Discolor Online

Weblog of the sweetest person you never want to piss off.


A Pox on Home Owners Associations

Yesterday I received two identical letters from the administrators of my neighborhood's HOA. In concept these lovely organizations are made up of members of the community who agree to and enforce community standards, banding together to protect the community, to maintain the common property and to enhance the value of the houses or apartments in the association. In practice, in my neighborhood at least, they are administrated by companies set up for the sole purpose of collecting a cut of the neighborhood's association fees in return for supposedly taking on the unsavory task of actually determining violations and handing out fines. The administering company for our HOA (CDC) administers for others as well, as I found out when I called to find out WTF was going on in regards to the letter they sent me, and they do it from a suburban headquarters not even near my home.

At the end of February, CDC sent out a generic notice to everyone in the neighborhood, listing off all the various potential infractions that someone in our neighborhood might be guilty of: Christmas lights/decorations still up, rubber matting or artificial grass installed on porch steps, garbage cans visible from front of house, hot tubs/dog houses/storage sheds installed, porches or side yards being used for storage, satellite dishes not in prescribed location, window air conditioner units installed, clotheslines being used, yadda, yadda, yadda. Heaven forbid anyone hang clothes out to dry or park their bicycle on their front porch. Ug.

We received no notice of specific complaint, only a generic mailing that everyone take a look to make sure they were in compliance. In March we moved several large boxes off the porch and into the garage as part of a larger cleaning and reorganizing effort and I was quite pleased with myself for having done so. Then yesterday I get the notice that we're being fined $50 for "Storage Issues"! "As of this letter, we have not received a modification request from you to bring the above item into compliance, nor has it been brought into compliance." Now, not only did I never receive a specific letter addressed to me calling out specifically their complaint against me, but I (of my own accord) corrected the one actual "storage issue" they could have had against me when I moved everything off my front porch in March! The woman I talked to on the phone claimed that they drove around the neighborhood doing "spot checks" in February and again on May 6th and that this letter was the result of that, that we had "items" on our front porch "not for the apparent enjoyment of the front porch." WTF(x2)?!

Adding insult to injury, the property adjoining mine is a community park that has become so overgrown with weeds that the weeds have completely overtaken the shrubs and plants and the weeds from the park constantly encroach onto my property. My grass was completely overrun by clover and other weeds that spread in from the park and I eventually just tore it all out and replaced it with decorative plants and flowers that were more resistent. When they were doing their supposed "spot checks" why did they not notice that the thing they're supposed to be particularly responsible for (maintaining the common areas int he community) was not being attended to?!

I have ten days (now seven) from the date of the letter to pay this bogus fine or appeal in writing to the "Covenants Committee" to request a hearing on the issue. This notice of being fined is considered a "second notice" because the generic "Hey everyone, make sure you're in compliance" note counts as the first notice; a "third" notice bumps the fine up to $75, ten days after that the fine goes to $100, and tacks on an additional $100 every ten days until the "non-compliant item" is corrected, plus $25 of "late fees" each time as well.

I understand the idea, I sympathize with people who want to keep the neighborhood looking nice and who want to preserve the value of their homes, but this so-called enforcement and administration from afar is just downright offensive to me, especially considering the hundreds of thousands of dollars each homeowner pays for the home and the property in the first place.


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Blogger Evan Says:

Shouldn't they have to prove your guilt rather than you prove your innocence? If they can't show you evidence of past or current violation of these covenants on your part, I can't see how they can legally make you pay squat. (But I don't even play a lawyer on T.V., and my real estate license has been defunct for well over a decade.) I hope you're riled up enough to take this to the so-called hearing rather than just pay the fine in disgust.

Blogger J.D. Says:

I don't understand the ban on clotheslines! This is the second time in a week that I've heard of this ridiculous rule. Who got this one on the books-- the Maytag lobby? To me, a clotheslines proclaims, "Hey, look at me, I'm taking advantage of the beautiful weather by drying my clothes in an Earth-friendly manner!" What's next? Forbidden composters or recycling bins? Required leaf blowers instead of rakes? Mandatory SUVs? -- Kris

Blogger Nikchick Says:

I truly think the issue with clothes lines is all appearance: people who hang clothes out are trashy or something. I'm baffled by the "no storage sheds" rule. We have a single-car garage, and when we had a car parked in it, there just room for the car and very little else. How a storage shed harms anything is beyond me, but then I don't care if my neighbor wants to have an air conditioner or a screen door either.

Blogger Abel Says:

We live in an HOA and are currently appealing a "violation." I'm acutlly suprised your HOA company is so hands off about everything (i.e. having an office far away and doing spot checks every couple of months). The office to ours is located within the community it serves. And they do monthy checks of everyone's property. In our neck of the woods, if your property is in violation of the rules you get not only a personal letter but photographs pointing out the specific violation.

Anonymous Lydia Says:

The whole concept of HOAs is abhorrent to me! Whatever happened to "a man's home is his castle," and "being free to live as one chooses?" This is America, for Pete's sake! "The Land of the Free," and all that! I guess we're only as free as someone who (presumably) knows better than we do allows us to be, eh? When will we stop putting up with the tyranny of HOAs and simply go back to being responsible citizens living in civic harmony with our neighbors?! After all, if you don't like your neighbor's yard, put up a fence! After all, "good fences make good neighbors," that is, of course, if your HOA allows them... As for those irresponsible, uncaring people who would bring down property values by their thoughtless deeds or negligence, I have but two words: public ordinances! Enforcing the law is what the police are for! Thanks for letting me rant!


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