Frequently Asked Questions...

These are the questions that we get asked the most often. It is also a good place to find information relating to a lot of common subdivision issues. Read through them all and you will get a better understanding of how subdivisions work.
"Indenture" is used below as a generic term referring to the governing documents for your subdivision, whatever the actual title of that document may be (Restrictions, Declaration, Agreement, etc)
"Trustee" is used below as a generic term referring to the officers running the subdivision, regardless of the actual title given by the Indentures (Board of Governors, Directors, Trustees, etc)
 
Why do I have to pay assessments?
As a property owner in the subdivision, you have a fiduciary obligation to maintain the common areas of the subdivision (entrances, park areas, islands, common ground, swimming pools, roads, etc.)  Through acceptance of your title to your property, you also assume joint ownership of all the common areas as outlined in your indenture and plat.
 
Why am I a part of this subdivision, I get no benefits from it? Can I “unjoin”?
Before the subdivision was started, a plat plan and indenture was filed with the county. All lots shown on the plat plan are subject to the indenture by wording on the plat map and wording in the indenture. If your lot in that map and isn’t specifically excluded by the indentures, you are subject to the indentures. Removing a lot from the obligation of the indentures would require amending the indentures in accordance with the procedures set out. The point of a subdivision is to protect property values of the homes in the subdivisions. Keeping good control over indenture violations keeps everybody’s property values up. Who would want to by a home next door to an unkempt property? An attractive surrounding neighborhood makes your house more attractive to buyers.
 
Nobody told me about a subdivision before I bought, so I’m not part of it.
The deed to your property, along with carrying the subdivision name in your legal description, will state “subject to indentures and/or restrictions, if any”. If this wording is left off of your deed, it is an error. By accepting your deed, you are accepting the terms of the “indenture and/or restrictions.” It is not required by any law that these indentures be provided to you by anybody including the realtor or closing company. They are part of the public record and, unfortunately, that charges you with finding them. It is required, however, to be disclosed by the seller prior to purchase that a subdivision with assessment fees does exist.
 
How do I get a copy of the indentures?
Most subdivision trustees will make copies available to new owners, if you contact them. Our office charges $10 for copies of most indentures (some are higher depending on the number of pages). Official recorded copies are always available from the county at their standard copy rate (usually $2 first page, $1 every page thereafter.)
 
Why am I getting a bill from Bridgeton? I live in Fenton, St. Charles, etc?
City and Village Tax Office has been contracted by your trustees to provide administrative services such as billing, collection and bookkeeping services for your subdivision. We are here to make the job of being a trustee easier. The trustees are residents of the subdivision who are elected by the residents and don’t get paid for the work that they do. We take away the onerous task of them having to knock on a neighbor’s door and ask for money.
 
The grass needs cutting, my neighbor has a trailer and an above ground pool? Who’s going to take care of this?
One of the obligations of the the trustees of your subdivision is the maintainance of the common areas. We will be happy to put you in direct contact with them so they can address your concerns directly. Any letters sent to us about these concerns will be forwarded to the trustees. City and Village cannot act as a trustee.
 
This year’s assessment went way up. How can the trustees do that without telling me?
Indentures, in general, allow trustees to set the assessment at whatever level they deem necessary under a maximum amount. Notifying the owners in advance is always a good idea, but isn’t always required. Go to the meetings! This is one issue that is always discussed. Read your indentures, you’ll probably find that the trustees are well within their rights. Indentures generally allow the trustees to make any and all decisions on behalf of the residents (excepting special assessments, amendments, increases over the maximum) without input from the owners. It’s not always the best procedure for the trustees to follow, but usually perfectly legal. Go to the meetings!
 
I’m a new trustee, where do I start?

READ YOUR INDENTURES!!!  All the business that takes place in a subdivision is governed by the indentures. The copies of the indentures the owners have MUST be the official recorded copy and complete with any amendments.  If your copy is not stamped with a book and page number, go to your county's Recorder of Deeds office and get the copy on file there.  That is the official copy.  While you are there, pick up a copy of the official plat maps.  They spell out all subdivision areas including common areas and easements.  This information is important to have.  It spells out what the subdivision is responsible for maintaining.  This will come in handy when you’re telling your grass company what to cut and the insurance carrier what to insure.

            Your first job is insurance coverage (see below).  The rest of your job entails setting a budget and corresponding assessment amounts, contracting for the maintenance of common areas, architectural control matters (adding decks, fences, pools, etc) and enforcing the indentures.

            Stay in regular contact with your fellow trustees and share the work load.  Committees are a wonderful way of getting people involved and making your job easier.  Committees don’t have any decision making or money spending authority.  They can only make recommendations to the trustees.  Common committees are budget and financial, architectural control, common grounds, newsletter and social.
 
Can we have neighbors do the work for the subdivision?
It’s a great way to save money, but there are big liability issues that far outweigh any cost savings.  If a neighbor is cutting common ground and hurts himself with the mower, the subdivision is responsible.  Common ground maintenance is best left to a professional, bonded and insured lawn company.  They are also covered in cases where they damage someone’s property with a thrown rock or torn up lawn.
 
Why file a lien?

The lien is to acknowledge the delinquency of an assessment as levied against a property.  This is the initial step in the collection process.  Liens will not force a delinquent owner to pay an overdue amount immediately, but it will prevent them from refinancing or selling their home without paying the full amount due.  Title companies have a real struggle finding out if a property is a part of the subdivision and pays assessments.  In many cases, they only have the seller’s word to go by.  If any owner owes many years of assessments, they may not be as forthcoming with that information as they need to be.  Filing the lien prevents that from happening.

 
Why is the builder also the trustee? Isn’t that a conflict of interest?

The builder will hold the first trustee positions until a certain level of home sales have been reached.  That is in the indentures.  At that point, the homeowners will gradually gain control of their subdivision, until the builder is sold out.  When that happens, the homeowners will have an election and complete control of all subdivision affairs.

            It’s tough for a homeowner who has just been through the stress of building a home to separate the role of trustee and builder since they are jobs that have done by the same people.  The trustees are responsible for maintaining the common areas the builders have completed.  It is not the job of the trustees to get involved with disputes involving your home and personal property.  The subdivision has no responsibility for your driveway, bad grading of your property or wrong color carpet in your living room.  Withholding your assessment as a way to get back at the builder doesn’t hurt the builder, it hurts the subdivision and your neighbors.  Once it does get paid, the cost will be much higher that if it was paid on time.
 
Shouldn’t the builder be paying the bills until the subdivision is finished?
The builder has a responsibility to complete all the amenities promised in the filed plat plan.  Once those amenities are completed, they are the responsibility of the subdivision to maintain.  While the builder is still a trustee, there is nothing improper with the subdivision paying for maintenance of common areas.  It is the subdivision’s responsibility.
 
An association hasn’t been formed, how do we get one started?
Before a developer or builder can develop a property, they must file with the county and/or city.  They are required to file (among other things) a plat plan and indentures for the subdivision.  The association is formed when those documents are filed and the builders are the trustee.  Just because there may be little or no action by the trustees, doesn’t mean there is not an association.
 
Why is insurance required for subdivisions?
Not only is it a terrible idea not to have liability insurance, most indentures require it.  If the common areas are not protected by liability insurance, the homeowners would have to pay for any award arising from lawsuits resulting from injuries, etc.  Directors & Officers insurance (D&O) isn’t always required, but it’s no less important.  D&O protects officers of the subdivision from lawsuit costs arising from lawsuits.  It does not protect against fraud or any other illegal acts, only decisions made in good faith in line with the indentures.  The problem with D&O insurance is the cost.  It can run into several thousands of dollars.
 
Nobody comes to meetings. What can we do?

Unfortunately, this is one of the most common complaints we hear.  When a subdivision is new or just handed over to the residents, interest will be very high and people will be involved.  As a few years go by, the only people at the meetings will be the trustees and a handful of residents.  In one respect, it’s a tribute to a job well done by the trustees.  The homeowners are happy and they don’t  reason to pay attention.  Everything’s being handled well.  In another respect,  it’s frustrating that they don’t seem to care.  We’ve found that it is not a case they don’t care, it’s just on the bottom of a long priority list.  The only time attendance will go up at meetings is when something “big” happens or an increase in the assessments.  Something “big” is usually never something good.  We’ve had subdivisions put “increase of assessment” on the meeting notice agenda.  It’s a mean trick, but attendance will go up.

            Proactively, regular subdivision newsletters and block parties are a great way to show the subdivision that people are still active and may make them want to take part in what’s going on.  There are ways around spending money on these, if you put in a little bit of legwork.  Many realtors will publish a subdivision newsletter at no cost or lowered costs in exchange for the advertising.  Contact a realtor in the subdivision or a realtor that you get heavy advertising mail from.  Block parties can be done at no cost if you have a “pot luck” affair.
 
What’s Neighborhood Watch?

This is a wonderful program run by local police departments.  Join it and KEEP IT GOING!  The subdivision will have “block captains” that will receive regular listings of all crimes and crime trends in the area.  This information isn’t readily available anywhere else and is invaluable.  This information is then disseminated to the homeowners.  When possible, the police will make an officer available to speak at subdivision meetings to provide face-to-face information.

            We can’t stress enough what a wonderful program this is.  Unfortunately it will also suffer from nonuse.  Keep it going.  You will learn about burglaries in your subdivision that you wouldn’t have heard of otherwise.  Criminals have been caught through this program.

 
How do we stop speeders?
Another tough problem.  The fire department will NOT allow speed bumps or saddle horses to slow down speeders.  It slows down their response time and tears up their equipment.  Some police departments have stopped putting up the portable radar signs.  They encourage kids to see how high they can get it to register.  The best solution is to keep in touch with the local police department (your neighborhood watch officer, see above) and volunteer some driveways for the police to sit in and hand out tickets.  Five times out of ten, the people complaining about the speeding will be the first ones to get a ticket.  The speeders are the residents of the subdivision, in most cases.
 
How can we make people pick up after their dogs?
Good question, if you find a solution, let us know.  Keeping after people in newsletters is the best we've heard.