With the economy still struggling, some homeowners associations are presenting pool management firms with a dilemma.
Nationwide, delinquency rates for dues assessments have more than doubled since 2005, according to a recent survey by the Community Associations Institute. Another study found HOAs are not receiving timely payments on 70 percent of the bank-owned properties in their communities, further straining the associations and dues-paying homeowners.
In response, many HOAs are reducing money set aside for major pool repairs and service, or simply postponing work altogether, the survey found.
“With the economy like it is, people just don’t have the money,” said Jim Foster, co-owner of Aqua Plus Pools in Orlando, Fla. “For townhouses and condos, it’s only going to get worse because people aren’t paying their dues. The fact is, they’re all cutting back.”
The problem is particularly acute in Florida. The state’s still-high foreclosure and default rates mean falling dues from residents, so some HOAs are dragging their feet on important pool maintenance, including code-compliance and safety-related service. They’re also extending the time between filter rotations and are holding off on fixing leaks or cracks.
That’s leaving many service technicians facing the question of whether retaining these accounts is worth the potential liability.
“My maintenance agreement says the pool has to be in good working condition,” said Brian Kelly, owner of Shamrock Pool Services in North Lauderdale, Fla. “I’ve given up a number of accounts over safety issues. ...
“We can try to make accommodations — paying them fewer visits, if possible,” he added. “But sometimes they just can’t afford it anymore. The whole economic impact has been pretty dramatic.”
Kelly, who services approximately 300 HOA pools in South Florida, began noticing the trend about 2 ½ years ago and worries that flow rates and chemistry are being compromised over a reluctance to fund the work. He now finds himself walking away from more clients than ever because of concerns for the overall condition of their pools.
“Years ago, at least budgets were consistent,” Kelly said. “But today, some of these homeowners associations have default rates of 20 and 30 percent, and they’re not making repairs or doing the other things to keep their pools sanitary.” Prior to that, it was simply a matter of referencing the needed repairs, and the work would almost certainly be authorized, he noted.