At our question and answer session for the deed restrictions, we had a lot of great questions from neighbors. We have compiled the questions and put the answers below for your information, as voting on the new deed restrictions continue.
What if a vehicle is towed that is not actually in violation?
The neighborhood does NOT tow vehicles. That is done by the City of Houston and is out of our control. If you have an issue with a vehicle being towed, and you believe it to be invalid, you must contact the city.
What’s the purpose of limiting signs or size of flag poles if they’re positive?
Sign size and number limitations were based on other deed restrictions we reviewed and we found this to be fairly standard. These limitation follow regardless of the message because “positive” is, after all, in the eye of the beholder.
Multiple Family or non-family residents
So how will it be determined that a home has multiple family or non-family residents in it? How would it be resolved?
This is not an easy determination to make. Generally, this is only pursued if there is a gross violation or constant abuse of overcrowding, resulting in unsafe or unsanitary living conditions (signs of consistent overcrowding). Resolution to such violations would depend on the issues.
Architectural and Lot restrictions
How high can new fences be? What materials will be allowed?
The maximum fence height is 8 feet. Cedar or other weather resistant wood fencing and most masonry, brick or steel fences are fine. Since each fence modification should be submitted for approval by the ACC (Architectural Control Committee), alternate materials may be approved on a case by case basis.
What will the time limit be for holiday decorations?
The maximum allowable time is forty-five (45) days prior to the holiday and thirty (30) days after the holiday
If a porte cocheres is approved, can prohibited vehicles be parked under the porte cocheres?
This is a matter of visibility. Generally speaking, the deed restrictions disallow prohibited vehicles that are publicly visible. If inside of a garage or otherwise out of sight, then there shouldn’t be an issue (unless there are other factors at play, such as a junk car that is attracting vermin, which would be a health and safety issue).
Can new houses be elevated to prevent flooding if the structure itself does not exceed two stories?
Generally, yes. New construction is submitted for approval by the ACC and considerations would be made as to what might impact the visual continuity of the neighborhood and what would constitute a reasonable height of elevation to mitigate flooding. Pier and Beam foundations can be allowed and have a height limit of thirty-six (36) inches above the ground according to the new deed restrictions. (Article III – Section 2 – 1st paragraph)
Can we have a tiny house like the Houston Astros auction off every year in the backyard?
Yes, as long as the building complies with city building codes and respects all easements in the backyard.
Boats and Trailers in public view time
Why did you settle on 9 days to leave boats, trailers, etc. on the street? Why not five working/week days?
Nine days is equal to a full work week plus two weekends — one on either side. That gives those in violation from Saturday until the following Sunday to come into compliance.
As the subdivision ages, the trees are also getting old and dying. Is there any provision for a homeowner’s responsibility to remove dead trees or shrubs from their property (if seen from the road)?
Homeowners are required to remove dead or dying trees from their properties and to maintain landscaping. New home construction is required to plant or maintain at least two trees in the front yard of any home. However, current residents may remove old trees without being required to replace them
Enforcement and Violations
Assistance with violations
Why doesn’t someone come and offer help to come into code instead of a letter saying we’re in violation? If they’re employed by HOA, they can assist on behalf of the HOA and Forest West.
The neighborhood association is an organization primarily of enforcement. It is made up of volunteers and we have very limited resources. If you require assistance, there are plenty of support organizations in Houston that can help, and there are always your friends and immediate neighbors.
Deed Restriction enforcement
How do we ensure fair and consistent enforcement of Deed Restrictions?
Reporting of deed restrictions is based on volunteers within our neighborhood to report violations, whether they are a resident, board or committee member. The FWCIA and the ACC make a best effort to review each violation and validate that there is in fact a violation. From there, we have a process to allow fair warning and also to allow a neighbor to seek an audience with the board. You can see this listed in Article VI of the new proposed deed restrictions. The existing deed restrictions do not go into as much detail.
How are deed restrictions going to be enforced?
A mailed notice is initially sent to the owner of the residence to correct the issue. The amount of time allowed to correct the action will depend on the situation, and will be stated in the letter asking for the violation to be corrected. If the violation has not been corrected by the allowed time or there has been no response for an appeal, the neighborhood board will make a determination on the next corrective action for the violation. This will depend on the situation. If it is a City or State Code that is violated, the board may contact the proper avenues to rectify violations as well.
Unable to correct violations and seeking assistance
If a resident has received a notice of deed restrictions and is not able to make necessary repairs, does the HOA have options to help the homeowner out?
The best thing to do is to talk to the Forest West Community Improvement association (the board) if there is a hardship or a problem with making the necessary repairs. We are usually willing to work with owners in difficult situations to allow more time or flexibility if needed. However, there is no obligation for assistance; The HOA is run by volunteers who are limited with their time. If you require assistance, there are support organizations in Houston that can help, and there are always your friends and immediate neighbors if they are willing to lend a hand.
You mentioned grandfathered. Please explain page 12 #4
Anything that is not currently in violation of existing deed restrictions will be considered grandfathered, meaning it will remain acceptable under the new deed restrictions even if there is a new rule against it. The grandfather rule will only apply to existing items not in violation of current deed restrictions. Going forward, any new items (fences, siding, paint, etc.) must follow the new deed restrictions.
Is there going to be an initial assessment of every lot?
No. Violations will be assessed as they currently are today. If there is a concern on grandfathering items that do not violate existing deed restrictions, but could violate the new deed restrictions, we ask that homeowners submit those grandfathered items to the ACC or board.
Annual Maintenance and Community Service Fee
Community Service Fee
How much is the community service fee?
This is a variable fee that is evaluated and determined each fiscal year and is based on total projected expenses for services for the community, divided by the total number of lots. (Tax, insurance, utilities, legal and landscaping)
Why an Equal Maintenance Fee?
Why do you think that we all need the same maintenance fee?
This was discussed in depth and the decision was made based on current practices by other community associations (17) that were reviewed, and our thoughts of general fairness. We felt that it was fairer for all members to share costs equally, as each lot/home is entitled to the same equal privileges as their neighbors are, without some receiving less or more due to the amount of their fee.
Maintenance Fee break for people over 65
Any break for owners over 65 in maintenance fee?
Currently, we have been advised by our attorneys that this would be considered discrimination, and therefore cannot be considered.
Maintenance Fee Cap
Handout reads: Initial maintenance fee would be $45/yr. Is there a cap? Booklet states-p.17 #2-unless modified as provided herein. What are the limits?
The cap is 5% per year. This would first be proposed by the board and then presented to the homeowners as a whole. Homeowners would then have the voice and ability to disapprove of the proposed increase (or decrease). Specifics regarding time frames for notices to be given and number of votes needed to disapprove of the recommended increase (or decrease) can be found on p.19 #8.
Real Estate Interests
Which board members are engaged in or employed by the real estate industry?
No board members are currently employed by the real estate industry. There is one member of the ACC (Architectural Control Committee) that is a realtor. The number of members of the ACC fluctuates a bit, but there are currently seven active members.
Secret Voting ballot
Why wasn’t the voting process done according to the laws by secret ballot?
We have verified with our legal representative, as well as a second law office, and there is no requirement for a secret ballot for voting ballots of the deed restrictions. We are following instructions per the attorneys’ guidelines and instructions.
Will you share the name of “The Lawyer”?
We have sought counsel with multiple law firms on reviewing the new deed restrictions and the process. The name of the lawyer is not relevant to deed restriction questions. Please note that if you inquire of one of the law firms directly, concerning Forest West matters, and it requires the Lawyers time to respond/ answer questions, the FWCIA may be charged for the time with the lawyer, increasing spending and costs for the year, for which all residents pay. This has already occurred by a resident inquiring directly with our primary law firm at the neighborhood’s expense. To avoid extensive legal fees and costs, we ask that you direct questions to the board and committees, and allow us to collect and consolidate questions and to contact our legal representation with those questions, if necessary.