More HOA Bullies in San Carlos?
Pepe Gonzalez seems a reasonable man.
He purchased a home in the San Carlos Country Club around 11 years ago. Just days after purchasing the lot more information about the country club came to light. He was informed of the fact that there was a home owners association (HOA) in the Country Club and he would now have to start paying yearly dues of 375 dollars to the HOA even though he never signed any contractual agreement to become a member of the HOA and there is not one word mentioning any HOA in his bank trust paperwork. Pepe Gonzalez, being a reasonable man, went along with paying into the HOA anyway. It all seemed quite reasonable. Over the years Pepe even became a member of the board of directors for the country club. As his experience in Mexico grew he started to realized that a great deal of people who live in the country club didn’t pay any HOA fees what so ever. He also started to understand that most of the services that he really needed and used such as electricity and water were fees paid directly to the utilities companies. Even the roads were covered by his property tax payments, but being a reasonable man he was one of the 100 people who chipped in 600 dollars to pay to have the country club roads paved. Supposedly Guaymas matched the funding and indeed the roads were improved in the Country Club.
Eventually Pepe Gonzalez left the board of directors of the HOA. He was unhappy with the way members of the Country Club community were stifled from speaking at meetings. He was also unhappy with the lack of transparency regarding the HOA’s accounting. On several occasions Pepe asked for receipts for expenditures, none were ever supplied. He asked if an outside audit could be done of the books for the sake of transparency. That never happened either. One large area of contention was speeding within the Country Club. Many residents wanted to put in speed bumps but since the roads were owned by the city of Guaymas residents were told by the HOA that it would be really difficult to do that. He was also then told a ridiculous story of how if he reported the person who was violating the speed limit in the country club to Guaymas, after the 10th time he reported the speeding the speeder would be given a ticket. Hard to believe that anyone could come up with a story like that.
To cut to the chase Pepe Gonzalez decided that he would no longer pay his HOA fees. He didn’t see any need for it and with the lack of accountability he reckoned the fees were not justifiable anymore. He was actually more than willing to pay for the services that he used, such as the security guards at the entrance gate and any other services that were really needed. As long as he could see the books and there was transparency he had nothing against paying for services he used.
It was when Pepe Gonzalez stopped paying his HOA dues that the threats and harassment started. He was told that he would no longer have garbage pick up even though garbage pick up is paid for by his property taxes. That was ok, he would take out his own trash, no problema. He was also informed that he would now have to open and close the security gate manually. I guess anyone who didn’t pay the HOA fees would now have to do the same. I guess the HOA was going to provide a list of people to the poor security guard at the gate and he would now have to be a hard core enforcer for the HOA board of directors. This idea was finally rejected and no one was forced to get out of their car and manually raise the gate.
The harassment didn’t end there. He was written a letter by one of the members of the board of directors stating that a lien would be put on his house if he didn’t pay his HOA dues and he would be taken to court. That letter in itself almost borders on extortion. He heard through the grapevine that someone on the board of directors even went so far as to say that they would bulldoze his house down if he didn’t pay. His reply to that was I better be in it when the bull dozer comes! Pepe Gonzalez believes he was singled out and used as a test case to see how much the HOA could get away with. I think he was right. There are apparently dozens of other members of the San Carlos Country Club that have not paid their HOA dues. Many of them Mexicans. Apparently one Mexican resident did also receive a letter threatening to put a lien on their house and take them to court. So the HOA sent out two test cases it would seem to see how far they could go with their threats.
For at least three years Pepe Gonzalez asked to see a copy of the Mexican by laws for the Country Club. When those requests fell on deaf ears he started doing some research of his own. He hired Yuya Stimson, a well known and trusted friend, to find out if the San Carlos Country Club HOA and its by laws were properly registered with the state. Yuya went down to the government offices in Guaymas and could find no documents that showed the HOA or its By-Laws were properly registered. Pepe Gonzalez and several owners who live full time in the country club now addressed the HOA board of directors in a letter that was signed, oh so slightly sarcastically, as the “Well Informed Home Owners”.
After Yuya found out that the HOA did not seem to be registered correctly with the state of Sonora the HOA put up a really pretty web site, for the sake of transparency it would seem. When the Country Club website went online the group of Well Informed Home Owners hired a lawyer to do more research. What they found was that the current HOA had registered themselves under a new name and any by laws that they may have approved were meaning less. The only thing binding was the original HOA from 1979 and it became obvious after observation that the original HOA from 1979 had never lived up to its legal obligations as a registered A.C. (Asociación Civil) or non profit for the simple fact that it could not enforce it’s own rules. One of the by laws states that houses may only be so tall and that no two story homes are allowed within the Country Club. Of course if you drive around the area you will quickly see several two story homes and many houses that appear to violate the height limits stated in the by laws.
It started to became clear to the Well Informed Home Owners that pretty much any thing goes over at the Country Club. Houses were not complying with building codes. Party’s, the loud obnoxious kind, were allowed to go on all night instead of shutting down at the proper hour. It also seemed to full time residents that garbage around the area only really started getting cleaned up in the fall when more home owners were going to show up.
To top it all off even if the San Carlos Country Club HOA was properly registered and followed the letter of their own by laws and Mexican law, what if you as a home owner never signed a contract directly with the HOA to become a member? If that were the case then you have no legal obligation what so ever to pay any HOA dues. That is the realty of the situation. After speaking with one of the original developers of the Country Club he concurred that there were huge mistakes made when homes and lots were purchased and that there is no legal obligation for many home owners out there to pay HOA dues.
Pepe Gonzalez certainly never signed an agreement with the HOA, I went over his paper work. I spoke with several other owners of property at the Country Club those residents did not have any agreement signed with the HOA or any mention of an HOA in their trust papers.
I actually checked my escritura (title) for the lot that I own in the Country Club and I signed no such agreement with the San Carlos Country Club Homeowners association either. By Law if you did not join the HOA
then you certainly don’t have to pay any HOA fees. The HOA can not put a lien on your house, can not stop you from selling your house or lot and has no legal authority what so ever over you or your property.
Presidents of the board of directors come and presidents of the board of directors go as the years pass by. The current president and the new board of directors at the Country Club it would seem are handling things a bit different now and have stopped harassing non payers of HOA dues. What seems to be a recurring theme in San Carlos that we at the Wireless have covered before is that some times presidents and members of the board of HOA’s seem to get caught up in a power grab and try to do what ever it is they please. The story of the Costa del Mar HOA nightmare we reported on last year is a prime example of a president of an HOA abusing their authority.
What Pepe and the Well Informed Home Owners of the Country Club want is to not be labeled as dead beats. The majority of them used to pay HOA fees actually. What they want is transparency and accountability such as posting of cancelled checks and real book keeping that assures that the money that goes into the HOA is completely accounted for and nothing fishy happens to it. Not like what happened out at Costa Del Mar last year. The Well Informed Home Owners are not legally obliged to pay anything what so ever to the Country Club HOA but I suspect if they were approached they would be willing to pay for the services that they feel they use such as the security company. It might behoove the new President to try a little arbitration on those who do not pay since there are many home owners at the Country Club that do pay the very reasonable 375 dollars a year fee and are very happy indeed with the HOA and the work it does out there.
In the end it is a gated community even though the roads are owned by Guaymas. Clearly all home owners should pay something for the upkeep of the wall around the community and the security company. The rest of the HOA expenses might be debatable but it is a debate the community should have in an open forum with out the threat of liens and lawyers which in the end will only alienate and polarize the community. And lets face it, San Carlos is way better off with less polarization.