Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Calverton homeowners sue Suffolk over sewage system demands | Newsday

Calverton homeowners sue Suffolk over sewage system demands | Newsday:

"Homeowners at a Calverton town house complex have filed a federal lawsuit against Suffolk County in a dispute over a sewage treatment system that serves the development’s homes. Leaders of the Calverton Hills Homeowners Association say the county is requiring residents to install a new wastewater plant that would cost about $7 million — far more than many residents can afford. Landlords said about half of the complex’s approximately 1,000 residents are on some form of public assistance, and some units are in foreclosure. “It’s going to be a financial hardship for a lot of families that have an income less than the median income,” said Michelle Janlewicz, who owns and rents out three units. “Most people already owe more than the property is worth.”"


It appears that this sewer system was installed by the developer in 1973. In 2005, the country told them that the system doesn't meet discharge standards and it was the HOA's responsibility to pay for replacing it. The HOA got a $2 million estimate on replacing the sewer system, but didn't do it, and now there are additional requirements that led to today's estimate of about $7 million. The HOA has raised $500,000-$600,000, but all they did is raise the assessments by $30 per month, which is small change compared to what associations typically do when they have to specially assess for major expenditures. Now they are suing to force the county--i.e., the taxpayers of the whole country--to pay for a new sewer system for this subdivision, which I suspect is unlikely to work. The county is saying that if the HOA doesn't pay for this and get it installed, they will close the subdivision.

I have been saying forever that many associations are going to go under because they don't have enough money in reserves to pay for inevitable repair and replacement of major private infrastructure for which they are responsible. People buy into associations with no understanding of the financial risk. Eventually things wear out, and the people who happen to own the units when that happens get stuck with the bill. This is why associations are supposed to get reserve studies done. It's tragic to see these situations, but unfortunately we will be seeing a lot more as the years go by. And this is why the whole subject of private infrastructure needs to be viewed as a public policy issue.