13 October 2016
Fee upheld in separate court case
A former Lake Monticello resident lost his battle against what he saw as “double-dipping” dues charges by the Lake Monticello Owners’ Association (LMOA).
But in a separate court case on Sept. 6, the fee, which affects about 300 families, was upheld by a judge, said Catherine Neelley, LMOA general manager.
When Dan Carre’s employer transferred him to Pennsylvania in the summer of 2015, he tried unsuccessfully to sell his Lake Monticello home. Eventually he decided to rent it out instead – but was surprised to learn that he was on the hook for amenities fees for both himself as property owner and for his renter.“We were told that it is standard practice,” said Carre. “We were told that anybody who owns property at Lake Monticello and rents it out pays these double fees.” That means that Carre, who now lives in Pennsylvania, pays $788 in amenities fees for his own family and $788 for his renter, plus a $150 improved property fee, which covers snow removal, storm clean-up and trash service.
Carre’s request for a waiver of the second set of dues, called an amenity use services fee by LMOA, was rejected by the Board of Directors at its Aug. 25 meeting. Neelley informed Carre of the Board’s decision in a letter, saying, “The Board of Directors is sympathetic to your current position but does not feel it is in the best interest of LMOA to extend a waiver.”
Neelley explained to the Fluvanna Review the reasoning behind the policy. “The amenities are there and available for use by property owners and their guests whether they are resident owners or non-resident owners,” she wrote in an email. “Even property owners who live some distance from Lake Monticello can use the facilities at will and can call in guests to the community at any time. When a non-resident owner leases their property at Lake Monticello, they add a family and that family’s guests to our amenity usage, but not an additional set of dues to cover the cost to the Association.”
This procedure is set out in section 15.01 of LMOA’s policy manual.
But Carre said that his family doesn’t use the amenities now that they live in another state, nor do they call in guests. “We are not likely to drive hundreds of miles just to go visit Beach 2,” he said. He volunteered to sign a legal document waiving his family’s rights to LMOA amenities, but said LMOA rejected his offer.
LMOA filed suit against a separate property owner, whom Neelley declined to name, after she failed to pay a second set of fees. “The property owner argued that the Association could not legally charge the fee,” Neelley wrote in an email. But the woman lost the case and ended up paying both the fee and LMOA’s legal costs, Neelley said. Neelley did not respond to a request to release the judge’s statements explaining the reasoning behind the decision.
Of the 300 families affected by this policy, “very few” request waivers, said Neelley. The Board grants waivers to those who qualify for them under the provisions in the policy manual, she said, which makes exceptions for active duty military personnel whose families are stationed outside of the contiguous U.S. or who go overseas alone but whose families move more than 500 miles away from Lake Monticello for the duration of the tour.
Despite the fact that the procedure is addressed in LMOA’s policy manual, Carre said he doesn’t think that most residents are aware of it. “We believe that this double charging is a nice profit-maker for the LMOA, which the community is likely unaware of,” he said.
”We are fine with this original set of dues since someone is living at the Lake Monticello house and utilizing the LMOA amenities and services,” said Carre. “Our issue is with the second separate set of dues for the owner… This seems like double dipping to us… It does not make sense for a Lake Monticello property owner to have to pay two sets of dues, especially if they live out of state and will never access the amenities. Fluvanna County would never charge a property owner two sets of property taxes simply because the house is rented.”
Christina Dimeo contributed to this story.