THE RUA: WHAT IT DOES, WHAT IT DOESN’T
In September of 2021, after months of negotiation, SaddleBrooke HOA1 and HOA2 signed a document titled the “Reciprocal Use Agreement (RUA).” The purpose of this agreement is to provide access for each HOA’s residents to the other HOA’s amenities and facilities. The agreement replaced a similar agreement signed in 1996, which was expiring after having been in effect for twenty-five years.
What benefits does this agreement provide to SaddleBrooke residents? And, equally importantly, what does it exclude?
To begin with, the mere existence of the RUA underlines a stark fact of life in SaddleBrooke: neither HOA contains all the facilities and amenities to make it completely independent of the other. For example, HOA1 contains a tennis center, a billiards facility, an activity center, and bocce courts, none of which can be found in HOA2. At the same time, HOA2 has pickleball courts, a softball field, a dog park, and a 500-seat theater, none of which exist in HOA1.
Thus, it made supreme sense to have a cooperative agreement between the two HOAs, as it offered their residents a wider range of amenities than either association could provide individually. It restores, in part, the concept of a single SaddleBrooke, the original vision of the community. However, in many respects, the agreement falls far short of this vision because it lacks crucial elements which would truly unite the community.
First, the RUA does not permit either HOA a say in the maintenance or choice of the other HOA’s facilities or amenities. If one HOA elected to close a golf course, for example, the other HOA would have no recourse to challenge that decision. And, if one HOA allowed one of its amenities to fall into neglect, there is nothing the other HOA could do about it. This is a very uncomfortable state of affairs.
Second, the RUA does not provide a cost-sharing arrangement for new or upgraded amenities. Thus, if one HOA wished to construct a new amenity, it would have to bear all the cost, despite the RUA requiring that residents of the other HOA be allowed to use it, without any user fees. This almost sank adoption of the RUA in 2021. More than 40% of the residents of HOA2 voted against its adoption, ostensibly over this very issue.
Third, the agreement treats golf in a unique manner. It provides each HOA the right, but not the obligation, to share its golf facilities with residents of the other HOA. Currently, both HOAs permit this sharing of golf. But legally, this privilege could be terminated at any time. If that happened, the golfers in each HOA would find themselves having access to far fewer holes of golf than they might be accustomed to or expected when they joined the SaddleBrooke community.
Fourth, the agreement has only an eight-year life. What happens when it expires? The consequences of non-renewal would be draconian. Neither HOA could market itself as having access to a full complement of amenities. This terrible dagger hangs over the heads of SaddleBrooke residents.
It's apparent that the RUA, although certainly better than nothing, is merely a band-aid on the wounds inflicted on SaddleBrooke by a two-HOA system. The solution seems obvious- merge the two HOAs. A single homeowners’ association would eliminate the need for an RUA forever, resolve the four issues mentioned above, and restore fairness and equitability to our beloved community.