Today, September 14th, the board was notified signs were posted around the common areas of the neighborhood by Lancaster County. The notices posted by the county advised the HOAs property taxes had not been paid. The board acted on this information immediately after receiving notice from a neighbor who contacted the board directly. (Thank you) The board reached out to Almond Glen’s management company, AMG, to find out why the taxes were not paid. (SEE THE FIRST POST HERE)
The final answers to the boards initial questions are as follows:
- The boards contact information (listed as the current management company) was not properly changed with the county. The county noticed past payments were coming in last, so they reverted to the original management company on file (Hawthorne was used by the builder and initially by the homeowner board until early 2015). This was corrected today by Dacy at AMG after she was advised of the process by Lancaster County. Hawthorne was probably getting the notices and tossing them in the trash. Since the county didn’t get the notices returned, they didn’t look any further than Hawthorne.
- AMG is in the process of paying the taxes owed ($797.40). This amount includes a “Penalty” of $93.57. The taxes must be paid by check. This is being handled and the board will follow up with AMG in the next week.
- The simple plan to correct this in the future is a calendar notice set on AMG’s calendar for January 10th. If a notice has not been sent to AMG on that date, the manager will follow up with the county. A similar notice was added to the board of directors calendar as well.
Some of the questions the board received from the community were:
Q. Why were the property taxes paid late?
A. This was an oversight. The board discussed this oversight with AMG. The penalties/fees assessed to the HOA by Lancaster County are being covered by AMG. This appears to have been a common issue with both Hawthorne and AMG. The tax records available on the county website show the taxes were paid late 5 out of the last 6 years by both management companies. AMG has apologized for their mistakes. The automated alerts from the management company and board calendars will serve to provide reminders in the future for any board that serves this community.
Q. Shouldn’t the board have known about this?
A. Yes and no. A reasonable person should understand the board members are members of this community with diverse backgrounds. Each member brings different skillsets to the table. As board members serve consecutive years on the board, they gain knowledge and experience in various areas of the operation of the neighborhood. However the board members are not professional property managers. One member may have years of experience and know how to prime the pool pumps and where the sprinkler weather station is located while the others may be unable to preform these duties. For that reason, the board employs a professional management company. There are many tasks the board does not understand which are preformed by the management company. It’s also important to understand any management company must constantly navigate multiple Federal, State and local laws and regulations while trying to keep up with all of their clients. To be honest, mistakes on both the part of the board of directors and the management company WILL and DO occur. Anyone who plans to ever serve in any capacity within this neighborhood will at some point be wrong and/or make a mistake. This was a learning experience for the board and this neighborhood.
Q. Should we (the neighborhood) look for a new management company?
A. “Don’t throw the baby out with the bath water” comes to mind. Did AMG make a mistake? Yes. Did they act on the information once the board brought it to them? Within minutes of getting the first email. Did they own their mistake and openly apologize while accepting responsibility? Yes they did. The process of changing from one management company to another is honestly, too easy. The board selects a new vendor, satisfies any contractual obligations (notice of termination of contract, etc), hires a new company and waits for the new company to come in and take over. Most of the process is handled by the management company and because this is a regular thing done by new and inexperienced boards (fire the old and hire the new), the management companies work well together.
The problems start when the board has to pay for things already paid for that budget cycle (notices and office supplies), the members have to go through the process of setting up payments again with a new company and their banks, the board has to start a new relationship with new managers.
AMG and its employees have invested time and money into forming a partnership with this community. The board has invested time and money into the same partnership. That partnership isn’t always perfect and mistakes happen, but it’s better to work on a relationship with problems than it is to dump the relationship and go try to find something new and exciting.
Q. Simple question. Is the board going to fire AMG?
A. Simple answer. No.
Q. Is AMG paying the late fees?