Collin Wheeler moved out of his rented condo in the Buffalo Junction subdivision in Driggs this week. He’d been there since beginning a lease in August.
Wheeler, 23, whom the TVN previously referred to as Mr. Smith, said that once the move was finalized he had no reservations about sharing who he was.
“I’m definitely annoyed by the whole situation, but it’s nice to have some closure,” he said.
In late December the Buffalo Junction HOA board informed Wheeler and his roommate that they did not fit the required “single family” description for renting a unit in the neighborhood.
“Long-term leases/rentals are restricted to a single family and a maximum of six people residing in the unit during the period of the lease/rental. ‘Family’ is defined to include parents (or single parent) and children and other dependents,” the HOA board wrote in a letter to condominium owners in December.
The letter stated that all tenants who did not comply with the HOA’s rules had to be out of their units by Friday, Jan. 15. Otherwise, the HOA board threatened the units’ owners with fines of up to $100 day and the shut-off of utilities.
Wheeler received the news as he was preparing to travel to the midwest for a major knee surgery.
Tayson Rockefeller, Wheeler’s property manager, said the Buffalo Junction HOA, LLC board of directors added a clause to their rules and regulations giving them the power to make whatever “reasonable” rules they saw fit.
“It’s this dictatorship of this board that has seemingly too much power,” he said. “I’ve come to realize that most of the owners, they don’t really agree with any of this. And the board of directors are the only ones participating.”
Last week, Brent Morgan, president of the board, told the TVN that four of the over 40 units had been identified as being in violation of the occupancy requirements. He said the property owners should have notified the property mangers of the “significant” changes to the rules and regulations.
“I don’t consider that to be drama,” he said.
This week, members of the board did not respond to requests for comment by the time of publication.
Wheeler was not the only tenant who was effectively forced to vacate his unit. Another renter in the neighborhood, Forrest Rodman, had to move out last week along with his roommates.
“We were pretty shocked when they started threatening eviction and penalties,” Rodman said. “We were never served with an eviction notice. We never miss rent.”
Rodman said he and his roommates, who are employed by a number of local and regional companies, including Grand Targhee Resort, the National Parks Service and High Mountain Heli-Skiing, never knew they were in violation of the homeowner association rules when they signed their six-month lease.
Rodman said he was unsure that the HOA’s move was ethical or legal. Plus, he said, he and one of his roommates are disabled military veterans, which may qualify them for extra legal protections. He said others employed at Grand Targhee were being evicted, as well.
Luckily, he said, the group found a new place to live before the January deadline through their current property management company, Grand Valley Lodging.
Mike Sleep, owner of the property management company, said this was a “first” for his staff.
“We were kind of disappointed in how it all came about very abruptly,” he said. “It seemed targeted, with a very specific focus of pushing out any temporary residents in the neighborhood.”
At this point, the company, along with others, is still waiting on clarification of the HOA board’s updated rules.
“We’re willing to work with the rules as long as we clearly understand what they are,” Sleep said. “It’s not our intention of violating any HOA policies.”
In an email, Grand Valley requested a “reasonable extension to comply” with the demands of the board, a “memorandum of interpretation” clearly stating who could or could not rent, as well as a “clear set of requirements” outlining what the board was requiring of managers.
Now, one of the couples from the condo managed by Grand Valley is moving elsewhere within the valley.
For Wheeler, who’s leaving the valley for the next month, he’s now secured new housing with the help of Rockefeller. Rockefeller said that one of the owners in the subdivision had looked into the legality of the HOA’s move.
“[The attorney] said that what the Buffalo Junction HOA board did, although not ethical, is legal,” he said. “Going forward, we’re moving [Wheeler] into another unit and finding someone who qualifies to move into this other unit.”
Wheeler said he’s just ready to live in a new neighborhood where “politics” aren’t involved.
“They don’t have an HOA there, I guess.”