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Maine Alliance for Road Associations


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  • 19 Jan 2024 2:29 PM
    Message # 13303390

    Hi, we bought our home about 3 years ago and our home has an HOA for road maintenance only.  There are 4 lots on the dirt road, with 3 lots occupied year round. One of our neighbors sent us a letter informing us of our obligation for yearly snow plowing via a letter in our front door. We expected this so this was not a problem. The problem arose when the following year nothing g was presented for snow plowing. The first storm came and the other two families, who work full time were at a loss. We scrambled to get someone to plow the road quickly, as they had to get to their respective jobs. Also the issue of fire and ambulance getting access if needed wasn’t there. The company did a great job and we looked to hire them the following year. The problem: we were told that we needed to get 3 quotes (customary but not required),  and the company had to be licensed to plow. Needless to say, we had a majority vote (2/3) and the neighbor is refusing to pay. The total amount was more than the previous plow company but this company plowed early in the morning so that they could get to work and came again later in the day. The prior plow company only came later in the day and that was a huge problem. We are at a loss and the  neighbor has not responded to any of our letters

    what to do now? They have not paid for two years

    Best, Virginia

  • 20 Jan 2024 10:12 AM
    Reply # 13303627 on 13303390

    Virginia, you must start with the basics - your organization's bylaws. Do you have a copy?  The bylaws should reveal what is included in the term "maintenance", how the maintenance budget is established, how cost assessments are apportioned to each lot and how it is approved by the members. They may also (actually should also) reveal the method of enforcement of the collection of the maintenance assessments, establish some form of leadership for the group and when meetings are held.  

    Having said that, your situation is not unusual, especially for such a small number of lots on the private road and you may find that there are no bylaws or any form of formal road association.   Once you have the bylaws, or determined that they do not exist, get back to us.   In the meantime, you should know that there is a state law that requires owners on private roads to contribute equally to road maintenance (and snow removal is part of maintenance) but it only applies when there is no agreement in place - see it on the Resources page TITLE 23, §3121.pdf 

  • 20 Jan 2024 10:47 AM
    Reply # 13303637 on 13303390

    By the way, if your road was established by a subdivision the town may have required an HOA or Road Association as part of its approval of the subdivision.  If so, it is likely that a reference to that requirement is recited in your deed.  It won't give you all the details but it is a place to start.  No need to rush to your safe deposit box for your deed - you may search for it  here  just follow the instructions to find your deed.

  • 21 Jan 2024 4:42 PM
    Reply # 13303948 on 13303390

    Thank you so much for your response. We do have the copy of the Deed/Maintenance Declaration for the road. There was none one whose name was documented as being “appointed” to a position of authority, but, with that being said, all we received from a neighbor was a letter stating what we owed for the snow plowing, and, who was contracted to do the work. The letter came stuck between outer screen and front door. Not knowing how this was done, but knowing there was an HOA for plowing only, we thought this was how it was done. The neighbor who had been doing this previously, never introduced himself and basically kept doing what was previously established with the former neighbor. We have sent letters explaining why the formula for establishing a contract with a contractor was not working. We scrambled the third year to get a plow contractor, after the first storm, and most didn’t have the capacity/time to add another job. The contractor we hired has been very sensitive to the situation and actually dropped his price, which isnt fair to him and the neighbor gets clear use of the road. In our last letter we recommended that if they didn’t agree with the “majority vote”, they were welcome to file for arbitration with the State of Maine. Not sure what else to do except to place a lien on the property, but that would be a last resort. As far as I know from the other neighbors who agree with the current contract, there have been no meetings that have taken place. 
    Again, thank you for responding

    Best Virginia

  • 22 Jan 2024 10:25 AM
    Reply # 13304173 on 13303390
    Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Since it sounds like you have four properties and three of you agree there needs to be maintenance, your best bet is to form a Statutory Road Association under 23 MRS 3101-3104.  That should not be difficult with only four owners involved, but you do need to follow the procedure very carefully.  Go to the MARA Resources page and read though the manuals in paragraphs 2A and 3 there.  Also I highly recommend under paragraph 6 Windham's Resource Binder Materials.    Although this was made up specifically for the Town of Windham, so parts of it will not apply to you, it gives samples of forms you will need.  It also has in Part 3 (page 12 of the document) instructions on the Order of filing the various forms.  It sets out clearly the order in which things need to be done.  And if need be, one of us can help walk you through the process.

    The big advantage of doing this is that it will give you some enforcement powers for collecting dues payments.  Sometimes if a person sees that you have filed (or are about to file) a Notice of Claim against them under the statutes, they will pay.  Others still will not pay until they are forced to, either when they put their property up for sale, or when they try to get a loan.  If it looks like they are going to delay payment, you can take them to small claims court - but your success there may depend on your having carefully followed the statutes, which is why doing so is so important.

  • 22 Jan 2024 8:16 PM
    Reply # 13304541 on 13303390

    Good news Virginia, the solution to your problems is at your fingertips. You mentioned that there is a recorded maintenance agreement.   That was easy for me to find.  Luckily, your deed mentions the agreement and it applies to all 4 lots on your road. The deed, too, was easy to find.  I have sent a copy to you via the private email mentioned in your member profile just to be sure you have the recorded documents.

    Your property was formed by subdivision approved by the town and all lots are "....subject to the terms and conditions of the Road Maintenance Declaration....."  The Road Maintenance Declaration is an agreement "...binding on the owners of lots 1through 4....." the owners ..."jointly and severally agree to be obligated to maintain, repair, plow, sand and replace the road so that it is reasonably safe and maintained in a good and passible condition...."  

    The Declaration states that "....all decisions......shall be determined by a majority vote of the Voting Owners", it permits the owners to appoint one owner as a manager who can act on behalf of the other owners. It defines the cost apportionment for each owner as 1/4 of the cost of maintenance and provides for binding arbitration in the event of a disagreement with the cost of arbitration split 50% to those owners filing for arbitration and 50% to the owner (or owners) against whom the arbitration is being filed. 

    The Declaration is quite specific, easily to understand, carry out and enforce.  I suggest you call a meeting of the owners, have a clear agenda that spells out the process of awarding contracts, establishes a maintenance budget for the year, appoint a manager, then vote on the matters in the agenda.  

    The Declaration does not say how votes are take, when meetings, if any, are held or how to legally notify the lot owners. I suggest you follow the provisions of Maine's Private Way Act that requires an owner list be obtained from the municipal tax assessor and that meeting notices, at least for the first meeting, be sent by first class mail to the address on the assessor's list.  Take Roberta's advice and read through the material available on the Resources tab.

    I suspect that if handled properly the dissenting owner will fall in line and pay what is due, especially when the dissenting owner realizes that the owner will pay 50% of the cost to arbitrate the maintenance costs that the owner is clearly legally obligated to pay and will be responsible for 100% of the cost to collect, including legal fees, if the owner continues to fail to pay.

    By the way, you and your neighbors will have to initiate the arbitration, not the nonpaying owner.  But if you do it as a group the three of you will pay 50% of the cost and the nonpaying owner will pay the other 50% according to the Declaration.

    So many lot owners along private roads in Maine do not have all that is available to you by deed restrictions. Take advantage of your good fortune.

  • 22 Jan 2024 11:07 PM
    Reply # 13304596 on 13303390

    Thank you Raymond. We do have the Maintenance Declaration and have read it several times thinking, “ what are we missing”!  It does clearly spell out the rules for the owners.  The one question I have is , there are 4 lots with 3 having built one family structures, the 4th lot has not been sold yet. We are assuming that the road maintenance is equally divided by the current 3 homeowners? Does the current owner of the 4th lot have any obligation with the road maintenance??  Best Virginia

  • 23 Jan 2024 7:17 AM
    Reply # 13304649 on 13303390
    Anonymous member (Administrator)

    I believe if you formed a Statutory Road Association the owner of the fourth lot would be obligated o pay their fair share. In our Statutory Association By-laws, we stipulate a 1/2 share for an owner of a parcel with three undeveloped lots as follows:

    "Parcels without a dwelling unit will be responsible for one-half (1/2) share of maintenance fees until the next Annual Meeting after the completion of a dwelling unit." 

    Last modified: 24 Jan 2024 6:26 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)
  • 23 Jan 2024 10:10 AM
    Reply # 13304749 on 13303390

    Thank you for your reply. The 4th lot is owned by the developer of  the other lots and has not been sold. So it sounds like we need to bill him as well until the lot is sold.  We have our work to do. We have learned so much by becoming a member and utilizing the Discussion forum. Again, thanks to everyone who contributed to this discussion. Best, Virginia

  • 24 Jan 2024 4:47 PM
    Reply # 13305544 on 13303390

    Yes, you are correct Virginia.  The Road Maintenance Declaration says that maintenance responsibility applies only to lots that have been improved.  So, it appears that you cannot bill the owner of the unimproved lot, no matter who it is, until a residence is built upon it.  However, the Declaration pretty well spells out what is necessary to move forward, and it has the authority of a deed restriction.  Compared to others living on private roads in Maine, you are fortunate.  

    While I cannot give you legal advice, I strongly recommend you start to establish methods and procedures to take advantage of the protections the Declaration provides you.  Road maintenance expenses are inevitable and not necessarily limited to snow clearing. Gravel roads often need maintenance because of snow clearing.

    No matter how busy or disinterested in the topic, someone among the three improved lots has to act and the sooner you establish procedures to carry out the obligations under the Road Maintenance Declaration the better it will be for all.  

    Regardless of the personal circumstances of a dissenting owner, the Declaration makes it a clear obligation of each owner to pay a share and it actually says that unpaid expenses are a lien on the non-payor’s property.  So that gives you the authority (after proper notice) to place a lien. A lien is proof of a debt, but you are not protected until that lien is actually filed and recorded in the county.  Once a lien is placed, if the property is sold it is very likely that the debt will be repaid.  Look over the Resources page for examples of late notes and notices of a lien.  None will fit your situation exactly but most are in Word format so you can easily make changes to fit.

    Carrots are often better than sticks. You can learn about mediation here but do not neglect to set up procedures operate your private road!

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