Homeowners' associations: hives of petty authoritarianism

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83 Responses to “Homeowners' associations: hives of petty authoritarianism”

  1. Ted8305 says:

    I hate HOA’s and refuse to ever live somewhere where one exists.

  2. TNGMug says:

    America…. what a place man.

    This whole “freedom” thing has become something of a coloquial idea hasn’t it? A child getting a government-paid trip to see a doctor, well that’s like communism and a violation of freedom, but god help you if you want to live in a purple house. Who do you think you are anyways?

  3. TNGMug says:

    An another thing… if we really did value our freedom (and the freedom of others) more then our vanity and our conformity, then the guy fixing his truck in front of his lime garage with pink shingles wouldn’t be dragging down property values in the first place.

  4. Anonymous says:

    They had better be careful. People have gone on shooting rampages over much less.

  5. gwailo_joe says:

    If you choose to move to Agrestic; don’t be surprised if your neighbor is Celia Hodes. . .

    (brrr the very thought. . .)

  6. gwailo_joe says:

    Didn’t you kids ever read The Big Orange Splot by (the man) Dan Pinkwater? Mr. Plumbean lives on Neat street, and when he paints his house his way; the neighbors start trippin’. . .

    “Our street is us and we are it. Our street is where we like to be, and it looks like all our dreams.”

    Alas, but for reality. . .

    • JArmstrong says:

      Yes, that book was a favorite of mine. It had such wonderful pictures and a beautiful message.

      Here in Chicago, I can look around my neighborhood and see dozens of beautiful, comical, scary, boring, anachronistic, and inviting homes. I daresay we have some of the finest architecture in the nation. Although my neighborhood does not have an HOA (I don’t think it can, as I think that is the building code restrictions are the city’s province), I do live in a three-unit condominium. All condominiums are required by law to have a declaration and by-laws are are automatically covered by the statutes I mentioned in an earlier post. Because there are only 3 units, everything involves a simple majority. Fortunately, we are all reasonable and friendly people who look out for each other, water each others’ plants, walk the dogs, babysit, house-sit, have drinks together, etc., and none of us try and force any issues down the other’s throats.

      That being said, you can see where certain rules create a more livable atmosphere. For example, let’s say someone wants to replace their front windows. Only they don’t check the by-laws and they simply replace them with dark tinted windows, with bright green window frames, or any other window that is inconsistent with the rest of the facade of the building. Now our building would look pretty terrible (BBer’s taste for the provocative and sublime notwithstanding). Our neighbor has created an eyesore and has negatively affected the value of his and our home. This sucks. In such a situation, should the Board–the other two owners–not ratify the change, the by-laws provide that the unit owner is responsible for bringing the window into conformity (egads! conformity!) with the rest of the building at his own expense. It just makes sense. Condo life is not for everybody, but a little bit of research lets you know the type of association you are buying into.

      Other posts talk about this being a restriction on freedoms. Yeah, I guess it is, but it is a restriction that you, quite legally, contracted away. You had the freedom to contract and the protection of the courts to get the benefit of the bargain you struck… so do the other parties to the contract. I’ll say it again, do your research and have an inexpensive ADR provision and your troubles will be few(er).

      And remember, my little condo association can agree to turn our building into a structure resembling a rocketship, but we have to do it by the book.

  7. batu b says:

    I would love to see some numbers on HOA-positive people. My personal bias would indicate that those who crave the “protection” of the HOA also crab about wanting smaller gov’t, lower taxes, and more channels of FOX news…

  8. batu b says:

    Oh, by the way, read “City of Quartz” by Mike Davis. Especially you angelenos!

    • Wingo says:

      This.

      I don’t know about the rest of the country, but here in LA HOAs were created in the early 20th century based primarily (if not solely) on blatant racism, i.e well-to-do white neighbors essentially forming posses to keep out the ‘undesirables’. This is one of the main reasons the geographic racial distribution of the population exists as it is today.

      So, basically, it is not surprising how much they suck based on their evil roots.

      • julie says:

        It only takes one bozo to ruin a neighborhood and deflate property values. Define undesirables…sounds like you have a chip on your shoulder, and even seem angry, that some of us prefer a beautiful community and are willing to pay dues and follow the rules to keep it that way. I take offense that you feel racism has anything to do with this…your comments are ridiculous.

  9. Chrs says:

    Homeowners associations are one of those things that I recognize some people want, and are legally allowed to establish. I still have trouble believing they exist.

    • Anonymous says:

      Of course, condo HOAs are necessary, since most of the property in question consist of commons. A number of large exurban subdivisions are built upon unincorporated land, and thus HOAs exist in large part to manage emergency service and utility contracts with nearby cities. And, finally, in theory HOAs can prevent neighborhood decline by enforcing standards.

      The problem is that in the last case there are frequently few rules or bounds on what HOAs are allowed to do, especially when they can foreclose on properties for vanishingly small amounts. (Disclosure: I’ve been involved in HOA foreclosures in condo properties, but the amounts involved were highly nontrivial.) For example, the recent Texas case in which a subdivision HOA foreclosed on a series of homes over hundreds of dollars of fines indicate that reform is urgently needed in such cases. At the moment, those who live under the power of HOAs are largely dependent upon the honesty and leniency of board members.

      Liens and injunctions should be sufficient for most minor cases, whereas arbitration and financial restructuring should be used when larger financial sums are involved. Foreclosure, while still something that should remain within HOA power, should be a last resort in all cases, and only when the homeowner is genuinely unwilling to comply with major financial, behavioral, legal or structural issues. Creating what amounts to a private, parallel legal system, virtually unanswerable to other authority, that threatens persons’ homes is a rebuke to liberty.

  10. turn_self_off says:

    they exist because there is a whole lot of money a stake thanks to the value of a property being partially attributed to its surroundings.

    That is, the property itself may be a aesthetic marvel. But if the surroundings are a bombed out crater, the value takes a dive.

    • RHK says:

      It depends on how draconian the HOA is. I used to get a notice every 3 months or so if I didn’t mow my lawn every week and let it grow out. Since the housing crash and the walkaway properties in the development, not so much anymore.

      As for property values, any realtor knows the value of the home depends on 3 things – location, location and location.

  11. tas121790 says:

    The kinds of houses in these types of neighborhoods are ugly anyway. Poorly designed McMansions with no character or thought or poorly designed houses with garages sticking out from the front of the home. Ugh…

    Ill never have to worry about HOAs.

    • JohnnyOC says:

      Hey!! That sounds like my house!

      All joking aside, in some more desirable areas with better schools and QoL, you honestly have to take the bad with the good if you want to get a house within a price range that’s not insane.

      Unfortunately, that means sometimes a butt-ugly front garage tacked onto a house, and BS HOA.

  12. inkfumes says:

    For the life of me I will never understand why anyone would live under a HOA regime, the stories I hear about them verge on nightmarish. Plant too many roses and you ruin your life and lose your home? Ridiculous, criminal almost.

    God forbid one of these HOA people get too old to maintain their shrubs and mow their lawn? Bring in the stockage, sorry granpa, you should have kept your tulips from whilting.

    • AirPillo says:

      God forbid one of these HOA people get too old to maintain their shrubs and mow their lawn? Bring in the stockage, sorry granpa, you should have kept your tulips from whilting.

      Cronyism shelters them from having to obey the rules they set.

      It also tends to shelter them from having to spend the HOA money on people who aren’t HOA leadership.

      Due to zoning regulations in our city, and the height of the townhouse plans here, our housing complex is recessed 4 feet below the level of the streets. This causes a problem with flooding during heavy rains. When a member of the HOA requests a sump pump installed to prevent water damage, it is installed within 2 weeks. When other residents requested them, provided photographic evidence of water damage, and insisted upon their installation, they were stonewalled for 3 years. Eventually, instead of having a permanent drain installed, the HOA just loaned out temporary sump pumps that have to be plugged into a wall outlet and hooked up to a garden hose that someone has to wade out into the rain to run up to the storm drains on the street.

      HOAs exist exclusively for the benefit of their senior members.

  13. Bevatron Repairman says:

    First thing I did when I bought a house was tell my realtor that if she even *showed* me a house with an HOA, that would be the end of our relationship.

    Apart from the many, many abuses of the system, what I hate about HOAs (apart from the petty rules themselves) is it is one more thing that separates neighbors. I have a neighbor who loves his leafblower (I mean, really really loves the infernal thing). Now, I don’t have an HOA to complain to, and he’s not violating any ordinances so the city isn’t going to get involved. So, I have to do a novel thing: ask him, politely, if he can avoid using it at certain times. That is, I have to decide if its worth the trouble to bother the neighbors about something. And they have to decide if its worth bothering me.

    If I had an HOA, I could simply rat him out the authorities about this or that or the other thing from behind my drawn curtains.

  14. jafi says:

    A local DJ will tells stories of how he gets a $75 dollar ticket from his HOA for leaving his garage door up too long. He hates the place but says it gives him lots of on air material. Seriously – what is wrong with these people. Petty bureaucrats from hell…

    During the drought the state of Colorado had to pass a law that HOA’s could not require people to violate water restrictions to keep a lawn green. People were literally caught between cities threatening to shut their water off or put a flow restrictor on and HOA’s threatening them over their lawns not being green enough.

    Then there’s the case of a woman who painted her house – not one of the 10 approved shades of beige. It was still beige – I couldn’t tell it was different from the “official” but the HOA took her to court and won. She had to repaint an approved beige.

    An ex-employee of Richmond Homes told me that the company founders wife picked all the house colors. Doesn’t it just make you feel great to know that for the next however many decades her taste is your fate?

    While I’m not a big fan of more regulations – HOA’s have no oversight and need some. A state code limiting how insane they can get and requiring financial submissions, sunshine laws etc.

  15. tas121790 says:

    How are these things legal anyway? I understand that the buyers signs the agreement during the buying process and that is all private but it seems that the HOA act as a level of government. They are enforcing rules over a small area with several different landowners and collect dues to help pay for administration costs and improvements to the development. That’s sounds just like a municipal government.

  16. Sam says:

    Thankfully, laws are starting to restrict some of the areas that HOAs can influence homeowners.

    In CO, we have had a law for a number of years that prevented HOAs (and other HOA like organizations) from restricting a homeowners ability to put solar energy systems on their roofs.

    Last year, the law was updated to include all energy efficiency systems, which was a huge victory. Now, homeowners who want to install swamp coolers instead of AC units, install clotheslines for drying clothing, or install solar or wind power systems to generate their own energy cannot be prevented by HOA rules. The HOA is still allowed to make minor changes to your plans, but those changes cannot “significantly increase the cost, or decrease the effectiveness” of the system.

    I’m fine with allowing neighborhood busybodies who want to hassle each other over paint colors, but it isn’t OK to restrict people who are trying to make improvements to their energy efficiency – something that benefits everyone.

  17. TheMadLibrarian says:

    HOAs are useful where you physically can control your neighbors enjoyment of their own property, like in a condo complex. When you share walls and ceilings, problems don’t always stop at the paint. Sometimes a HOA can step in where the neighbor habitually enjoys his polka music all night long, despite requests to turn it down. OTOH, most HOAs have a number of petty rules that make very little sense and should be enforced on a case by case basis. The HOA in our former condo had rules forbidding bicycles from being stored on back porches, but didn’t provide any bike racks until repeatedly petitioned. They also would not allow satellite dishes of any type, but we had no broadcast TV signals, and cable was notoriously spotty.

    • Stjohn says:

      IIRC, federal law specifically states that you can have a satellite dish on your property. The idea was that it would break the monopoly cable co’s had in apartment situations. Pretty sure it applies to HOA’s as well.

      My first condo was a HOA situation, but with rare exception, they were pretty mellow. Fortunately the folks on the board were pretty cool, and as a result, the complex became like the Bridge in Virtual Light. People built whole rooms and grew full gardens on roofdecks and balconies. But there was always a cadre of old ladies (mostly old ladies, but a few old men) who would put forth motion after motion to return to the cookie-cutter bliss of the early 60′s when the complex was built. They were always voted down, but I was glad to get out of there nonetheless.

  18. teufelsdroch says:

    To me, the subtext of these horror stories is how twisted Americans’ relationship to their neighborhood has become.

    Any one of these problems could have been ended if the neighbor took a pie over and sat down to hash out the issue. Or if they both met at the local and had a few pints. Other countires hate their neighbors, sure, but they don’t buy big plots of land and then sink their ranch as far away from everyone else as possible.

    I think Bevatron’s doctrine is simple: realize right from the first that these rabbit warrens are chock-a-block with the kind of people you hate. Then, go somewhere else.

    If anything, it’s nice to suppose that all the assholes in the world have self-segregated themselves, yammering about lawns and roses, so they will hopefully leave you alone.

  19. Chesterfield says:

    Not all HOA’s are abusive. The one I live under takes care of the common areas (pool, tennis courts, sports fields, hiking trails, etc…) and they do a damned good job.

    There are rules in place for how you have to maintain your home, but they are mostly pretty reasonable. The biggest complaint any of my neighbors seem to have is not being able to keep their boat parked beside their house.

    I’ve read all kinds of HOA horror stories and I don’t understand why people don’t just go to a meeting and change the rules / HOA leadership?

    And tas121790, HOA’s are even coming into existence in very old neighborhoods. They certainly aren’t confined to newer suburbs.

    • Gyrofrog says:

      “I don’t understand why people don’t just go to a meeting and change the rules / HOA leadership?”

      My wife had a house in a neighborhood where some complained the HOA was ineffective, other than collecting the dues. The next step was to delegate the tasks (i.e. tall grass warnings, and collecting dues) to some company that was on the other side of town (i.e. not in the neighborhood). There was no board left for the airing of grievances.

      • Antinous / Moderator says:

        The ancien régime here had everything farmed out to management companies. An aggressive new board got voted in and took over daily management. The reserves have gone up by $100K in less than two years and they’re planning to drop the monthly HOA dues. The outside management company was charging $60 per unit per month (total $6K +) for services like paying the gardener three times for the same invoice and randomly towing residents’ cars out of their designated parking spaces.

  20. Baldhead says:

    My dad at one point joined the strata council in his condo just to fight this sort of idiocy. The problem was (and is in many of these things) the people in there in the first place form a clique that likes enforcing their own opinion on others and hates dissent. Think if the “cool kids” in high school had legitimate, principal- backed power.

  21. Anonymous says:

    Since HOAs violate common sense of justice, and such injustices are upheld in courts, this suggests that either the courts are in error, that the laws are unconstitutional, or that the constitution is insufficient to capture out instinctual understanding of justice.

    The typical defense of HOAs is that they protect the value of your neighbors’ property. Implicit here is the understanding that by altering the character of location around a property, you can effectively steal from the property owner.

    It seems like the simplest computation would be weather the rights of a property owner to the value conferred by location outweigh what we perceive as essential human decency.

    It seems glaringly obvious that, in these ten instances, the rights of the neighbors to protect their property rights and homogeneity of their neighborhood do not outweigh the essential human rights of the defendants in the case.

    Which leads me to question the integrity of judges that would hand down such clearly unethical rulings.

    This is the value of lawyers, I suppose : when the laws are not ethical, lawyers must make them ethical, even if this requires exhausting the appeals process up to the Supreme Court.

    Since obviously people who have been bankrupted by their HOAs can’t afford to do this, I wonder if it would be feasible to have a publicly funded class action suit against the HOAs in violation ?

    My knowledge of legal proceedings is poor, but I think we can all agree that a crime, by common understanding of human rights, has been committed here.

    • Anonymous says:

      HOAs do not “violate common sense.” There is a clear desire for some people to enter into agreements to control the effects of development around their properties. Think zoning.

      Better for this to exist in a private, federalized manner than in some type of government institution. At least you can move nearby (outside the HOA) or readily promote local change. HOAs certainly don’t have a monopoly on being tyrannical and unsympathetic–these same petty dictators exist in virtually every level of government. Has anyone ever tried to change a local zoning law? In my area it’s near impossible.

      Perhaps it makes sense for the State to abridge some types of contracts that private citizens can enter, require that the contracts be explicit, or abrogate some terms in emergency conditions.

      But HOAs do make a great deal of sense, even if there are examples of bad outcomes.

  22. Anonymous says:

    The two unalterables I gave my realtor were no shared walls and no HOA. Since I have no intention of selling, what somebody else thinks my house is worth is of no concern to me and I couln’t care less what color my neighbors paint their trim. Almost inevitably the only people who are willing to serve on the board ARE the pettiflogging Stalin wanna-bes.

  23. Rob Beschizza says:

    The list misses the best one, which is that you have to do what H.O.s demand even if they are wrong, until you have proved so in court. From :

    “I thought I owed them less than $800,” says Lindsey. “They said it was over $1,000.” The dispute wound up in court as the association threatened to foreclose on her home.

    In the end, it turned out that Lindsey was right about the money she owed. The board had goofed. But the association won its lawsuit anyway. The judge ruled that she was wrong not to make back payments while the matter was in dispute. To her dismay, Lindsey was left with a $22,000 bill for the association’s legal costs

    The plain fact is that if you move into a H.O., you’re agreeing to a lot worse than the ‘expressive’ restrictions everyone understands H.O.s take away from you. You’re basically handing them your checkbook.

  24. Anonymous says:

    Land of the free … hehehe

  25. Anonymous says:

    Forcing a person to live by the arbitrary rules of an HOA is ultimately no different than living in a penal colony. It removes any sense of true ownership and any joy that may come with it. The exception being that members of a penal colony don’t willingly hand over thousands of dollars for the chance to be incarcerated.

    Basically, if being kept in a structured world is appealing to you, then you would do just as well to shoot somebody as buy a house in an HOA area.

    No thanks. I prefer freedom.

  26. Scruff says:

    I too had a “no HOA” policy when buying a house.

    Also here is a great Pat Murphy story about HOAs.
    http://www.brazenhussies.net/murphy/Flamingos.html

  27. Anonymous says:

    in my friends small police state, neighborhood, we can’t run RC cars, we had gas powered ones, only during reasonable daytime hours, still a slew of whining and moning, meanwhile some guy has a leaf blower fetish and practically fucks the thing for 3 hours a day but that’s ok, and make more noise? We got electrics and still bitching and moaning endlessly, we switched to offroad and went into the large, open, and never used fields, and that was still an issue. These HOAs are freaking retarded. His car was infested with ants, and they have a no auto mait policy, he couldn’t drive it somewhere with fire ants in it, mind you he is allergic also, I came over and tore the interior out and delt with it for him, luckily he has his pen for when he gets bit/stung. They still freaked out even after an explanation of what the issue was. So being that I don’t live there I went to the guys house that was emailing and bitched him out and called him many things and told him to go fuck himself. When someone could have potentially died due to an allergic reaction they were still idiots. How is that even reasonable?

  28. chgoliz says:

    I’m always amazed at how much actual restriction on personal liberty many Americans will willingly submit to, but then turn around and go ballistic about theoretical impositions such as gays being allowed to marry too.

  29. Moriarty says:

    I actually think HOAs are probably a good thing, overall. Some people want to live in places where the consistency of those kinds of things is assured, and I’d rather have those people setting up ultralocal HOAs to do so rather than trying to use the instruments of municipal government or higher. A suburban neighborhood or an urban apartment building are small enough units that living there really is voluntary in a way that, say, being under the laws of the federal government is not.

    I also agree with whoever said they have more value in something like an apartment building, where you are more in the same boat, like it or not, than you are on separate plots of land.

    That said, the kinds of petty and ridiculous rules that HOA often seem to end up making in practice make me depressed about humanity.

    And finally, Arcadia is one of my favorite X Files episodes.

  30. Anonymous says:

    Other countries have HOs, but they don’t have the same arbitrary power. In Canada, for example, an HO cannot take away rights you already have. For example, many HOs restrict TV antennas or even cloth-lines, and most people just suck it up.

    But no HO can actually enforce either of these. It doesn’t matter what you sign when you buy the house, it just isn’t really legally binding. This is similar to an EULA or an NDA; neither can take away rights and privileges you are explicitly granted by law.

    This is how Canadian Hams have it a little easier. They don’t have to stealth their antennas in. The government asks that you notify your neighbours when doing something that affects them (erecting a fence or antenna, or digging a pool, &etc.) but those neighbours cannot simply refuse you the right to do these things as long as it is ok with local statutes. No HO can change that.

    Heck, even city bylaws can’t take away your right to erect a legal antenna as long as you run a licensed station.

  31. rick386 says:

    I live in Fla. and my ma is a real estate broker. She calls them ‘condo commando’s’. I know she don’t like HOA’s. Too many horror stories. The one about the elderly couple not being able to keep their grandchild is especially interesting. Old people are part of a group that would fight like hell if they are age discriminated against, especially on employment or housing issues. But yet they practice the same.

    If I were in the same situation as a couple of those people, I know how I’d handle it. Illegally. Threats of violence through 3rd parties, malicious acts, ect. I do not surrender property or liberty w/o a fight.

  32. haineux says:

    If you live in a condo, or a townhome that shares structure with neighbors, you probably need an HOA, because it gives you special kinds of insurance against neighbor-caused disasters, and legal leverage when the neighbors turn into insane jerks.

    On the other hand, an HOA gives insane jerks legal leverage, as evidenced above. You are one missed board meeting away from someone having the legal power to take your home, and your money, away from you.

    Therefore, it is far preferable to purchase a freestanding home that does not share structure with neighbors, and has no HOA. Although it will be more expensive, the resale value, and ease of selling, will be MUCH higher.

    If you like living in a dense urban environment, you’ve pretty much got to have an HOA. Just remember, those are not “neighbors” but “co-owners,” and they will eventually either have a beef with you, or sell to someone who will. Evaluate carefully how long that will be, always be part of the HOA power structure, and always make nice with the co-owners.

    This is the #1 rule I know about real estate.

    The #2 rule is, “Never, under any circumstances, buy real estate containing tenants.” The only possible exception is as follows: You are already a landlord, and have a lawyer on retainer.

    My pals bought a single-family home that contained a renter who had already signed an airtight, legally-binding contract to move out on a certain date. But since the tenants somehow detected asbestos in the building materials, it took an extra year and $50,000 to get them to leave.

    Seriously: “Never, under any circumstances, buy real estate containing tenants.”

  33. Moriarty says:

    Another thought: if you live under a HOA, you presumably have some say in it. If democracy even on that scale results in tyranny, how powerless are we/what hope do we have for something the size of a nation?

    • peterbruells says:

      That’s why fully-fledged democracies have safeguards like inalienable rights (which can’t get voted away) and provisions for the protection of minorities’ interests.

      Just taking having a majority rule is all too near to a mob rule.

    • turn_self_off says:

      Both scales of tyranny comes from not caring until the jackboot hits ones head.

      Sadly, it can be a full time job keeping up with potential local rules. Keeping up with national or global such can, and do, keep whole groups at work. And those groups, like the priests of old latin, are free to twist the interpretation of the scriptures presented. That is, as their language invariably takes on a lingo all their own.

  34. Anonymous says:

    at the end of the article the web page said something like “read more of our real-estate coverage” and i thought to myself “are you kidding?”

    .~.

  35. matt blank says:

    Huh I live in an area with an HOA. It’s sole purpose is to ensure that the community center (gym), public garden, and area park are maintained and kept nice. They also collectively bargain with our local telco provider to get great internet speed at a dirt cheap rate, as they’re able to promise x number of guaranteed subscribers. They have rules about the common facing areas, but nothing so draconian as to numbers of flowers or anything like that.

  36. Todd Knarr says:

    I make it a policy to avoid property with an HOA involved. I’ve seen too many tin-pot dictators involved there, too much petty politics. Easier to just not deal with it. If I have to live somewhere with an HOA, I’m going to make sure the rules are firmly written into the deed/title paper. None of this “rules are included by reference” or anything where the HOA can change the rules or add new ones. I’ll decide whether the rules are acceptable or not, but if they’re acceptable I want them nailed down so they can’t change in the future unless I agree to the change.

    The best outcome with an HOA I’ve seen was one my father was involved in. The HOA didn’t like the fencing he’d put up, and tried to force him to take it down. They were a bit surprised when he showed up at the meeting with a lawyer in tow. They were even more surprised when the lawyer opened with “Before we proceed, I’ll need you to identify the exact section in the convenants and restrictions in this lot’s title that subjects it to your regulations.”. They went through a lot of the lawyer rejecting standard terms, HOA rules and such with “But those aren’t this lot’s C&Rs.”. Turns out the lot was first sold early on, before there was an HOA, and when it was sold to Dad the seller never added the HOA provision to the C&Rs and the HOA had no authority over that lot. The HOA… declined to pursue the matter in court.

  37. Ambiguity says:

    My personal bias would indicate that those who crave the “protection” of the HOA also crab about wanting smaller gov’t, lower taxes, and more channels of FOX news…

    I don’t know about that….

    Around here, it’s the people who best fit the “affluent, white liberal” stereotype who live in the most restrictive neighborhood, and the conservative, “leave me alone” descendants of long-time farmers who stay away from them.

    • Donald Petersen says:

      I don’t know about that….

      Around here, it’s the people who best fit the “affluent, white liberal” stereotype who live in the most restrictive neighborhood, and the conservative, “leave me alone” descendants of long-time farmers who stay away from them.

      I don’t know about your don’t know about that…

      My sister’s family moved into a new Agrestic-style development in Temecula, CA about 12 years or so ago, complete with “designated greenspaces” and a fairly robust set of CC&Rs to follow. Lots more churchgoing white Republicans in that neighborhood than affluent liberals. My pinko heathen wife and I live in a century-old Arts & Crafts house in an unfashionable corner of Pasadena, which still maintains its own set of semi-reasonable regulations regarding overnight street parking (none without a permit you can buy at the fire station) and lawn length (2″ or less, it would seem). The City also complains if you don’t keep your trash bins tucked behind a fence; if they’re visible from the street, somebody might squawk.

      I’m mortally opposed to the idea of living within the jurisdiction of a homeowners’ association (part of the reason why we bought our antique dowager of a home), but I wish I’d possessed a better understanding of the nagging Mrs Grundy vibe that the municipality of Pasadena possesses before we’d bought. At least they don’t seem to care what color paint we use, or whether we install solar panels, or how many kids we want to have. And if my neighbor across the street is any indication, they don’t seem to take an active interest in how many junked cars are hidden away in the back yard, as long as they are invisible from the street. I know he must have more than the legal limit since he has at least seven, but the front yard is so charmingly well-trimmed that nobody’s ever given him any guff over it.

      Anyway, as Moriarty above mentioned, the X-Files episode “Arcadia” is a hoot and a half. It’s the only logical explanation for overenthusiastic enforcement of CC&Rs: a monster comes out of the storm drains at night and feasts on violators of the rules, for infractions as slight as a burned-out porchlight.

      See it if you have any interest in this discussion at all. You’ll be doubly glad you don’t live there.

  38. Antinous / Moderator says:

    HOAs are a perfect example of democracy in action. One unit: one vote. No nasty Supreme Court to overturn the tyranny of the majority. What’s the difference between the citizens of your complex voting in some bylaws and the citizens of your city/county/state/country voting in representatives/laws?

    Fortunately, the courts sometimes side with homeowners against their HOAs. For instance, many HOAs have a ‘no pets’ rule, but various courts have opined that the HOA has to show cause why a homeowner can’t have an indoor cat or a dog that doesn’t bark.

  39. Anonymous says:

    As someone who’s been through the mill on this issue, let me make this suggestion: NEVER buy a property within an HOA. The types of individuals that are drawn to the governing bodies of these organizations invariably are carrying a petty agenda with them, and having a team of lawyers at their beck and call becomes an unhealthy addiction for them. Despite what you might think, it is *very* difficult to change association rules and many of them are so vague as to allow all varieties of weird interpretations by board members (who delight in meddling in the smallest aspects of their neighbor’s lives). In short, avoid HOAs at any cost.

  40. sdmikev says:

    I’ve owned two condos in the last 20 years (live in an older home in San Diego, now) and the HOA stuff used to drive me crazy.
    In the first one, they would do good things like keep people from turning their driveways into auto repair zones but they wouldn’t spend a couple bucks to keep the place policed (literally) when there were some problems with crime. Also, they would freely flaunt the law when I would demand to see the financials of the organization. And on top of that, the bulk of the people that had power in the org were landlords that wanted to keep the costs down as low as possible, thus not caring about any of the other owners that actually lived there.
    In the second one, they were collecting almost 200 dollars a month in Carlsbad, CA to basically keep the lawns mowed and the pool clean. But if you parked your car on the street they would break your balls.
    As for this guy in Rancho Santa Fe, this doesn’t shock me in the least. Why anyone would want to live in that over-priced, soulless “town” is beyond me. You can’t even have mail or UPS delivered to your own home there.

  41. Anonymous says:

    In the linked article, the example with the little girl being taken in by her grandparents is likely the same creepy place called The Villages in Florida that NPR did a story on. Really worth listening to the audio.

  42. Rindan says:

    Don’t own property… or at least think DAMN hard about it before you do. HOAs are just one of chains you slap on yourself when you buy a house. Having an asset with a few multiples your entire income and an order of magnitude or more than what you save each year SHOULD make you nervous. You are nailed to a location and hideously easily to blackmail by threatening your “investment”.

    I am not saying that home owning is the devils work, just that people are far too casual about taking on such massive debt, committing to the expenses associated with the asset, and holding such a hugely expensive chunk of illiquid assets.

    • sdmikev says:

      I agree with this.
      Far too many people think that there is nothing else they should strive for other than tying a huge mortgage around their neck. It’s OK to “settle” as it were. Either with a rental or a house one can actually afford. And the banks in the last ten years were MORE than happy to send people and the economy to their collective doom by abandoning traditional calculations and income standards.
      On a smaller level, you see people do the same thing with cars. They have to have a brand new BMW or Escalade or whatever, but don’t think about the consequences of all the debt, maintenance and gas..

  43. Anonymous says:

    As any blog owner (BB) will tell you, you have no constitutional rights when it’s private property.

    “In the Twin Rivers case, a group of homeowners collectively called “The Committee for a Better Twin Rivers” sued the Association, for a mandatory injunction permitting homeowners to post political signs and strike down the political signage restrictions by the association as unconstitutional. The appeals court held the restrictions on political signs unconstitutional and void, but the appeals court was reversed when the New Jersey Supreme Court overturned the Appellate courts decision in 2007 and reinstated the decision of the Trial Court. The Court determined that even in light of New Jersey’s broad interpretation of its constitutional free speech provisions, the “nature, purposes, and primary use of Twin Rivers property is for private purposes and does not favor a finding that the Association’s rules and regulations violated plaintiffs’ constitutional rights.” Moreover, the Court found that “plaintiffs’ expressional activities are not unreasonably restricted” by the Association’s rules and regulations. Finally, the Court held that “the minor restrictions on plaintiffs’ expressional activities are not unreasonable or oppressive, and the Association is not acting as a municipality.”

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Homeowner_association#Criticisms

    Yes, in public, this would be authoritarianism. But since it’s private property it’s merely homeowner “moderation”.

  44. bizzyb says:

    I live in a neighborhood with a HOA, and I do believe that there’s a lot of variation out there in similar neighborhoods. Our monthly fees are along the lines of $40 and they primarily go toward upkeep of the common areas, the pool/clubhouse, the lake, and security. When the community started it was still in an undeveloped area outside town, so all of the roads were laid and maintained by the community. The city itself is one of the top crime cities for its size, so having security officers who are actually police is reassuring, especially when the local police generally take 30 minutes to respond to a call. Security will also make additional patrols when you let them know you’re on vacation.

    In response to the idea that all HOA-communities involve identical houses, or even super-large houses, it’s just not so. The average house here is around 1400 sq ft, and they vary so much. I’ve seen both a dome and a triangle house in amidst the hundreds in the neighborhood; some people have many crazy lawn ornaments. The rules are minimal, but do include “no chickens” and “don’t leave the trashcan by the curb all week”. Pretty simple to manage.

  45. Anonymous says:

    The Jeffrey DeMarco example is less than compelling if you know some of the background. Mr. DeMarco has a vested interest in 1) appearing to be an over-the-top rose enthusiast and 2) getting public attention as a victim of abuse of power. Why? In the late 80s he started to market (mostly in Penthouse and High Times – see http://www.cannabisculture.com/backissues/cc00/phototron.html) an indoor grower for marijuana that promote bud growth and increased potency. This was done under the thinly veiled ruse of growing roses (indoors in a lighted container – very esthetic!).

    His company, moreover, made lots of false health claims (e.g. http://www.ftc.gov/opa/predawn/F93/pyraponic4.htm) and was eventually shut down. He railed against the attempt to shut him down, and has become a professional victim of government unfairness. Is he a victim here? More likely this is a calculated attempt to promote the view that he’s been unfairly victimized for growing roses, yet again.

    This is not to say that HOA rules aren’t unfair, nor to say that dual-purpose products whose purpose is clearly to help people break the law shouldn’t be sold. Those points can be argued either way. The point is that (as is often the case), what looks like an obvious injustice may have a more subtle sub-story. Mr. DeMarco is not the best poster child for abusing HOA rules – he may well have ulterior motives.

  46. JoshuaZ says:

    I generally don’t have much sympathy for people in these situations: You can easily live somewhere without a HOA. Moving in to one means you generally should expect that if anything even remotely abnormal occurs you’ll get zero sympathy and terribly mistreated. That said, even given that, some of the examples in the article, like the elderly couple taking in their grandchild, and the man repairing his house after a plane struck it killing his family, are just heartbreak.

    The people who run these sorts of things and care about them are generally petty people who haven’t managed to do much with their lives. I’ve got in fact a relative who fits the stereotype of who would try to enforce a HOA and she’s actually spent time trying to tell us with righteous fury about how her community’s HOA needs to be more strictly enforced over the silliest things.

    Something like this should be on the list of reasons why I shouldn’t be allowed to take over the planet. Because if I do, I will do really terrible things to these pathetic tyrants.

    • Anonymous says:

      Do you really believe that everyone enters into these agreements with full knowledge of the consequences (especially the elderly)? To me, it seems predatory.

      It’s also rather threatening to liberty when someone with sufficient wealth can create de-facto authoritarian municipalities. Imagine being a kid in these neighborhoods, they have no choice.

  47. The Raven says:

    Americans. Say they want freedom & then they do things like this. Be better off taking their chances with city governments.

    Croak!

  48. NuOrder72 says:

    I used to live in a HOA (Condos) where they had an old, forgotten-about bi-law about “trucks” being parked in the condo lots. I guess back in the day, there was an issue with too many people parking their “commercial” trucks (not semis or tractor trailers) that they used for their work; i.e., painters, carpenters, HVAC, or any other trade you can think of. Anyhow, the condo association turned their noses up to these blue collar professionals who parked their “monstrosities” on their property and they quickly took care of them by voting their trucks off the grounds, thus forcing these men (and women) to park their trucks great distances away from their property in order not to get towed….

    Now, fast forward to the year 2000…the bi-law had long been forgotten about until some old curmudgeon got cranky about his HVAC neighbor parking his “unsightly” truck near his Benz…I guess the ladder attached to the top of the HVAC truck clashed with his ragtop…who knows? So, the HOA decided that this law should apply to ALL TRUCKS!!! Yes, that meant if you had a license plate that was registered (in Illinois you need a special plate for trucks, even if they are a light truck like a Ford Ranger or Chevy S-10, you were given a week’s notice about the bi-law and were told that you could not park your truck on the condo property. Most of us (including myself) thought this couldn’t possibly be true and applied only to heavy-duty trucks used for work-purposes…but low-and-behold…an entire posse of tow trucks arrives at 1 in the morning to start hauling away ALL the trucks in the lots.

    Oh, you should have seen some of the angry exchanges that were made by the homeowners and the tow truck drivers; who, after all, were just doing what they were told. Luckily, I was able to stumble outside in my pajamas start up my truck and move it to an alternate location until the ordeal was over.

    Long story-short, the tow trucks continued to come night after night until a judge put an end to our ordeal. Some of the guys simply stood watch over their trucks (shotguns in hand) and just made their presence known when the tow trucks arrived. Funny, but also infinitely frustrating.

    Yes, HOA’s are biggest cluster-fcks of all time. Just look at what happened with the Stanford prison experiment…the HOA’s get high off their power as well…it is human nature, but these HOA’s are about as scummy as they come.

  49. igpajo says:

    My wife and I bought and lived in a condo for a couple years and they had a HOA of sorts. We joined the board because we’d heard of some of the crazy shit that can go on and we felt if we wanted to consider the condo purchase any sort of an investment, we needed to know what was going on. We joined the board more to be a fly on the wall and to be in the position to argue for common sense if needed. They weren’t all that bad with their rules, but some of the older folks in the place were insane with their complaints and demands on the board. It was always sure to be good entertainment once a month to sit in on a meeting and watch these people who lived in the same building screaming and yelling at each other. Good times.

  50. Anonymous says:

    I’ll cite this as another example of America’s obsession with slavery. We just get off dominating someone else.

  51. cjp says:

    I’m wondering if BB readers are aware of how mind-boggling this article and these comments are to the Canadians here. Especially this from NuOrder 72: “Some of the guys simply stood watch over their trucks (shotguns in hand) and just made their presence known when the tow trucks arrived.”

    Wow. What the hell, man? I just bought condo property in eastern Canada. They’d really like it if you weren’t too noisy and if you don’t park your car on the lawn. Also, please clean up after your dog. The condo corp. can make suggestions but they cannot fine you or tow you or stop you from building a fence if it’s within local by-law allowances. And it goes without saying that wielding shotguns will not be required when sorting out issues with our HOA.

    This country has it’s pros and cons, but let me tell you – goddammit, I love being Canadian.

  52. Ambiguity says:

    Like many in this thread, I’ve had a strict “no HOA” policy on the two occasions when I’ve purchased a house. I rented a condo for 10 years and saw otherwise nice and sane people become poster children for Godwin’s law once they became involved with the condo association, so when it came time to buy a house, I said no way. Aesthetics also played a part, because I agree with some of the posters that many of these places are just damn ugly. A petty, profit-driven HOA is a poor substitute for the beauty that arises from diversity.

    What really bothers me about HOAs in that, one day soon, we’ll be living in some PKDickian dystopia where you just won’t have a choice anymore. In their hearts of hearts, I think that “the majority” really wants that kind of control (it plays to their fears concerning “home value” –as opposed to “live value), so at some point the pestilence will have infected everything.

  53. Deviant says:

    cjp:

    The condo corp. can make suggestions but they cannot fine you or tow you or stop you from building a fence if it’s within local by-law allowances.

    If consenting adults want to limit the types of fences allowed in their development, what business is it of the state to say otherwise? If you don’t like it, live someplace else.

    • foobar says:

      If consenting adults want to limit the types of home owner’s associations allowed in their state, what business is it of yours to say otherwise? If you don’t like it, live someplace else.

  54. ocschwar says:

    Just got a place in New England. The local Unitarian church runs a food pantry, and people from the bad part of town come to use it, and then wait for the bus to go back home. This is enough to raise the ire of one of the neighbors, but with no HOA, not a damn thing he can do about it. I already have a list of all the issues I have to raise with the neighbors, and all of them put together cannot amount to the crapload that comes with having an HOA. Thank God.

  55. JArmstrong says:

    1. Purchasing a condo or home that is governed by an HOA or Condo Association means that you are agreeing to be bound by the governing documents. The governing documents usually comprise (1) your state’s Condo Association Act or its equivalent, (2) your state’s not-for-profit business corp. act, and (3) your declaration and by-laws. These governing documents give the Board the authority to make Rules and Regulations, which are nice because they usually address problems that are particular to that location. If you don’t want to be contractually bound by these rules–the creation, amendment and enforcement of which you are entitled to participate–then don’t buy a condo or a home covered by an HOA.

    2. There is an old adage, “Hard cases make bad law,” which comes to mind when reading this list of 7 “insane rules.” The one about the shingles isn’t an insane rule… it just sucks that this guy’s wife and child died in a freak accident. If the HOA were to make an exception in his case, they would have to make it for everybody else in the place. And then you get a situation in which people paid good money to live in a cookie-cutter boring subdivision, but now live in crazy land with varying shades of shingles. It sucks that it had to apply to this guy, but bending the rules for him would have broken with precedent, set a new precedent, and ultimately made “bad law” because it was a “hard” case.

    3. Most importantly, make sure that your governing documents have a sure-fire alternative dispute resolution clause, that sets a 3 month time limit for resolution by arbitrators, and make sure that it includes a fee-shifting provision for instances in which the arbitrator finds a party asserts a position in bad faith.

    • JArmstrong says:

      1a. Federal and state law trump the declaration and by-laws, so this whole “mini-democracy is like mob rule” argument is bunk. Assholes are everywhere, but so are nice folks who work together to solve problems within their own chosen parameters. Good rules not only give people a preview about Condo life before buying into the place, but also allow for discretion and flexibility in the application of the rules where warranted.

  56. druidbros says:

    I just got done dealing with my Condo board idiocy. The board decided they would just start making decisions without following the condo bylaws. Imposing additional fees on each homeowner without the required 3/4 approval from the condo owners. You have never seen a madder bunch of people at the next board meeting. The board was very scared and immediately reversed their position. We had elections shortly thereafter and the offending good old boys were voted out. Since they left all has been much better. I found out later that two of the old guys had been going around telling every one what to do, at least those who would listen to them. One of the old guys gets drunk and knocks on peoples doors at 2 am and yells at them. He wont come to my door though because he knows better. I am in the process of selling this condo and I will NEVER have a property again where loonies have control over my property.

  57. julie says:

    I currently live in a beautiful community with a HOA…rules are put in place to keep home values up…typically you are living in close proximity to others and it only takes one bozo to do something or want something that ruins the look of the community…a large boat in a driveway, crazy and tacky lawn ornaments, using empty lots to park pick up trucks etc..or someone wants to paint their concrete driveway gray. People must understand they cannot just do what they want when they chose a cluster community…it’s hard to enforce when those that move in were private property owners whose little oddities were not visible or in close proximity to their neighbors. What if everyone had a big boat in their driveway, the place would look like a marina parking lot. What if everyone put 3 gnome statues in their front tree rings, or if there ended up to be extra cars parked in empty lots, or if everyone picked a different color to paint their driveway…come on people…these are wonderful communities and if you live in one, adhere to the rules. I must note, my husband is on the board in ours, and is appreciated by those who have common sense but is considered the napoleon dictator by those who want to put Mini Mouse and Winnie the Pooh statues in their front beds, or who want to park their utility trailers in the mail kiosk area all year.

    • Anonymous says:

      Julie unwittingly demonstrates one of the most fundamental problems with HOA’s in that pretty much only the Board members and their families feel that most of them are ‘beautiful communities’ and can be relaxed in their own homes – while they persecute everyone else. No fairness at all. And none required by law either. No oversight, period.
      HOA’s often suffer from ‘entrenched Boards’ and cliques of suck-ups who blatantly violate rules like leaving boats in their driveways and have the trashiest yard- until one day you see the common grounds crew working slavishly on it and you have to assume it’s on everyone else’s dime because they are a combination of recognizable employees of the community and a landscaping company that only takes commercial work.
      Our Board president (ie. The defacto ‘King’ for 8 long years – and an attorney interestingly enough) had jet skis in his driveway for up to 5-6 months at a time, every spring and summer, and his fellow Board members had: 19 foot boats, perpetual huge scaffolding up against the side of a house with no workers ever present, a 24 hour open and overstuffed garage , a bobcat tractor in the driveway, fences that exceeded the allowable height …for the length of the 3 years that I lived there.
      While every ‘non- clique’ member received constant letters of thinly veiled threats, fines, liens and often full lawsuits over unbelievable trivia. Anyone else pulling near the crap that the Board does , or god forbid alluding to their myriad abuses, or getting into the crosshairs by asking to see financial statements, would be financially gutted like a fish and eventually sell below cost to some other unsuspecting
      potential victim and flee – saw it happen up close.
      But the worst of it? The hired property manager slithering
      around in his featureless white truck, sliding up and studying your ‘immaculate-thru-terror’ home for several long minutes several times a week searching for anything to abuse you with- a gutter on the third floor slightly drooping, a shutter slightly faded, a toddler toy that might be visible in your backyard at just the right angle. Then waiting for the almost inevitable demeaning and arrogant letter demanding this or that, within the next week.
      If you happen to be in the yard some of those ‘intense
      inspection times’ like I was with my 2 little girls…well even though you know it’s just ‘your’ property manager, paid for by you, whom you’ve never met and who would never deign to speak to you because you’re not on the Board and have No power here (You might be a Doctor and used to be treated without constant harsh contempt away from home, as I am, but you will quickly realize that you must pretend you don’t feel or mind the contempt radiating from the Boards private soldiers, that’s a free tip)…
      But I digress, even worse than the constant anxiety about what nonsense the next HOA letter will bring…Is a mother having to decide to either stand still and pretend she doesn’t see the single male in the truck idling leisurely at the curb, whom she’s never met, who IS probably just trolling for any slight imperfection to fine for harshly (kaching!) but who could also be a devoted pedophile checking out her lovely girls as they play in the open iron- fenced side yard,,,,The sweat rolling down the back of your neck as ‘inspection’ seemingly takes forever and you start thinking the worst and calling to your kids to pick up their toys and let’s get a snack…and you
      make it to the back door when the truck abruptly takes off.
      I can’t claim I’m certain it was an intimidation tactic, but it certainly felt intimidating, almost terrifying frankly, as my husband was running his company days, and I was home alone with our girls days and worked nights. I’d take the kids inside, lock the doors and put my little mace keychain in my pocket…I later graduated to a small taser unit for the pocket.
      After 4 or 5 when the husband came home I’d take them out again for exercise and often see the ‘ghost truck’ slithering by again, but thankfully, we weren’t subject to the ‘special’ inspection technique when he was home – probably because he’d have stalked right up to the truck and asked him what the H he was looking at…
      Oh, forgot to mention illegal amendments, there was no vote ever for anything, just a flyer in the mailbox occasionally when
      the Board decided harsher penalties were in order for all of us miscreants and that we needed to be reminded of our place in the world…A yearly meeting where only the Board was allowed to talk, perhaps one crony asking an obviously rehearsed question that was magnanimously answered. And elections? Please! Ballots counted by the property owner/ management company, never seen, and funny how any defeated opponents moved away rapidly…All very hush-hush and polite but bye bye.
      We moved after 3 years. Couldn’t breathe easily anymore,
      literally hated coming home to the 750K ‘dream home’ that
      felt more and more like Angola, couldn’t afford the 4 or 5 desperate vacations a year to escape the feelings of
      oppression and depression that would assail us driving thru the gate.
      The neighbors were mostly nice, but ‘peons’ like us, except for an older guy and his wife (who sunbathed topless at her pool, only visible to my backyard, which I never complained about even though she was a hideous lizard to begin with, but hey, whatever)… But according to the endless letters and fines they were always complaining about us – having 2 kids and a dog on a 1 acre lot must have been just intolerable it seems.
      By then the property values were tanking, it appraised at
      $550K (Biggest lie ever, that HOA’s maintain property values – it dropped FAR more than the much more modest home we fled to back in America outside the Concrete Curtain) and we couldn’t find a buyer at even that price, so after 3 years of an empty house, having to make weekly all day landscaping runs to prevent any massive fines and a full home theft by ‘our’ HOA ( in reality, our prison wardens) , scraping up and paying the very large nut, we finally leased it- hallelujah! It doesn’t fully pay the note, much less the insurance, dues and exhorbinant property taxes.
      But the tenant keeps the landscaping Disney-like and at least we don’t have to sacrifice all our Saturdays – as we sacrificed every dime of our hard-earned money in this blighted adventure. And as we sacrificed our freedom, happiness and peace of mind for years before we realized that, come what may, life is just too short to suffer Tyranny. Especially of the daily, sneaky, fully legal and contemptible variety aimed at your pocketbook. We felt like we almost earned their contempt by taking the never- ending abuse, being flogged into submission repeatedly while those with the power flaunted their disregard -for us and for their own rules.
      Sound like something you want to live in? I’m a physician, and I fully believe in the validity of ‘HOA Syndrome’ , like PTSD but precipitated by the paranoia, tattling, suck ups, ‘disciplinary committees’, hired guns and all the other atrocious – but legal- trauma that can occur in a ‘bad’ HOA. Look it up. I’m not a psychiatrist but I met people who seemed to be suffering from it to various degrees , but never a Board member or his/ her close social circle of course, they were usually chugging wine and champagne , cackling loudly and literally patting each other on the back the times I allowed myself to be tempted to the clubhouse by a promise of fun, and I usually came home a little dejected and/ or frankly seething.
      I recommend you do not buy HOA. I can’t even in good conscience recommend you buy the ginormous albatross of mine…But hey, who listens to doctors until they’re in the ICU? If you want it, make an offer, lol! In fact make the lowest conceivable offer on any HOA- encumbered property…they are often MUCH more desperate to ‘Get the he’ll out of Dodge’ than you can ever imagine. Until you try to live in one that is, then if it’s run by a de- facto Monarchy, you will unfortunately understand rather quickly the level of desperation.

      Dr. Anon (Hey, I still own in HOA Hell and I have kids to feed, cut me some slack).

  58. Antinous / Moderator says:

    Having worked in real estate for a few years, I can tell you that it’s very hard for a buyer to obtain a complete set of the HOA docs/bylaws unless you’re buying in a new development. They’re mandatory disclosures, but homeowners rarely keep them organized enough to turn everything over, and management companies are proof of the existence of Satan. Sometimes the docs show up at the last minute (and they can run to hundreds of pages), frequently the buyer just gives up and buys without seeing them. And, of course, very few buyers actually read their purchase contract, let alone the disclosure materials.

    As a loose rule, new complexes are décor fascists and 20+ year-old complexes are more relaxed about the rules. You’ll still have to paint your exterior an approved color, but they’re less likely to care what you plant or if you want to switch out your sliders for french doors.

  59. ultranaut says:

    I knew this guy who bought one of the very first McMansions in a fresh subdivision. After a few years of living there he got into a dispute with the neighborhood HOA about where he parked one of his cars. He lived on a corner and they didn’t like that he sometimes parked on the side of his house. Turns out there wasn’t actually a rule against that so the HOA had to drop it. Then he replaced a door. Soon after the neighborhood HOA goons came after him again, the door was “not an approved color” and must be replaced immediately. If I remember correctly, they were trying to fine him around $650 per week until it was replaced. Here’s where it gets awesome:
    This guy was friends with the owner of the company that built the subdivision, he got the door from him. It was painted with exactly the same paint as the door it had replaced. Yet it was obviously a different color than all the other doors in the neighborhood…
    Except they double checked and it was not the “wrong color”, it was exactly what was listed in the HOA and the developer insisted he had been using it for years. It turns out that all of the other doors were the wrong color! They had faded in the sun. The HOA dropped the complaint and quickly amended the rules to make all the other doors in the neighborhood compliant.

  60. CoryFoy says:

    We live in Beacon Woods, which was number 7 on the list. I remember that case well.

    Here’s the thing. If you look at the other neighborhoods in our area which don’t have an HOA, and then look at ours, you’ll see the appeal. We are in a 30-year-old neighborhood, and the ones around us have gone to pot. Is it annoying? Sometimes – we’ve been fined for sticks in our garden and spots on the side of our house. But in general I think the rules are fine enough.

    However, what I don’t think is that they should have the power to foreclose at the tip of a hat. Put a lien on the house? Sure. In fact, in the case cited, what I think they should have done was made the repairs, and then charged in back to the homeowner with a lien on the house.

  61. Caroline says:

    I always get grumpy and defensive at articles like this, because I’m on our HOA — not because I want to police other people’s decor choices, but because our neighborhood is a “private street.” That means the developer paid much less in taxes when building, and it means we get no city maintenance (even though we pay full city taxes). We have city trash, water, and sewer, but any kind of city road maintenance is right out.

    So we have to have an HOA and collect dues if we want to keep the streetlamps on, the snow plowed, the storm drains clear, the roadsides mowed, and the road paved — because we have to pay for those things ourselves.

    The dues are frankly not set high enough to keep up this maintenance properly. Years ago they were dropped to $15/month and they can’t be raised more than 5% a year, nor can we levy a special assessment to pay for anything, without a majority vote. Since we can’t get anything like a quorum of homeowners to attend any meeting, this is just not going to happen. So we just try to patch the worst potholes, keep the streetlamps on, and pay some guy to spread sand if it snows, because we can’t afford to do it properly. (Luckily we live in the South and it doesn’t snow that often.)

    So yeah, I would avoid living in an HOA neighborhood in future — because I would avoid living on a “private street” in future. And if you’re not living on a “private street,” there is no purpose in having an HOA.

    Seriously, who came up with this stupid “private street” idea anyway? Someone who wanted to give an object lesson in where libertarianism fails, or perhaps just the tragedy of the commons? /grump

    • travtastic says:

      Isn’t there at least one guy with a truck living there who’d be willing to slap a communal plow on the front and drive up and down a few streets?

      I live on a side street in a city, and we normally either do that or use a couple of gas snowblowers. The city does plow, but fairly late in the evening on account of the low traffic volume.

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