Homeowners’ associations ask state for help

Pridemore bill would alter rules to reflect ownership realities

By Stevie Mathieu, Columbian assistant metro editor

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Because of foreclosures, banks and other corporations now own 40 percent of the townhomes in Rich Freedman’s Vancouver neighborhood.

In addition to being a depressing statistic, it also has made it nearly impossible for Freedman’s homeowners’ association to get enough members at meetings to make important decisions about the neighborhood. The homeowners’ association has a rule that 50 percent of homes must have an owner present at the meeting before voting on any big rule changes, and the corporations won’t attend their homeowners’ meetings.

“We’ve been unable to even elect officers,” Freedman said during a state Senate hearing this week on a bill that would allow homeowners’ associations to lower their quorum requirement to 34 percent through the county court system.

The legislation, Senate Bill 6294, is sponsored by Sen. Craig Pridemore, D-Vancouver.

Some homeowners’ associations are “pretty well stuck,” Pridemore said, adding that oftentimes the banks owning the home are located outside of the state and sometimes outside of the country. “Getting them to attend a homeowners’ association meeting is extremely difficult.”

The bill also would require homeowners to send certified letters to any banks or other owners in the association and allow six months for a response before petitioning the court. No response would be considered an agreement to go through the courts.

While testifying, Freedman asked the Senate Financial Institutions, Housing and Insurance Committee to change that time limit from six months to three months.

“We cannot get the limited partnerships and family trusts and other corporations that are out of state to even answer our mail,” Freedman said. “If we don’t get responses back in 90 days, it’s not going to happen.”

Control transferred

Pridemore said he is working on a bill substitute he will have before the committee as soon as possible.

Freedman lives in a 38-townhome community in Hazel Dell overseen by the Timbers at Town Center Homeowners’ Association. The development was built in 2006, and by 2008 the developer declared bankruptcy and transferred control of the homeowners’ association to the individual townhome owners.

Freedman said his homeowners’ association can’t collect dues from banks until after the bank sells a home, and many banks are renting out their homes instead of selling them, Freedman said.

The association needs owners from 19 townhomes present to satisfy the 50 percent quorum, and there are 23 townhomes in the neighborhood whose owners actually reside in their homes. But it has proven impossible to get owners from all of those 23 homes to attend a meeting on the same night.

“A lot of the people travel or don’t answer our letters,” Freedman said. “We’ve been in no man’s land for several years now.”

Also under the bill, homeowners’ associations made up of 10 houses or fewer would need the approval of homeowners from three residences to petition county courts.

Stevie Mathieu: 360-735-4523 or stevie.mathieu@columbian.com or www.facebook.com/reportermathieu or www.twitter.com/col_politics.