A group of property owners and residents in Leesburg’s Heritage Square condominium neighborhood are calling for an annual meeting to be held for the first time in years, saying they are hopeful that 2021 will move them closer to resolution with their HOA board of directors.
In the fall of 2019, a petition signed by 120 property owners in the community called for the board of directors to have an annual meeting, where a vote could be taken to potentially remove many of its members. More than a year later, they are will waiting for that meeting.
The 258-unit community is primarily investor-owned, with only 96 of the units owner-occupied. Some, like Tony Saiedi, own multiple units throughout the development, which has a high turnover rate of renters.Saiedi is himself a board member.
In that meeting organized by Saeidi, he and other owners and residents presented a litany of concerns. Dissatisfied homeowners and residents claim there is a lack of transparency over how the board conducts its business, a general disinterest in having input from owners and residents, and questions over how the community’s finances have been allocated for certain projects
Saiedi said there are “many examples of foolish misspending of homeowner funds,” and pointed out that a majority of homeowners must consent to any expenditure above $10,000, yet large projects still go forward.
“They’ve destabilized the finances of Heritage Square,” Saiedi said, pointing to rising association fees over the years and a biannual special assessment that all homeowners must pay. Yet, he charged, maintenance on the property is an ongoing issue.
“We have the same potholes we had 20 or 30 years ago,” he said.
The community is managed by American Management of Virginia. Company President Ernie Lightfoot and attorney Steve Moriarty disputed that portrayal. Saeidi and another person were appointed to the board in 2019; “Ever since that fateful day there has been nothing but chaos on their part,” Lightfoot said.
Moriarty, who has represented the community as legal counsel for two decades, estimated that it had probably been 10 years since they have been able to have a quorum for an annual meeting, or 25% of owners.
“There’s a lot of absentee owners, even if they get notice [of an annual meeting] they won’t show up. For them primarily these things are mini-businesses. It is not unusual for communities that have a heavy number of rental ownership,” he said.
They said COVID-19 precautions have also made it difficult to find a space to meet social distancing requirements, and that it isa “vocal minority” of the community that has a problem with the way the community is being run.
Thetwo said that many of the projects listed off by community members are funded out of Heritage Square’s reserve account for capital projects. He pointed out that on an annual basis the association’s books are auditedby an outside certified public accountant, and presented a recent audit with a clean opinion to underscore his point that there was no financial mismanagement.
Lightfoot insists that many of the most vocal community members have not wanted to listen to his explanations, and that residents themselves have not been helping to take care of the property, with overflowing trash containers a common sight.
“There’s constant litter all the time,” he said. “I’ve got a piano [that was left out for trash] in my trunk right now.”
As the chasm between the board, property management and some residents and owners appears to be large, both sides said they hoped for some kind of resolution in the New Year.
“We’re not asking for too much,” said Saiedi. “The main thing we want right now is to have an annual meeting, whenever it’s possible, in person so people can vote. We do not trust [the board] to just do a virtual meeting and have some different result.”