In Why You Should Avoid Buying in HOA Neighborhoods, frequent commentator Nila Ridings suggested that HOAs are cult-like. Having lived in several myself, I have to agree with Nila’s observation. I’ve described them as the adult equivalent of a high school clique. Are HOAs cults? A strong case can be made.
Reader Neil Brooks shared his HOA story, a tragic one, and one that supports the notion that HOAs are cults, albeit with smiling faces. Below he presents a summary version of the account he provides on his own website. If you doubt that HOAs might be cults – complete with influence with public authorities – you must read this account. While this may seem like an extreme situation, it has one common thread with all HOA “war stories” – any time anyone comes into conflict with an HOA, they stand completely alone.
Even ordinary residents in an HOA neighborhood quickly and easily close ranks behind the all-powerful board, perhaps driven by fear of becoming the next victim in a future witch hunt. That’s pretty much how cults work. Superficial enthusiasm, masking deep fear.
Here’s Neil’s story:
Are HOAs Cults Behind Smiling Faces?
My name is Neil Brooks. I’m disabled due to chemically burned eyes, primary immune dysfunction, and chronic neuropathic eye pain. I was formerly a corporate executive with several national companies listed on the New York Stock Exchange.
My wife and I moved into a brand new house in Fort Collins, Colorado in 2009. It was a covenant-controlled community with a Homeowners Association (HOA) and a Board of Directors. There were about 44 homes in the neighborhood. We were among the very last to move in.
The people we met as we were considering this place assured us that it was a very tight-knit community, that everybody was the best of friends, and that you ?basically couldn?t make it to the mailbox without somebody offering you a beer.? We really liked the warm sense of community that they described.
But what we thought of as a community turned out to be much more like a cult.
Barking Dogs as ‘Insiders’ – Residents as ‘Troublemakers’
We got settled into our new house only to find that the neighbors (whose house was located mere feet away) had chronic, barking dogs whose barking was unbelievably loud. It would start before sunrise, continue late into the night, and usually go for hours on end, day after day after day. The barking quickly began to take a significant toll on my sleep and my health.
The view from above (Google Satellite) – our house is on the left; the dog owners’ house is on the right. Our house hadn?t yet been built when we bought it. We had no idea how it would sit on the property. By the time we realized this it was too late. We were bound by a ?Specific Performance Contract? in a down real estate market:
Repeated and civil requests to the dog-owning neighbors got me nowhere. Similar pleas for help to Animal Control, the Police, and the HOA property manager got me nowhere. Once I reached out to the HOA members (via the Board of Directors) directly, everything went downhill.
The HOA Vice President told me to leave him and everybody else in the neighborhood alone, and made it clear that — while I had done everything in my power to keep this issue confined to only the people in a position to do anything about it — it had become a neighborhood-wide issue, and that ?the majority of the neighborhood? had turned on me.
And the barking still wouldn’t stop.
How close the two dogs were to my house, our bedroom, our bed:
No Help from the City Fathers
We were contacted by the City Mediator who turned out to be friendly with the dog owners. She scheduled a mediation date. My wife and I showed up at the mediation but nobody else was there. Apparently the mediator had canceled the mediation but never told us.
My health rapidly declined. I was battling insomnia, repeated infections that wouldn’t respond to medication, medication reactions, and exhaustion. It was a downward spiral from which there was no escape.
We hired an attorney and asked her to encourage the neighbors to get control over the barking. The neighbors? attorney told us that the neighbors would do nothing and that we should stop bothering them.
Seeing no other options, being too sick to move, and being caught in the midst of the worst real estate market in a generation (nothing was selling, and our house was worth at least $100,000 less than we had paid for it) we filed a lawsuit against the neighbors and the HOA.
Friends and Influence – When You’re Outside the Cult Looking In
As part of the lawsuit, we learned that the dog-owning neighbors, the HOA Vice President, and many of the other neighbors ? people who had all moved into the neighborhood before us — had banded together to force me to move out of the neighborhood, spread false and vicious rumors about me, and do everything in their power to side with their friends, the dog-owners. They were totally unconcerned about the truth, the barking, or the harm it had caused me. They simply sided with their old friends, and against this new guy.
Rather than ever talk TO me, the neighbors spent an inordinate amount of time talking ABOUT me.
They had decided that — since they had ?seen me ride a bicycle, before,? that I must not be disabled. There was endless correspondence between the majority of the neighbors. It was toxic, mean-spirited, dishonest, and awful.
Twisting the Truth to Manipulate the Facts
As part of the lawsuit, I learned that the dog-owners and their friends had reached out to every member of the community, telling them a one-sided version of what had happened, (but neglecting to mention that I’m disabled, that my bedroom was virtually in their back yard, and that the noise was hurting me) and saying that I was ?trying to force them to get rid of their dogs,? rather than simply train them not to bark so much.
In another document, the situation had been presented as me ?insisting that the animals are either removed or put down [killed].?
Nothing could have been further from the truth.
From the beginning, my wife and I loved the dogs. In fact, I continued to venture outside in an effort to calm and quiet the dogs when they were suffering, even giving them treats from time to time ? something the neighbors? attorney deemed ?suspicious? and ordered me to stop.
Closing Ranks Behind the Propaganda
So the neighborhood had been told a story implying that I was a fraud, a liar, a dog hater/killer, and that I was out to get their dog-owner friends. And I had no idea that all of this was happening. The villagers were riled up. They had gathered their torches and pitchforks.
As part of the lawsuit, I learned that several neighbors often heard the neighbors’ dogs bark.
These neighbors lived quite far away from the dogs, relative to my house. If these neighbors heard the barking from 150 feet away, why couldn’t they imagine just how loud it must have been in my house, only a few feet away from the dogs? In our bedroom, the barking could literally be as loud as a jackhammer.
The Court ordered us to participate in mediation. The HOA wouldn’t do anything. The judge-mediator assured me that we had a strong case — at least one that would make it to Court (ie, never be thrown out in a Motion for Summary Judgment). There were simply too many issues of fact and law.
But our case was thrown out in a Motion for Summary Judgment. The Judge also awarded the HOA its legal fees. That took the rest of my life’s savings and I was still in big medical trouble.
Public Enemy #1 – The Cult Closes Ranks
In throwing out our case the Judge emboldened the neighbors, who began to torment and harass me on the rare occasions when I needed to leave my house, only worsening my concern for my safety. I felt vulnerable and at risk in my neighborhood and in my home. I filed several police reports against the perpetrators. No action was taken by the Police.
In fact, when I told the police that I am “medically disabled, have a primary immune dysfunction, am in chronic pain,” and that “my health has been declining since this all started,” the officer — literally — laughed at me on the telephone, saying that it was “the most ridiculous thing she had ever heard.”
I was afraid of further retaliation and the Police clearly weren’t going to help me.
When Your House Becomes a Jail
I rarely left the house. When I did, I legally carried a gun that I had legally purchased. I had taken a 10 hour course to train in its use. I’d never owned a gun before, but I was in fear for my safety. The neighbors began calling the Police, having seen me carrying a gun on my property.
One day, certain that nobody was around, I dared to step outside to tend to my yard, openly carrying my pistol — legal in this town. For several seconds, after the garden hose began leaking all over me, I had the pistol (which was getting drenched) out of its holster, pointed at the ground, finger NOT on the trigger. I looked down. I looked up. Then I set the hose down. I walked in the house, set the gun down, came back outside, turned off the hose, reeled it in, and went back inside. This all happened in the space of about 20 seconds.
Apparently, the prime villain in this story (the HOA Board member with whom I had been trying to work) had been hiding behind his house, snapping photographs with an eight-power telephoto lens from over 150 feet away.
The pics describe the events of that day exactly as I say.
It Can Get as Bad as You Can Imagine
I was arrested by an entire SWAT team, including an armored vehicle and a sniper. I was jailed – though I have never committed a crime in my entire life and they effectively sent the National Guard out to arrest me.
A Deferred Prosecution Agreement was reached. Among its conditions was a Gag Order that prevented me, for two years, from speaking publicly about what happened to me. By gagging me, they were able to ensure that my story wasn?t publicly told.
I was to be evaluated by a Forensic Psychologist. I was also under a Restraining Order that prevented me from being in my house. We were forced to put our house up for sale (at a significant loss). I was forced to live elsewhere.
The Deferred Prosecution Agreement was lifted in September 2014. But I had already lost absolutely everything — my health, my functionality, my life’s savings, and my home. I have been without a permanent address, and have been living out of a backpack, since June 2012. Everything is in storage.
This HOA Nightmare Has Health Consequences
In the Fall of 2013 I began working with several doctors and a pain clinic to try to manage the pain in my eyes. This led to a severe adverse drug reaction (DRESS Syndrome) in December 2013 that was deemed near-fatal. After months of recovering from that I flew to the Mayo Clinic for further evaluation. I was warned ?never to take another prescription medicine unless it was absolutely necessary to save my life.?
I could no longer manage the pain in my eyes, nor could I treat the recurrent infections that had plagued me for the five years since the nightmare began.
A few months after returning from the Mayo Clinic I began to have cardiac symptoms. Over several years of being seen by doctor after doctor after doctor, this was found to be an untreatable form of Heart Failure (HfpEF) and an untreatable form of Pulmonary Hypertension (WHO Group II). Both have been deemed fatal. I have no risk factors for either. I have been seen at some of the best teaching hospitals in the world. We still don?t have any better answers or a treatment plan. I am weak, exhausted, and constantly feel as though I have been poisoned. Every. Single. Day. My once full life has been reduced to walking the dog and watching/listening to TV.
The consensus is that this is all a result of the December 2013 drug reaction.
The Post Script on Our HOA Nightmare…
I am 54 years old. I moved into that house healthy, strong, fit, athletic, cheerful, optimistic, social, outgoing, friendly, and ? disabled. I lost everything because I needed, and asked, to be able to sleep in my first-ever, brand new home in Fort Collins, Colorado.
That?s all. Nothing more, nothing less. I never did anything to anybody. Ever.
The people in that neighborhood either believed me (that I am disabled and that the barking was causing me harm) and did nothing or they didn?t believe me and did nothing. Which of those options is okay ?
As the Court-ordered Forensic Psychologist concluded, I:
?responded appropriately to the emotional stress and turmoil created by the ongoing dispute by seeking out mental health counseling and his process of problem resolution was progressive and appropriate to the circumstances. There was no indication that Mr. Brooks responded impulsively or irrationally during the dispute and, while frustrated by the circumstances and outcome of his case, he never verbalized retaliatory or vengeful thoughts against the opposing parties.?
The story — in greater detail and with more pictures and links to the relevant documents — can be found here: The Destruction of a Medically Disabled Man in Colorado
This example is certainly bizarre but not surprising given my experiences. My neighbors-with-dogs problems stem from a simple reality; inconsiderate cretins who categorize a “good neighbor” as someone inclined to overlook their indiscretions. HOA board members impress me as misguided martyrs who lack common sense. No point elaborating. I have found persistence can pay dividends and have had one neighbor cited for a noisy dog and others receiving a door knock from law enforcement. Another neighbor was warned for filing false police reports after I was deemed the more credible party. My lawyer neighbor was confronted by law enforcement while in the act of ramming my fence with his lawnmower. He was too stupid to attempt to damage my fence when I was not home, although it was more likely he wold have broken a wheel on his lawn mower. Another neighbor made the mistake of aiming a soffit mounted security camera at my backyard to annoy me, circumventing a six foot privacy fence. After several unproductive encounters with benighted members of the local police force I decided to confront a supervisor. The sarge immediately became an ally and approached the camera freak out back, advising him to reposition the camera or he would refer the matter to the prosecutor. The camera freak was also affiliated with a local animal rescue operation and was herding noisy dogs through here as a foster parent, a blatant violation of HOA regs which only allow family pets. I approached the dog supplier and threatened legal action if they did not abide by their policy which clearly stated foster parents must comply with landlord/HOA regulations. Problem resolved. The dimwit lawyer fence vandal and camera freak have moved. Of course those situations do not encompass all of my bad neighbor experiences. The old lady next door had to be sued for piling mulch and debris against the fence and refusing to remove it. She prudently paid the claim before the court date. Never again will I live in close proximity to anyone. 20 percent undesirables is enough to ruin any neighborhood.
And isnt’t interesting George, that it only takes a few neighbors to ruin your living experience. But when they’re connected to the HOA board, they can wreak a lot of havoc. Much depends on the HOA and the people running it. Some are more benign, but as was the case with Neil’s HOA, some are outright capricious.
First of all, thanks for that story, which I believe is totally true. It only emphasizes the reasons why I refuse to live in a community setting like this where the obvious should have been upfront as to what kind of people would be excepted into the community setting, especially when it is within a contained area. If the initial contact doesn?t allow me information on how my input is considered, I would expect equal say in any community activities. As this community appears to have been a growing community with some people at start and others came in later. Apparently in some point a leadership board was made either formally or not but not everyone was part of this. Since this was a home being brought prior to being built, the new home owner should have been kept aware of neighborhood changes. There?s a big difference between a paper representation and actual situation. ( theory versus reality). If the houses were laid out in such close proximity ( as in the case shown from the bedroom window) , there should have been something mentioned concerning noise abatement rules.
I once lived in a trailer home in an enclosed park, that decided to switch from an all inclusive community to only 55 plus only. I wasn?t at that age group for at least a decade and had not be told that the community was going to change when I was considering purchasing the home but was told by the community leadership after I had settled in. Luckily I consulted an outside lawyer and was able to force the community to allow me to stay there while I put the unit back on the market with limited sale to only the required age group. The leadership of this community is trying to be inclusive and is utilizing very open harassment to force out those they have deemed not part of the community. If they wanted to be so inclusive, then they need to be upfront to any prospective neighbors before they move into the community.
I would not accept this negative behavior as a home owner in that community and would find a way for them to pay me to leave based on false representation.
I feel sorry that this person who?s also disabled is being taken advantage of, he apparently needs a real good tough lawyer who specializes in whistleblowing. (The only way to get this practice stopped)
Hi Maria Rose – What really impressed me about Neil’s story is that it truly proves that HOAs are NOT democracies. That’s so important. As a resident, you’re effectively a shareholder in the HOA. You should have an equal voice. But they more typically act as if residents are subjects, completely beholden to the board, who can be just as arbitrary as they choose to be.
Something else you said was very important as well, “There?s a big difference between a paper representation and actual situation”. I’ve found that to be true in so many situations, not just HOAs. There’s the written rules, then there’s what actually happens, and the two can be vastly different. I’ve found this to be especially true with employers. They have the employee handbook, but routinely expect it to be ignored at their request. The rules are just for public show, and to protect against lawsuits (“we have rules against Behavior X”). The rules are either routinely ignored, or enforced only sporadically – i.e., Neighbor A gets fined for what Neighbor B does all the time without raising an eyebrow.
This can also be true of condo boards and HOAs. The HOA/Board of our former condo is a bunch of spendaholics on non-needed, over priced projects that jack the rates up every year even when labor and utility prices are on a downward trend. Nothing anyone says or does stops the frivolous spending.
The HOA has always had restrictive rules but they got so restrictive that it felt like we were living in an upscale prison.
When we moved to the condo, the community was well-landscaped and park-like with lots of individual decor and planting on the lawns and porches of residents. By the time we left, the individualism was mostly gone and half of the park like landscaping was chopped down. They started sending out notices asking people to remove Christmas decor from their porches after January 1! If I want to keep Christmas decor up all damn year long I will and it is none of their business if I do.
The noseyparker decor police on the board should have been auditing the expenditures and looking for ways to save owners money rather than going around looking for post holiday santas on people’s porches and lawns.
We were also not allowed to put a ‘for sale’ sign in the condo window, nor were we allowed to put political signs on our own property.
Hi Mary – “…living in an upscale prison” – that’s the best description I’ve every heard. The board collects fees, does little, but emphasizes policing residents, over efficient fiscal management – which should be their primary job. I’ve never seen one solicit input from residents over a major decision, they just make the decision then expect everyone to accept it without question.
But back to the budget…when I was in the mortgage business one of my jobs was to review HOA documents and budgets. One of the elements of the budget we were to look into were capital reserves. These are accounts with funds allocated for the eventual repair and replacement of common elements, like painting the exterior, repairing or replacing the roofs, repaving parking areas, sandblasting the pool, etc. As is typical of mortgage “requirements” – which first and foremost were always slanted to make the loan- we were to make sure there was money in the reserve accounts. Not adequate money mind you, but some money. We might approve an HOA with 200 units with $8,500 in capital reserves, which was never close to adequate.
The HOA boards typically underfund capital reserves, and when a major replacement is necessary, they create a special assessment. In other words, they fail to do their job of allocating money for replacements that are well known to need to be done in time, then stick the cost to the homeowners for their own neglect.
The long and short of it is that they favor being overseers over the residents, when they really need to properly manage the budget for the benefit of the homeowners. Of course, the “sheeple” in the HOA (the residents) pay no attention. They deal with the control and sometimes abuse, while assuming the board has the finances under control.
I don’t know why that ever surprised me, given that’s how people approach government as well. We pay no attention when they misallocate funds, and assume in good faith they have it all under control. I guess since we’ve been conditioned to follow our leaders in blind faith, we carry it to all areas of life – HOAs, schools, employers and government at all levels. But I often think about the union workers who trusted their unions to properly manage their retirement funds, and are now seeing their pensions cut in retirement.
It reminds me of what a history professor once said in college, “People get what they deserve, which isn’t exactly what they want.”
It’s hard to pass judgement without the whole story. We only read his version. First off, why would you ever buy a house site unseen? Especially one that was not built yet. Didn’t he look at the plans? I’m sure you had to review some kind of documents before you signed them? I’m sure the story from his version plays out this way. I get apprehensive when somebody keeps mentioning that he is disabled.
It’s just makes sense to me that I never wanted to be told what to do or how to do it. So living somewhere with a HOA is just dumb.
Agreed that it is probably cult like. So is everything with boards. Being a big golfer I have always stayed away from private clubs for that same reason.
It always amazes me when I read these stories that people will spend two hours clipping out coupons to save twenty cents at the supermarket but buy a house site and building lot unseen.
Like you said, people get what they deserve more than they don’t.
Hi Tim – I fully get where you’re coming from. But the main point of this story is that Neil and his wife found themselves all alone in this “community”, where the whole neighborhood closed ranks behind the board and shut them out. I’ve seen this time and again. As I wrote in the opening, when you come into conflict with the HOA you’re all alone. That shouldn’t be, ever. It proves they aren’t democracies in any form.
I also don’t disagree with what you’re saying. After many years in the mortgage business, I saw too many buyers go full-on dumb. Certain you “can’t go wrong” when buying a house, they’d ignore property values, home inspections, condo docs, and common sense. I’m not saying Neil and his wife did this, but it is a common occurrence. But if you make that mistake once, you probably never will again. The problem with a housing mistake is that it’s usually a big one, and has consequences for years. That’s been the case with many who bought before 2008, believing the industry hype that prices only go up, and either paying to much on purchase, or doing the ATM thing and running up too much debt. But then our culture, economy and laws make that all too easy.
Count yourself divinely blessed to be a contrarian. I do every day!
Boards, Unions and the such are great as long as you go along to get along. Are union was great until you actually needed them. I suspect it was the same for that guy with the HOA board.
I know I’m coming into this late, but I simply had to respond having had a horrid HOA experience myself! My first home was in an HOA community. The first few years I had no issues, then the HOA Board members, which had changed somewhat, started becoming absolute control freaks. They would “randomly” cite homeowners for the exact same color, etc that their next door neighbor had. When a new homeowner would move in, they would make a point of citing that person for something; i.e. you did not obtain pre-approval for that beautiful bush you just planted. When the HOA President was outside arguing with one of my neighbors, a family member went out and was arguing in support of the neighbor. I watched the HOA President take his camera phone out, walk around my backyard, and take pictures of my deck. I then received a citation giving me a very short amount of time to strip my deck of the paint, and re-paint an approved color, which cost me thousands of dollars, and nearly ruined my deck, which was the exact same color as some of the other homeowners. Whenever someone would put a for sale sign up, the HOA would then find something to cite them for, a going away present I guess. I became friends with a former board member, who told me they would contract out to their friend’s companies to get work done in the HOA, the company would increase their prices, and the HOA Board would then increase the homeowners dues. I could give 40 more examples, but you get the idea. This was the most horrible experience, and I will absolutely never live in another HOA community again. Live and learn the hard way!
Hi LA – Sad to say, but nothing you experienced was out of order for any of us who have been in HOA gunsights. It’s like being in high school all over again, with the popularity contests, favoritism, ratting each other out, and lording authority over others. Oh, and targeting, lot’s and lot’s of that. I think it’s the same all over. What people who “like” or advocate for HOAs miss is that an HOA is first and foremost a control structure. They’re not there to make your life better, but to have control over you. And as far as the finances, that’s all stuff that happens in secret. The budget meetings the home owners are invited to are just dog and pony shows to make it look like they’re soliciting your opinion. The budget is decided in advance, rubber stamped at meetings, then the board does whatever they want from there.
One HOA I lived in hired a landscaper who lived in the neighborhood to maintain the common grounds. I knew for a fact he was one of the most expensive services in the area. If fact, after a few short years he moved out of the neighborhood, but continued doing the landscaping. I don’t know if people really don’t know what they’re signing up for with HOAs, or if they’re willfully ignorant. I think it’s an unhealthy mix of both. When I was in the mortgage business I saw that most people didn’t bother to read the covenants and restriction, if they even got them before going to closing.
I have a question. I’m curious. What if you didn’t pay these fines or do the work. What happens?
When you moved there was there some kind of contract or paperwork that you sign that gives them this power?
I’m just curious.
Yes Tim, you give them authority by signing a doc at closing acknowledging you’ve been given a copy of the covenants and restrictions (which may not happen until you’re at the closing and certainly don’t have time to review 300 pages of legalese). From there, they’ve got you. And if you don’t pay fees or fines or fail to comply they can legally attach liens to your property, up to and including foreclosing to collect. That’s why I wrote to LA that HOAs are first and foremost instruments of control. You can’t fight them legally, since state laws are written in their favor.
Update to LA – Speaking of how the HOA budget processes are a farce, I just got an email from our HOA. The budget meeting is being held at 6 pm on a Wednesday night at a location 7-8 miles from the neighborhood. Could they make it any harder for the residents to attend? Somehow I think the time and location aren’t an accident.
Good luck getting to that meeting and hope you don?t get on the wrong side of your HOA. I am sure that the budget is already predetermined and the homeowners have to swallow it with no questions or offerings to lower costs. Hopefully cost will be in your budget.
You’re right on all counts MariaRose. The game is rigged.
It seems the HOA at our previous condo is trying to control how the neighbors develop their own damn property. Talk about control freaks! They will not approve rezoning IF the owners want a bank (too risky and too much traffic), a daycare center (too much day time noise – Control freak idiots – the county noise regulations prevent loud noise after 11 and before 7. How much noise could toddlers make? Daytime noise is unregulated unless someone gets ultra rowdy. The main noise is that neighborhood is from the high traffic street in front of the complex that is just two blocks from an entrance/exit to the Interstate. It is also less than two blocks from the Amtrak line.), a doctor or a dentist (too much traffic – office might contain drugs) a store, a boutique, a musical venue, a club. I suggest a law office. They could sue the pants off the control freak, stodgy HOA.
Hi Mary – In addition to control, there’s a strong political angle to HOA boards. They see it as their opportunity to control even the exterior of the neighborhood, by limiting or preventing non-politically correct development around the subdivision. All of the sudden they all become radical environmentalists, social justice warriors, and NIMBY freaks, which means they’re opposed to only everything. We had the same thing in the HOA we lived in for nine years. They did their level best to prevent everything from being build around the HOA. But they insisted on having a dedicated traffic light for the HOA, which generated more traffic than any of the development they opposed. There’s nothing more irritating than self-righteous ego maniacs torturing you “for your own good”. There’s too many of that type in general, but HOAs seem like safe spaces for the species.
There’s got to be some formal type of neurosis that describes that personality type. It seems to me a bank and a day care would benefit a lot of the residents, but they need some windmill to charge at so they feel better about themselves.
Kevin-Yes, they do make certain meetings more difficult to attend. One of my neighbors got on the Board after several years of trying. She was very outspoken. They knew she worked, and what time she usually got home from work. They started changing the time of the meetings, and giving her very little notice, so she was not able to make them. Also, when you move out, you have to sign paperwork at closing (as the seller), and pay additional fees. They get you every time! It’s such a racket! As an aside, that was my first home, and I was not really familiar with HOA’s, just thought you paid a fee so they would keep everything looking nice, etc. Boy was that ever a learning experience!
Live and learn, that’s what most HOA virgins think. It doesn’t help that the media promote HOAs as a good thing, or worse, that attorneys and real estate agents help to cloak the limitations of the restrictions. I meant it when I wrote that most of my mortgage clients hadn’t been given a copy of the condo docs until closing, when they had no time to review them. It was just cover to enable them to sign the condo doc acknowledgement, and get on with the closing. Some found out about restrictions that specifically applied to them personally, making the move a problem from the get-go. It’s a pathetic arrangement working against the homeowner, but in the name of the homeowner.
We have consumer protection laws for just about every major purchase category there is. But those laws are conspicuously absent with HOAs. My position is that’s not an accident or an oversight. It’s intentional. HOAs are exempt from consumer protection, which is a crime when you consider how many people they affect.
HOAs are nothing more than organized crime syndicates that operate like cults within the boundaries of the HOA.
Years ago, Neil Brooks and I connected as I wrote a number of blogs for Ward Lucas for his website Neighbors At War. I have no doubts every word Neil says about his HOA experience is true. I recently learned about laminated windows to block out noise and I wish I’d known sooner to recommend those to Neil. They also serve as security against break-ins. If anyone reading this wishes more information they should contact Ron Olberding at physicalhomedefense dot com.
Unfortunately, many of us bought into an HOA before the media was reporting about them, websites were available, and experts were speaking out. It took me ten years and over 100 hours per week of reading, attending court hearings, talking with experts, discussing with attorneys, talking to HOA victims about their experiences, working with the Kansas legislators and making countless trips to Topeka to testify, working with journalists various forms of the media, and living my own HOA nightmare to gain the knowledge I have today about HOAs. It’s been a rough road. It was never the path I intended to take. The only good I can hope for is to prevent other people from signing on the dotted line and putting themselves in the position of a living hell of an HOA. And every HOA has the potential to be a hellhole. No exceptions. Anybody who says theirs is the exception is foolish enough to believe they will never be diagnosed with cancer.
Like Neil the stress of living in an HOA has taken a horrible toll on my health. And like Neil my bank accounts are wiped out. People must understand it’s very difficult to hire an attorney that understands HOAs for what they truly are.
Most of all, nobody should judge Neil or me because we are not the type of people that walk out into the world expecting to deal with organized crime, bullies, corruption both in the HOA and the court system, and expect for our hard work will be rewarded with being homeless in our retirement years. There hundred of thousands if not millions of homeowners that have been destroyed by an HOA. Many died before they got out, others have committed suicide to escape, a few have committed murder/suicide, and the rest of us are trying to move forward with our lives. Countless people are trapped inside the “upscale prison” and have locked their mouths shut because they know not to say anything that will indicate they are not 100% supportive of the board. Cults operate by shunning those that do not follow the leaders. HOAs operate the exact same way. And I’ve encountered some of these board members that also use their church and religion to gain the trust of those that are skeptical. Despicable people in every possible way…and they always find a way to get on the HOA board!
I agree on all counts Nila, and it only strengthens my resolve to lighten my load in life, and warn others to do the same. The fewer entanglements we voluntarily enter the better off we are. Unfortunately, most would ignore the HOA warnings, even if they were well aware of them. The Normalcy Bias distortion makes everyone think problems are the exceptions, and it won’t happen to them. Until it does. And by then, it’s almost always too late.
Very true, Kevin!
I know there are many people that avoid HOAs because one or many of us have educated them but we rarely hear from them. They silently walk away, buy a non-HOA property, acreage, or end up leasing a roof over their heads.
Whatever it is that saved those folks from HOA insanity, I’m so happy for them and hope I will join them someday!
I’m one of the lucky ones who got out before they did any damage to us. But then I tend to be naturally suspicious, which comes in handy in such unholy situations, even if it’s at least a bit neurotic.
Sadly, a lot of this is true. Just remember that when HOA Board cliques and their buddies try to exclude you, hurt you or whatever else they try, you are dealing with very insecure people that have not grown up so they act very high school. Often, they are hiding their miserable lives and want their neighbors to feel as miserable as they feel. Best thing to do is keep a safe distance and rise above. Completely ignore them. They are not worth your time. Most importantly, pray for protection. It works. God protects good people. Psalm 35.
Good advice Sonia. Unfortunately minding your own business doesn’t always work with these people. Bullies and cliques are always in search in fresh victims, and if one takes a disliking to you, you could become the next public enemy #1. Also, I constantly pray for protection for myself and my kids. Without divine protection, we’re all babes in the woods waiting to be consumed. And yes, prayer works! I recommend it for anyone. Just make sure you’re praying to the one, true God, otherwise those prayers are going nowhere.
Sonia says, “Sadly, a lot of this is true.”
Personally, I have not read or said anything that has not been the 100% truth about HOAs and my experience of living in one for over 13 years.
I cannot compare living in an HOA to a high school clique because the cliques in high school cannot make your family homeless, wipe out the bank accounts, destroy your credit rating and keep you from being employable. HOAs can and are doing all of that. You cannot graduate away from an HOA. You MUST find another sucker and sell them into hell in order to get out. In a high school clique escaping the clique simply means no longer associating with them. In an HOA you are business partners and you cannot opt out of being a part of it.
I agree the board members are miserable people. My observation has been they are dishonest, corrupt, have never held a responsible position of employment, many have had multiple marriages, and they are all power hungry. Mostly they are phony and some use religion as a way to fool the other owners. I’ve seen or experienced every tactic they can dream up. It’s my opinion they need help with mental health issues more than they need to be in a position of power over their neighbors’ homes and lives. Unfortunately, there are no background checks to determine anything about a potential board member and it’s only learned through trial and error.
Does anyone know of an author who would like to uncover my HOA nightmare story? A unbelievable story of corruption and cult behavior against my husband (Disabled Vet) and I that has also forced me to flee the home, effected our physical and mental health and will probably cause a foreclosure, if not bankruptcy. I absolutely refuse to cover up and sell my home to an unsuspecting person. I was raised better than that. I would like to get the story out into the public before anyone else buys one of these death traps, but the local news stations are not interested. I was told unless I lived in Section 8 housing, it isn’t a story.
“But when they?re connected to the HOA board, they can wreak a lot of havoc”
Imagine my surprise upon visiting a local community board called NEXTDOOR and casually exploring contents. The board is invitation only to homeowners in subdivisions within a 5 mile radius of each other. I go to the profile of the HOA president and follow the link to the individual who invited HOA president to join NEXTDOOR. Imagine my surprise upon learning that %&%*$# was the same (newly arrived) property owner who was reported to animal control in Feb. His wife was walking a dog on the sidewalk that appeared to be a Pit Bull. She allowed it to charge half-way up my driveway as I stood to the entrance of my garage. Covertly followed her home and reported her to animal control. The third time I have found it necessary to interact with this agency due to irresponsible dog owners. These undesirables have not been seen walking the dog since. It can be assumed they read my NEXTDOOR post regarding a vicious dog in the area, which mentioned their block, not street address, along with the fact animal control informed me a homeowner has the right to take extreme measures if a growling dog is on their property. Rather than express appropriate concern over a dangerous dog in the area, a few dog fanciers were annoyed by the content of the post, asking for clarification of the phrase “terminate the threat”. Very amusing. A citizen performs a community service by getting animal control involved and a few brain dead dog owners appear annoyed.
While it is appropriate to focus on the conduct of HOA boards, this article underscores dire situations which frequently arise due to human nature.
“We were contacted by the City Mediator who turned out to be friendly with the dog owners”.
Friends and Influence ? When You?re Outside the Cult Looking In
While on the topic of human nature and cults, local governments cannot be excluded. The Colorado city clearly failed to perform in this situation.
“No Help from the City Fathers”
In a similar vein I recently confronted the asphalt crew resurfacing this road. They were laying new surface in the rain. Approximately 1/3 of the road was complete before they stopped and left. One member of the crew shrugged his shoulders about the rain question and attempted subterfuge by mentioning temperature is important. Another crew member admitted asphalt should not be laid in the rain. Research confirmed asphalt should not be laid on wet surface. Common sense. Today is Saturday and it is unseasonably cold and the road crew has returned. 57 degrees is well below the ideal temp for laying asphalt. The street department clown and mayor have yet to respond to email concerns expressed on Tuesday, asserting the city failed to protect the interests of taxpayers and property owners by allowing resurfacing to be performed in substandard conditions. The unqualified street dept VIP was previously managing billboards. When hired I got the impression it was a classic who you know vs what you know. The newspaper article could not focus on his credentials as it related to qualifications for his new job, but mentioned he was a hometown boy who is “anxious to learn the ropes from his subordinates” Very amusing.
“People must understand it?s very difficult to hire an attorney that understands HOAs” Nila Ridings
Very accurate observation. I met with a few professionals and came away with the same opinion. They both offered free initial consultation but that was just a hook to bait a client. There is no doubt any lawyer who offers a no-charge meeting has every intention of padding their hours in the event they are retained, to compensate for that free 30 minute meeting.
One of those experts framed the issue of a backyard neighbor who aimed a camera over my six foot privacy fence as whether or not he got permission from the HOA to install cameras. What? The Camera aim was clearly a violation of the obnoxious conduct regulation, but the HOA failed to act on my complaint. Same neighbor housed dogs from an animal shelter. They were not allowed since regs only permit family pets. He mistakenly thought his right to house noisy strays was more important than a tranquil neighborhood. When approached and informed the dog barked every time I opened my sliding glass doors his response was, “I took it inside every time it barked”. Ohhh, so that was supposed to appease me.
Ultimately motivated a PD sergeant to get involved to address the camera placement. The camera freak got his comeuppance when the sarge told him he intended to refer the matter to the prosecutor. The animal shelter was convinced to stop supplying him with dogs.
The sad reality of living in any community, as illustrated by this article, can be a dice roll. You could have cordial or tolerable neighbors or might find yourself in the middle of a never ending nightmare.
One of my fondest memories came a few weeks after the camera freak put his house up for sale. Despite the fact he had removed the intrusive camera the large sign in my backyard remained; NO CAMERA ZONE – POLICE ORDER. Mr Camera Freak was concerned the sign could deter potential buyers. I learned he hired a lawyer to confront the city and the HOA to have the sign removed. However, I was never instructed to remove the sign by the PD or HOA. The fact he was warned not to situate a camera aimed at my back yard was apparently sufficient to justify the signage, even after his cameras were removed. In order to hasten his exit from the area I eventually removed the sign.
During his 3 year presence in the community camera freak formed a bond with two other neighbors. I brought down each member of the cliche by having them confronted by the PD. One was warned to stop filing false police reports and my next door neighbor/lawyer was caught red handed ramming my backyard fence with his lawnmower. That dummy did not realize I was seated on my back porch when he attempted to vandalize my property. He was caught on film. He was also treated to a billboard. FENCE VANDAL – WHO’s YOUR DADDY. That sign was printed on a blue, 6″ diameter kiddie swimming pool which was visible on Google Earth !!
The camera freak and the fence basher ultimately realized they lost the chess match. Both exhibited humble behaviors prior to moving out of the area. Don’t ask me why the lawyer approached me one day to inform me his wife left him after 35 years. Although we were on speaking terms at one point, before he allied with the camera freak, I did not expect him to approach me after the fence incident. Of course I realized his shrew wife most likely instructed him to attempt to damage the fence.
Sheriff Kowal has prevailed for the time being due to extreme diligence, but the situation could change with the arrival of another undesirable neighbor. Perhaps the anticipated need for a HOA is due to self centered neighbors who ignore the well being of others. Unfortunately, the perceived HOA remedy frequently compounds neighborhood issues.
Cliche? Never attempt a post before coffee.
CORRECTION: Each member of the clique was confronted by the PD.
Three squad cars responded to the fence bashing complaint within 5 minutes. Why? I left the phone off the hook after telling the dispatcher I was going to take his head off with a baseball bat. I never interacted with the lawyer since I wanted him to continue mowing. That was the only time in TEN years he mowed perpendicular to the fence.
The show of force by law enforcement got the attention of the several other neighbors. That prompted the lawyer’s wife, Medusa, to scamper around and make nice to save face. She was overhead spewing BS about “inadvertent contact” with the fence. Six rams was not accidental. She never made an appearance during the 10 minute police presence, confirming my hunch she already knew why they were summoned. 9 months later they divorced.
Equally bizarre was the fact the camera freak was employed by a property management company. I eventually addressed the issue of their wayward employee on social media, suggesting ALL employees should be required to abide by covenants, to prevent a potential conflict of interest in the event they reside in an area managed by the firm. The owner of company took issue with irrefutable facts, despite the clown who paraded stray dogs through this neighborhood boasted about his hobby at the company website under his profile. The company owner also denied his employee was using a residential area to store company equipment, such as the snow plow blade used to clear the communities they managed, and one time a 30 foot trailer parked on the grass alongside the house.
The neighbors who replaced the camera freak and the fence vandal have not created any problems.
Tina M Lake-Clark,
You might try contacting Judy Thomas the Kansas City Star. She has written the HOA Hell Series and she continues when times permits to write additional stories. She does not focus exclusively to the Kansas City area. Her articles have generated millions of hits on the internet and she has received thousands of emails and phone calls. More than she can possibly respond to. However, she’s the only honest true journalist that I know of writing about HOAs. She’s done plenty of research and talked to countless people involved with HOAs.
You might also contact Shu Bartholomew with her HOA radio show. Deborah Goonan would be another person that might have an interest in your story. She has the blog called independentamericancommunities dot com.
Not knowing details…is there any chance your story is one HUD/Fair Housing would be interested in? If so, perhaps a letter to Dr. Ben Carson would spark some interest?
Good Luck! HOAs issues are life-changing and exhausting to say the least. I feel your pain!