Fourth Ward HOA questioned by its residents

March 11, 2011 4:46:06 PM PST
People who live in one neighborhood in the Fourth Ward are questioning what is being done with the money they are paying to their homeowners association. When we agreed to do this story, several neighbors had agreed to talk to us, but when we went out to the neighborhood bound by Taft, Webster and Buffalo Bayou, only one of them agree to speak with us. The other neighbors said they were afraid of retaliation by their HOA, so we went to their homeowners association to get answers.

Felix Cisneros says he asks the same question every day.

"Where is our money going?" he said.

Cisneros (who isn't related to ABC13 reporter Cynthia Cisneros) questions the behavior of his homeowners association, alleging mismanagement.

"If we had a clubhouse, if we had a pool, to use that money towards that -- but we don't have nothing like that," Cisneros said.

Cisneros lives in the Fourth Ward and joined the HOA when he qualified for a city of Houston grant to purchase his home more than eight years ago. He and other homeowners are obligated to pay $66 annually to the HOA.

"These three homes are on the HOA and if we will be spending $66, at least cut the weeds," he said.

But his biggest complaint is in what he says are excessive legal fees, about $4,000 he has to pay. His petition to dissolve the HOA failed and he was assessed the legal fees, a common complaint by homeowners, says the Texas Homeowners for HOA Reform.

"It's not about the assessments -- the yearly assessment -- it's about the money they get in other areas," said Nancy Hentschel with the Texas Homeowners for HOA Reform.

The group is working to make legislative changes in how HOA's manage. Meanwhile, the New Fourth Ward HOA vigorously denies any allegations of mismanagement, saying homeowners can appeal HOA decisions.

"There is no retaliation, there should be no fear of that; they can always contact the attorney for the association and lodge their complaints -- even keep them anonymous if they like," said Terry Sears, the HOA's lawyer.

The HOA also says they issue only violations for homes that are violating the rules, and the homeowners have the right to appeal those decisions.

Meanwhile, the council member who represents this neighborhood, James Rodriguez, says he encourages the neighbors to talk to his office and he will investigate any complaints.