HOA’s and the SRL Project

The SRL program is very thorough about taking care of all of the approvals necessary for a turnkey project. There is one exception that can fall through the cracks and that is dealing with the local homeowners association.

Homeowners associations in Texas are not an official governmental entity and they lack authority of building codes that legitimate governments enjoy. That is not to say that they can’t or won’t make trouble in their attempts to enforce their deed restrictions nor does it mean that they do not serve a useful purpose. Granted there are bona fide interests in keeping the community well kept, and maintaining the standards established for that particular neighborhood.  The homeowners association or HOA’s get their power from the deed restrictions that are recorded in the deed records of the respective county courthouse. When a buyer purchases a home within such a community, they are usually buying into the HOA as long as the deed restrictions for that community have not expired. These deed restrictions are usually renewed prior to expiration and if not, they lapse. Deed restrictions are especially useful in communities where there are no zoning laws. A very good example of this scenario is the Heights neighborhood found in Houston. When parts of that neighborhood allowed the deed restrictions to lapse, neighborhoods found commercial operations opening up next door to residences and that adversely affected the property values.

The SRL program qualified contractors take care of the permits required for the elevation or other flood mitigation work for the homes but usually do not have to deal with HOA’s. After all, these are government projects funded by FEMA through the Texas State Water Development Board, the County Office of Emergency Management, down to the local municipality.  In some instances, these projects are outside of a municipality and subject only to the County building codes. This sets the stage for the local home owners association to exercise the power that so often finds HOA directors salivating.  In the hands of an overzealous HOA director, the Architecture Control Committee Chairman tries to assert authority where they are wanting. There are many reasons for this including envy that their home did not qualify for the program and the ever present opportunity to endear themselves to their friends, and cut the legs out from under those outside of their circles.

HOAs do have a legitimate purpose but in the hands of an opportunist, the power can be abused. If you fight your HOA to some extent you are fighting yourself. A lawsuit against your HOA that results in expensive litigation and a significant judgment will be paid out of the dues or special assessment that comes in part from your own pocket. If you choose not to pay you HOA dues, they can and will sue and foreclose your property.

FEMA Flood Map revisions

FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Administration) revises the flood maps from time to time and establishes the BFE (Base Flood Elevation) that directly establishes the premiums for flood insurance. The BFE for a particular property will determine whether a mortgage lender will require that the property must carry flood insurance coverage for any improvements on the premises. Following Hurricane IKE, the flood hazard maps (known as Flood Insurance Rate Maps, or FIRMs) for the Gulf Coast of Texas and other states underwent major revisions that continue to be reevaluated from time to time. These updated flood hazard maps (known as Flood Insurance Rate Maps, or FIRMs) and studies will allow communities and property owners to make more informed decisions about reducing their coastal flood risk. To help communities and individuals to understand their coastal flood risk even more, a new informational layer—the Limit of Moderate Wave Action (LiMWA)— are now be depicted on the FIRMs.

The effect of being in one zone verses another on the FIRMs can have a profound impact. It is not just a matter of how high above the BFE the living area of a house may be but if you are in a VE zone your property can not have reinforced concrete underneath it nor can there be enclosed space greater than 299 square feet (approximately enough for a one car garage.)  Your home may even carry a deed restriction recorded in the county deed records that precludes modifications in violation of such deed restriction. Although this change is still being considered in the Galveston County / Galveston Bay area, it has not yet been adopted.