Re: Work or Pay Systems - Authorization
From: Tim Mensch (
Date: Thu, 17 Jul 2008 16:47:36 -0700 (PDT)
OC611NGC wrote:
Our community has instituted an authorization policy. No task shall be recognized as legitimate unless authorized by an overseeing committee. It would be nice if we could informally do whatever needed doing.
As a result of this policy, most people just watch leaks, dying lawns, and overgrown plants because, we know that we will be chastised if we lift a finger.
I've heard about the other extreme of that practice, where community members were making major changes without asking the committee that is in charge of an area, and that can also be a problem. But at the same time, I've heard about people who left communities over feeling that they had to get approval for every single change, which is what it sounds like you're describing. I've also heard about a community where it's generally OK to work on whatever minor maintenance task you like--but there's still a good chance that someone will publicly chastise you over how you do it. At least you're talking about a policy that can be changed, rather than a few individuals who knee-jerk criticize how other people do things.

It seems like really obvious maintenance tasks like replacing a bulb with an identical bulb from a supply identified for that purpose should be OK without an extra level of bureaucracy. But things can enter a gray area if you go out and buy a light bulb to replace a burnt-out bulb, because you may be working cross-purposes of a team that was planning to replace all bulbs with CF of a particular brand and style, for instance.

If they restrict the cleaning out of lawn sprinklers, I'd have to assume that someone attempted to clean one and somehow damaged it--or at least that's what they're afraid of. Similar for leaky faucets or leaky drip irrigation (isn't that redunant? ;). Gardening--especially pruning--is one that I can understand, since there are lots of ways to prune, and some of them hurt the plants more than others. Whether their fears are justified is a valid question; having them train members to be competent at a particular task is a possible answer to their fears.

But in any of these cases, the teams that are reprimanding others for doing work without "going through channels" really needs a reality check: Either they need to make it easier to get approval (by, e.g., publishing lists of tasks that are OK for anyone to do), or they need to get the tasks done themselves. It is the responsibility of an HOA to maintain the property, and if they're not maintaining it, then they're looking for trouble should a disgruntled member try to leave and have a hard time selling their unit, because they can point to the fact that the property isn't being kept up as the reason, and potentially sue and win damages against the HOA.

Property maintenance tasks that are neglected should not be hard for the residents to work on; I hope your community finds a way to streamline the process. One way to streamline might be to simply empower members of each committee to approve, on the spot, any request that they believe to be within the current committee's goals--and then make sure that a list of who is on what committee is easily available. At least that way you don't have to submit a request to a committee and wait for them to convene to review your request.

Though you're right--it is a hard problem to solve well. Good luck.

Tim Mensch

Currently at Wild Sage (Boulder, CO):

Moving out! Our unit is for sale!

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