Homeowners in Associations Unfinished by Developers

The recession has slowed the completion of some developments intended to be governed by homeowners or condo associations. These Frequently Asked Questions provides owners in such developments a beginning point for answers to their questions. If you have a different question, contact the Neighborhood Services Division of the Department of Public Works at 703-792-7018 or email: nsd@pwcgov.org.
 
Q.  The board is still run by the developer, but we can't get anyone from the developer's office to respond to our requests. What can we do?
A.  Start by contacting the property manager, if there is one. The property manager will likely know how to contact the developer. If there is trouble with the developer's business, the property manager may be able to put you in contact with the association's lawyer. If these avenues are unavailable, you and/or other owners will have to hire your own association attorney to pursue civil action against the developer.
 
Q.  How and when does my development transition from the developer board to homeowner board?
A.  A publication has been created describing this process: HOA-Condominium Transition Information. 
 
Q.  I bought property in a new development in Prince William County. Why can't the County help me with these developer issues? 
A.  Prince William County does not have the authority to regulate common interest communities. Virginia Department of Professional and Occupational Regulation (DPOR) is a state agency that regulates common interest communities in the Commonwealth of Virginia. Visit its website at http://www.dpor.virginia.gov/dporweb/cic_main.cfm.
 
Q.  When will our amenities be built? (Pool, clubhouse, playground, etc.)
A.  Some proffered conditions contain requirements to phase the construction of the project. Phasing may include specific timing mandates for items such as recreational amenities, and specific uses (i.e. residential versus non-residential).
 
Q.  Who maintains our streets?  
A.  The developer is responsible for streets until certain conditions are met. Refer to HOA/Condominium Transition Information.
 
Q.  How can I find out what was proffered for my development?
A.  Copies of approved proffered conditions are available from the Planning Office Records Center at 703-792-6830. 
 
Q.  There are a lot of vacant lots in the neighborhood. There is no grass, and the dirt is being washed into the streets and into other yards. Is this allowed?
A.  Erosion and sediment control devices such as silt fences, sediment traps, and temporary seeding are required by state and local ordinances to prevent soil erosion and movement of sediment off site or into waterways. Area Watershed Site Inspectors regularly visit all development sites to ensure compliance, and can address any concerns you might have. Contact Watershed Management at 703-792-7070 to speak with your Area Watershed Site Inspector.
 
Q.  What about the areas in the development that are flooding? 
A.  Drainage/flooding concerns on individual lots and common areas will be evaluated against the approved plan for general conformance. Your Area Site Inspector can meet with you to evaluate the concern and recommend appropriate actions. Contact Watershed Management at 703-792-7070 to speak with your Area Watershed Site Inspector. 
 
Q.  If there is no HOA or condo board, do I still need to get approval for improvements I make on my home?
A.  If you live in an HOA or condominium and you plan on making an improvement or alteration to your home, you must be in compliance with both the local zoning and building codes as well as any design standards that exist in your community. Check with the current board of directors, which may still be under developer control, or check with the community manager or management agent for what you need to do. You should obtain the necessary information and approvals BEFORE signing any contracts or starting any work.
 
Q.  They are saying that my improvements do not meet architectural standards. How does the developer tell me how my house can look?
A.  Proffered conditions (including architectural standards) are incorporated into the site plan approval process and subsequent development of the property, which includes mandated inspections.
 
Q.  Can the developer leave us with problems in the common areas?
A.  There is a process that is followed: the HOA Common Area Transition Flowchart graphically shows the transition process for common areas.
 
Q.  What about the appearance and functioning of our storm water pond?
A.  Storm water management ponds, outfalls, pipes, and inlets must be in compliance with the approved plan before bond release can occur. Your Area Watershed Site Inspector can explain the status of any on-site facilities and address concerns you might have. Contact Watershed Management at 703-792-7070 to speak with your Area Watershed Site Inspector.
 
Q.  What about the landscaping on the common areas? Some plants are dead and I don't think the developer landscaped all the areas they were supposed to.
A.  Landscaping of common areas and individual lots as shown on the approved plan for the subdivision or the individual lot grading plan is covered under the landscape escrow. Your Area Watershed Site Inspector can look at the approved plans and determine what landscaping is missing or dead/dying and in need of replacement. Contact Watershed Management at 703-792-7070 to speak with your Area Watershed Site Inspector.
 
Q.  There are lots of dead trees behind houses. Will the County remove them?
A.  Hazardous trees, per County policy, will only be removed by the County from County owned property. On private property, if the development is still under bond, your Area Watershed Site Inspector will make every attempt to get the developer to address the hazardous tree based on an inspector evaluation of the danger. Contact Watershed Management at 703-792-7070 to speak with your Area Watershed Site Inspector.
 
Q.  Why can they tell me what I can or can't do on my property?
A.  All common interest communities have covenants, or deed restrictions, that run with the land and apply to all homes within a particular subdivision. Check your governing documents and the current rules and regulations of your association for regulations and rules pertaining to behavior and use. 
 
Q.  What resources are there for those of us who are voluntarily governing our new associations?
A.  Resources are available on the Prince William County government Web site at www.pwcgov.org/hoaTo assist the volunteer HOA and condominium board members, potential board members and owners, Neighborhood Services conducts educational events focusing on the knowledge and skills required to govern common interest communities. Each fall, a common interest community leadership seminar is sponsored by Neighborhood Services and its non-profit partner Community Associations Institute - Washington Metro Chapter. In the winter, a neighborhood conference offers a common interest community track. Many of the monthly classes conducted through the Neighborhood Leaders Group will be helpful to HOAs and condominiums. Contact Neighborhood Services at 703-792-7018 or nsd@pwcgov.org if you need any additional information.