It was budget season, and the board was trying to keep assessments from increasing more than the amount allowed without a vote of the homeowners. It was tough, especially as this year they were expecting a considerable number of clogs in the pipe systems within the storm drainage easements (due to construction of a new development down the street). They would need to add this new budget item for next year. Fortunately, the Treasurer looked at a plat map to determine where one of these pipes was located and read in the fine print of the plat notes that these pipes were the responsibility of the city, not the HOA! The Association would no longer have to pay for this expensive item, so assessments would not need to increase substantially.
In the hierarchy of documents, plat maps are routinely missed for the important information they contain. Your plat map is a recorded map of your subdivision. It differs from a plot map, which is a recorded map of a specific lot. A plat map indicates the location and boundaries of individual properties in the subdivision and contains information that can be critical to running your community, especially when it relates to repairs and maintenance and architectural requests. Boards and architectural committees rarely use them, and that has caused problems for some.
On the surface, your plat map shows each unit, the exact dimensions, any setback requirements, easements, limited common elements, and other important information such as flood plains and who is responsible for maintenance of specific areas. However, most important is what can be hidden in the small print of the notes. Notes have additional information that could surprise you. They may include such things as restrictions on land use that are not in the Declaration and specific landscaping instructions (including the number, type, size and location of trees). This could be very important if a large tree falls – you may be required to replace it with a large, very expensive tree. That might change the amount you need to contribute to your reserves!
Among many odd items found on plat map notes, one might find any of the following:
Do you have copies of your plat map(s)? If not, where can you get them? Plat maps are normally recorded with your county and should be available through them. Many counties have online sources where you can download your plat map for free.
Once you have your plat, start using it! Read the notes and small print. Make sure your ARC committee is using it to determine if requested improvements can be approved. Review your architectural guidelines to make sure they comply with plat mandates and review your reserve study to ensure you are setting enough money aside for future replacement of required items. Bring it to every board meeting. It can answer a lot of questions that come up regularly!
Lauren Scheer, MBA, AMS®, PCAM®
Director of Training, Henderson Properties