Holly L. Setzler Letters
Holly L. Setzler is the attorney that performs collections for Associa Mid-Atlantic Corporation, When homeowners fall behind by three months, the community manager automatically refers the delinquency to Ms Setzler. She then writes a warning letter (a form letter) and bills the Homeowner Association for her charges. The Management Company then adds the costs of Ms Setzler's activities to the delinquent homewowner's bill.
Ms Setzler performs these collection services for a number of Associa Mid-Atlantic Corporation clients and derives a steady income for her practice. She shares a relationship with Associa Mid-Atlantic Corporation such that her collection activities are handled via a special account in the general ledger for Willistown Knoll. Holly Setzler's invoices and her consequential income are passed through to the homeowners via special assessments administered by Associa in such a way as to not be shown on the Homeowner Association's Annual Financial Statements. In other words, there is no visibility to the other homeowners that these activities and charges to other members are taking place. As a consequence, the income she is deriving from the Association's members for her collection activities is not transparent. One can only wonder who completes her IRS 1099-MISC statements for her collections income as it is not stated in the association's annual reports as even existing.
Ms Setzler also provides legal advice to the Board which includes sending letters to homeowners. This page is dedicated to examples of her letters which have been sent to homeowners. The Board also requests her to regularly attend their meetings. As a point of reference, in the Willistown Knoll Homeowners Association, over $40,000 was spent on attorney fees by the Board of the Association in 2012 alone.
1 Dog Barking Complaint
A homeowner receives a formal Notice of Violation from Steven C. Bickley, community manager, informing him that he has been cited with a dog barking violation that occurred at 5:00 AM. The bylaws for violations of the association require a:
- signed complaint
- investigation by the board
- a majority vote of the board affirming that a violation has taken place
An association's bylaws in Pennsylvania are public documents, available to all Board members and written at roughly an eighth grade reading level.
The homeowner also has a right to appeal the violation. Quoting directly from the Association's Bylaws:
- Any Owner against whom the Board has levied a fine, issued a cease and desist letter, and/or a Notice of Violation, shall have the right to file an appeal from such fine, letter or Notice to the Board by filing a written Notice of Appeal with the Board
The homeowner requested an appeal and to review the signed complaint and any other evidence against him. The Board refused to hear the appeal and refused to produce any evidence of the violation. The homeowner asked again; but this time he receives a Ms Setzler Letter instead of a response from the Board. Ms Setzler sided with the Board claiming that the homeowner does not have the right to appeal the violation
See the 2003 Amended Bylaws, ARTICLE XXIV DUE PROCESS PROCEDURES to see if Ms Setzler is right.
1.2 The Letter
Here is Ms Setzler's interpretation of this Bylaw Procedure:
- Since issuance of the letter, there was no fine issued to you as a result of the complaint. Accordingly, there is no provision for a hearing on the matter... This final decision concludes the Board's and my review of the matter.
For those who would like to see the original letter, click on the thumbnail to the right.
- The Bylaws clearly state that an appeal is allowed for a Notice of Violation, regardless of whether a fine is involved. Ms Setzler claims an appeal will only be heard when a fine is involved. Which has precedence: the Bylaws or what Ms Setzler makes up?
- Why didn't the Board document their decision or was no vote ever taken? Can't the Board follow the Bylaws as an example to the community or do they beleive they can make up their own interpretations per Ms Setzler's example? The Bylaws are rather specific, no Board vote, no violation.
- Did Mr. Steven Bickley CMCA, AMS violate his Standards of Professional Conduct by sending out a violation letter based upon a complaint with no recorded Board vote? Shouldn't a "licensed" CMCA be obliged to follow the communities Bylaws or can he make up the rules as he goes along?
- Who authorized the Ms Setzler's involvement in this matter of dog barking? The Board? An individual Board member? The community manager?
- Were the funds spent for Ms Setzler's services in this rather trivial matter worthwhile investment for the Association or a waste of money? Would the Board members of Marian Derr, Gil Breitnall, Harry Diavastis, Eileen McAnally, or Bill Horst have spent their own money in this manner? If not, why are they spending the association's money on what appears to be a grudge match?
- If the Board and our Community Manager cannot figure out how to implement our Due Process properly, do we have any hope they will be able to correctly address more complex issues?
- Why did the Board involve Ms Setzler in such a trivial matter? Was it to correctly follow due process or to bully a homeowner, something one wonders if Ms Setzler willing assists.
2 The Dangerous Leaning Trees
A homeowner living near the edge of the Association's property became concerned that the unmaintained woods near her home was being endangered by large trees that had grown over her home on the last twenty years. The trees were clearly on property of Willistown Knoll HOA and clearly leaned over her house at angles of approximately 30 degrees or more.
Pictures were sent to the Board with a request to address this situation. Also accompanying the pictures were three articles to assist the Board in evaluating the situation, all three written by independent professors who have doctorates in tree pathology, teaching classes to not only university students but also for arborists. These papers were:
- USDA Field Guide for Danger Tree Identification and Response
- Forest Pathology - Hazard Trees
- Estimating Leaning Tree Failure
2.2 The Letter
Instead of properly addressing the situation using common sense, the Board and Associa-MAMC chose to involve Ms Setzler.
Here is the letter she wrote the homeowner. Simply click on the thumbnail to read it.
Note that Ms Setzler writes: The Association employed professional arborists to evaluate the trees behind your home. While we recognize you have received a plethora of information from a homeowner with respect to trees, the certified and licensed arborists advise that the trees are leaning simply to get light and are perfectly healthy, stable, and natural.
According to Ms Setzler, multiple certified arborists stated that 60 foot tall trees that lean at over 25 degrees over someone's home are "perfectly stable".
Rather interesting, the homeowner then asked the Board to produce these reports from the "employed professional arborists to evaluate the trees".
None were produced. Instead, the Board now sent out their Landscaping Committee who used the "plethora of information from a homeowner with respect to trees" (in the professional papers from tree pathologists that allow lay persons to spot at risk trees) to evaluate the trees hovering over the roof of the homeowner's home at lean angles greater than 25 degrees.
The trees were promptly removed.