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Southern Walk HOA charged me $1,506.88 in “legal” fees for daring to ask to see the HOA docs

Discussion in 'Broadlands Community Issues' started by cogs, Oct 20, 2013.

  1. flynnibus

    flynnibus Well-Known Member Forum Staff

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    And what happens when the actions paint a picture of a behavior? I'm not going down this road beyond this.. but the action of being nice for some is in itself an attempt at manipulation.
     
    hberg likes this.
  2. cogs

    cogs Well-Known Member

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    Southern Walk Residents:

    I am sharing the Non-Disclosure Agreement received from Southern Walk HOA. As homeowners’ in good standing, we all have the right to inspect the documents free of charge according to Virginia Law and the Bylaws of SWHOA.

    http://leg1.state.va.us/cgi-bin/legp504.exe?000 cod 13.1-933
    http://leg1.state.va.us/cgi-bin/legp504.exe?000 cod 55-510

    This Non-Disclosure even prohibits disclosure of even verbal discussions of the board members or any information acquired directly or indirectly from the HOA. It further requires protection and storing of the “confidential information” for a period of 5 years according to state, local, federal and international laws.

    In June, SWHOA adopted a motion that requires all homeowners to execute this ridiculous NDA as a demonstration of “good faith” as condition to inspect the records. Attached the Minutes of the Meeting.

    Homeowners have the right to see the minutes on demand and if the homeowner attends the monthly meeting, they are entitled to receive a copy of the Minutes packet. There is NEVER any legal strategy recorded in the Minutes of the Meeting.

    Why is SWHOA going thru’ the extraordinary lengths to hide the documents? What are they hiding?

    I know SWHOA President will try to make a big deal that the “confidential” information is published on the net. Minutes of the Meetings are NOT confidential documents. Every other HOA makes them readily available to the homeowners. Many HOAs publish the Minutes and budgets on their websites. Southern Walk HOA itself used to publish the Minutes, Bylaws, Budgets and other documents on their website when the association was under the developer control.

    http://swhoa.net/filebrowser/Other Documents/Board of Directors Meeting Minutes/2004 minutes

    Broadlands HOA publishes the summary of Minutes of the Meetings in the Broadlands Newsletter.
     

    Attached Files:

  3. Mike OMalley

    Mike OMalley Active Member

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    Their attitude is absurd. Trying to control the flow of information to which residents are entitled is beyond misguided, it's unethical and doomed to failure. Its only effect is to antagonize the very people that SWHOA should be working to enlist. It offers them no benefit whatsoever in regards to their eternal legal battle as OB can request these documents anyway under discovery.

    Are they doing this out of ignorance, spite, or reliance upon the same boneheaded legal wizards who got SWHOA into their current state?
     
    Last edited: Oct 25, 2013
  4. MikeK

    MikeK Member

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    This entire thing is unbelievable. We were talking about this tonight and said to each other "We're glad we don't live in Southernwalk". This might be solved if all the parties come together and talk. Maybe a third party mediator is needed because there is obviously a lot of animosity and hard feelings on both sides.

    I hope that you all do someday win this case and get to choose your ISP/cable provider like the majority of the county does.
     
  5. hornerjo

    hornerjo Senior Member

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    This is my favorite line (although the part about making you comply with all international laws and regulations is a close 2nd):

    "Confidential Information that is not subject to inspection, but is nonetheless deemed confidential, may include without limitation contracts with third parties, invoices from third parties services and products and for present and past legal matters of the Southern Walk, designs, plans, specifications, structures, ideas, concepts, products, processes, formulas, charts, works-in-progress, and any other confidential and proprietary information so designated by the Southern Walk."

    Seriously? Is this an HOA or the NSA?

    Maybe that $1500 in legal fees levied against you was from them meeting at a Top Secret facility (Marriott spa) and billing you for its use.
     
    Last edited: Oct 25, 2013
    SarasMom, beachgal and KTdid like this.
  6. Capricorn1964

    Capricorn1964 Well-Known Member

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    WOW....

    If all of this is true, then I wonder if the Board paid the lawyers to consult them about the motion (and even draft it) requiring ALL of us Southwalkers to sign a NDA if we ever wanted to review the minutes or other HOA documents. This is the FIRST time I have ever heard of a HOA requiring their residents to sign off on the NDA documents. This is so odd and off the wall---I wonder if its permissible under Virginia HOA laws to require a NDA to be executed by the residents of a HOA let alone charge the residents all that fees just to review the HOA documents? I have no clue since I am not an attorney.

    What is the HOA Board so afraid of? Losing power and their personal fiefdoms to other residents? Will they begin requiring all residents to sign a NDA at the door to all of their meetings out of fear that the neighbors will be discussing amongst themselves what's going on within the HOA and the board?

    Its just so sad and embarrassing to see the HOA end up ---being like NSA or CIA. I truly believe they have lost their way....and it feels like its becoming us versus them (an adversarial relationship, I mean). This isn't what I was looking for in a neighborhood HOA when I bought a house here. This more or less is beginning to look like a clique where you only can get information on what's going on if and only if you are a member of their tight knit exclusive group.

    I sure don't like what the HOA has become here at SW--but I guessing that the board couldn't care less what others think or feel about them.
     
  7. Mike OMalley

    Mike OMalley Active Member

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    This would be great fodder for a Washington Post story.
     
  8. cogs

    cogs Well-Known Member

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    There's even more. In July 2013 meeting, Amy Philips, First Service representative showed the board members the watermarking prototype on a 8.5 x 11 sheet. Diagonally across the page, the watermarking reads something like "Southern Walk Confidential". Ms. Cotti asked Ms. Philips in include the name of the homeowner to whom the document was released as part of the water marking, which means, First Service, has to redesign the water marking for each individual homeowner requesting inspection of documents, and they would charge the homeowner for it. Motion was adopted unanimously.

    In the letter demanding $585 for copying charges, First Service claimed it takes 6 hours to copy 250 pages and they charge $75/hr. I guess a bulk of that cost watermarking charges.
     
  9. cogs

    cogs Well-Known Member

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    Summary of NDA:

    Confidential Information may include without any limitation ..... articles or restated articles of incorporation and amendments thereto, bylaws or restated bylaws and amendments thereto, treasurer reports, accounting and financial records and statements, agenda, resolutions, records of action taken, and minutes of the Board of Directors, a record of members, the most recent annual report delivered to the state Corporation Commission, and written communication to members. .... Confidential Information may be written, recorded or otherwise fixed in a tangible medium, electronically communicated, or orally or visually communicated, furnished provided or disclosed by Southern Walk, or acquired by the Member directly or indirectly from Southern Walk.

    ....

    Restrictions on Use and Disclosure: Member agrees that during the term of this Agreement and for a period of five (5) years thereafter, it shall maintain the Southern Walk's Confidential Information in strict secrecy and confidence .... Member agrees to use the same degree of care to prevent any unauthorized access, disclosure or publication of the Confidential Information of Southern Walk as a Member uses to protect its own Confidential Information of like nature but in no event less than a reasonable degree of care. Such care shall include appropriate technical, physical and procedural controls to protect such information against destruction, loss, unauthorized disclosure to third parties or unauthorized access by employees or agents of Members or third parties, whether by accident or otherwise.

    ....

    Data Protection: Member will comply will all applicable laws related to the collecting, storing, managing, accessing, importing or exporting of technical or personal data. Member agrees to comply, and ensure that any employee or agent with personally identifiable information contemplated by this Agreement will comply with all applicable federal, state and local laws and regulations, including international laws and regulations, as relevant, relating to data protection and of privacy of subject information.


    It goes on about how SWHOA can sue the homeowner if they fail to comply among other things.
     
  10. kevinq

    kevinq Member

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    I hope that is not true. The HOA would be fighting a battle about outdated video technology using outdated document handling technology. There are content management applications that enable updateable watermarking so that the watermark can show data bout a specific record, such as release date and release to information.
     
  11. cogs

    cogs Well-Known Member

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    Good point, First Service might be using a software which allows updatable water marking. I was going by SWHOA's claim that it takes 6 hours to copy 250 pages at a charge of $75/hr. These 250 pages are 10 Minutes packets. Loudoun County District Court charges 50 cents/copy if I remember correctly. They have tens of thousands of folder and millions of pages to service, whereas SWHOA has a neatly stapled Minutes packets. All the copying person has to do is, remove the staple, run the feed the packet in a automated document feeder and restaple the packet. Thats all. It certainly doesn't take 6 hours to do that. At the most, it takes 30 minutes. I would have not objected to the $75/hr labor charge for copying if they were asking me to pay for 30 minutes or one hour at most.

    Its either they are lying about the time it takes copy intentionally to discourage me from getting the copies or they are their technical person is really spending that time copying the pages. I guess former might be true.
     
  12. hornerjo

    hornerjo Senior Member

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    I'd be more interested now in wondering if records are being destroyed or altered in a hurry.

    cogs I sure would NOT sign that NDA. From what I'm reading they can sue for you for the 'threat' of releasing any of the information? Are you kidding me? If I'm reading this right you would probably get a lawsuit slapped on you the second you hand it to them signed.

    5.5
    Accordingly, in addition to any of the relief to which any Party may be entitled under this Agreement, at law or in equity, such Party shall be entitled to seek temporary and permanent injunctive relief from any breach or threatened breach of such covenants or restrictions without proof of actual damages that have been or may be caused to such Party by such breach or threatened breach.​

    Can we change your name to Snowden? :)
     
  13. cogs

    cogs Well-Known Member

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    John,

    I did not sign the NDA and will not. After reading the couple of pages it became clear that the NDA purpose was not protecting the association documents but to penalize the homeowners and ensuring no threat to fiefdom.
     
  14. hornerjo

    hornerjo Senior Member

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    Well they are probably planning to sue you for posting all this, the Broadlands HOA for hosting it and me and everyone else for discussing it. I'm joking of course... maybe. :p
     
  15. Capricorn1964

    Capricorn1964 Well-Known Member

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    Ive copied 250 pages in 10 mins before...this whole shebang of us and them is sooooo asinine. It just makes me sick and its going to discourage people from purchasing a home here when they read about the HOA stuff here and the tactics and all. Ive got friends who say they wish there wasnt OB or the HOA here so they could live here. They just dont want to pay the extra monthly assessments for the lawsuit, etc - Can't say I blame them!
     
    chris67 likes this.
  16. vacliff

    vacliff "You shouldn't say that."

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    But don't forget what the SW HOA has now done.....COGS will not be able to run for the SW HOA Boaed because his account is "not in good standing." Forget the fact that if this goes to court, SW HOA would absolutely LOSE big time. But it effectively blocks a resident from running this year, and it is now HIS responsibility to pursue this in court.
    This HOA is completely out of control. It's sad to me because I know most of the members and most are good people. I don't understand why they sit back and allow this.
     
  17. cobymom

    cobymom Sheila Ryan

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    You can print 250 pages at the library for $25, and it certainly won't take 6 hours! All these records are surely digital, so it seems that 6 hours is more like the way they billed in the movie "The Firm"!
     
  18. cogs

    cogs Well-Known Member

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    vacliff,

    I paid the illegal fees to avoid collection activities and loosing the good standing status. Verified that the money came out of my bank. Could not take a chance with SWHOA sending me the notification after the due date which itself was arbitrarily set and a late notice within a week later, it became evident to me the they are paying dirty games to start the collection activities in a hurry against me. Shall call First Service tomorrow to check the status of my account.

    After this episode, I decided the only way to bring some normalcy and sanity to SWHOA is rising the issues and concerns from inside and hence I decided to run for the office.
     
    Last edited: Oct 27, 2013
  19. sowalker

    sowalker New Member

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    Looks like all that's left is to count the votes!
     
  20. cogs

    cogs Well-Known Member

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    Correction:

    I was quoting the number of pages of documents from memory. Big mistake.

    Here is the actual demand (attached):

    Three years of documents = 750 pages at 15 cents/page = $112.50
    Labor charge: $75/hr for 6 hrs = $450.00
    Total Charges: $585 (does not add up to the above which is OK since the number of pages is an approximation).

    First Service gave this document to me in the July monthly meeting. In the same meeting, upon my request for Minutes, Ms. Cotti handed over to me only the first 3 pages of the Minutes packet claiming that the homeowners are not eligible to receive any more information. She also reiterated that homeowners are required to execute the Non-Disclosure Agreement to demonstrate "good faith".

    Homeowners have a right to inspect the association documents at their office for free and/or receive copies for a reasonable charge. To get over the copying charges issue, in the beginning of September, I sent request to make the documents available for visual inspection without the requirement of NDA. Have not received a response yet.
     

    Attached Files:

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