Belmor Lakes HOA Board -- Bylaws Violation
Homeowners in the highly touted Belmor Lakes Subdivision received written notice from the Homeowner's Association at the end of June alerting an increase of annual HOA dues from $450 to $600. Many homeowners immediately contacted the HOA with questions regarding the need for the increase, asking when the vote for the increase took place, and objecting to the method of the communication about the increase.
In response to those questions homeowners received various answers including: "we are within our rights to raise dues without a vote"; "you obviously don't know how an HOA works"; "the covenants provide the Board with the ability to raise dues"; "Please read item #4 in your bylaws"; "we don't have to notify homeowners of meetings directly. The information is on the HOA website" and "we've already consulted with our attorney and have been given the go ahead" (this is just a small sample of responses)
The tone of these responses and communications to dues paying Homeowners is unacceptable and upon realizing that this unacceptable tone is consistent, a group of concerned homeowners decided to take a look at the neighborhood covenants and bylaws. The following is what we found:
1. The covenants as filed in the Desoto County courthouse dated August 30, 2000, do not provide any means for dues assessment, do not describe responsibilities of the Board pertaining to dues assessment, and there is no indication of dues amount. In short, dues are not mentioned in the covenants at all.
2. The bylaws posted on the Belmor Lakes HOA website prescribe Board operations and define processes/procedures. Item #4 of the Bylaws: Dues: Dues for membership shall be in the amount set by the Board of Directors of the corporation. Dues are payable to the Treasurer, and a receipt shall be furnished, therefore. Memberships shall be renewable annually. **Note that this does not state that there shall not be a vote.
3. The bylaws posted on the Belmor Lakes HOA website are clear in the description of membership rights. Per Item #7: Meetings: All meetings of the membership shall be called at the pleasure of The President of the Board of Directors with the corporation to hold not less than four (4) meetings per year on a quarterly basis. All meetings of the membership shall be open to dues paying members. The bylaws of this corporation can be amended, altered, repealed and/or new bylaws adopted by majority vote of the paid membership. Robert's Rules of Order (revised edition) shall be the approved procedure for conducting all meetings of the membership where not inconsistent with said bylaws.
4. Minutes of past meetings that included membership and of closed meetings of the Board are not available on the Belmor Lakes HOA website. Inquiries to the board via the Belmor Lakes HOA website "contact us" email were sent requesting minutes from the 2022 quarterly meetings to read the discussion with members regarding the increase in dues, need, financial standing of the HOA and other pieces of information that would have led to the increase of the dues. These inquiries produced two key pieces of information: First, The Board of Directors has violated its own bylaws by not keeping with Item #7 holding no less than four (4) quarterly meetings. As of August 23, 2022, two meetings have been held. Quarter 1 and Quarter 3. There was no membership meeting held in Quarter 2. The second key piece of information is found in the minutes of the Quarter 1 meeting held January 13, 2022.
"Item #5.1.1 - R& C painting quote for Front fence- $9,800 (replace rotten boards, pressure wash all panels (88) stain all fence panels.) Price includes materials and labor. Holding off until we collect the remaining dues that are owed."
**This is the only mention of the fence costs that, according to the dues increase notification, necessitates the dues increase because it will cost upwards of $125,000 to replace-- not repair-- replace. **
Item #7 Dues- tabled for now
**This is the only mention of dues-- there was no discussion of an increase. **
The final piece of information worth noting is the financial standing of the HOA. According to the most recent financial statement posted on the HOA website (May 19, 2022) there sits in liquid funds in the Belmor Lakes HOA bank accounts $103,363.58. Plenty enough money to cover Item #5.1.1 from the January 13, 2022 minutes which cites the quote for the Front fence repair of $9,800.
As a result of investigating the documents, receiving communication from the HOA, and reviewing the HOA bylaws, this group of concerned homeowners has come to the following conclusion:
The Board of Directors of the Belmor Lakes Homeowners Association has breached its fiduciary obligation to the homeowners it represents by first failing to hold the requisite number of quarterly meetings, secondly by failing to disclose all facts pertaining to a large expenditure that in the Board's "opinion" merits a permanent dues increase, and thirdly by circumventing the membership and violating the membership rights to hear said facts, offer input and alternative solutions, and vote on said large expenditure.
(There are actually quite a few troublesome issues apparent in the budgeting, explanation of budgeting, and voting on budgeting as well but the issue at hand today is the dues increase.)
We (the concerned group of homeowners) do hereby offer this petition and ask for the signature of all agreeing homeowners of Belmor Lakes Subdivision to demonstrate our demand to strike down and nullify the Board of Director's vote to permanently increase annual dues held in a closed meeting. Said vote is a breach of the Board of Directors fiduciary responsibility of transparency and adherence to the bylaws by failing to hold the requisite number of meetings, depriving homeowners of any information forthwith and making clear decisions not to disclose said information to homeowners by virtue of meeting, written notice, or electronic announcement on the website and preventing homeowners from voting on the permanent increase of annual dues.
Further, we demand an open discussion of need and project details that necessitate the permanent dues increase and if there is viability in instituting a special assessment instead. This discussion is to be held during a membership meeting for which the date and time will be prominently announced electronically, with signage, and through written notice to homeowners. A vote will be taken by ballot at said meeting. Ballots will immediately be counted for and against, and the majority of votes, for or against, will determine the outcome of the permanent annual dues increase unless a special assessment for the project is deemed a more viable solution.
This petition with signatures will be submitted to the Belmor Lakes HOA Board of Directors electronically and via certified mail with the expectation of a response to the petition being communicated to the membership within 30 days of receipt.