujawski said. “There could be a number of reasons and it might be a simple case that people there are more aware of this office.

“I’m not sure a lot of people statewide are as aware as people in Colorado Springs.”

Kujawski’s office is responsible for registering HOAs in Colorado and gathering information for a database on HOAs.

(I use the HOA abbreviation to describe all covenant-controlled communities whether they are single family neighborhoods, condo and townhome associations, voluntary improvement associations, or property owners associations. And covenants are rules governing such things as house design, landscaping, paint colors, roofing materials and parking that homeowners voluntarily agree to follow when they buy their homes.)

Since launching operations in 2011, the HOA office has registered 8,347 HOAs covering 853,542 units, or homes. An estimated 2 million Coloradans live in HOA communities.

Colorado Springs and the Pikes Peak region are grouped in the South Central region in which 664 HOAs are registered.

In 2012, the office fielded 2,873 inquiries, of which 576 were complaints lodged by 309 people.

They range from handling of elections of the board of directors to meeting procedures to conflicts of interest as well as covenant enforcement complaints, fines, liens and foreclosure issues.

“Of particular concern is the serious nature of many of the complaints received and the inability of homeowners to resolve their issues without resorting to legal channels,” Kujawski wrote in the annual report.

While some might view the complaints totals as low, given the number of HOA residents in Colorado, Kujawski said he takes them seriously.

“You can see in the report you don’t have trivial complaints,” he said. “They are serious matters and they affect many people.”

Repeated complaints of rogue HOA boards and managers led leaders of the Colorado General Assembly to introduce bills aimed at reforming HOA operations. They want to make HOAs operate more professionally and with greater transparency. Some want to restrict the ability of boards to impose large fines and lien homeowners for minor violations.

There’s even a push to expand Kujawski’s role to police HOAs and enforce state laws on boards found to be violating the law.

But for now, he is focused on collecting data, listening to complaints and dispensing information about the rights of HOA residents and board members.

And he sees part of his duties as educating the public about the very existence of his office.

So he’s scheduling a series of town hall meetings around the state to listen to homeowners and discuss issues they face.

“I’m working on some educational materials and refining our system here,” he said. “I want to get input from homeowners directly to find out what they need from our office.”

In fact, he has scheduled a three-hour public meeting at 9 a.m., Saturday, March 23 at the Penrose Library, 20 N. Cascade Ave. in downtown Colorado Springs.

“I really want to get thoughtful input and get a good discussion going,” Kujawski said. “If necessary, I’ll come down more often, every month or so.”

So mark your calendars and get to the library early to be sure you get a seat.

Read my blog updates at
 http://blogs.gazette.com/sidestreets/

 

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