Back in 2008, a couple in Olde Fairhaven, Virginia put up a sign in their lawn showing their support for a presidential candidate. This simple action led to a feud that has raged for years and cost the neighborhood homeowners association hundreds of thousands of dollars. Now the HOA is broke, and the central “town square” that turns a clump of townhouses into something resembling a community is up for sale.
It began simply enough: with an HOA known for taking hardline stances, and an “Obama for President” sign. When the couple received a warning that the placard was four inches too big, they could have taken the sign down or chopped a few inches off. Instead, they chopped it into “OBA” and “MA” signs. Homeowners associations are not known for their appreciation of whimsical humor or feeble protests.
The HOA board first passed a resolution granting itself the right to fine residents who violated the rules $900 per incident. Then, when the couple applied to have work done on their deck and on their roof, the board turned them down. Believing that the rejection was retaliation, the couple sued.
“It’s like we weren’t living in America. You are always one board election away from a tyranny. They wield enormous power,” the wife told The Washington Post.
Ultimately, the Virginia courts found in the couple’s favor. If an HOA’s covenant doesn’t spell out that it has the right to fine residents, it can’t arbitrarily start fining people. Rejecting the roof and deck projects in an unannounced super secret meeting was improper. Oh, and the HOA was on the hook for $100,000 worth of the couple’s legal fees.
The association is bankrupt now. There are no more parties in the common area. Because once, a campaign yard sign was four inches too big.
Feud over sign could force Fairfax’s Olde Belhaven to sell square [Washington Post] (Thanks, Luke!)