Homeowners associations across the state of Florida are presenting pool service professionals with a difficult dilemma.
The state’s still-high foreclosure and default rates have resulted in falling dues from residents, which means some HOAs are dragging their feet on code-compliance or safety-related fixes and service.
The question then becomes whether retaining the account is worth the potential liability.
“Years ago, at least their budgets were consistent,” said Brian Kelly, owner of Shamrock Pool Services in North Lauderdale, Fla. “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.”
Kelly, who services approximately 300 HOA pools throughout South Florida, began noticing the trend about 2½ years ago. Prior to that, it was simply a matter of referencing the needed repairs, and the work would almost certainly be authorized.
But today, HOAs are holding off on a number of items, including extending the time between filter rotations, or fixing leaks or cracks, Kelly said. He further worries that flow rates and chemistry are being compromised over a reluctance to fund the work.
In fact, he now finds himself walking away from more clients than ever because of concerns for the overall condition of their pools.
“My maintenance agreement says the pool has to be in good working condition,” Kelly said. “I’ve given up a number of accounts over safety issues and violations. And we’ve lost others because of the same prices I’ve had for the last 15 years.
“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.”
Among those accommodations is bankrolling repair work, which Kelly and others seem to be doing with greater frequency. In fact, accepting payments and financing parts has become an unfortunate but necessary aspect of the business for Todd Starner, director of the Independent Pool & Spa Service Association’s Region 11 and president/CEO of Starner Pools in Bradenton, Fla.
Unfortunately, commercial pool professionals don’t expect a turnaround in the state’s multifamily housing market for at least another 18 to 24 months.
Nationwide, the story is much the same. 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.
HOAs are largely responding by reducing the money that must be set aside for major repair and service, or simply postponing the 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.”