The Craziest Homeowners Association Bylaws

Deep inside, most homeowners despise their homeowners associations for their arbitrary rules and uncanny ability to send out nasty letters for the tiniest violations.

The Week rounds up the silliest rules to which homeowners subject themselves, including:

*Restrictions on how many rose bushes in the front yard.

*Forcing roofs to be constructed with shingles that perfectly match the neighboring homes.

*Disallowing the posting of “for sale” sings.

*Fining pet owners for walking their small dogs through a condo complex lobby rather than carrying them.

Because homeowners sign agreements that let HOAs put liens on their houses if they fail to comply, rule enforcement and appeals can get nasty.

What’s the worst dust-up you ever encountered with an HOA?

Top 7 insane homeowners association rules [The Week]
(Thanks, David!)

Comments

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  1. Grogey says:

    Why would someone want to submit themselves to that? Its your home you should be able to do with it what you please.

    • Raekwon says:

      Often you have no choice. If you want a home and all of them are governed by HOAs you have to suffer through it. Rules are also added after you buy your home and from my experience most people do not have any say in what an HOA does or changes. Only a select few elite members of the community control things and they will fight to the death to keep their power.

    • Hoss says:

      Because they want the place to have the same look and feel when they sell as when they moved in. I live in a neighborhood where we can’t put up a fence, install a pool, make exterior changes, etc. It’s a historic neighborhood and we love it

      • Nigerian prince looking for business partner says:

        I think there needs to be a balance to everything.

        I live in an older city with a whole slew of unenforced ordinances. I really wish there was better enforcement and people would be forced to repair their cracked sidewalks, mow their yards, pick up trash if animals get into it, etc. A lot of people just don’t care and will only be reasonable upon threat of fines (or lien) from the city. If they’re not happy with ordinances, then they should go to city hall all any Tuesday night and voice their opinion.

        I can understand that some people want to do what they want with their properties and if that’s the case, then they should live in an unincorporated part of the county with no zoning, no ordinances, no permits, etc. If they want a junkyard or a kennel or a hog farm on their property, then more power to them! Just keep their lifestyle outside of city limits.

        Personally, I want to live somewhere with a reasonable and well enforced set of ordinances.

        • NatalieErin says:

          In my older city they just send out city workers to mow, fix sidewalks, etc if the homeowner doesn’t do it, and then send the homeowner a bill. (The homeowner gets a few warnings beforehand.) Seems to work out fine.

          • goodfellow_puck says:

            This is the same way my city works. You need to report your offending neighbor to have the city look into it, though. That seems to be standard.

      • Griking says:

        Do you all dress alike too?

    • DoubleEcho says:

      It’s all about keeping up “property values”. Which, after the housing crash, aren’t going to stay up anyways. So how did those meaningless rules work out for them in the end?

      • Shmonkmonk says:

        Hmmm… Let see… Is the value of the property down? Sure. Is it still worth $50K to $100K more than a comparable house in an HOA free neighborhood 5 miles away? Yes. I would say it worked pretty well.

    • ShruggingGalt says:

      Because the cities stopped wanting to enforce their own codes. Plus homeowners were upset because of how long it can take for the city to actually “enforce” their own city codes. (Hint: Normally only the city attorney can go to court to enforce them, and they aren’t making it a priority unless the code violation hurts someone) So cities like having HOAs to take care of median landscaping and defacto code enforcement. I doubt you will find any new development without them.

      • Powerlurker says:

        In many cases, the cities require new large-scale development to be under an HOA before permits are issued so they can pawn off their responsibility to provide city services to your friends and neighbors.

    • Jimmy says:

      I’ve lived in homes with HOAs and without. I’ll take the HOA home any day of the week and here’s why:

      When i had my non-HOA home my neighbor had a rusty fence, crap all over their yard including car parts and just didn’t care. Come time to sell, it hurt me cause buyers didn’t want to live next to their house. The HOA keeps everyone in check…think of it as a nightclub with a dress code, it’s meant to keep the place classy and the degenerates out.

      The other nice part of the hoa is it pays for amenities. Not everyone can afford a pool, a gym, maybe a billiards room, security at the entrance, but as a group you get all these little extras with your monthly dues.

      Oh and board members are voted in and typically have to be begged to do it. They don’t get paid and don’t ever get thanked..just bitched at. Thats why I would never do it.

      • Sammich says:

        A good number of cities have bylaws that can force a neighbor to clean up their yard (or the city will do it at the owner’s expense). In those cases, HOAs are best avoided. If that’s not the case where you live, then I would agree a HOA may be the better way to go.

        Also, not all communities with a HOA have added amenities. Some have, at best, a patch of grass in the middle that is common area and a few parking spots for visitors, though dues are typically going to be noticeably lower in those cases.

        • Powerlurker says:

          A significant number of HOAs aren’t in cities, but in unincorporated county land.

          • staralfur says:

            Clarify what you mean by “significant” and cite your source.

            • Powerlurker says:

              It’s hard to find specific sources, but it’s a pretty common phenomenon in Texas where a giant subdivision will go up right outside of the city limits but inside the city’s extraterritorial jurisdiction and be required to adopt an HOA as a requirement of being allowed to build (later annexation is also pretty common). As an example, the entirety of The Woodlands, TX (a community of almost 90,000 people) is presently unincorporated and all residential development within is governed by a homeowners’ association. Outside of the northeast, most new large-scale residential development is in presently unincorporated territory.

              • staralfur says:

                “Outside of the northeast, most new large-scale residential development is in presently unincorporated territory.” You admit that you have no basis for making this claim other than anecdotal observation, and yet you make it anyway. What’s your basis for reaching this conclusion?

    • SubDude says:

      All members have a vote but rarely do you get very good turnout for the meetings. If it is such an issue change the board (they are elected) or fix the by-laws.

      • Hoss says:

        The smart one’s actually read the bylaws and keep up with board decisions. The rest just complain

      • Doubts42 says:

        There’s no point in acting surprised about it. All the planning charts and demolition orders have been on display at your local planning department in Alpha Centauri for 50 of your Earth years, so you’ve had plenty of time to lodge any formal complaint and it’s far too late to start making a fuss about it now. … What do you mean you’ve never been to Alpha Centauri? Oh, for heaven’s sake, mankind, it’s only four light years away, you know. I’m sorry, but if you can’t be bothered to take an interest in local affairs, that’s your own lookout. Energize the demolition beams.

    • Sammich says:

      Some places it’s the only reliable way to keep the neighborhood from going to crap, typically because of a lack of city bylaws (or lack of enforcement).

    • TVGenius says:

      I’m all for the HOA we have on our street. There are several blocks of identical townhomes built around the same time as ours, but ours look 10+ years newer. We pay $55 a month which handles all the landscaping and maintenance of common areas (no pool or anything special) and the HOA is pretty good about enforcing the no-junk stuff too.

      • runswithscissors says:

        You’re all for it until the board changes and gets taken over by angry little dictators who love who wield unreasonable power over you.

        This is the problem – even if you like your current HOA, that could change in one election and suddenly you are at the complete mercy of petty tyrants with no way to appeal. Your only choices then are comply or move.

        • s73v3r says:

          Or sweep the next election. If his association is good now, it is unlikely that there would be enough support for that petty dictator guy to rule for very long.

        • FredKlein says:

          It’s kinda like the government that way. You may be fine with them having certain powers, until it “gets taken over by angry little dictators who love who wield unreasonable power over you.” Of course, for every one of you who finally realizes that things have gone too far, there is someone who has been pointing it out for years, and someone who won’t admit it for years to come. And by the time the majority get to where you are, it’s too late to do anything.

          ‘Angry little dictators’ love their power, and will do anything to keep it. In a HOA, that can mean outright lying to members to get/stay elected, or getting rules passed that eliminate the competition. (How about a rule that says if you’ve violated any HOA rules, you cannot run for the board? Or one that says if you currently owe the HOA any money, you cannot vote? Then they can slap you with a fine for violating a silly rule, and, unless you pay them, you end up being out of the loop.)

  2. Tim says:

    These summaries don’t quite do the article justice.

    For example, the shingle story: After a plane crashed into the Sanford, Florida, home of Joe Woodard, killing his wife, Janise, and their infant son, he decided to rebuild a new home on the same lot. But his reconstruction came to a screeching halt when his HOA informed him that he’d positioned the new structure unacceptably and failed to achieve a perfect shingle match with his neighbors’ homes. Threatened with a lawsuit, the grieving widower told a local reporter that he’d hoped to change things up to avoid “reliving” painful memories — but eventually capitulated to the unsympathetic HOA.

    • Brunette Bookworm says:

      Ugh, unless the neighbors reshingle every time someone else does, they will NEVER match. I work for a shingle manufacturer. Supplies change things, we change lines and color blends which means the same color from a few years ago won’t match a current one. The same color name from one factory won’t match one from another factory. This all doesn’t even take into account the weathering of shingles. New shingles will sometimes have oil leak from the asphalt on them so they won’t match the surrounding ones until the weather wears it off.

      • chaesar says:

        Wow, a shingle-manufacturer. This is probably going to be the only Consumerist post that will apply to your job, ever.

      • Blueberry Scone says:

        My concern about the shingles is that you can basically only get it from one place that can accomodate that exact color, right? I see a LOT of problems with a rule that basically forces the homeowner to only buy their shingles from one source – and what if that source has some connection to a HOA member? (The HOA member owns said company, or it’s their brother’s company, etc.)

        • Brunette Bookworm says:

          Yep. And what if the neighbors put on the most expensive shingles? Now you are forcing others to buy a certain price point.

    • wootbot says:

      Well, that’s the homeowners problem. If you choose to live in an HOA-controlled community then you have agreed, in writing, that any exterior changes need to be approved by the HOA before you make them. Had that process been followed, then there wouldn’t have been a problem. Not only were the shingles an issue here, but the house was positioned in violation of the rules (I’m assuming that means set-backs, etc).

      If you choose not to accept the rules, then it’s your choice to say “NO” and go and live somewhere where the rules are more to your liking.

      • s73v3r says:

        Fuck that shit. I see that comment all over these stories. I don’t buy it. There’s also such a thing as completely unreasonable rules, that no association should be able to enact, let alone enforce.

      • 99 1/2 Days says:

        Missing the point.

    • mxjohnson says:

      Also, the one about “Restrictions on how many rose bushes in the front yard”? There were too many rosebushes, yes. Oh, and he regraded his lot, too.

    • Gulliver says:

      This is the most ridiculous one ever. Shingles will not match after time goes by. Color hues change, what iff the style is no longer made? What does the by-law say? If he builds his, he could say the rest of the association is violating the by-law, and his are the correct one.
      I wonder if he got fined for not doing proper upkeep after a plane flew into his fucking house. I would tell them to shove it up their ass. Let them have a bunch of pretty abandoned homes that cause their value to go down. Remember, housing values are based on similar homes recent appraisals,. As people sell for less than it is worth it hurts them more than a silly shingle.

  3. Raekwon says:

    Unfortunately where I live things like green lawns, toys in the yard, etc are city law and they don’t even need HOAs to harass people. There is one neighbor that reports people consistently every few weeks. Everyone knows who he is and even the city is frustrated with him but since it is part of the city laws they can’t do anything about it. I had enforcement agents sent to my house a couple weeks after I moved in and hadn’t even had a chance to start fixing the mess the old owners left. It’s ridiculous.

    • YOXIM says:

      Simple solution. Throw a bunch of shit on his lawn, and call the enforcement agents on him. The whole goddamn neighborhood should get together and dump a bunch of garbage in this asshole’s front yard then turn his ass in. Failing that, you can always just kick his ass. Failing THAT, you can try maybe talking to the guy. You’d be surprised what a few kind words combined with threats of extreme bodily harm can do haha.

    • benbell says:

      That is all fine IMHO. Works the same way around me. The South Hills of Pittsburgh is thankfully mostly void of HOA’s. Yes my community has laws which restrict certain things but those weren’t passed by a bunch of fly by night mom’s and dad’s who think they know whats right for the few dozen or less homes in their neighborhood.

      Instead, a law passed by my township affects the entire township and thus there is a lot more that has to be taken into consideration. HOAs = Evil, I am fine with my government making sure that lawns are less than 6″ high but not some random people around my neighborhood with nothing better to do.

      • Moriarty says:

        “I am fine with my government making sure that lawns are less than 6″ high but not some random people around my neighborhood with nothing better to do. “

        Why? What is the difference between the two?

        • benbell says:

          One is basically a fly by night organization the other is an official governmental entity. There is much more involved in the process of passing a local ordinance than a bunch of people who get home from work and decide they are going to amend the bylaws of your HOA because they don’t like Christmas lights.

          • Moriarty says:

            That’s not really a satisfying answer. I guess it depends on the particular HOA, but they’re all pretty much direct or indirect democracies, right? You have your say, too. And presumably, a much bigger say than in government, because the HOA is made up of far fewer people. So how something be MORE legitimate if you have LESS self-determination?

            I suppose, the smaller the “government,” the easier it is for a few nuts to take over due to apathy of everyone else, and the fewer the competing interests, the easier it is to make more extreme rules.

            • AnthonyC says:

              *Process* is key here.

              Laws don’t live in a vacuum; the acts of democratically elected bodies are not automatically legitimate. Laws can be unjust. Enforcement of apparently just laws can be unjust.

              When a city passes a law, and decides you have broken it, you have many, many legal opportunities to challenge their determination, on any number of grounds. Laws are layered; your city must comply with state, federal, and constitutional law. The rules for your HOA are not so well-developed.

        • Powerlurker says:

          Municipal government are held to more stringent standards of due process when they enforce their rule and ordinances.

    • Bureaucromancer says:

      You try and pull that around here and you might get your neighbor fined, but after the first couple of times the bylaw officers start looking a lot more closely at the property of the person calling. Mostly they do this when they get pulled into disputes between neighbors, but it happens to the people who start that continuous nuisance calling nonsense as well. Generally seems to work pretty well too.

  4. Spellchk says:

    I have mixed feelings about all this. On one hand I would despise having to ask for permission or be told how to do something to my own house. On the other hand I look around at my neighbors and really wish that someone told them what to do to theirs (I’m looking at your purple trim Mike, I know you read this site too).

    In the end I doubt I would buy into a neighborhood with a HOA.

    • slappysquirrel says:

      I would love to have a house with purple trim in my “little boxes on the hillside” neighborhood.

    • Jasen says:

      Yeah! I hate that guy!
      How dare he paint a color on his house that I do not approve of. What an asshole.

      • jefeloco says:

        Painting absurd colors can really devalue a neighborhood. Here in Boise, Id (Go Broncos!, suck it Virginia Tech!) there is a fancy pants strip of old and expensive homes on Warm Springs Avenue. The vast majority of these homes are well over 100 years old (rare for a desert town) and have been declared as historically significant to some degree. Some years back, a couple bought one of the smaller homes halfway up the street and painted it all sorts of bright playground colors; blues, reds, purples and yellow. Legally, I respect the rights as owners for these people to do whatever they want with their property but they really screwed over their neighbors on value.

        This area got hit really hard well before the economy/housing market tanked. That said, several of the houses are still worth millions. Bastards.

  5. pinkbunnyslippers says:

    In my community, a realtor cannot use their OWN For Sale signs, but they must get their information printed on a standard community-approved sign – all with consistent colors, fonts, sign size, etc. For the townhomes/condos, they cannot even use the signs in the yard, they must be displayed in the window…

    …the same windows who cannot have blinds any color but cream/off white, so that they all look consistent when looking at the house from the outside.

    I can’t wait to get the #$!@ out of my HOA.

    • nonzenze says:

      “I can’t wait to get the #$!@ out of my HOA.”

      Next time don’t get in if you don’t like the terms.

      • JG2002 says:

        Most people don’t thin of HOA when they purchase their townhome / condo. They are happy to be finding a good home.

        The know there are rules, but nothing “nonzenze” like matching shingles crap, or pick up your dog in the hallways.

      • Silverhawk says:

        Most of us that hate HOAs didn’t think we’d have a problem with them when we bought the place. It was only after we discovered what overbearing nazis they were that we learned our lesson.

        I’ll never do it again, and I warn friends whenever they’re considering a home with an HOA.

      • pinkbunnyslippers says:

        I live in a suburb of DC. Unless I’m committed to either a) living on a farm 50 miles out or; b) paying out the nose to live in an older “bedroom community” closer to the city, I’ve got absolutely no choice. Everything out here is new and planned community and under the auspices of HOAs. But thanks for the tough love.

  6. SubDude says:

    I agree that some covenants are ridiculous and enforcement can be draconian, but trying living near people who park their leaking dead car in front of your house, erect a number of mismatched outbuildings, or don’t see a problem with an unmowed lawn full of trash. These were also the folks who refused to pay their fees but complained if a street light burned out or the aerating fountain stopped running. Sorry, but we do need some rules.

    • pop top says:

      That’s what local laws and ordinances are for.

      • SubDude says:

        City laws and ordinances do not pay for ponds, common areas, and in some places the street lights. And a lot of HOA make themselves available to report these issues to code enforcement so neighbors don’t get labeled as snitches. I guess technically they are still snitches but they can honestly say they did not call code enforcement on their neighbor.

        • Marlin says:

          Wait which is it? First you go off with the standrad BS things that are already covered by the city/county and now you run on to another area?

          cars, grass, etc… are covered by local law, regulation, and/or health dept. No HOA is needed. Only thing HOAs are good for are busy bodies that are such losers they have to needle into others lives.

          • Madaline_7 says:

            Esp. when they would rather report you at 7am instead of coming and knocking on your door saying, “Hey, by the way, it looks like an animal got into your trash cans last night. I know it is super early but I don’t have a life besides weed whacking my dead lawn at obscene hours of the morning.”

            Yeah, I live right next door to one of those people.

        • pop top says:

          Sorry but if you’re polluting the ground by having a leaky car (the example used), I will “snitch” on you.

      • pinkbunnyslippers says:

        Most times if you’re in a suburb/rural area and pay your taxes, no town’s going to bother you.

      • barty says:

        Good luck getting the county/city to enforce them.

        On a county level, some of these ordinances can be very weak when it comes to vehicles, yard upkeep, junk in the yard, etc., because they have to take into consideration people who own a few acres of land, because they may be far enough away from anyone that it really isn’t a nuisance to anyone. One county I lived in allowed up to 6(!) vehicles to be visible from the street on the front of the home. People would often bring their property into “compliance” by moving the vehicle behind the house, where it was still visible to the neighbors.

        All that transpired after pestering code enforcement for 6+ months just to get them to come out and make an inspection and give the owner a warning. While I’m not a fan of HOAs that go overboard on their rules, I’m actually for one that has some power to require owners maintain their property to a basic level.

        • JulesNoctambule says:

          I’ve found that when there’s a fine involved, my city/county is head over heels with joy to get involved. We had a house down the street that was owned by an absentee landlord and the tenant had a dog he let run loose. The city kept a record of our complaints, figured out what other violations were being incurred by the landlord, and smacked him with a fine in the thousands. Landlord, tenant and dog are now gone, and the house is occupied by a very nice young couple.

        • Dallas_shopper says:

          Uh I have no problem getting my city to enforce residential codes…but my neighbors don’t leave trash or rusty cars on their lawns either. I don’t live in a fucking trailer park, thanks.

  7. u1itn0w2day says:

    READ WHAT YOU SIGN

    Even do a few cross outs, cross overs and add a few ‘ not ‘/s.

    BUT READ THE DOCUMENTS IN FRONT OF THEIR FACE and make things like the HOAs a deal breaker and not things finances-in the end greed with win.

  8. wrongfrequently says:

    Some rules are nice, but the neighborhood near my daughter’s school has a requirement that residents must buy at least $100 in halloween candy, it’s a GREAT place to trick-or-treat but I wouldn’t want to be forced to participate in a holiday by my HOA.

    My HOA has a no dogs outside (in a fenced yard!) without the owner also outside rule. A no individual garage sale rule.
    No “illegal” furniture outside (which, by the way also includes rakes as illegal furniture)

    I HATE my HOA and their stinking rules, but if I want to live in the county I can’t afford anywhere else and with aging parents and a kick-a$$ school district I choose to suffer, but I can still get my HOA hate on :)

    • SubDude says:

      Go to the meetings, gather support from your agreeing neighbors and change the covenants. If you have enough support change the bylaws too so the individual homeowner has more power.

    • AstroPig7 says:

      But rakes aren’t furniture…

    • Riroon13 says:

      The Halloween candy thing… that’s not religious discrimination? I know many Protestant churches that tell their congregations not to participate in Halloween, that it’s the ‘Devil’s Holiday’.

      (I’m not arguing if their take is insane or not, just that it happens)

      It’s almost equivalent to demanding people keep Christmas decorations up, even if they don’t participate in the holiday.

      Just saying, the ACLJ and the ACLU could help you get out of that one.

      • Dallas_shopper says:

        I agree, it’s ridiculous. I don’t decorate for Halloween or Christmas; I don’t hate Halloween, I just can’t be bothered. I’m busy and I don’t care about the holiday. As for Christmas…I really hate it. Other people can decorate all they like, but don’t MAKE me put stupid mechanical Santas in my yard. WTF.

    • Elphaba says:

      What if a person didn’t celebrate Halloween for religious reasons? What if I was out of town? Do I get a pass?

      The $100 in candy rule is nuts. Take care of the streets, don’t tell me how I have to celebrate a holiday. I’d never spend that much on candy for strangers.

  9. HalOfBorg says:

    Can’t you go to buy a house in a HOA area and just say ‘No’ to that crap? Refuse to accept any contract with any mention of it in it?

    The seller shouldn’t care – they’re leaving. Unless they signed something that would let the HOA sue them for selling it like that?

    • Griking says:

      I’m kind of curious about this as well. Also, how do HOAs start up? Are they usually created when a neighborhood is originally built or are they something that can somehow form in an already established neighborhood? How and where do they get the right to step into a transaction with and insist that a new owner have to agree with their rules when the association doesn’t own the actual property being sold?

      • wootbot says:

        To answer your question: In a new-build, it’s typical for the developer(s) to set up the HOA and run it for a prescribed period (enough time to actually have enough homeowners buy and move in). After that, the homeowners have elections and choose their own board (usually with annual elections).

        If you are buying in an HOA-controlled development, you are required to become a member of the HOA and abide by the rules. It’s a covenant / deed restriction – either you accept it or you go look somewhere else.

        • dadelus says:

          I bought/built my house 3 years ago. The builder is still building in the neighborhood and runs the HOA. Once the builder is done building they will hand the HOA over to we the owners. Right now it’s a pretty basic HOA that simplt dictates you have to maintain your property and has a few other basic rules of thumb regarding the types of fences that can be built, etc…

          We’ve had several meetings in the neighborhood already about how we want things to be run when the builders leave and it seems like the current crop of neighbors are pretty “live and let live” about the whole thing. I’m really hoping that attitude prevails when we elect a board.

    • kilpatds says:

      HOAs are tied into the title. You can’t buy the property without being subject to the HOA. The documentation you sign isn’t you agreeing to be subject, it’s just notification.

    • Parsnip says:

      The HOA membership and agreement is deeded with the land. You can’t buy the land/house without agreeing to it.

    • DallasM says:

      No, I’m afraid it doesn’t work like that. When the seller you are buying from bought the house with the HOA, they likely signed a contract giving the HOA the right to deny the sale of the property to anyone who refuses to sign up with the HOA (you). So you can’t refuse to sign up. Now, in the very rare case that the seller managed to not agree to that restriction, then yes, they can probably sell to whomever they wish.

    • ram0029 says:

      HOA’s are usually established through covenants filed with the plat and transfer automatically to subsequesnt owners.

      The by-laws themselves are sometimes established by the developer and can later be modified by the HOA board, or the covenants may simply spell out the HOA structure and leave the initial by-laws to be established by the HOA board when seated.

      Either way, the covenants and HOA (along with any dues) transfer with the property just like any easements or ROW filed on the plat. When a buyer purchases the property they agree to abide by the covenants. Their only option is to either abide or not purchase.

      HOAs can be brutal and can often do things even banks, cities and states cannot, like foreclose and take your home for $50 in unpaid dues with a non-judicial process that takes 27 days start to finish. Covenants are supposed to be disclosed (mandatory in many states prior to any escrow by a buyer), but people not familar with what those covenants and associated HOAs can really mean often gloss over it.

  10. Chumas says:

    I’m an HVAC contractor and do a lot of work in HOA developments in the area of my home. Occasionally, we get midnight emergency calls. Understandable in FL, noone wants to drown in sweat overnight.

    I am outside this persons home at 230am wearing a light rig so I can see what I’m doing to perform repairs, when I hear a beeping sound, like what you hear when a tow truck is backing up. I walk out front, and it IS a tow truck, attempting pull my workvan out of the driveway for towing.

    The local HOA president having a midnight stroll saw my van there and called to have it towed. “Because work vehicles are not permitted overnight parking.” Even while repairing a system it seems.
    The tow driver wanted to be paid because he was still trying to hook up to the bumper and in the end, the cops had to come and sort everything out. Not pleasant.

    ——–

    Another midnight repair call I had taken was around 4am, the customers outside unit had blown a capacitor and caught fire in the electrical section. I drove out there to fix it and was turned away at the gate because, under no exceptions, were service vehicles allowed from 830pm to 830am.

    The swearing I heard from that customer at the gate was amazing. Properly shamed, I was let through the gate to start the job of rewiring and in the meantime, the HOA was alerted to my presence. They boardmember who was called by the security guard called the cops to have me arrested for trespassing. It got quite ugly after that.

    • SlyPhox says:

      I honestly believe it is bullshit like this is what makes people hate HOAs. For your one off or emergency issues like this, make an exception. I highly doubt a property appraiser would be around at that hour to ding your house for being unsightly due to a work truck.

      The parking situation at my friends house is a constant annoyance due to there being a grey area on carts being able to park on the street. They enjoy sticking these fucking orange stickers to my car. It’s also nice when I spend the night to see if my car was towed through the night or not.

      Honestly, if I have to request approval for a structural or appearance change to my house, fine. Although I would expect those who have the final say to have other knowledge or insight past their own personal opinions and expectations of what should be where. Also for the ridiculous bylaws that make no sense but to those who wish to fine and enforce them.

    • RayanneGraff says:

      That is total horse shit. I would refuse to work in either of those neighborhoods ever again & if the customers complained- tell them to bitch at the HOA.

      I once knew a lady who lived in one of those hoity-toity neighborhoods where they didn’t wanna be ‘offended’ by the sight of blue collar workers. They actually built the neighborhood with special backalleys just for service vehicles. I’m not even a service person but I was appalled. Such snobbery. It’s like, “Hey you, keep your working-class ass out of my sight while you’re fixing my pool pump!”

      • Chumas says:

        Oh yeah, there’s a gated comm. here with those. The only problem is that the alleyways weren’t built correctly with enough sidespace. Ex: If I turn down that alley, stop and begin repair work, the next service truck or UPS truck cannot go down that alley because I’ve effectively blocked the route. And the alley’s are a block long.
        UPS and FedEx just don’t deliver to the HOA anymore apparently.

    • ktetch says:

      So, what happened next, we all want to know!!!

      • Chumas says:

        From what I gathered after having a police dog try and bite my ass off was the HOA person said I was a prowler. Rather hard to be a prowler when you’re wearing a super bright headlamp and shoulder light. But, when it’s a rich neighborhood, the local cops think being heroic will get them tips.

        So I spent half an hour handcuffed waiting for the officers to figure out a guy with a big box of tools and wire isn’t a prowler. The company lawyer sent a bill to the HOA for about $700 for my time and expenses for that night, and I filed a complaint for false imprisonment. The complaint was sent to the city prosecuter and the HOA manager spent 2 weeks in jail for filing a false police report.
        They never did pay the bill so there is a lein on the HOA’s office building.
        Good times.

        • econobiker says:

          “They never did pay the bill so there is a lien on the HOA’s office building.”

          Classic. Great if the lien could be re-assigned to someone dealing with a lien on his/her property from that HOA.

        • dragoncat42 says:

          WIN!!!!

    • nobomojo says:

      I am appalled that you have to deal with these people. it’s disgusting. You are a much better person that me, and I say that b/c from your story it sounded as if you were calm and patient the whole time. I would have gone to jail for biting someone and going crazy.

      • Chumas says:

        I was mostly calm because the cops in my area of FL are notoriously twitchy and prone to covering things up. That and my girlfriend would have kicked my ass worse. haha

  11. Extended-Warranty says:

    For those who think an HOA is the most evil thing ever, the cities are sometimes worse than HOAs. My dad was cited by the city for having a shed that was “visible from the main street” in his backyard. If you were driving on this busy street and stopped, you might see the roof of it over his fence.

    Many parties have an interest in a “unified look”. They don’t want values going to shit because some people have their own “artistic inputs”. I’m glad my home value is safe. I live in an HOA and only pay $45 a month and our home values have barely dipped and everything looks beautiful. I can build a deck, leave my puppy outside on a peg, plant my own bushes and flowers, I’m sad because I cannot put a broken washing machine on the front yard, evil HOA!

    • jefeloco says:

      In my town, no HOA can have any covenants more restrictive than city laws and expect to enforce them. The city laws pretty much state everything in the HOA CC&Rs anyways so the whole thing is moot. The few exceptions mainly concern satellite dish placement but even those rules are superseded by federal law governing individual access rights to digital signal.

  12. shaft711 says:

    That article’s comments section is a goldmine of people who don’t understand what socialism is and how HOAs function.

    • SubDude says:

      HOAs are socialist. This country did not get to be a super power because it allowed everyone to do everything any time they wanted. This country became great because people understood that a country working for a common good helped everyone prosper. They toiled and sacrificed knowing that personal freedom carries huge responsibility. I’d take that kind of “socialism” over a country full of spoiled, selfish, brats who have never sacrificed a thing any day.

      • minjche says:

        You’re forgetting the ‘merican sentiment that any teamwork or any money spent that they don’t see 100% benefit back from is quite obviously socialism, and even more obvious is that all socialism is bad and leads to people eating babies and kicking puppies.

        Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go drive on an interstate highway and use the light from a street lamp … oh no, the socialists have me too!

    • wil9000 says:

      Loving all the “Socialist!” calling. OK, people, here’s the short form:
      Socialism is a system by which the STATE owns and controls every aspect of the means of production.
      It is not, as some think, any attempt at getting in the way of Robber Baron worshiping capitalists and their lassiez fiaire at any expense attitude. HOA’s are ridiculous, but that doesn’t make them Socialist. Also, the President is totally NOT a Socialist. End of story.

    • Ce J says:

      I don’t think you understand what HOAs are. HOAs are based on freedom of contract between private individuals.

  13. dreamfish says:

    Makes me think of the Disney constructed town of Celebration, Florida where, I gather, rules are strict about what sort of stores can open in the town (must be wholesome) and what shade of white you can paint your house with.

  14. Santas Little Helper says:

    HOA are dictatorships, usually chaired by an unemployed egotistical grade school teacher. Any one who submits to them should take vacations in Best Korea, they will feel right at home.

    • Me - now with more humidity says:

      Or not. As a former HOA president in a neighborhood where the HOA provided for common areas and added security, I was not a dictator. I’m also not a little old lady. Don’t generalize if you don;t know what you’re talking about.

      • minjche says:

        Yeah but a well-run HOA never makes news headlines, so there’s a bit of sample bias here. Chances are if you polled a group of people, the only HOA’s they would know of would be the horror stories (i.e. every square foot of crab grass is punishable by having a finger cut off).

      • lyllydd says:

        Sorry, former prez, but I lived in an area where the HOA was run by underemployed grade-school dropouts.
        We paid over $100 per month for things like, oh, snowplowing that never happened, and lawn care that involved sticking dead plants in the ground every season.
        We were forbidden from planting anything ourselves, but we had no choice when we needed to sell the place. Dead twigs do not contribute to curb appeal. As for the snowplowing, we had to shell out more money to buy a snow blower just so that we could make it out of our driveway every morning for four winters.
        I’m extremely happy to be free of the accursed tyranny of the HOA.

    • SabreDC says:

      HOA presidents are also elected by the homeowners. If the homeowners elect a dictator, they will reap what they sow. If they don’t want a dictator, they need to become involved in their community and vote for a better candidate or run as one.

  15. john says:

    I like it when an expensive home in a HOA area goes into foreclosure and the bank owns it. Then the grass grows 4 ft. tall and the HOA can’t do a d*mn thing about it. The bank owns it and they can do whatever they want. Sure the city can mow it and put a lien on the property, but the bank really doesn’t care.

  16. Pansy P says:

    If I recall correctly from law school, HOAs began as a means to exclude certain types of people from neighborhoods. The state/county couldn’t exclude minorities from neighborhoods, but the HOAs sure could. IIRC.

  17. aaron8301 says:

    As a commercial and residential dish installer (DirecTV and Dish Network, among other things), I love selling and installing to people who live in HOA neighborhoods. When someone throws a fit, I just say “OTARD!”

    http://www.fcc.gov/mb/facts/otard.html

    • dwolvin says:

      I hear that! I was about to put solar up on my house, and in the process learned that HOA’s cannot prevent it, so didn’t bother requesting permission. I did email them to let them know that there was going to be a contractor on my roof for a couple of days and though that was it. A week later (the day before install) I got a snarky letter stating that I needed to get approval for any modification from the members, and emailed a request to them that day (holding my tongue). The return email made it sound like they were doing me a huge favor by ‘letting’ me install solar despite not going through proper channels. It was all I could do to not fax them the federal regs that I had downloaded… Whatever- I have solar!

      • SabreDC says:

        What federal regulation would this be? I’m trying to do the same thing and I’m in a fight with my HOA about it.

  18. CharlesFarley says:

    This is what happens when little people are given power.

  19. dannod says:

    Once I saw a violation for someone whose grass was too long. The person reporting it actually got down on the ground and took a picture of the grass at eye-level with her camera and submitted 3 photos, all of which had a ruler in the picture showing the grass was indeed a half inch too long.

  20. everclear75 says:

    I’ve been nominated as an HOA board member by a current HOA board member. My hood is slowly becoming infiltrated by nosy older peoples who have nothing better to do with their time than police the area. The biggest source of discontentment is that we have a gate that works 60% of the time all the time.. that and without my knowledge they installed a stop sign in my front yard without asking me. But since it was on the other side of the sidewalk, there’s nothing I can do about it. I pay almost 400 Bucks in yearly dues in a hood that only has 80-something houses. We have no pool, park, tennis courts, etc.. I plan on being the anti HOA member..

  21. Rachacha says:

    Sort of a turn the tables where a homeowner threatened lawsuits against the HOA. I live in a small community and we have an HOA primarially to maintain some common grassy areas and a small playground. We have a board of directors and there were three positions opening. Three individuals decided to run for the offices, and we received no proxy nominations or votes. As there were three individuals running and three openings on the board, a decision was made to vote in the three people through a show of hands rather than a written ballot (allowed by our bylaws).

    One homeowner who was not at the meeting later objected to this practice because he did not get an opportunity to vote (even though 3 written notices were mailed to homeowners and he chose not to attend or turn in a proxy form. He informed us that HE interpreted the governing documents differently than 3 seperate expert lawyers who said that the way the board ran the election was legal in the state and in accordance with the bylaws. Lawsuits from the homeowner were issued against the HOA, lawyers started attending our board meetings until finally the homeowner and the board agreed to run a new election in the hopes of appeasing this one homeowner and avoiding years of lawsuits.

    New nomination forms were submitted and the same three people were nominated. On the night of the election we began the meeting at exactly the instant that we were allowed to (7:30pm) calling the NIST clock to ensure that it was precisely the appropriate time. By 7:30:15 we had asked for nominations from the floor or proxy and there were none and the written ballots were distributed. By 7:30:30 all of the votes had been cast and voting was closed, and by 7:30:58 all the votes had been tallied and the three individuals were confirmed. At 7:31:12 the individual who filed the lawsuit came in with his lawyer to vote. The board informed him that we had established a quorum, taken nominations from the floor, distributed ballots, closed voting and tallied the votes he was too late. He tried to complain again, but determined that the voting had been done in accordance with his exact interpretation of the governing documents and he had been beeten at his own game. He never attended another meeting after that. Thankfully our HOA is not too bad. They do have some rules that they try to enforce but they are generally reasonable, for example, the bylaws said that no sheds were allowed, but the board has chosen to interpret that to mean no METAL sheds.

  22. JGB says:

    I have had two…

    1) In Phoenix, the HOA sent me a nasty letter telling me my backyard playground equipment was visible from the road and I had not asked permission to put it up. I, of course, had not put it up. It was there when I bought the house. Same for the previous owner. And the one before that… We went round and around on this until they agreed to let me remove only the tarp like cover at the top (’cause there is just too damned much shade in Phoenix). The thing that was annoying was the fact that, not being the one that installed the damned thing made no difference…the HOA lady told me that I ‘inherited the infraction, so I had to pay the fines” . I never did.

    2) In Kansas City, I was told by the HOA that my fences was improperly installed (too close the the sidewalk) and they were going to put a lien on my house. No prizes for guessing that the fence came with the house. Once we had that discussion, they did offer to pay for moving the fence, but when I told them I would also expect them to pay for moving the water system, for replacing the lost landscaping, for re-sodding the yard, and some sort of compensation for the roughly 25% of my yard that would now be unusable, they dropped the whole thing.

    • punkrawka says:

      Regarding story #1, almost ALL HOA agreements state that the home will be treated as “in compliance” at the time of purchase and the new owner can’t be held responsible for any infractions already present at time of purchase. Basically the onus is on the HOA to deal with that before you buy the house.

  23. 333 (only half evil) says:

    My favorite HOA story, from the West Virginia Surf Report:
    http://thewvsr.com/gargoyle.htm

  24. DallasM says:

    “What’s the worst dust-up you ever encountered with an HOA?”

    That would be when I learned what an HOA was. I had never heard of it before I looked to buy my first home. That day I swore I would never buy a home that was restricted by an HOA. Why would anyone voluntarily allow someone else to tell them what they can and can’t do in the home that they own? (I understand why the there needs to be some government regulations, but an HOA is like paying someone to be an extra government on top of the government you already have to pay.)

    • DrGirlfriend says:

      HOA’s are for people who really dig uniformity, because uniformity “increases property values”.

      Really, it’s because they keep out the riff raff. Just yesterday I was reading about an HOA in my state that is forbidding residents to hang their clothes up to dry on clotheslines (which apparently is a Big Thing at HOA’s across the country, too). Their reason is because it “decreases property values”. Which translates to, “it makes it look like poor people live here”.

      • Milehimama says:

        I live in Houston/Harris County, which doesn’t really have zoning laws (well, you can’t have more than 30 chickens). So EVERY neighborhood has an HOA of some kind because that’s the only way to make sure someone doesn’t open up a Sanford and Sons in their backyard.

      • anduin says:

        wow that’s real nice of you, keep the riff raff out because they hang clothes outside? I do know some high end shirts can’t make it through a regular dryer without getting messed up and air drying and then ironing is the best solution for them. From someone who earlier took strong objection to the word b*tch but has no trouble throwing the word riff raff around, I guess I’m not really surprised.

  25. redwall_hp says:

    I don’t think I could put up with a HOA. If I want to put up a HAM radio antenna or paint the house so it doesn’t look *exactly* like the rest of them, I should be able to. I definitely couldn’t stand those tacky suburban subdivisions that spring up everywhere, where you can walk down the street and not be able to recognize any of the houses by anything but their address. It’s like living in an office cubicle.

    • Number Five Is Alive says:

      Until we stop buying homes in HoA controlled areas, they won’t get the message. If the HoA districts are empty and no one wants to buy houses in one, they will soon get the message. The problem is, many new home constructions are being built with these awful associations in mind. You’ll have to buy an older home at times to avoid these.

  26. uber_mensch says:

    Imagine what the HOA is like at Disney-owned Celebration Village in Florida where every home has to be perfect all the time.

    Check out this guys blog on it. Crazy!
    http://lifeindisneysbackyard.blogspot.com/

  27. mike1731 says:

    From another perspective… I have served with our HOA in several board positions over the past seven years, most recently as a president. We have a small association, with 104 homes, a common pool area, and some landscaping we need to maintain around the perimeter of the area. When I was first involved, the prior administration did not have a functioning accounting system in place, had no records who had or had not paid dues for prior years, had $300 in the bank, and around $3500 in prior years bills yet to be paid.

    Currently, we have around $10K in the bank, and have held to the same dues as we originally had when the association charter was first written in 1998. Meanwhile, our water rates roughly quadrupled, and insurance rates have doubled. We continue to battle parents who allow kids to come to the pool late at night unsupervised (we have an outside pool), and have to spend a fair amount to repair damage to the pool liner, fences, and furniture.

    What annoys me to no end is that whenever we hold a public meeting (typically once a year) we get the same twenty people who show up, eat, complain about whatever we have done, gritch about the cost, then ask us to go after their neighbors who don’t take good enough care of their yard, park cars outside, etc. Although we probably could be dickish and do that, I really think neighbors should talk to each other about yard care and such first, and only bring in the HOA later.

    Oh, and what’ interesting is that whenever anyone expresses an interest in serving on the board, we get them right in. I’ve wanted to leave our board for several years, but we can’t get anyone new to serve, despite letters, personal invites, and the like.

    Yes, I know there are horrible HOA boards out there, but the best way to deal with them is to get involved. Many association leaders I’ve met through the years feel like playground cops, and really would love to have more involvement from NORMAL rational people who can visit with one another without becoming a little dictator.

  28. chaesar says:

    This is very funny to me, because I live in a part of the country that still allows burn barrels.

    Too many rose bushes?!?! Heavens to Betsy!!!!!

    • BuyerOfGoods3 says:

      AMEN! Did you see the “..putting up mismatched buildings..” as a commenter complaint? Holy Crap! Mismatched Buildings!? NOOO!

  29. Rysis says:

    People just don’t seem to think twice about signing their freedoms away. I can’t say I feel that sorry for them. You signed the contract …

    • Blueberry Scone says:

      It could be that when some folks first bought their house, the HOA enforced a few rules, but not to the point of “wall color” or “no cars parked overnight.” In some situations, it seems like the HOAs gradually get more power – you elect a bunch of busy-bodies, and then you start getting rules like “your grass can only be X inches high.”

      I, personally, sometimes wish we had a HOA. We have some houses on the block that are in disrepair. However, I also know some of my neighbors (busy-body retirees with nothing but time on their hands), and I know they’d love to make and enforce rules if they could serve on a HOA. It’s all a matter of prioritizing what you want when you are buying a house.

    • Rachacha says:

      In my community (brand new house purchased from the devoloper/builder) we had to sign a document indicating that we had received the entire governing documents. It turned out however, that the builder did not provide homeowners with all of the governing documents, only the Bylaws, they did not provide the Articles of Incorporation or Covenents document, and we unfortunately did not realize this until after the HOA had been turned over to the homeowners and hired a new management company. A resident had to go to the county and purchase a copy of the entire governing documents. It was at this point that we discovered that the rules were essentially impossible to enforce because the documents that had been signed and passed were coolie cutter requirements from other communities and the developer forgot to change the name of the community in the articles of incorporation. If anyone wanted to challenge the HOA they would likely win because the documents don’t mention the HOA of our community. The advantage, no one enforces the rules because they know that the HOA would lose if ever challenged.

  30. BuyerOfGoods3 says:

    In KYLE, TX my sister’s HOA specifically FORBIDS PINK FLAMINGOS as lawn decoration (and GNOMES too!)

    Watch out for the HOA–buy in the country, and you don’t have that problem. Farm it up, people.

    • Rachacha says:

      Personally I hate the flamingo an gnome lawn ornaments, but being the type of person that I am I would probably go out and purchase WHITE flamingos (or paint the flamingos Day-glo Orange) so they are not PINK and put them in my lawn along with gnomes modified to remove their hats replaced with crazy frazzled hair…they are not gnomes, they are Lawn TROLLS!

    • Mike says:

      OK, I kind of like that HOA rule. Pink Flamingos are lame and so are gnomes. Can they forbid those gawd-awful lawn jockey statues? But I have to agree, HOAs are lame, and I would never turn in my neighbor for gnomes in their lawn. But I would reserve the right to post pics of their terrible taste online and make snarky comments.

      Buy in the country? I live near Kyle, Kyle is the country. How much further out do you need to move? The suburbs of Wimberly?

  31. markmark says:

    It’s all about having the right people on the board. If you don’t like it, and your neighbors agree, vote them off and change the rules. We just went through that. The dictator was in place for about 5 years, since the HOA was formed. We changed a lot of ‘rules’ and found that he was ‘hiding’ money and had all the accounts in his name, ha.
    But, the HOA is to maintain the neighborhood to a certain look. It can be a good thing, with the right folks on the board. I grew up in rural America, I know what can happen. Tractor tire/tub flower gardens, unkept yards, etc.

  32. jp says:

    First house, Scottsdale, Az 1987. My wheeled trash container was confiscated and taken to “trash can jail” because it was left outside on trash day (at the curb) “past sundown”. They took it on the 3rd occurrence and I had to pay $25 to get it back. They did leave warning letters attached to the can the first 2 times so I really had no excuse for my lack of consideration, except my work hours required I not leave until after my shift, which was 9pm. When I asked my boss if I could change my work schedule on Tuesdays (trash day) I had to explain that I had to get home before sundown so my trash can could stay out of jail. He actually let me. He lived in a similar HOA and understood.

    • ooeygooey says:

      Can we all please agree that it is insane that this person had to change his work schedule to appease his HOA’s? Please?

      • FredKlein says:

        Um, why couldn’t he, you know, TALK to his neighbors, and perhaps find one willing to move his trash can? Pay them back with some homemade cookies once a month or something.

        • jp says:

          I did. The problem was there was ANOTHER CCR that said, “all trash containers must be blocked (hidden) from view from any adjoining property or the street”. This was a brand track home, in a brand new development, with no mature vegetation yet to ‘hide’ the can next to the house. That left 2 options. Give a ‘new’ unknown neighbor a key to the side gate and ask them to wheel it all the way behind the house (out of street view) across a ROCK gravel ground covering OR give them access to my garage remote to put the can in the garage (where I kept it). I lived there for one month when this started happening. No one in there right mind would ask some strangers to do either of these options EVERY week after moving in a month prior. Suffice to say, I was out of there 2 years later. No more CCR’s now. I learned my lesson.

  33. RayanneGraff says:

    I’m torn on HOAs. On one hand, they’re a hindrance to pleasant living if they’re too strict. My parents live in a really nice neighborhood with an absolutely *rabid* HOA. Yeah, there’s a nicely maintained communal pool & you don’t see cars sitting up on blocks anywhere, but people can get in trouble just for leaving their garbage cans out. They have to keep them hidden from sight or else they get fined.

    That said, I kinda wish MY neighborhood had an HOA cause I live next to the loudest, trashiest, most IRRITATING assholes on the planet. I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve called the cops on these people, for everything from bumping rap music in the middle of the night to leaving their poor dog chained up outside in 105-degree heat with no shelter. They have a whole litter of kids ranging from grade school to high school age, and there are always at least 3 cars parked in their driveway & in front of their house. Their inbred relatives come over & park on the lawn strip in between their houses & in front of MY house, blocking my mailbox & causing me to have to carefully squeeze out of my driveway to keep from hitting their old jalopy. And then they sit in their garage all night long, talking loudly & guffawing with the door open. Oh, how I HATE these people & I wish there was some way to kick their ghetto asses out of the neighborhood.

    So I guess HOAs are good as long as they’re not ridiculously strict…

  34. AstroPig7 says:

    Wait, wait. A policy against smoking inside your own home? I hate cigarettes, cigars, and anything similar, but even I think this is ridiculous. The comment about our constitution not providing for this fact is even more ridiculous. By that logic, we also don’t have the right to undress in our homes.

    • nonzenze says:

      “Wait, wait. A policy against smoking inside your own home? I hate cigarettes, cigars, and anything similar, but even I think this is ridiculous. The comment about our constitution not providing for this fact is even more ridiculous. By that logic, we also don’t have the right to undress in our homes.”

      If you buy a home subject to an agreement that says you won’t smoke in the home, you can’t smoke in the home. If you want to smoke in your home, don’t buy a home subject to an HOA that prohibits it.

      How is this even remotely difficult for people to understand?

      • AstroPig7 says:

        How does this address the stupidity of the rule? I understand that the HOA can implement whatever ridiculous by-laws the board members come up with, but my point was that the rule itself and its defense are astoundingly ill-conceived. It sounds like someone has serious control issues.

      • evnmorlo says:

        The strength of contracts is limited. Pre-nups are ignored all the time for being “unfair”; taking someone’s house away because they smoked in it is too.

  35. DrGirlfriend says:

    My husband used to work for a company that managed HOA’s in a certain peninsula-shaped state that is fond of hanging chads. It’s not just the HOA’s that are crazy, some of the residents are even bigger sticklers for mundane crap. One of the biggest fights he ever witnessed was 2 old men coming close to fisticuffs over which flowers got planted in the common areas.

    I picture HOA’s being full of Gladys Kravitzes who secretly yearn for the McCarthy years, turning in their neighbors for being commie pinkos who have not mowed their lawn in the last 3 days.

    • myCatCracksMeUp says:

      Now I really feel the need to re-watch all the episodes of Bewitched. I’ve seen them all at least three times in my life, but it’s been a few years. That show ages well.

    • RayanneGraff says:

      I love that you used ‘fisticuffs’. That word is going back into my regular rotation.

  36. Me - now with more humidity says:

    Jailed for failing to maintain your lawn? I’m speechless.

    • Sparkstalker says:

      Penn & Teller covered the guy’s story on the Lawns episode of Bullshit!. It’s truly amazing what assholes some of these HOA busybodies are…

  37. nonzenze says:

    “Deep inside, most homeowners despise their homeowners associations for their arbitrary rules and uncanny ability to send out nasty letters for the tiniest violations.”

    What a bunch of projection-bullshit. Many HOA-ers are glad that their neighbors are constrained by the same rules. They appreciate have consistent-looking shingles, well-kept lawns with no tacky statues, no cars jacked up in driveways, no dogshit left out to rot, no loud parties. For some people (not me) these are valuable goods.

    FWIW, I would never live in an HOA because that’s not my preference (much like most readers here, I imagine). What I despise, however, is people that project their preferences on the rest of the world like it’s obvious that everyone must be exactly like them. These people voluntarily chose to subject themselves to a set of rules in exchange for their neighbors being so constrained. Hostility to their decision is ridiculous and patronizing.

    • myCatCracksMeUp says:

      A lot of people buy in HOA neighborhoods because that’s all they can afford. When my hubby graduated from college, he got a job in Fairfax VA, and I transfered to George Mason, also in Fairfax. For a dollar amount that would’ve bought us a nice house in our previous location, all we could afford was a townhouse in an HOA in Fairfax.

      Our HOA wasn’t as bad as many of them, but we did have to have shingles the same color, and our mailboxes all had to be painted the same color. We had to get permission to build a deck and a shed. Also – when our tree was destroyed by a storm, we had to replace it with the exact same type tree. I can’t say that I HATED it, but when we could afford to buy a single family house we bought a much older house that wasn’t in an HOA, rather than a nicer, newer one that was.

  38. alisha.hime says:

    My HoA: $200 pet fee per pet, per year. Which, for dogs and outdoor animals, I can understand. However, also applies to indoor only pets…such as my declawed cat. I dont feel they should have a right to charge me for animals only in my home…

  39. drburk says:

    It’s an issue of money; people want to pay for what they use. People don’t like to build parks they won’t use and they gripe when the city builds a park. The solution is to let HOAs build parks and sports fields, that way the people who use it pay for it. When dealing with lawns the city doesn’t make much money mowing your lawn if it’s in violation. The inspector makes 3 trips and their are 3 letters, then the hire a company to mow the lawn and pay the company. They pay a company to mow the lawn then try to collect, which means they take a citizen to court. Once in court the city doesn’t make much money if any (they settle low). They let the HOA go to court and the city gets the court costs.

    • JiminyChristmas says:

      You’re right that it’s about the money, from start to finish. Where I live, most HOAs are in unincorporated areas (i.e.: not part of a city or town) of counties that are low-density suburban or nearly rural.

      Often, the county governments don’t have the revenue to service new developments, even with the new property tax revenue they represent. This makes can be a big roadblock for developers seeking to build new housing. So, the developer goes to the county and says: don’t worry, we’ll establish an HOA and pay for our own parks, snowplowing, trash collection…or whatever other service the county might otherwise be obligated to provide. Voila, the developer gets their planning and zoning approvals and they’re in business.

      Of course, it’s more expensive for the homeowners. Even if they’re in a lower-tax jurisdiction they’re still paying property taxes in addition to their HOA fees.

      The insidious thing about this whole process is that, depending on the metro area, HOAs become almost inevitable. If the city and first-ring suburbs are built-out, where is new housing built? Cash-poor rural and semi-rural counties where there is available land. Ergo, if a buyer has their heart set on a brand new house in the ‘burbs they might not have many options outside of HOAs.

  40. RDOlivaw says:

    I live in a listed historic neighborhood consisting of mostly ornate shotgun houses, a number of Victorian houses, “raised basement” houses and even a few nasty ranch style houses. There’s even a few properties that are slowly collapsing in on themselves. I love it! It’s a real neighborhood where you know your neighbors. There’s a mix of wealthy people, middle class people and poor people.

    The paint on my house is in very bad shape, is flaking off and looks horrible. I can’t afford to pay to paint it right now and have no time to do it myself. Nobody bothers me about it.

    There is no HOA, but we are subject to the rules of living in a historic district. Basically, we can’t make any changes to the outside of our houses that don’t fit with the character of the neighborhood. Any such changes need to be drawn up by an architect and approved by a city run commission. They used to be able to dictate exterior paint color, but that’s in the past.

    I like these rules because they keep new suburban ranch style houses out. New houses must fit in with the character of the street.

    My only encounter with a HOA was when I had to evacuate for Katrina. This gated “community” consisted of a single (circular) street where every other house looked the same. Myself and a number of other people stayed there for a couple of weeks because we simply couldn’t get home. Some asshat put notes on our cars complaining that we had them parked on the street for more than three days in a row and that our cars would be towed in the very near future. We ignored him and the person we were staying with talked some sense into him.

    I will never live somewhere with a dictatorial HOA.

  41. Sword_Chucks says:

    No posting “for Sale” sings or signs. Which has the typo, the HOA agreement or the article. Im hoping the HOA Agreement.

  42. DWMILLER says:

    The color of our cable from the satellite to inside the house. No black cables only white if your house is white. You must paint the cable to match the color of the house. It lasted about two years until we got enough like minded people on our board and got rid of that silly rule. HOA are not so bad. If you ever had a neighbor who painted his home periwinkle-blue with red trim you can appreicate the rules.

  43. webweazel says:

    Only once did we live in a HOA house. The best one I heard of was this:
    A woman wanted to replace her roof. She wanted one of those modern metal roofs that look similar to shingles. She was on the board, architectural committee. When she brought it up with the board at one of the meetings, she showed samples in order to make sure it was okay. She was told “You ARE the architectural committee, so what you say goes, even if it’s your own.” So, she got the roof installed. The board went after her. Said it didn’t “match” the rest of the houses. Lawyers eventually got involved, it wasn’t pretty. I think she won eventually, not only because the board did not voice their objections when it agreed to the project, but they also missed their objectionary period allotted after the fact which was written specifically in the original bylaws. (Guess they forgot to read that part.)
    This same HOA has routinely ignored another house for YEARS that has 4 foot weeds in the backyard (with poisonous snakes!), 2 foot high of solid weeds and no grass in the front on a regular basis, trees and bushes so overgrown they are ripping up the sidewalks and you cannot even USE the sidewalk there, broken fences, trash in the yard constantly, paint peeling along with moldy walls and garage doors. That place was a shithole when we lived there over 8 years ago, and since we still talk to their next door neighbor, we know it’s STILL a shithole, and declining.
    WTF?

  44. Ihaveasmartpuppy says:

    Crazy rule #895,334: No vehicles parked on any driveway or neighborhood street overnight.

    They offer a “parking lot” 1/2 mile down the street next to the mailboxes. Never mind that it’s usually full, and that after driving 9 hours to get there I don’t want to hike down there at midnight when I realize my son left his toy in the car and won’t sleep without it. Or, that there must be a rule against being outside in your jammies at midnight.

    Other silly rules she pays to put up with (I personally think she’s a fool to do it but whatever):
    Garage doors can only be open if a person is in view in garage, driveway or front yard.
    No lawn tools, hoses or snow shovels visible without a person using them.
    All landscaping plants must be approved.

    • Jasen says:

      I don’t get this rule either. What’s the danger of having a car parked in your driveway after dark? Those late night property appraisers might come by and mark everyones’ home values down because the neighbors… *gasp* own a car?

  45. Alvis says:

    Some people are lazy; others think that their home’s perceived value is more important than their neighbors’ free enjoyment of their property.

  46. Urgleglurk says:

    This is why I’ll never live anywhere there is an HOA. I suspect many people never read their HOA closely until they got dinged the first time. Too late then, folks!

  47. donovanr says:

    The key law that needs to be passed it to make it easier to dissolve an HOA. Say 30% of the people in an area not wanting to be a part of an existing HOA would end the HOA.

    Another key limit would be one vote per person and per household. That way one person owning 7 houses can’t have 7 votes. Often a small group of people each owning a bunch of houses end up creating a voting block that controls everything. In a community of 200 homes 5 people each owning 7 houses would have 35 votes. This might not seem like much but with most issues not getting more that 100 votes 35 will almost always swing you a solid majority.

  48. caknuck says:

    I pay $90/quarter in HOA dues. Much of that goes to the two in-ground pools and the two playgrounds it maintains. My kids make good use of the facilities, so I have little problem paying up.

    We bought new from a builder five years ago, so an HOA was more-or-less an inevitability. As the neighborhood has matured, the HOA has done a relatively good job with making sure that vacant and/or rental houses are reasonably well-maintained.

  49. jdmba says:

    115 comments means I am too late to this party; but HOA’s have no court oversight and routinely abuse their power. Stay away.

  50. jaya9581 says:

    I knew a couple who lived in an HOA condo that backed up to a busy street. The fence the HOA required was purely decorative, it had vertical metal bars and there was about 12″ between each bar. When they bought a small dog and were expecting a baby, they installed latticework on the inside of the fence to prevent the dog/baby from escaping through it. HoA ordered the lattice taken down. The couple had an attorney draft a letter that said they would happily take it down, in return for the HoA accepting responsibility in advance in writing should something happen to their dog or child as a result of the unsafe fence that the HoA required. The HoA backed down pretty fast.

  51. steve says:

    We have a real strict HOA. Gladstone Builders

    1. If we wanted to put in landscaping we have to get it approved. This includes planting a tree.

    2. No above ground pools.

    3. No fences unless it’s around an inground pool.

    4. No portable basketball hoops. It has to be cemented in the ground.

    5. No sheds.

    6. No swings or jungle gyms or any children playground equipment.

    7. If you want to put in a patio or deck the designs have to be submited and approved first.

  52. maggiemerc says:

    The head of the HOA lives across the street from my mother. The front of his house looks directly into my mother’s backyard (she lives on a very tall and awesome hill).

    A few summers ago she decided to let the grass grow because it could only be cut with weed wackers (a LOT of rocks in that back yard) and she felt high grass and wildflowers would be very pretty.

    And it was!

    Until she got the citation for not mowing her grass. It wouldn’t have been THAT bad, but there were a couple of houses with gravel front yards that had all kinds of weeds growing up. She was pissed that she got called out but they didn’t.

    Then she decided to build a shed, but it had to be at least 6 feet from the fence line. So instead she put it on cinderblocks and listed it as temporary. The HOA pres demanded she change it, but the HOA bylaws allowed temporary structures to be built at the fence line so she offered him a cup of coffee and went back to watching the construction of her new shed.

    Score one for the HOA haters!

  53. Mike says:

    You would be shocked at how many HOAs forbid overnight parking in your own driveway. Luckily this rule is largely unenforceable. There are 20 houses on my street and only two of them don’t have cars in their driveway any given night.

    • Milehimama says:

      That’s crazy. Everyone in my neighborhood parks in the driveway, because the garages are all too small for anything but a coupe.

      Although parking in the driveway probably IS illegal in my neighborhood. I hate our HOA.

  54. Jeanyuhs says:

    In my neighborhood we aren’t even allowed to mow our lawns with a motorized lawn mower on Sundays!! (This is not a joke)

  55. nearprairie says:

    Where we used to live, Kingwood Glen, in Humble, TX:

    1. No lawn was to be mowed below 1.5″ or above 3″.
    2. Edging the lawn was to be between 1″-2″ from curbs and driveways.

    Each week the yard Nazis would patrol the ‘hood and measure suspect yards. Of course, we got a letter informing of our egregious violation of the hallowed mowing code (unacceptable edging). I returned the letter with pictures of the fenced back yards of HOA board members — fences that had been illegally extended into the access ways; back yards the members weren’t paying property taxes to enjoy. There were no more letters.

  56. ames says:

    I would deal with any HOA I could, if I could live in the equivalent of a 55+ community for people in their thirties. No kids! No teens! GLORY. I would paint my house whatever color they wanted, trim my yard to the exact quarter of an inch, if in return, I had a swimming pool that I could actually use without being surrounded by screaming children and surly teenagers.

  57. keepher says:

    Never have, never will because I’ll shoot myself before living some where with an HOA.

  58. Grodoro says:

    It should be ‘Disallowing the posting of “for sale” signs.’ #corrections

  59. wil9000 says:

    Loving all the “Socialist!” calling. OK, people, here’s the short form:
    Socialism is a system by which the STATE owns and controls every aspect of the means of production.
    It is not, as some think, any attempt at getting in the way of Robber Baron worshiping capitalists and their lassiez fiaire at any expense attitude. HOA’s are ridiculous, but that doesn’t make them Socialist. Also, the President is totally NOT a Socialist. End of story.

  60. Heresy_Fnord says:

    Protip – if you don’t like HOA’s, don’t move to a neighborhood that has one. No one is forcing you to. You don’t suddenly have the right to not abide by the rules simply because you don’t like them. DON’T MOVE THERE IF YOU DON’T LIKE THE RULES.

  61. hardtoremember says:

    We used to live in a community with an HOA. Never ever again! We have been ticketed for having our garage door open “too long”, 1 foot of garden hose visible on the ground, neighbor’s toys near our yard, an oil spot we never noticed on our driveway and they made us remove a tree that wasn’t “growing properly”. I almost forgot the 3 weeds that I missed and the backyard inspections twice a year.
    People are leaving HOA’s like crazy here and there is a huge class action lawsuit started. There is nothing wrong with keeping a community comfortable and nice for everyone to live in but these guys go just way too far.

  62. jbandsma says:

    The worst I heard was an acquaintance here in Charleston. They got fined for having boxes on their front lawn…the day they were moving in. (And no, that didn’t make any difference to the HOA, no boxes on the lawn meant no boxes on the lawn. Ever.)

  63. Milehimama says:

    We got a notice for having our garage door open, when the kids were riding bikes. Garages can only be open if a vehicle is in the process of ingress or egress and bikes don’t count as vehicles.

    Home improvement be darned.

  64. Dracoster says:

    How is this even legal?

  65. lostalaska says:

    I had a friend living in a condo and was having a hard time with the association over replacing linoleum in his kitchen with tile (yes inside his condo). He then showed me the condo “rules” and then pointed out that few new rules had been created until about 2 years ago when they got a new association president. In the past couple of years there are about 20 new rules created not as general rules, but specifically to target certain people the president didn’t get along with or like. There was one about having all panels of your vehicle the same color and style. Apparently that one was created after a neighbor the president didn’t like had been in a car accident and didn’t have the money to properly replace his damaged car door so he bought a same make/model door from a junk yard and put it on his car. His car was black, but the door was green. Another one was about specifically not parking boats on trailers at the end of the lot where people had been for decades. Now the association president stores his RV and 4 wheelers there. Guess it’s okay since they’re not boats.

  66. Anne Marie says:

    Ours won’t let us redo the stairs in the back of our house because they don’t understand the plan. We said we’d build a handrail in the STYLE of the old one and they said they didn’t see how we could reuse the handrail – which we said we weren’t doing. Even pictures couldn’t get them to understand. Right now it’s falling apart and looks awful.

  67. Patches O'Houlihan says:
  68. unimus says:

    Fining pet owners for walking their small dogs through a condo complex lobby rather than carrying them.

    Not that crazy of a law considering my neighbour’s uncontrollable dog, who already has a favorite spot to pee on.

  69. Tankueray says:

    What about the one where Vampires and Werewolves are forced to get along and can’t even eat the humans that live there? I mean, how can we be cordial if we can’t even share a meal?

  70. lyllydd says:

    Well, before moving out of the prison that was an HOA controlled-neighborhood, I put one over on them, albeit in a small way.
    All of the houses, even those with decks, had a small concrete pad (The HOA called it a patio. It was about 2 feet square) just outside of the back door. In our case, it was at the base of the steps from the ground level to the deck. The HOA declared that no-one was permitted to install a brick patio, so I didn’t. I just made the concrete pad look like one. Stencils and patio paint and a rough sponge did a rather impressive job.
    I got a nastygram from the HOA. They didn’t even have the courage to address it to me specifically, just to ‘all residents’. Hubby and I gleefully ignored the letter. Found out later that one of our neighbornazis had seen me working on the concrete, and couldn’t tell the difference between a thin plastic stencil and big hefty bricks. Especially not from 5 feet away on his own deck.
    Not too long after, we sold the place, so it’s the new owner’s responsibility now. Heh. After what the new owner pulled on us at closing, she deserves the hassle.

  71. GalenVanHalen says:

    Would you pay someone to spy on you? To put a lien on your house? To have to ask them permission to do anything you want to your house? That’s what these people are doing.

    This is the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard.

  72. bigsexybrain says:

    In my neighborhood, a home recently was struck by lightening, and sustained substantial fire damage as a result. Their insurance company got to work (slowly, I might add). The residents of the home were not permitted on the property without permission by the insurance company, and were advised to just stay at their temporary lodging until the work was done. They did just that… and got a lien placed on their home because they didn’t mow their grass!
    These people lost just about everything they own, and now the HOA has a lien because of the grass!

  73. Mikey1969 says:

    Worst one I’ve ever come across? My wife’s co-worker was president of his HOA and was telling her of a condo user that had gone out of town and had friends come over and turn on their porch light for them. This got left on during the day, which was a violation. The HOA fined the condo owners AND the neighbors who had turned on the porch light, since they were members as well…

  74. Red_Eye says:

    Wouldnt live with a HOA EVER

  75. TandJ says:

    In Garden City, Idaho, the HOA president has stated that monthly Board of Directors meetings are for discussion only from the Board of Directors. No homeowner input is accepted or permitted. Homeowners are permitted in the room, but when the meeting begins; you better be quiet.

    In fact, at the Homeowners meeting last year, he stated that the owners wer permitted to talk ONLY because it was the homeowners meeting.

  76. MikeF says:

    I had new carpet installed in my condo. The contractor took most of the old stuff away but tossed some of it in the bulk trash dumpster. Someone saw him (the HOA offered a $200 bounty if residents could nail whichever non-resident was dumping their crap in our dumpsters) and got the phone number on the side of the truck. They called him and said that either he paid a $200 fine or they would sign some sort of criminal complaint for illegal dumping. I went to the next board meeting and explained that it was my carpeting and, therefore, could be dumped. They said it was his once he removed it and besides, they had already paid the bounty. I explained what they were doing fit the definition of extortion to the “t” and that I should know – I work for the County Prosecutor’s Office. They stood by their guns at the meeting but neither I nor the contractor ever heard anything again. Well intentioned, I guess, but afraid to admit their mistake.

  77. JennyDB says:

    One thing we have heard from a lot of customers (we sell the MailBoss locking mailboxes) is that their HOA has strict restrictions on mailboxes. Even if they want to buy a locking mailbox… specifically, ours… so they don’t have to worry about getting their mail promptly or having their identity stolen due to mail theft… they are prohibited from buying a mailbox that is not in accordance with the HOA. They have to petition the HOA board to get everyone on board. This makes me wonder if the HOA would be liable at all if a homeowner who was prohibited from getting a secure mailbox became a victim of (expensive) ID theft due to stolen mail. Anyone know?

  78. Invalid_User_Name says:
  79. spokanekim says:

    I used to work for an answering service about 15 years ago. One of our accounts was an uppity-yuppity HOA office in a Seattle suburb and we used to get all kinds of bizarre calls from the homeowners asking us to page security for them – we didn’t have a choice – if they called, we had to page it. The homeowners paid a monthly fee for the privilege of living in the exclusive gated community and believed that no request was too outrageous.

    One lady told me she wanted the security guard to come shoo away a cat that was meowing on her front porch – being a helpful problem solving kind of gal, I asked if she had tried to shoo it away herself (hey, maybe it was a persistent cat) or if she had maybe waved a broom at it or something. Her answer? – “I’m on the 2nd floor in my bedroom – I don’t want to go downstairs right now.” So I paged security for her.

    Another memorable call was from a man who wanted to the guard paged to come take a report because someone’s dog had crapped on his lawn. He said he had an idea who’s dog it was but wanted the guard to witness it and verify it so he could file a formal complaint. I remember thinking “Is the guard supposed to be some sort of dog shit profiler? Do you think he can look at it, maybe smell it, then say “Yep, you’re right sir – this is definitely from the Beagle across the street – not the Doberman on the corner.” ” Yep – I paged security for this one too – the guard was not amused.

    However, the most disturbing call I ever received was from a homeowner who wanted security to come patrol his area and check out a couple of teens who were walking down the street. The reason the homeowner gave – “They don’t look like they are from around here if you know what I mean.” When I said no, I didn’t know what he meant and asked if he could give me a general description so the guard would know what to look for he said “Let’s just say I haven’t seen other people who look like them in the neighborhood – they look like they don’t belong around here.” Of course, I had to page the guard – but I told the homeowner he would have to explain his reasoning to the guard himself. Can I say with 100% certainty this was a race issue? No, I can’t. But even 15 years later this call still resonates with me.

  80. anduin says:

    my parents live on an acreage with neighbors and I know one of their Indian neighbors tends to have broken down vehicles and other craps around their house making it look like it’s inhabited by animals. I still can’t believe those people can afford a $500k house but can’t afford to clean up around it. So a HOA would be useful in their neighborhood but a city bylaw could also result in them getting a fine but that would involve snitching.

  81. soj4life says:

    the only dust up i had with my condo association dealt with the towing company our original property management hired, they were towing cars that were parked in odd shaped spots that were not marked as no parking. no one was ever towed before they were hired.

  82. Aquarian by the sea says:

    It may be of interest from an environmental and legal perspective but also an issue with HOAs that give credence to the adage that power corrupts. In Beaufort, SC the County Administrator enacted a policy of delegating authority and enforcement of the County’s tree removal ordinance to HOAs. Codes enforcement has stated that HOAs to whom the ordinance authority has been delegated by the County Administrator are “exempt” from the ordinance and County enforcement. This is all occurring in an area of a fragile ecosystem, waterways becoming polluted and oyster beds being closed to harvesting as well as an area in much need of its native trees in the south for the many benefits trees provide (i.e., energy conservation, stormwater management, increased property value, etc.) It has created a slippery slope and outsourced the public trust.

    An Attorney General opinion was sought and in a five page document citing case law and analysis, the conclusion was that “in accordance with our prior opinions, we are of the opinion that governmental entities are precluded from delegating their police powers to individuals or private entities. We believe that enforcement of a County zoning ordinance involves the exercise of the County’s police powers. Accordingly, we would advise hat the County is precluded from delegating its authority to enforce its ordinances to an individual or private entity, such as a homeowner’s association.” For full opinion see – http://www.scattorneygeneral.org/opinions/pdf/2010/erickson%20s%20s%20os-9089%20b%208-4-10%20beaufort%20county%20tree%20removal%20ordinance.PDF

    See newspaper editorial link below. At this writing, the County refuses to rescind its policy.

    http://www.lowcountrynewspapers.net/archive/2010/10/28/story/county-should-enfore-its-own-tree-ordinance

  83. DallasM says:

    This is why you should never buy in an HOA. In an HOA you only lease your home.

  84. reybo says:

    Bad HOAs are the result of bad neighbors. We inherited an 11th floor luxury beach condo, and hired crews to renovate. An HOA rule was that all workers had to be out of the building by 5 pm and no work was allowed on Saturday, Sunday, or holidays.

    OK, we could meet that.

    But across the hall was a neighbor outraged that we were doing this work. Things went out, things came in, people came and went, and each thing annoyed him. He complained to the super nearly every day, but there were no violations to see, hear, smell, or taste.

    Then came the day the built-in kitchen dinette was removed. Big job took much of the day and wore the crew out. It was clear that we would not be through by 5 pm. We’d need a few minutes more.

    At 4:58 as usual, the neighbor was standing in the hall looking at his watch. 8′ of broken dinette rested against one wall. The carpeting was covered with dust and crud. All 4 workers and me were still at work.

    The neighbor trotted off toward the tenant elevator, obviously fetching the super so he could turn us in for violations. Oh happy day!

    As the elevator door closed behind him, I called to the guys and said we had 3 minutes to empty the hall, vacuum the carpeting, and them to be out of sight in the freight elevator.

    They grabbed the dinette and had it and themselves inside the elevator within 2 minutes. By then I had the carpet vacuumed. The area around my door was an island of spotless.

    I stepped inside out of sight when the neighbor and the super came into the hall. He was carrying on and on about the mess his hallway was in, evidently not looking.

    “What the hell are you talking about?” the super shouted. “Where are the violations?” He went back downstairs and so far as we know, ignored anything this neighbor had to say ever after.

    I suppose we could have taken advantage of this “boy who cried wolf” neighbor but never did. What we did do was give our unit the best weather-stripped doorway in the building so we could smoke without bothering others on the 11th floor.

    This neighbor refused to use weatherstripping at all, even when we gave him some. He preferred complaining endlessly about smoke blowing in around the door, which we knew was from the Rumanian down the hall.

    But rather than be wrongly blamed, for our last months there we smoked with our double doors wide open across from his. And sold the place to a family of smokers.

  85. reybo says:

    Bad HOAs are the result of bad neighbors. We inherited an 11th floor luxury beach condo, and hired crews to renovate. An HOA rule was that all workers had to be out of the building by 5 pm and no work was allowed on Saturday, Sunday, or holidays.

    OK, we could meet that.

    But across the hall was a neighbor outraged that we were doing this work. Things went out, things came in, people came and went, and each thing annoyed him. He complained to the super nearly every day, but there were no violations to see, hear, smell, or taste.

    Then came the day the built-in kitchen dinette was removed. Big job took much of the day and wore the crew out. It was clear that we would not be through by 5 pm. We’d need a few minutes more.

    At 4:58 as usual, the neighbor was standing in the hall looking at his watch. 8′ of broken dinette rested against one wall. The carpeting was covered with dust and crud. All 4 workers and me were still at work.

    The neighbor trotted off toward the tenant elevator, obviously fetching the super so he could turn us in for violations. Oh happy day!

    As the elevator door closed behind him, I called to the guys and said we had 3 minutes to empty the hall, vacuum the carpeting, and them to be out of sight in the freight elevator.

    They grabbed the dinette and had it and themselves inside the elevator within 2 minutes. By then I had the carpet vacuumed. The area around my door was an island of spotless.

    I stepped inside out of sight when the neighbor and the super came into the hall. He was carrying on and on about the mess his hallway was in, evidently not looking.

    “What the hell are you talking about?” the super shouted. “Where are the violations?” He went back downstairs and so far as we know, ignored anything this neighbor had to say ever after.

    I suppose we could have taken advantage of this “boy who cried wolf” neighbor but never did. What we did do was give our unit the best weather-stripped doorway in the building so we could smoke without bothering others on the 11th floor.

    This neighbor refused to use weatherstripping at all, even when we gave him some. He preferred complaining endlessly about smoke blowing in around the door, which we knew was from the Rumanian down the hall.

    But rather than be wrongly blamed, for our last months there we smoked with our double doors wide open across from his. And sold the place to a family of smokers.