Why You Should Avoid Buying in HOA Neighborhoods

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A couple of weeks ago I ran a post, Do You Ever REALLY Own Your Home, in which I challenged the assumption that you actually enjoy true ownership, in the traditional sense. I cited limited property use restrictions, heavy economic use restrictions, the potential for legal attachment, and increasingly burdensome property taxes as factors eroding true homeownership. Today I want to focus a factor that puts even more extreme limits on home ownership – homeowners associations, or HOAs. And more specifically, why you should avoid buying in HOA neighborhoods.

In the interest of full disclosure, I’ve lived in both HOA neighborhoods and non-HOA neighborhoods – as well as condos – so I have some perspective on what’s really going on – and why HOAs aren’t as benign as most people think.

What is an HOA Neighborhood?

Why You Should Avoid Buying in HOA Neighborhoods
Why You Should Avoid Buying in HOA Neighborhoods

An HOA neighborhood is something like a community within a community. You live in a city or town – a municipality – but if you also live in an HOA neighborhood, you also live in another distinct legal entity. And just as the municipality has rules, so does the HOA.

There are various types of HOA neighborhoods, and each vary in terms of the amenities they provide and their control over your status as a homeowner.

Voluntary HOAs – These are something more like traditional neighborhood associations in that they’re informal, have no legal standing and are generally organized to deal with a specific issue confronting the neighborhood. That issue could be something like organizing to block certain outside developments or circumstances that are considered harmful to the neighborhood, or just to get some seasonal parties going. They typically have small dues, but you aren’t required to pay them or even to join the HOA.

Mandatory HOAs – If you buy a house in a mandatory HOA neighborhood, you are required to join the HOA by virtue of the fact that you will be a homeowner in that neighborhood. There is no provision for you to opt out – once you close on the sale, you’re in. There are generally substantial neighborhood amenities, commonly a pool, tennis courts, a club house, playgrounds and a formal entryway into the neighborhood. You will be required to pay an HOA fee, on an annual, semi-annual, quarterly, or monthly basis. There are covenants and restrictions, that you will be required to sign at closing, that will include bylaws that mostly tell you what you can’t do with your property.

Condominium HOAs – This kind of HOA is much like the mandatory HOA, except that it provides more substantial amenities. When you buy a condo, you own only the interior of the home. The exterior, from the walls and ceiling outward, are common property. That means they’re owned by the HOA. As a result, condo HOAs can be even more restrictive than those that cover detached homes. However, condo HOAs also bear greater responsibility. Since the physical structures are owned by the HOA, it is the HOA that must pay to make exterior repairs and improvements, including replacing the roof, pavement, landscaping, windows and siding as needed. They also pay the hazard (exterior) home insurance on the property, and often certain utilities, such as trash removal. Fees are usually monthly and a lot higher than with detached housing. But the HOA will also provide certain services, such as landscaping and snow removal. It’s the perfect arrangement for people who don’t want to concern themselves with exterior maintenance of any kind.

Non-mandatory HOAs really can’t hurt you in any way, and condominiums are a different animal entirely in which you share ownership of the home with the HOA, who provides very specific and substantial services. As well, with condos most people recognize that property use is both restricted and totally necessary due to the communal nature of the arrangement.

What I’m going to focus on from here on are mandatory HOAs in non-condominium neighborhoods. They won’t replace your roof or maintain your yard, but they have a labyrinth of rules and restrictions that can seriously challenge the assumption that you actually own your home and are free to do with it as you please.

Even worse, mandatory HOAs can negatively affect your economic situation. We’ll get to that in some detail in a bit.

What Makes HOA Neighborhoods Such a Threat?

I’m convinced that most people who buy into mandatory HOA neighborhoods have no idea what they’re stepping into – until they run afoul of the association board.

If you don’t already get it, the primary purpose of HOAs is to maintain and improve property values in the neighborhood. Before you go thinking that’s a good thing, imagine that your house is controlled by a stock broker, who’s only objective is to increase the value of your property.

While that may be a good thing on the day you sell the house, how it plays out between now and then will be another matter entirely. The problem is that how we live our lives is usually not consistent with what is necessary to maintain and increase property values.

In order to carry out the business of increasing property values, the HOA enacts and enforces a series of rules designed to ensure that neighborhood standards of conformity are met. You’ve probably noticed that HOA neighborhoods tend to have dozens or hundreds of substantially identical homes. This is by design. Conformity is easier to enforce in similar homes. Customization of any kind becomes easier to spot.

The HOA will limit what color you can paint your house, how many people can live in it, how many – and what type of – vehicles you can park in the driveway, how often you need to paint the exterior, where you place your garbage dumpsters, and the condition of your landscaping. They can also prevent you from adding on to the house, or maintaining out-buildings, like tool sheds or a tree house for your kids. And that’s just the general stuff.

Once you’ve been prohibited from doing something with your property, or made to do something you don’t want to, you begin to get a clearer picture of what’s really going on.

To add insult to injury, should you be found to be in violation the HOA has the legal right to impose legally enforceable fines on you, that are automatically attached to your property.

Some Real Life Examples of What an HOA Can Do

In case you think that I’m exaggerating about this in any way, here are some real-life HOA horror stories:

HOA Horror Story #1. My wife and I discovered that our friends on the board of our HOA were not our friends at all when we had the exterior of our house repainted. We had the house painted gray with pink shutters, like you might find on a New England cottage. We got a lot of compliments from our neighbors. Then the notice came from our HOA. The gray was fine, but our pink shutters were too…pink. We had to drab them down, or face a battery of consequences, including accelerating fines, that the notice apprised us were the associations legal right to pursue. All color schemes that departed from the original that came with your house required pre-approval by the board. So much for freedom of choice.

HOA Horror Story #2. One of my best friends (who moved into the same neighborhood after we moved out) got a notice from the HOA telling him he needed to put curtains on the second floor windows of his house. The reason: “neighbors” (an HOA’s favorite subterfuge) complained that they could see the furniture in his bedroom windows. I still can’t make sense out of that one, but it was similar to the notice that we received for the offensive paint job on our shutters.

HOA Horror Story #3. A mortgage client of mine received notice from his HOA that he and his wife needed to store their three-year-old daughter’s toys out of sight, rather than letting them sit in the backyard. I’m not sure exactly what the crime was here, but they were forced to comply.

HOA Horror Story #4. A distraught friend of mine called me one day telling me that she had just received notice from her HOA informing her of a recently passed rule requiring all vehicles to be garaged between the hours of midnight and six a.m. No overnight parking of vehicles either in driveways or on streets would be permitted. Since all houses in the neighborhood had no more than a two car garage, this was a fundamental issue for anyone with kids who also have cars. I’m not sure what they were going for with this one either, but I thought that it would create a security risk, since the entire neighborhood would look abandoned overnight. She sold and moved out shortly after.

Update: Read Are HOAs Cults Behind Smiling Faces? for a first hand report of a full-fledged HOA horror story.

HOA Economic Use Limitations

Since this is a personal finance blog, I want to focus more closely on the effect that HOAs have in regard to your ability to earn a living. We’re not even going to get into the fact that HOA dues will be required even if you’re unemployed and don’t have the money to make the payment, but I digress.

Conformity is the rule in HOA neighborhoods. The preference in a typical HOA neighborhood is to have people work in white-collar positions, or if they’re self-employed, to work in “clean businesses”. That mostly restricts you to businesses that involve nothing more than your computer and telephone. The more that you depart from this ideal, the greater the potential to face a confrontation with the HOA – a confrontation you’re destined to lose.

If you work in one of those two preferred capacities, you probably are not the least bit concerned that the association might limit other activities. You might even be happy about it. But what would happen if you lost your job or your clean business were to fail? What if you need to pursue economic and financial options that didn’t fit neatly within those parameters? These days, you should never be too certain that can’t happen to you – it can happen to anyone.

And if it happens to you, you’ll find yourself economically constrained by the very restrictions you once enthusiastically supported.

This is just my opinion, and I’ll be the first to admit that I can’t substantiate this with hard evidence, but I believe that the preference in a typical HOA would be for you to move out of the neighborhood. After all, struggling homeowners aren’t good for property values. Part of how HOAs protect and advance property values is by keeping out the “riff-raff” (I was actually told that by the president of a condo HOA we were considering moving to). They’re always on the look-out for even a hint of it. If you start to resemble anything close to that riff-raff, you may come into their crosshairs.

Here are some of the economic/financial activities that a typical HOA will prevent you from engaging in:

  • Renting a room to a boarder to earn extra money to help pay your mortgage.
  • Growing food in your backyard (flowers fine, tomatoes – no good!).
  • Parking a commercial vehicle on or near your property.
  • Storing major tools or inventory in your house.
  • Meeting customers or clients at your house.
  • Constructing out-buildings or erecting equipment used in connection with a business.

A lot of people today are being forced to retool into lines of work they never imagined. Living in an HOA neighborhood won’t help you do that if you decide that you want to start a cleaning business, a home remodeling business, a sales operation, a landscaping business, or if you want to become a truck driver.

HOA neighborhoods are conducive to people in a very narrow career range. It’s important to understand the implications of this if you are facing a decision to buy a house in an HOA neighborhood. Should you hit on hard times, or decide to enter a career or business that is not consistent with the covenants and restrictions, the HOA can legally get in the way of your operation.

Your Recourse: Practically non-existent!

An attorney friend of mine here in Georgia told me that once you buy into an HOA neighborhood you have no choice but to go along with their rules. Not just the ones that exist when you move in, but any subsequent rules that are passed. In Georgia at least, and I suspect in many other states as well, HOAs have legal preference before the courts, not the least of which because you sign in on agreement with the covenants and restrictions at the time of closing (you have no choice, other than to not buy the house), signaling your willingness to comply. According to this attorney, legal challenges against HOAs typically don’t end well.

The unkindest cut is that they can impose a series of fines for non-compliance. These fines will increase in size the longer you fail to comply. They can then place a lien on your house, forcing you to pay out of the sale of the house. Presumably, they can block the sale if there isn’t enough equity to cover the fines, but my guess is that they’ll be happy to see you go and won’t let the unpaid fines stand in your way. But that won’t stop them from obtaining an unsecured judgment against you after the fact.

While you may think that you can somehow insulate yourself from hostile action by your HOA by being a good neighbor, don’t count on it. Most of the HOA issues I’m familiar with were brought against people who were otherwise good and compliant neighbors.

HOAs and The People Factor

HOAs represent a level of government, one close enough to the ground to be manipulated by its participants. Not all of those participants have good intentions.

I’ll be accused of painting with a broad brush, but HOA boards are often collection points for the worst kinds of people who could be in charge. While I readily acknowledge that there are a lot of people serving on HOA boards who have the purest of intentions, there are plenty of the other kind. I’ve known some people who joined boards but got run off by the games.

Some examples of the kinds of people who are drawn to become HOA board members:

  • People who have political aspirations, and see an HOA board membership as a springboard.
  • People who are looking for an extracurricular activity – particularly one of rank and responsibility – to add to their business resume.
  • People who thrive on popularity and being the center of attention.
  • People who have an ax to grind with a neighbor, and join the board so that they can do something about it.
  • People who want to set the rules but not obey them. (Our HOA had a restriction on unleashed pets, but the HOA treasurer let his dog run the neighborhood freely early every morning.)
  • Control freaks – people with an abiding need to be in charge.
  • People who like being part of “the clique”, which the HOA board often is.

Unfortunately, many or most of these personalities tend to be of like-mind, which makes disputing the board’s actions mostly a waste of time. A popular radio personality here in Atlanta once ranted about HOAs, saying they’re elitist at the core, and I have to agree. As I said earlier, the primary goal is to increase property values, which doesn’t leave much room for neighborly interaction. It can be surprising and shocking how “official” they can be when carrying out board agenda. It’s as if they aren’t even your neighbors, but more like precinct overseers.

Here’s another complication to ponder about HOAs, but this one has nothing to do with the board – HOAs are made to order for resident complaining neighbors. Every neighborhood has at least one – that person who believes that it’s their duty to make sure that everyone in the neighborhood “behaves”.

It could also be someone who has a specific bone to pick with you, and decides to turn you into the board whenever possible. That person usually makes a part-time career of studying and understanding the covenants and restrictions, so that he or she can pull them out against an unsatisfactory neighbor at any time. They won’t bring their concerns to you – they’ll go to the board, where they can complain anonymously. And like it or not, the board will usually side with whoever’s doing the complaining.

In a strange, twisted way, HOAs can feed neurotic behavior.

Swimming against the tide

Most people assume the best when it comes to HOAs – that is, until they have a conflict with the board. Only then do they realize the true extent of what they’ve signed themselves up for. By then, it’s usually too late. It’s then that you come to realize that HOA neighborhoods are not democracies.

I realize that most people have a favorable view of HOA neighborhoods, not the least of which because rising property values are considered the Holy Grail of homeownership in America. But if any of the issues I’ve listed above will be a concern to you, or if you’re at least a bit of a nonconformist, or if you have any career aspirations beyond the white-collar corporate cubicle, you might do well to avoid HOA neighborhoods if you possibly can.

And you usually can.

Have you had any negative experiences in an HOA neighborhood?

( Photo by MyBiggestFan )

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404 Responses to Why You Should Avoid Buying in HOA Neighborhoods

  1. That’s a cool post. When I moved from the country to the city – I was shocked that people actually enjoy paying HOA fees.

    I’ve lived in HOA neighborhoods more often than not unfortunately. One house, the company the HOA hired to mow the lawns did a terrible job. Constantly tearing up our lawn.

    I won’t buy a house with a HOA. I don’t want anymore regulation to my life.

  2. Hi Will – Based on our previous experience, and that of people we know and trust, we’ll never be in one either.

    The coup de grace for me was the day I was at a real estate closing – I was handling the mortgage for someone who was buying in my HOA neighborhood – and the real estate agent (who also lived in the nbhd) was bragging to the buyer to “get in close with so-and-so, she knows everything about everybody in the neighborhood.” We moved out shortly after that episode. I had previously heard rumors about such information circulating, but this was the first time someone close to the pulse was openly admitting to it. There was a lot of cattiness, in addition to all the restrictions.

  3. I’ve never lived in an HOA neighborhood and I never will for the reasons you posted about above and then some. It’s my home and I’ll do what I please, if you have a problem, come and talk to me about it. I’m a fairly reasonable person and I’m not out to piss my neighbors off so we can likely come to some sort of resolution or compromise.

  4. Then you’re doing right by staying out of HOA neighborhoods Matt. There’s always something that ticks people off about one or more neighbors, but people prefer to avoid confrontation. If they happen to live in an HOA neighborhood, they can have it both ways – they can complain and they can avoid direct confrontation. I suppose that if a person were a certified complainer, they’d actually prefer to live in an HOA.

  5. I’ve lived in a HOA community for most of my life. My mother had to pay many fees growing up and most of the time didn’t seem worth it at all.

  6. Hi Alexis – I agree with that. In our HOA we had a pool and tennis court, but at least 75% of the residents never used them at all. My thinking was that amenities should be a separate fee – if you don’t intend to use them, you don’t pay for them. But from what I’ve seen the recreational amenities are the primary control the HOA has over the residents. It’s another example of how HOA neighborhoods are not democracies. You’ll pay for amenities even if you don’t use them.

  7. We lived in a gated HOA for a few years. Never again. We paid our assessments faithfully, but the HOA only did selective maintenance. They did a terrible job maintaining the retention ponds, several of which became dried up, foul smelling eyesores. The roads were covered with wide cracks and areas of buckling. What a waste of money.

    The Board was not serving the interests of the community, and treated owners like outlaws if they complained about rules or poor maintenance. Very few people attended meetings. When I did, I witnessed Board members engaging in shouting matches with and threats to owners. It almost came to blows, so the Board then started having a uniformed security officer at every meeting.

    The Board balked at providing access to financial records, either ignoring requests or providing incomplete documentation.

    It was easier to sell and move out that fight the HOA, because HOA corporations have more power than the government. See Evan McKenzie’s books (Privatopia and Beyind Privatopia) and Ward Lucas’ book (Neighbors at War)

  8. Hi Deborah – I’m with you on the board treating residents like outlaws. I attended a couple of meetings at our HOA neighborhood and I was put off by the cavalier attitude the board members had (which is why I didn’t attend more). To be honest, the word “Nazi” came to mind. They weren’t soliciting opinions and suggestions from the DUES PAYING residents, they were giving marching orders. And I also completely agree that they have more power than local governments. They seem to be run for the benefit of the board members, and their grandstanding efforts. I suspect that the people who join who want to make legitimate improvements are soon forced out when they realize what’s really going on. Honestly, it often felt as if we were back in high school! But that seems to be the mentality.

    For what it’s worth, I’ve seen a few HOAs disband after the neighborhoods fell into serious disrepair. Once the money is gone, so are the ego maniacs that run the board. Money is the power, and when there isn’t any more, they disappear.

  9. I am experiencing HOA for the first time. I inherited my house from my mother n law. We get letters at least once a month about something we need to “take care of”. Is there a way that I can tell which neighbors are on the HOA committee without going to their meetings? I have a funny feeling someone’s having a good time with us Newbies ratting out every little thing to the HOA board.

  10. Hi Suzanne – Check to see if there’s a website for the HOA, that should list the officers. It may be that either the house is in disrepair, or you’ve got one of the self-appointed neighborhood sheriffs trying to push you around. Every HOA neighborhood has it’s resident complainers, and when they zero in on you…it’s a problem.

  11. This is a very good article. I lived in a mandatory HOA neighborhood for 7 years, and I spent almost $20K to move out of the neighborhood as fast as possible, before selling my house. If you live in an HOA neighborhood, you are giving away many basic rights of home ownership that we all take for granted. You are investing a large part of your savings into a home that you do not completely own. If you disagree with an HOA Board, your rights are very limited, except to move. Fighting an HOA in court is a waste of money, and often an HOA Board has unlimited legal funds. Often HOA Board members are people that want to micromanage the neighborhood and have been on the board for many years. Living in an HOA neighborhood is like living in a different country with it’s own set of laws. While I lived in that neighborhood, I saw several families move out of the neighborhood because of the HOA. Finally, I moved out of the neighborhood, because of the HOA. I never want to live in another HOA neighborhood again.
    Thanks,
    Jim West

  12. Hi Jim – Thanks for sharing your story, I think it will help clarify what goes on in HOA neighborhoods. A closing attorney I worked with in Georgia told me that HOAs have almost unlimited legal standing, at least in GA. State laws favor them in legal actions, which is why it’s almost impossible to succeed in litigation against them. I think the state probably views them as little municipalities, and grants them similar legal standing. Either that or the developers have a lot of pull in state government. I don’t know of a single challenge against an HOA that was successful, and in an area like Atlanta, with its literally thousands of HOA neighborhoods, you’d think there’d have to be a few. It’s a nice arrangement – for the HOAs. Maybe that’s why so many people want to get on the boards. If you can’t beat em, join em, right?

  13. I lived in an HOA neighborhood in Buford, Georgia. We had to put our garbage out and was out of town for one day. In ONE DAY they posted a notice on my door that they were going to fine us $150 a day if we didn’t move it from the curb. We were not home.

    Then, the unthinkable happened in 2000. The whole industry I worked in collapsed – telecommunications. Nortel Networks laid off 50,000 employees. I was one of them, but one of the last, making it impossible to find a job in my expertise which was the technical/engineering end of the business. Well, time for the HOA dues came around. I wrote a very friendly letter to the HOA explaining the situation and that we were going to have to sell the home as I could not find ANY employment, and I do mean ANY. I tried everywhere, even Burger King. I went from making $100k to zero in one day. This unemployment lasted for over a year. Well, long story short, the HOA began threatening to attach a lien to my home. So I wrote the HOA president an extremely nasty letter telling him to go ahead and I’ll file bankruptcy so how do you like them there apples? I was almost to the point that this so-called “human” had absolutely no capability for empathy and it was clear that these NAZIS were all about money, control, and power. Supposed to keep up the value/increase value of the homes, right? Well, the builder in Phase-II built tiny homes relative to the ones we all lived in. This in fact broke their own rules. This greatly reduced the value of our home and made it extremely difficult to sell. We did finally short sell it. I’ll never, ever live in an HOA community again. I had no idea what I was getting into. I’ve never seen such a group of over-“ambitious” control freak sociopath is my life. The president’s name was an entertaining name easy to make a joke out of. It was Jack ‘something’. I can’t recall right now, but I definitely made fun of his name when he showed that he was so sociopathic, narcissistic, and inhumane that I was inches from showing up at his doorstep fully prepared to go to jail after I beat him down right in front of his family and the neighbors. I never imagined getting such a rude and obnoxious reply from this horse’s arse than I got. I was in shock. I made it clear that I’d take care of the payment as soon as possible as well. I had no intention to try to get out of paying it. I simply COULD NOT pay it. Let me give anyone some advice who is considering moving into such a neighborhood: Follow what I’m telling you and what the author has told you. Stay away – stay very, very far away from HOA’s, particularly in the state of Georgia. The author is absolutely right in that it is a place for over-zealous type-a control freak personalities to get their rocks off by exercising draconian control over others. For the author to state that they often have political aspirations and want to use the HOA as some kind of “I have governance experience” is correct, and horrifying. You definitely would not want any of these people to have any power over you or your property. I kept to myself, I kept a clean home, and a clean and well-landscaped yard. I still to this day, in December 2014 have a desire to hunt this guy down and punch his lights out. Let me be clear I’m not a violent person, I’ve never been jailed or convicted of any crime, and I actually hold a secret clearance with the DoD. I’m as laid back as you’ll find and a very logical and reasonable person. If I were the president of the HOA, and it had been him, the a-hole president who approached me about his situation, I would say, don’t sweat it, I’ve got your back and will defend you to the HOA. You’ve been a great and responsible resident, and I understand your terrible situation, and I’m sorry to hear it. I would then ask what could I do to personally help his family within my ability. I hope he reads this. I hope he remembers. Let me tell you this – you WILL reap what you sow, and I bet before it was all said and done, his job was lost and his own home on the auction block. At the time, within 6 months half the homes had for sale signs in the yard. It wasn’t just me. I hope that when 911 happened (yeah, I was still living there when that drove a nail in my job chance coffin), that he lost his job, his home, and everything he owned, and all of his savings. As I said, I wouldn’t normally wish such things on anyone, but I hope that he got his own. I hope that he suffered immensely in one way or another. People who are unable to display empathy for others are social deviants and need to be in a mental institution. Bottom line here is just don’t do it unless you are a glutton for punishment.

    I now live in the countryside. Further, I went on to earn a M.Sc. degree in engineering, and I have a little left to complete a Ph.D. as well. I have a great job, and feel blessed to have it. I pulled myself up by the bootstraps. I toughed it out, went back to school working as a Research Assistant, and I got back on my feet without help from anyone. I never asked the government or anyone else for a dime.

    If you get caught up on the wrong side of the HOA, or even join one, then you have walked into a trap and a scam. So you’ve been rightfully warned! Do it at your own risk. If you are a jerk, well, it may be just right for you. If you do move into a mandatory HOA neighborhood, then be prepared for battle because it’s only a matter of time that they find some minor infraction that you’ve committed and must come down upon you like the Gestapo. If you voluntarily do this after having done research on it, well, you certainly deserve the grief that you will get, and you will get it.

  14. Hi Joe – Your story is an all too common one, especially in Georgia. Most people are completely unaware of these issues, and ignorance is bliss – until they get caught in the snare. Personally, I think most people think HOAs are great because (in theory) they produce higher housing appreciation. I’ve seen the opposite in declining markets. It’s harder to sell a house that’s just like dozens of other almost identical properties in the same subdivision.

    On a deeper level, I think it’s the herd instinct applied to housing. People blindly flock into HOA neighborhoods because people blindly flock into HOA neighborhoods. And of course, for their part the media doesn’t help by trumpeting the “many advantages” of HOA neighborhoods. This is something of a dark secret that only those who have been burned understand. And most people don’t worry about such things as long as it isn’t happening to them. But they need to understand that if it can happen to your neighbor, it can happen to you.

  15. HOA’s are not corporations, they are municipalities despite what idiot lawyers and judges (and home builders) try to force down peoples throats. Since when can a corporation have control over your own personal property. They try to say you have no constitutional rights because it’s a corporation, like a corporation can have you sign a document to make you a slave or control your personal life. The problem is people are putting up with this crap even while they complain about it – one reason is lawyers make money from it so why do the right thing and get rid of them. If I’m on a jury where someone mowed down everyone involved with an HOA because of some bush, color, or some other nonsense, I’ll be sure to say not guilty. The founders put the people in control.

    And one more thing, you really don’t have a choice anymore, all the big home builders and cities are forcing hoa’s so if you can find a non-hoa location, it’s probably in homes 50+ years old in busy parts of the town. Income Tax, HOA’s, Gun Control are the big 3 for me to repeal.

  16. Hi Dee – I agree with all that you wrote. I think the problem is that the majority of people think that HOAs are a good thing, that they’ll keep property values up, keep out the “riff raff” and in general, keep an eye on things. They have no idea about the darker side of HOAs until they have a run in with them. And by then, it’s too late, and they’re assigned to the fringe of neighborhood malcontents who probably need to move. I have no doubt that HOAs also target people, perhaps because they want them out. Unassailable power makes that possible. It’s a horrible system that everyone willingly goes along with.

  17. NEVER, EVER moving into those HOA neo-Nazi communities. They can go sit on it.

  18. Hi Hector – Your description SOUNDS like an exaggeration, but might not be in a lot of cases. When you’re dealing with them, they can seem to be just that. With some there’s zero wiggle room – do it their way or else.

  19. I had an HOA give me guff about my ’72 Cadillac in the driveway, and my red shutters once, threatening me with legal measures. So I had a couple of associates pay a visit to the HOA president at their office one night, putting the fear of God into him. Telling him what would happen if the neighborhood association ever got out of line again, and failed to comply with my wishes. Suddenly, nobody had any issue with my car, my shutters, or even the bougainvillea planted in my yard. They just shut the hell up like a good little HOA, and all was peaceful.

  20. Hi Dino – If anyone did that to the HOA chieftains where we lived they would have been promptly arrested (I’m not kidding). Though I must admit, the thought of doing what you did would have been really tempting.

  21. Anyone that does not want to live in a HOA neighborhood, then go live where there in no control of what happens to houses around you. Cars on blocks, houses painted pink and green, grass not cut. Go ahead, and see how fast your property values drop. And the guy that made the statement about his threat to the president and the board. Try that with me, you would be sucking your food through a straw if you put your hands on me or be in jail. HOA are a good thing, because it keeps the red necks out that have no pride about their home.

  22. I’ve actually heard exactly what you said when I was living in Georgia, that the purpose of HOAs is to keep out rednecks. But having lived in neighborhoods that didn’t have HOAs, I think the argument is way overblown. Most neighborhoods do just fine without HOAs. I always trust people more than systems; I think that HOAs are a statement that people can’t be trusted. I don’t buy it.

  23. We want to leave our neighborhood because of our HOA Board. One HOA Board member got caught, via our security cameras, peeping at our teenage daughter sitting in the backyard. When she heard him, he started talking to her, said he was friends with me and knew me, that it was okay to let him in the house. (He is not a friend of mine, I do not know the guy). My daughter ran into the house and called 911. Unfortunately, we couldn’t press charges against the Peeping Tom HOA Board Member -I guess in our state if my daughter was naked or in a bathing suit it would be considered a crime. When I complained to our HOA Board and made public this issue to my fellow neighbors, my HOA Board circled the wagons around their guy. Posts I made on our neighborhood FB page were edited, the HOA sent out a completely different version of what actually occurred. So, I went onto the local news. Gained a lot of public support. My HOA Board still stands behind their guy, says he’s a decent man, and I’m a trouble maker. HOA Board is practicing “gas-lighting” on me…questioning my motives for making this issue public, trying to tell me that my neighbors are against me, that I need to drop the issue. I’ll do that when the perv is off the board and gone.

  24. Hi Jessi – I can’t comment on the event that triggered your concern, since I don’t know the particulars or the laws in your state. I’m not sure that it’s a crime in any state to stare at a person who is outside the home, which may be why the police didn’t do anything. I’d be more concerned that this guy wanted to come into the house. But be that as it may, HOA boards are often made up of the self-styled elite in each neighborhood, and they can be incredibly clannish. I’m not surprised that they’d circle the wagons around this guy. One of my theories is that HOA boards tend to be collection points for people who want to make rules for others, while not being subject to them themselves. Your only recourse is to move, unless this guy gets more aggressive and his actions rise to the level of what it clearly a crime. He probably knows just how far to go with it to stay within legal limits. Of course, for the sake of your daughter, you don’t want this to get any worse. Now if he does it to someone else in the neighborhood that could be a game changer. I don’t know if I’d feel comfortable sitting around waiting for that to happen though.

  25. Question: We are in a voluntary hoa but the hoa has covenants and restrictions that are legally filed and they are registered with the state. Also, our town recognizes them as our neighborhood hoa. One of my neighbors is concerned that if enough residents pay the hoa dues that this will hit some kind of percentage and turn the voluntary hoa into a mandatory hoa. IS this true?

  26. It depends on 1) the laws in your state, and 2) the specific language in your covenants. I’ve seen language that permits the dissolution of an HOA, but never one that creates a mandatory one. That said, the HOA we lived in was voluntary when we bought the house (as to the annual dues) but became mandatory right after. I don’t know if that happened because of provisions in the HOA docs, or if they had a special referendum. Either way we were stuck with something we didn’t anticipate when we closed on the house.

  27. What a nightmare. I lived in two hoa’s before this one with no real problems except a bit of bickering about the color of flowers. This one is small one a total of 9 homeowners at present, half on the board in some capacity. The president is a nazi, ex miami cop who retired at 55 into a half million dollar house with his buddy moving next door to him, another ex miami cop. This is North Carolina. The day after I close on my beautiful retirement home the nazi shows up at my door and starts grilling me with questions about my builder and says there is a meeting scheduled about my house. He also has a telescope on the house obviously as he says I saw the locksmith over at your house yesterday and assumed you closed on the house. The locksmith car was at the bottom of the hill, he couldn’t get up because of snow, I went down to get him. I had closed on the house or I surely would have backed out immediately. The next day he calls me on the phone and starts harassing me by talking about how i could be getting into law suits with an hoa. than he calls and says i did a drive by and your garbage cans are out on the wrong day of the week. he trespassed on the property took pictures and measured the deck before I closed. He fined the builder at the meeting I went to after closing on the house for the deck being not exactly the measurements he originally put before the board and a set of stairs that went down from the deck. He said they improved the value but fined my builder anyway. He has collected 650 x 22 lots that are owned for a culvert that is about to cave in to the point we will have to trespass on a neighbors property to get out of here. two weeks after i move in he sends an e mail he wants 350 dollars more from the 22 lot owners. No explanation, no bids shows, no work orders written, no statements that show where the other money went.
    no date for completion, no name of a company even. I said NO and i sent it to all the other neighbors, I said show me bank statements and receipts from where all the money went and the finalized bid, work order and date and IF more money is needed I will pay it. He has refused to show any financials, but he sure has shut up about asking for any more money and has refused to fix the culvert. He plays good cop bad cop real well. Even with me. Harassing me before the meeting and at the meeting acting like he was my best friend. He stirs it up and than watches everybody in this tiny community go after each other. His yard is the biggest mess you have ever seen and from what I have heard it has been that way for years. The entire front lawn has been destroyed to i guess put in a retaining wall and it is one big slope mud pit. I want out of here. He says he wants to add a bunch of covenants for building … I said you do that and nobody will build in this neighborhood. But he looked at everybody at that meeting with this loppy dog eared look and said now … I need all of your votes to get this through . I thought I was going to throw up. My retirement home. These hoa’s they need to be banned! they are illegal. this one says they can come on the property trespass … are you kidding me? American was founded on originality and it is why we have prospered. This elitist … everyone has to be exactly cloned. HOA’s if people have a choice of hoa or not today I think they will not choose an HOA. I know I surely won’t. I think realtor and zillow are in the process of putting that as a search stipulation because it is becoming a nightmare for more and more people. Renegade nazi board members.
    Until you experience it, you don’t understand the depth of loss of the freedom to own the land, the property, the home, that you paid your own money for.

  28. Hi Frank – Wow, I really feel bad for you (though I know that isn’t any help). You might want to take the hit now and sell and get out before this gets any worse. We live in an HOA neighborhood right now, but we rent on a month-to-month basis. I don’t like a lot of what the HOA does, but as a tenant I’m not locked into it, and we can leave at any time if need be. We stay because we like the neighborhood, the neighbors and the location, but we can do without a lot of these arbitrary rules. I get the need for rules, but when you get people on the board who get off on those rules, you have a big problem. And you can forget about voting the trouble makers off the board, HOAs are tailor made for that kind. They seem to attract control freaks, which in your case isn’t helped by the fact that your HOA president is an ex-cop. He probably doesn’t know when it’s time to stop being a cop, and an HOA is the perfect place for him to continue pretending to still be one. I know it will cost you money to get out of there, but you really have to have heart-to-heart with yourself about whether or not you want to spend your retirement dealing with that situation, to say nothing of what it will cost you in fines and to comply with the new rules that will inevitably be enacted as time goes on. Somethings can’t be measured solely in money, and this may be one of them.

  29. Our HOA doesn’t maintain but a very small portions of grass. We get our water cut off periodically because the water pipes were not properly installed under the roads and keep breaking. So our HOA basically owns our water pipes instead of the city. So our water payments actually goes to the HOA and then gets paid from the HOA. My wife and I see HOA’s for what they are another fake government authority. We even received a towing threat for having my vehicle parked legally under our car port (really the HOA’s carport) with expired tags. I still have insurance on it but that doesn’t count. I just suggest that everyone start complaining to your State Representatives and local City Council all the you can. Ask them to do away with HOA’s. To me trying to own a home involving a HOA is like trying to buy an apartment in an apartment complex.

  30. Hi Andrew – You and your wife hit the nail on the head with “another fake government authority”. That’s basically what they are, and for that reason they DO have teeth, legally speaking. You can go ahead and try to have the HOA system dismantled, but it’s really all about economics. Builders hold incredible sway since they’re fast tax revenue generators, so you face an uphill fight politically. Since you used the word “tags” I assume you live in the South, possibly Georgia (tags is a Southern term for what are more commonly referred to as license plates in the North), you face a serious fight. In my time living in Georgia it was clear that the builders own the state. And they’re the ones who create the HOAs, largely for marketing purposes.

    There’s also the issue of public perception. I believe most people see HOAs as desirable, because they enforce restrictions (on other people, or so they think) and work to increase property values. I covered this in the post, but it’s a serious obstacle. People will sell their souls to the Devil if it means they’ll get more money in the deal. The only people who will join the fight against the HOA tidal wave are the relatively small number of residents who have come into their cross hairs. And since most of them ultimately move out into a non-HOA neighborhood, they may not care too much anymore.

    With regard to the towing threat on car with expired tags, see the story in the post about the friend of mine who was informed that they can no longer park their cars in their own driveways overnight. It can always be worse! As a postscript, she and her family moved out of that neighborhood.

  31. Hi Andrew – You’re pointing to a bigger picture problem, which is the institutionalization of strict control in a nation that once revered freedom. I don’t know if there’s a way to reverse that trend. As a nation, we’ve come to blindly believe that more control from the top is always the solution to what ever problems we have.

    It started, I think, in the 1930s with the New Deal. As that got rolling people decided that if a little bit of control is good, then more is even better. It’s now a mindset. We have HOAs running neighborhoods, schools run like prisons (we didn’t have police in schools when I was growing up), political correctness to control our speech, constant surveillance, we-say-so-government – the list is endless. It continues because most people have been convinced that it’s good for us. But as the saying goes, “too much of anything isn’t good for you.”

    The problem is that once that becomes part of the national mindset, reversing it becomes a lifelong crusade most of us don’t have time for. The best we can do in the short run is to vote with our feet, and get out of situations, like HOA neighborhoods whenever and where ever we can. Then hopefully, the HOA concept will die a slow death.

  32. There is A LOT more to the HOA story than written here.

    I’ve lived in one for almost eleven years. Trying to gain access to financial records after discovering we have 10 MILLION DOLLARS unaccounted for resulted in a lawsuit where the board president told the judge the HOA “had no records!” This of course was after the 20 year board president dropped dead shortly after I hired an attorney. The successor to the dead president was also into self-dealing and proceeded to renovate the clubhouse funneling the work through her decorating business. After that, she created a publishing business and printed the community newsletter where she sold advertising to local businesses and pocketed the money for herself. This was not known by the homeowners until she was questioned on the witness stand by an attorney in a jury trial against the HOA. Since she called the homeowners she didn’t like “pariahs” in the newsletter that was the only reason we learned the truth about the publishing business.

    HOAs are a thieves’ paradise. Board members are volunteers as the author said. Generally speaking there are no background checks, no skills required, and the Directors & Officers Insurance (paid for with the HOA dues) protects them for the most part from personal liability if they opt to be bad actors.

    I live in a townhouse. It’s similar to a condo except it sits attached side by side not stacked. The HOA did not maintain the exterior siding to the point the electric meters fell off in or torrential rain storm. This caused massive damage to the inside of my house. That resulted in lawsuit #2 because the HOA claimed they held no liability for the interior damages. They also did not clean the neighbor’s gutters for years and the overflow caused all the soil under my patio to be sucked out and the hydro-static pressure against my basement wall caused it to crack. That left me with a river running through my finished basement for three years. I’m now on lawsuit #3. The HOA did not maintain the driveway and the fence. The fence is rotten and falling down making it not safe for a child or dog to be enclosed by it. The driveway dropped below the garage floor causing water to run under the floor and into the basement. This resulted in me having to use four-wheel drive to put my vehicle into the garage. I also had to have the basement floor jack-hammered and a sump pump installed and attached to the drainage system that had to be installed after the crack in the foundation wall was repaired on the other side of the basement.

    There is a whole lot more but my experience has been a living nightmare since the day I moved in. The dues are now $250 per month! The HOA has borrowed a million dollars and uses the dues to service that debt. They spend an average of $1,000 per week on their attorney and have countless lawsuits pending. They breach their contract and then sue the homeowners that refuse to pay the dues. It’s insanity at it’s best.

    The end result has been the lost of all of my retirement savings, the stress has caused me to lose all of the pigment in my skin, and I have Shingles. I would never own in another HOA if the place was paid in full and given as a gift! I paid cash for this nightmare and I’ve spent twice that amount to rebuild this place plus more on lawsuits. I’ve also worked with our legislators to pass a bill to try and help the homeowners. Unfortunately, the CAI was involved in that and took the teeth out of it. I’m working again now to put teeth back into into the law. The HOAs just ignore it because there is no penalty for violations.

    I suggest the books that Deborah Goonan mentioned above and would add listening to the HOA radio show podcasts at onthecommons dot net. In addition the website of neighborsatwar dot com gives daily exposure to the HOA stories that are known. There are far more unknown than known but the activists are working on exposing the entire truth about HOAs.

    Best advice…if there is a HOA, COA, POA, CID, PUD, CO-OP, or any other type of common interest ownership on the property…..RUN LIKE YOUR HAIR IS ON FIRE!

    Buying into an HOA means: you are signing away your Constitutional Rights. Becoming business partners with all of your new neighbors in a non-profit corporation. And becoming the guarantor for payment on all debts, loans, lawsuits, liabilities, settlements, construction defects, and disaster rebuilds. The risks are massive and once the ink dries it’s too late to escape until you find another sucker to take your place inside of the nightmare.

    Do not buy into the propaganda that HOAs protect property values. That is what the CAI and the Realtors spew but there is plenty of proof that HOAs indeed depreciate property values!

  33. Hi Nila – Thanks for weighing in! I’m sorry for the nightmare you’re in, but let’s hope that others will benefit from your experience. While I think that what you’re going through is at the extreme end of possibilities in an HOA, it’s something everyone who aspires to live in an HOA neighborhood needs to consider. As we’ve found out from some of the comments on this thread, HOA problems in the extreme can get as bad or worse than we can imagine. You’ve made the point well Nila.

  34. Kevin,

    Thank you for replying to my comment. Well, we reside in Texas. My wife is from Georgia. I am from Florida. Sadly I know you are right about the uphill battle. People are waking up that the corruption of control is starting to appear in everyone’s back yard and even inside their homes. Eventually any extreme control causes revolutions to take place. To me HOA’s are not immune to this. When over 50% start recognizing the fraud of systems of control, the control systems start to collapse. The thing is that it’s easy to fool an overwhelming population and get away with fraud. When you loose the ability to fool over 50% of the popular vote the majority start coming together no matter the cost. This is why I mention to start complaining about HOAs to the local and State governments. They are already beginning to get a lot of complaints about property rights and big government. Right now I just think Americans are just now starting to really talk about solutions to help one another gain back some of our freedoms that we have given up. To me HOA is a perfect example of what happens when authority is misused and given to private interest groups.

  35. Kevin,

    I’ve read through all of these posts and I’ve heard these stories hundreds of times from people all across America. This is not just a Georgia problem.

    Be careful as a tenant in an HOA. You are obligated to follow every HOA rule whether you know about them or not. I got a call from a lady renting in an HOA who parked her car on the driveway overnight. At 4am she heard a horrible noise and watched as her car was towed away. The HOA board president walked the neighborhood at night and had connections or ownership in a tow company. The fees for towing, storage, and fine exceeded the value of her car. She was taking a cab to work. She had no idea there were rules against parking a car on the driveway overnight.

    And another side of HOAs that haven’t been mentioned here is what happens when a person inherits an HOA property. I got a call from a 28 year old married woman with two children that inherited grandma’s condo in Florida. It was mortgage-free but shortly after she signed the paperwork for assuming the condo ownership she got hit with a $10K roof assessment. They wiped out their savings and paid it. Realizing each month they were paying condo fees, utilities, insurance, and taxes she decided to rent the unit. The CC&Rs required board approval. You guessed it, DENIED. Why? The COA was already at their maximum of 30% rentals. She decided to sell it. It did not sell. Her husband lost his job. She was desperate when she called me. Her paycheck was barely enough to cover their household expenses and they were struggling to buy groceries. She wanted to know what would happen if she just stopped paying the COA. Sadly, I had to tell her the COA would lien the property and foreclose…still charge her the back dues plus interest and legal fees and take the condo from her. In addition they can go to court and get a judgement and garnish her wages. This is why I tell everyone that talks about buying a condo to retire in to rent an apartment. Not only can your family lose the value of the condo (because the COA will make sure the legal bills and late fees wipe out the equity)they can also have their financial well-being destroyed just by inheriting the property. Bottom line: DO NOT DIE UNTIL YOU’VE SOLD YOUR HOA OR COA PROPERTY. Otherwise your heirs will not be mourning your departure, but they may be very angry with you for years to come.

    And then there is the one in Wichita, Kansas where the condo owner was beaten with a crowbar by the board president. That one settled out of court (after being in federal court and state court for years) but I am not at liberty to give the details yet. I will say the condo owner is expected to walk away victorious. Watch for that story on neighborsatwar dot com. You can see the photos of the man’s body by going to the search bar and typing in ‘Wichita’

    I’ve heard or read thousands of HOA nightmare stories. Each one makes me hate HOAs even more.

    I didn’t mention what my personal loss will be to sell my HOA property. $200K is the rough estimate on a place I paid $149K for. That money was invested so the loss is really much greater than that. After working all my life and being a good saver and investor I will now have to work until I take my last breath and will live in poverty until I do. I will not be able to travel or even live comfortably. I will have to watch every single penny and pray that I never need any sort specialized care. I cannot tell you how life-destroying HOAs are. In my 2nd lawsuit the mediator was a retired county court judge. He said, “Nila, you are dealing with a bunch of Nazis!!!” He was 100% correct.

    Keep exposing the truth about HOAs! Education is the key to helping people decide not to make the mistake of jumping into the HOA abyss.

  36. Hi Nila – I’m aware that even tenants are bound by the bylaws of an HOA neighborhood. This past winter we got hit by the parking/towing issue. We avoided getting caught by it because we were aware of it. But several neighbors had their cars towed at serious cost. Fortunately the neighbors banded together and nuked the parking regulation at the last HOA meeting, and it came to a merciful end. That kind of thing actually happens here in New Hampshire. People WILL shake the trees, so to speak.

    In Georgia people were largely compliant, which made the HOA situation worse than it needed to be. People here in New Hampshire aren’t afraid to make their concerns known. And it does make a difference! We need more of that spirit around the country. It’s not a perfect world up here, but people won’t put up with BS. That’s incredibly refreshing to see.

  37. The following is to the best of my recollection. I have to say that in order to try to protect myself.
    Some residents of our HOA couldn’t figure where all the dues money was going ($300,000.00 to $400,000.00 annually). A movement was started to recall a couple of the Board Members. The Board sent out a notice that they started a Nominating Committee, one Board member and one person they choose from the Residents. There were two open positions on the Board, and THEY nominated two people we could vote for and only vote for. I think they threw out any ballots with a write in listed on the ballot. The last two elections were that way. They can use out hundreds of thousands to defend themselves in court, we must pay our Attorney fees ourselves. I was told that our Attorney said that if they want to push things, the price tag could go to hundreds of thousands of dollars. They know that we can’t fight that. They have even counter sued, I think that is what it is called, two different residents using our money and those residents moved out of the neighborhood.

  38. Hi Chris – Your experience is consistent with what that attorney told me about HOAs. You can’t fight them legally, the deck is stacked completely in their favor. The only option is to move out, and never move back into an HOA neighborhood. That will “starve them out” if enough people do it. But that’s the problem, enough people won’t do it. Most people I know have a positive view of HOAs, and will continue to support them – until they get burned. Unfortunately, the burned don’t get together and share stories, so each situation is viewed as unusual, or as HOA-specific (i.e., “that HOA is corrupt”, when the truth is that the whole HOA system is corrupt).

    If you’ve been burned, consider yourself to be enlightened and don’t move back to an HOA neighborhood, at least not as an owner. But be warned that even as a tenant, the HOA is likely to see/treat you as more of a necessary evil than as a welcome guest. Tenants in an HOA neighborhood are seen as bad for property values, despite the fact they’re often the only solution for owners who can’t sell due to either market conditions or equity shortfalls.

  39. Moving into a neighborhood that doesn’t have an HOA is an extremely risky gamble. Having an HOA can mean the difference between profiting or losing several thousand dollars when selling. Anyone who has lived next door to white trash can tell you why an HOA is necessary. The people who are against HOA’s tend to be the troublemakers in the neighborhood who never mow, store piles of junk outside, and hangout in the front yard. The HOA is there to remind your neighbors that their property is not simply their own sovereign country where they can do whatever they want.

  40. Hi John – That’s the argument that I’ve always heard in favor of HOAs, higher property values and keeping out the riff raff – “white trash” as you call it. But you’re actually making my point, that HOAs are all about property values. If that’s the main reason to own a house then I think you’re better off buying a good mutual fund. A house isn’t purely an investment. It’s our own little space in the world – yes, even a sovereign country as you described it. We pay for it with our own money, and to have that ownership micro-managed by an HOA board seems to defeat the entire purpose of home-ownership.

    Also, as a Christian, I cannot support the “white trash” defense. This is to say that we should regard some people more favorably than others, almost always based on economic status. Money cannot be the measure of all things, at least not in the bigger picture. I hope you can appreciate this point.

  41. Totally agree w/EVERY SINGLE WORD on this article. Those HOA people are evil. We’re in the process of moving to PA & the moment I found out the house was listed in an HOA neighborhood, I made my fiancé back out of it. He was a little upset since he had so many plans for the house but I knew these people won’t let him execute them as we needed permission for almost everything. It still gets me so aggravated that someone that doesn’t pay your mortgage, your utility bill, yard/landscape maintenance & all of the bills that come w/home ownership has so much control over what you can & cannot do with YOUR house. It’s ridiculous. If there’s one of the many things we need to abolish these days, it’s the HOA!!

  42. Hi Mara – I think you’ve summed up the entire HOA issue brilliantly, and in far fewer words than it took me! We’re paying all the costs to own the house – plus extra fees to fund the HOA – so that they can have effective control over the property. I’m trying to imagine the World War II generation accepting that kind of arrangement. But we’re different generations, who have come up in a very different world. We readily surrender our freedom to overseers, and think that somehow we’re doing the right thing.

    I completely agree that the HOA will keep you and your fiance from doing what you please with the property. And if its a series of changes, it could end up getting legal in a hurry. That will cost you – and the other homeowners in the neighborhood – a lot of money, but it will cost the board members nothing. They can do what they want, and pass the cost onto the homeowners. It’s a perfect arrangement for all who would be king. You don’t hear it any more, but I loved the term “little Caesars” to describe the megalomaniacs of the world. If you end up being part of their “empires” they can make life quite miserable. And so many of them will smile and hide behind superficial pleasantries as they do.

  43. HOA has unlimited fund because the fund comes from homeowner due every month. So HOA would not worry about any law suit. If HOA engages in any lawsuit, HOA run out money HOA JUST RAISES ASSOCIATE FEE TO COVER ANY FEE COMING FROM LAWSUIT.

  44. Hi Ngoc – I agree. That’s what makes it so hard to fight them legally. You not only have to pay the legal fees on your end, but you get trapped into paying them for the HOA to fight against you. When you think of it that way, it’s really a very corrupt arrangement.

  45. Don’t buy in an HOA. We are currently selling our home of 14 years because of the HOA, but more specifically, because of the new President of the HOA. For 13 years, our small community did just fine letting everyone be. There was tons of rules in the CCR’s but none were followed and no one cared. Well, the new president that was elected a year ago, cared about 1 rule. Overnight parking in the cul-de-sac. We missed the meeting were she informed everyone that would now be enforced. No email was sent about the change, so we were quite surprised when all of the sudden, we were being threatened with fines if we didn’t stop letting our daughter park in the cul-se-sac overnight. Also, we were the only ones with a teen driver and we also have the smallest driveway, and the only one that is shared. Therefore, we were the only ones breaking this newly enforced rule. The new President said the board didn’t want to enforce any other rules and not only would they not, they were going to ask the 14 owners which ones they wanted eliminated in the CCR’s and the board would remove them. Well, we were the only ones that wanted to overnight parking eliminated, so it stayed.

    We fought the rule for quite some time, but in the end, we gave up and started shuffling cars around, just so we could have peace. Well, that didn’t matter. The President now had a vendetta against us and she still sent threatening emails about breaking the rule, but we weren’t! She wouldn’t send proof either. We then tried to get the board to enforce other rules and they refused that also.

    We hired a lawyer and basically, the lawyer said they can enforce what they want and yes, we can fight them and show they didn’t run the HOA correctly etc… but that would cost up to $20,000 and could take years to fight.

    When we fought back, things got worse. The President got others in the neighborhood to be mad at us for not following the rules. She would send emails saying for everyone to watch our cars and turn us in. We would send emails fighting back and no one wanted to side with us and suffer the wrath of the President.

    The only possible saving grace is the President got so obsessed with making sure we aren’t parking in the street, that she’s been stalking us and she’s been aggressive about it. We contacted the VP on the board about it and she got in trouble and apologized to us in an email, but she continued. We are pressing charges for stalking/harassment on Monday.

    We are listing our home tomorrow. We’ve filled out our sellers disclosure, we have pictures scheduled, and we’ve found a new home. There’s no HOA!!!!! YES!!!!!!!! We don’t have to sell our current home to buy the other one, so we are gone as soon as we close on the new one. We can’t wait!

  46. Hi MT – That’s a real mess! But it proves how inflexible HOAs can be, how it’s impossible to fight back, and especially how they’re like going back to high school. It’s obviously a popularity contest, and everyone is afraid to oppose the the president, who plays the role of prom queen as a high school equivalent. They all want to be on her good side. It also appears that your family has been targeted. It may be for no other reason than that everyone needs a devil to rally against, and you’ve been selected to fill that role. Or it could be personal.

    I agree with your decision to move. You’re in their cross hairs, and it is unlikely to get better. The sad part is that after you’re gone the prom queen might decide to target another resident to rally her “court” against. Power never feels good unless it’s being directed against someone.

  47. I know this tread is old, but I’m posting anyway:) The above are scary stories but I would like to share the “other side”. I live in a typical middle class neighborhood and we do not have a hoa. Well, we don’t have an active hoa, there was one once upon a time but it no longer collects dues and does not enforce restrictions. I have only lived in this neighborhood for 2 years, but I’m very disappointed with the condition of our neighborhood. Neighbors have old fencing that needs to be repaired or replaced, rusty sheds in the backyard, weeds growing out of control, neighbors constantly parking on the street in front of my house, since parking in front of there house is taken up with the 6 cars they have (all homes have two car garages). I’ve lived in both a HOA and a non-HOA and given that I paid a handsome price for my home as did the neighbors, I’m a bit taken back that there isn’t more pride in ownership. I’m not asking that people live up to what I think is acceptable but I don’t understand why the homeowners don’t take the initiative to clean up the neighborhood. Oh yes, did I mention that I live beside chickens? The chickens drive my dog crazy and then I get yelled at by the chicken owner to shut my dog up, so I can’t go outside and enjoy my yard. My dog is a natural hunting dog (yes, I’ve even discussed this with my vet and he said there isn’t much I can do about the barking since my dog is a “hunting breed”). Did I know there were chickens next door when I bought – no, of course not! The seller disclosed that there was a hoa (rightfully so since technically there is one) and there was a two dog restriction. Looking around before purchasing, it didn’t look like that there was too many restrictions that I couldn’t live with. But in the short 2 years living there, the upkeep of the neighborhood appears to becoming progressively worse and frankly, I don’t want to reside beside chickens (no offense to chicken owners-I’m a city girl and don’t understand why anyone would want chickens in a neighborhood). And, yes I know I can enforce the rules i.e. deed restrictions, but I don’t want to be a bad neighbor. So with my experience, my next home purchase, I will seek refuge in a hoa. Not the Nazi hoa’s but a mild mannered hoa. I honestly believe that it will fit my personality better.

  48. Hi Dana – You may be the kind of person who does best in an HOA. Maybe. But if they take aim at you for any reason, you’ll see the darker side. Believe me, this comment thread isn’t filled with a bunch of complainers, the HOA horror stories are real. I think you just have a bad neighbor, but you should know that sometimes HOAs protect bad neighbors, particularly the ones who are either on the board, or those who like to complain. (HOA boards and resident complainers are quite natural allies!)

    In our last house (no HOA) we lived next door to people who seemed to be doing a superior rendition of the Beverly Hillbillies. But I’d rather have that kind of neighbor than a elitist, dictatorial HOA board trying to rule my life. I’d also like to add that there are a lot of people who can barely afford to keep their houses, and that may explain why some of the properties are in poor condition. I prefer to be understanding of that, rather than to judge it harshly. I’d ask you to consider that as well.

    That said, if the relationship with your neighbors is hostile, and you don’t like the way people keep their houses, you’re probably going to have to move. It’s just not a neighborhood that agrees with your tastes, and it’s highly unlikely to change.

  49. Dana, you said “And, yes I know I can enforce the rules i.e. deed restrictions, but I don’t want to be a bad neighbor.”

    Well, what do you think happens when there’s an HOA?

    Your collective assessments are used to notify your neighbor of their violations of the deed restrictions and to sue that neighbor if they fail to comply. Does that sound like a good neighbor?

    Why is it that you would be willing to allow someone else from the HOA to do your dirty work? Why don’t you personally attempt to address this with your neighbor? Why don’t you talk to a few of your other neighbors who might also be willing to approach your neighbor to work out a compromise?

    Believe me, that’s usually better than giving a group of your neighbors control of the purse strings for your assessment fund and unchecked control over how to enforce the restrictive covenants.

    An HOA can be “mild mannered” one day, and pure hell the next. It depends who is in control and how well they handle power – not to mention YOUR money.

    If most of your neighbors don’t seem to care, no amount of coercion by lawsuit is going to improve the situation to your liking. The very same problems can and do occur in HOAs, despite all the restrictions.

    Neighborhood pride comes naturally when people genuinely respect one another. But homeowners also need to have the financial means, the good health, and the time to do the necessary work. We don’t know the other person’s story, but if we did, it might change our perspective. Instead, we too often conclude that our neighbor is selfish and inconsiderate.

    A real community would gather together those who are able and organize a neighborhood clean up, instead of fining and threatening their neighbors with lawsuits.

  50. Deborah, of course I made an attempt to apologize for my dogs barking and at that time I didn’t know about the chickens-the neighborly route and to introduce ourselves. I thought they were going to hit me-they were extremely rude and very confrontational so no I can’t talk to them. I tried and failed miserably. As said I have lived in a hoa and had zero problems. Maybe I was lucky- don’t know for sure. I have talked to other neighbors and we get along and apparently my neighbors are the neighborhood problem. In a hoa these problems would be addressed – no? Perhaps neighborhoods aren’t what I grew up in. Everyone would rather hibernate in their homes and don’t socialize. It’s fine-i respect that. Yes respect is key-wouldn’t people respect the fact that they don’t want to look out their window and see a hemi parked in front of their house? Or see grass grow around a car parked in their yard. Do I want to knock on their door with other neighbors to address that. Heck no, I don’t like confrontations and avoid them. So I just ignore the issues and will move when it’s economically feasible. Am I sold on hoas-no but what are the alternative for someone like me who would rather shy away from unpleasant situations? I love people and can’t wrap my mind around why people get so rude. Maybe I got it wrong but I would think a hoa would run interference. I enjoy your input as I have studied hoas a lot. Listen to on the commons, read Lucas wards book and followed both you one NIla’s blogs so frankly I am torn between a hoa and a non hoa. I do think perhaps hoas do have some positives.

  51. Hi Deborah – Thank you for providing an incredibly charitable view of the big picture. We all need to be reminded of the points that you’ve raised. I’m old enough that I remember when neighborhoods (and towns) were genuine communities. They weren’t perfect, but people knew their neighbors, knew that some were struggling, and often did make themselves available to help.

    Today’s world is very different. Today, people move into gated communities, wall themselves inside their homes behind electronic security systems, fill the house with electronic entertainment, and very willingly buy into the media myth that, yes Veronica, your neighbor might be a terrorist, a mass murderer, a drug dealer or a rapist – trust no one. And here we are, living in a society of paranoid people who don’t trust the people living 50 feet away. I can’t and won’t live my life that way.

    I’ve found that when you reach out to people, and get to know them a bit, they really are pretty good. Even the ones you have conflicts with. Life is better that way. They aren’t perfect, but then neither am I. And yes, if I have a problem with a neighbor I discuss it with that person. I’ve done this many times because I don’t like living in conflict. Hiding behind an HOA is pure cowardice and only serves to pull people farther apart. People who think they need an HOA to somehow protect them or their interests are often part of the problem, not the solution. But then, I live by the motto, trust people, not systems.

  52. Hi Dana – You have a neighbor problem. Take it from me, you can have a neighbor problem in an HOA too. The HOA can make things worse. It’s all about who complains first and loudest, and has the better political connections. Assuming your neighbors are the ones with both six cars and the chickens, they’re too settled in to ever move, so it will be up to you to make the move. Unfortunate, but that’s a life issue that an HOA won’t necessarily protect you from.

    Three things that could make YOU the problem in an HOA: 1) kids, 2) dogs/pets, 3) cars and 4) someone doesn’t like you. OK, that’s four, but an HOA or a bad neighbor can make your life miserable for any of these, and a bunch more.

  53. Kevin you are very correct I do have a neighbor problem. I am quite sure though if I did move it would be virtually impossible to buy somewhere where there isn’t a hoa. I have gotten letters from the hoa that I previously I lived but I complied and all was good. Once again I am torn between the hoa thing. Some things I think I would enjoy and other things would make me want to pull my hair out. What I would rather have is 5 acres and no neighbors in sight. Yay!

  54. I just found out that a very close friend of mine that lives in a hoa got served that the hoa is foreclosing on his house for unpaid hoa fees of 578.00. Can they do that? He said that he has never received a bill and didn’t have clue sat to where to send his dues. To make matters worse to stop the foreclosure he now ones over 2000.00. Since I have read up on hoas I know that hoas can foreclose but now that it is close to home I am a bit more understanding as to why hoas get a bad name. I believe he is entering into a repayment agreement to stop the foreclosure so I think it will work out for him. Again I am just curious-is a master planned development okay? I think that would be a little less intrusive and maybe something more in line with what I may be looking for..

  55. Hi Dana – Unfortunately, the HOA CAN do exactly what they’re doing to your friend. That’s precisely what makes them so dangerous. On the master planned development, if there’s an HOA in the mix, they’re no safer than any other HOA neighborhood. It’s not the neighborhood configuration that’s the problem, but the HOA itself.

  56. Ok I am convinced. I am selling my house and plan to rent. There is no good reason not to rent at this point. Homes that are not in hoas are old and need too much work and all the newer homes are cookie cutter with extreme hoas. If I have to live with silly rules I would rather rent an apartment. So I am unloading the house and renting a one bedroom apartment. Homeownership is causing me too mush stress. And I now am very concerned about hoas after doing some extensive research. Renting seems like the better way – why aren’t more people renting at this point? It seems like a better option.

  57. Usually people only put bad experience with HOA online so it may seem twitsted that all HOA are bad. But truth is, most people who live in good HOA wont even bother to post. For me, I live in a HOA neighborhood, 200$ annual assessment, plenty of common area, pond, playground and tennis court. And some free picnic and parties. I never heard anyone got notice of violation even though some of them need to get their lawn taken care of. Its a quiet and clean neighborhood and everybody look after each other and im very happy to live in this HOA community.

  58. Hi HJ – You haven’t been targeted by your HOA so you don’t realize how bad they can get. And maybe you even live in a very laid-back HOA. But when you come into their cross hairs, you learn quickly that they aren’t benign. I’ve heard too many bad stories – and have a few of my own – to believe that they’re harmless. In fact, if you dig into both the HOA bylaws and into state laws about HOAs, it’s downright scary. They can do just about anything, and your legal remedies are pretty limited. Sometimes they’re non-existent.

  59. Hello Kevin, I have a question I’m hoping you can help me with. I moved into a subdivision in November of 2015 and just this November of 2016 received a bill from my HOA. I was unaware that I was moving into a community with a HOA and saw nothing about this at closing and was even told by my realtor that there wasn’t one. I’m now being charged late fees for not paying something that I was completely unaware of. How is it possible that I was not informed at closing about the HOA and how am I receiving a bill a whole year after moving in?

  60. Hi Delonda – Wow, that is strange. Usually the existence of an HOA is required to be disclosed by law, but it depends on the laws in your state. When we bought in an HOA neighborhood it was voluntary, but became mandatory shortly after we moved in. But it was still disclosed by the agent and the closing attorney. It’s possible that a written disclosure was buried in the enormous stack of closing documents that they put in front of you to sign.

    I don’t know if there’s much you can do about this. When you purchase a house in an HOA it’s presumed that you agreed to it. I’d suggest consulting with an attorney about this and seeing what your options are, if any.

    One other possibility is that the late fee is from the previous owner, so you may be able to get out of it that way. But you will still have to deal with the HOA going forward.

  61. Delonda, the first thing you need to do is find out if the HOA is valid and mandatory. Go to your County Courthouse and inquire if there are any valid Declarations (CC&Rs) on file. If not, the HOA is not official.

    Do you have title insurance on the property? Contact the title agent about this situation, as well as the real estate agency that handled the sale for your side of the transaction. The existence of an HOA, if there is one, should have come up on the title search.

    You can check your state laws to see what was required in terms of real estate disclosure. It varies by state. Your local board of realtors should be aware of all required sales disclosures, and all of the member real estate agents must abide by those legal requirements.

    Once you have some basic information, I agree with Kevin, consult a real estate attorney.

    As for past due assessments, you need to find out (only if the HOA is legally valid) if those are assessment you should have been paying since you closed on the purchase OR if these are past due from the previous owner. Many states obligate the buyer to pay all HOA liens, but that is normally disclosed and paid as a condition of the sale.

  62. Thanks Deborah. I was searching for your website and couldn’t find it. If anyone has a question on HOAs please go to independentamericancommunities.com.

  63. I live in HOA is Missouri they way I read the Missouri non for profit It is my choice to belong also can quit anytime but pay back dues. Am I reading the law correct. also when I applied for a G I loan it states on there no homeassociation

  64. Hi John – I’m not familiar with HOA laws in Missouri, but I tend to doubt that what you’re describing applies to every HOA in the state. You’re probably in a voluntary HOA, but you should check your closing documents from when you bought the house to see what they show.

  65. I was appointed to the board of my association 2 years ago after the previously elected board member stirred up a mess and promptly stepped down. Upon being appointed, I was horrified by the amount of discretion the board of directors has in associations. We can legally take out loans in the association’s name, there is an enormous amount of leeway on the amount of capital assessments we can potentially impart, and there is a tremendous amount of power given to a select few. I had no idea there was such potential for abuse. Dealing with association business has been an absolute nightmare. Part of our specific problem is that the developer entered into an easement agreement with his buddy who owned a local cable/internet company, which restricted our services to a bulk agreement paid through our association dues. When this local company went bankrupt, the very first board chose to ignore it, thinking the agreement would just go away, but *surprise* (eye roll) it was sold to another company, and then another, and each time, the service has degraded and degraded. A large part of my nearly 3 years on this board has been spent in discussions with attorneys regarding how to get our community out of this monopoly, so that not only can we have access to competition in providers, but also so that each individual homeowner can choose whether or not to buy services, and if so, what type they wish to have. And that’s not even the biggest annoyance, believe it or not. The major problem is the elderly population who resides in the townhome section, and who are bound by our (master) association, as well as a second “sub” association specific to the townhomes. If these people had their way, no one would be able to own more than 2 cars, the community would pay for a parking lot so that no cars were ever parked on the street, everyone’s grass would be no more than 2 inches tall, we’d all have the exact same color homes/shutters and identical landscaping. They seemingly have nothing better to do with their time then to complain about silly things. Their complaints about their neighbors (never to their faces, mind you, always to the board or the community manager) have ranged from dogs barking to being able to see someone’s boat from the street (and the complainant does not live anywhere near said boat– and in fact, has to drive to a remote dead end road in order to even attempt to get a view of this boat). It’s like dealing with children tattle tailing on one another. Our city has a requirement that all new communities be “planned communities” with associations (it relieves the city’s duties to deal with frivolous complaints, and puts them on the association directly), so in order to build a new home here, we had to enter into an association neighborhood. I’ve never in my life known adults to be so petty in my entire life. My term ends in January and I feel sorry for whomever takes my place, because the whining never ends, and neither, so it seems, will the legal business with the easement and media agreements entered into by the developer. I agree with everything you’ve said here. It’s a nightmare, and I’ve seen it from the inside.

  66. Hi Jessica – A heartfelt thanks to you for weighing in as an HOA “insider”. Most of us have seen these issues from the outside, but your report confirms the validity of what we’ve been seeing. I agree with all that you’ve reported, and have nothing to add. But I will make a couple of observations about the elderly complaints.

    First, I’ve seen that kind of pettiness from a much younger crowd, and remain convinced that HOAs are breeding grounds for whiners and complainers. The existence of the board gives them someone to complain to with impunity. They turn into children, wanting to tattle on every ill, real or imagined. We might suppose that HOAs give power to the weak, and they use it like a club.

    Second, I am aware that many of the elderly do make a hobby of complaining. My mom is a recently appointed tenant representative in the senior complex where she lives. She recently told me that she’s barraged with complaints about EVERYTHING at every meeting. When she asks for volunteers to work on projects, no one steps up. She lives in an extremely nice complex, so many of the complaints are baseless.

    I think there may be a couple of factors at play here. One is that some of the elderly are miserable at being elderly. A lot have nagging ailments. Also, there isn’t as much opportunity to make major changes in their own lives, so they behave in a hostile manner in general. I don’t want to paint this with too broad a brush, because I’ve seen many of the elderly who I’ve considered to be true inspirations. But there are the other kind, and they can be relentless. I also think that some of the elderly are fearful of becoming irrelevant. In truth we all have that fear, but when you reach a certain age it becomes more real. A lot of the elderly have lost loved ones, relocated from familiar neighborhoods, or become estranged from their children. Complaining is a way to get “noticed”. It’s negative attention, but it’s attention nonetheless.

    A psychologist once told me that some people will attack you because they can’t get at the people who actually hurt them. I think that explains a lot of human behavior, even apart from age. On one hand we need to be sympathetic to the elderly – even the cranky ones – but at the same time we have to do our best to not become like the worst examples. After all, we’ll all be there one day!

  67. Oh, you’re totally right. I didn’t mean to imply that all elderly people complain. My direct neighbor is the sweetest elderly woman, and she doesn’t ever complain about anything, and is a wonderful person to know and love, and we have many older neighbors who mind their own business and are happy to go about their day to day lives even if there is a car parked on the street in front of their house (true story, people call me about that regularly). My octogenarian grandma is one of my best friends, and another is a former colleague that is older than my parents. One of my favorite fellow board members is a senior, and he’s so pragmatic and thoughtful to work with. I feel extra sorry for him b/c the “in crowd” of complainers tends to get angrier with him because he won’t side with them when they want to harass people for existing. I have tried to look at it sort of along the lines of the fear of irrelevance, as you made reference to. As a mother myself, I look at my children and their friends and I still see them as little boys, even as they have grown into young men. It’s still somewhat odd to consider that their insight weighs equally to my own. Along those lines, I honestly think that for the group of chronic complainers, they look at me and the bulk of the other board members and, rather than see their peers, they see people the same age as their children (or even in one instance, not much older than their grandchildren), and it’s hard for them to believe that we can perhaps be good advocates without trying to be controlling. I understand that there’s a lot going in to it, and I do appreciate your response! I’m sorry if I let on as if I dislike the elderly, or blame them entirely. Definitely not the case 🙂

  68. Hi Jessica – I didn’t mean to imply that you were being insensitive to the elderly in any way. In fact, I was mostly agreeing with you, but trying to look at the bigger picture as to why it might be true. (I expect to get a negative email or two about my own comments about the elderly!)

  69. I despise the idea of HOA’s. I hear these horror stories all the time. Now we’re looking to move to the next level of home in a suburb of Kansas City and I’m finding it next to impossible to find a home that isn’t in a HOA. And every one that comes on the market it is sold or in the “show for backups” stage within a day. It’s frustrating!

    I don’t want some busy-body measuring my lawn or telling me my curtains are the wrong color or that I can only open my garage door to pull a car out and then I have to immediately close it. We have 3 large dogs and a toddler and I have the feeling that they will be an issue for one of the busy-bodies in these horrible types of neighborhoods.

    I feel that after spending a huge amount of money on a house, if I want to plant skunk cabbage and paint my house purple and put slides going from the top floor to the ground I should be able to. (I wouldn’t do that, but it’s the principle of the thing.)

  70. Hi Jessica – You’re absolutely right. Owning a house should be a liberating experience in most respects, otherwise you may as well rent. HOAs compromise home ownership. You own, but you don’t – if that even makes sense. A lot of HOAs can restrict where you park your car, what color you paint your house, what plants you can put on your property, how high your grass can grow and even if you want to build a tree fort for your kids. And that’s the milder stuff. Give people a little bit of power and they’ll inevitably abuse it.

    If the Kansas City market is dominated by HOAs, it will be really tough to find a good non-HOA property. Atlanta is certainly like that – all the new neighborhoods are HOAs, as well as most of those built in the past 20-30 years. New Hampshire is a lot different. They’re pretty rare up here, thank the Good Lord! (Which is yet another reason we moved up here!) You may have to consider going further out of town, or closer in. HOAs are more prevalent in middle suburban and close-in exurban areas than they are in in-town and rural locations.

    It’s weird – turn on the TV and the internet and we live in a world of infinite possibilities. But when you start trying to maneuver through the real world, you find that the options are sparse, and the trade-offs are steep. That’s a consequence of the groupthink that’s behind HOAs, and a lot of other conundrums that we face. The mindset is “if you don’t like HOAs then there’s something wrong with YOU.” I guess there’s something wrong with me then…

  71. I find the HOA mindset weird as well. It does work for some people. I’ve known people that love HOA’s because they keep their house vanilla and boring anyways. (Only choose shades of beige or grey for a house, will only build decorative fences, keep their lawns pristine, never have a stray dandelion or leaf anywhere on their property.) It’s great for those types. I like the freedom though of being able to let the grass grow a little long if I’ve had a busy work week or the freedom to put up a shed or a playset or a new fence without getting a permission slip signed.

    One of our biggest challenges when finding a place to live are the breed bans most of the suburbs have around here. We’re in one of three suburbs that allow pitbulls. We have a little rescue bully that I wouldn’t give up for the world. We also have really excellent school districts here, and a children’s hospital nearby. (My son has Cystic Fibrosis, so it’s a bit of a necessity.) I told my husband if we have to buy in a HOA, it’s going to be an extremely relaxed one. There’s always the gamble though that a group of busybodies will become board members and change everything. We also have to make sure our dogs will be allowed in whatever HOA we would purchase in. I’m just venting now. lol.

    Anyways, thank you for writing this. I’m glad to know that there are people out there that hate the HOA mindset as much as I do.

  72. Hi Jessica – Your going to have to choose your son’s best interests over your distrust of HOAs. You may get into a tolerant HOA, and things will be OK. If not, you stay for a few years then move. I agree with you about the HOA mindset. Some people are perfectly OK being controlled, because they like knowing that their neighbors are also controlled. Others get high on being in control, as I wrote in the article. It’s not a mix we may prefer, but you do have other priorities that are incredibly important. You might try to get on the board so as to minimize the impact of the HOA on your life. You might influence some rule changes, and make enough political connections that you can exist just above the typical disturbances, particularly in regard to the dogs. Let me know what you decide to do, your story is an interesting one.

  73. I’m not sure how old this article is but I need advice bc I’m contemplating moving into a hoa community for the social aspect.
    Long story short, I’m from the Midwest, came to NY for a short term job but was going back to the Midwest once it ended. I was inheriting a house there. In the meantime, the job lasted longer and the house had to be sold for nursing home cost. The job I have is a live in caregiver so I don’t know anyone here. It’s been terrible.
    The hoa is in Pennsylvania and the fee and property taxes would be less than the property taxes alone in NY. I could buy a non hoa home in Pennsylvania and not have the 2k hoa fee but it’s in BFE and I would still know no one. I’m not as financially secure as I’d like to be and I do the math of 2k times X years adding up and logic says that I could use the money for retirement. However, I have literally been isolated from the world for 4 years and it’s taking a toll. So how do you know what to do? I have to get a house either way because rent is too much and I don’t want to go through my savings and have nothing.
    I’m early 40s, swf, earn about 40k, 50k student loan debt, no cc or car debt, 60k saved, 75k retirement. The homes in the area are 80-100k, property taxes 1500-2000, hoa 2254 with an equal transfer fee at purchase.
    Please advise because I have no idea what to do.

  74. Do not count on an HOA for social connections. In fact, conflict is common in HOAs because rarely do all owners agree on financial priorities, and they share liability for all of those shared spaces and amenities. PA is now considering legislation to get Attorney General to handle complaints about HOAs from homeowners. Industry lobbyists are fighting this, because they do not want HOA boards, developers, and managers to be held accountable. I know many owners who regret purchasing their HOA properties, and some who have lost a great deal of money, too. Consider buying a small older home and joining a social or civic club for socializing. Dues are negligible and not tied to the deed of your personal home.

  75. Hi Hannah – I must admit that I’m a bit confused about some of the details in your post. I’d need to know the following before attempting to untangle your situation:

    1) You’re living in NY and moving to PA? Of course you won’t know anyone with that kind of move. You might rent for a year so you can learn the lay of the land.
    2) Is the HOA house also in BFE (Bum F%$# Egypt, I presume, meaning the middle of nowhere)? Why must you move there?
    3) Your financial situation is in much better shape than you think, why do you think you’re in a compromised position?
    4) If you’re a live-in caregiver, why do you even need a house – or will you be doing different work when you move??? (Also, be aware that if your plan is to care for people in your home, that WILL be a problem in an HOA!)
    5) In your situation, as a single woman, presumably with no kids or pets, an HOA may not be a bad arrangement. Where you run into problems with an HOA is when you have kids, pets, more than one car or a home-based business. Someone gets ticked off at you over one of those facets of your life and sics the HOA on you.
    6) Only you can determine if you can afford the HOA fee, so I can’t offer any advice on this.
    7) Are you sure the social situation in the HOA is actually better than a non-HOA house? I lived in an HOA that was mostly families, and the single people were kind of invisible.
    8) Are there other ways you could make some lasting social connections, like joining a church, a charity, a gym, or taking some art/fitness/hobby classes?

    Sorry to ask so many questions, but I didn’t follow what you had written.

  76. Well put Deborah! As I said in my response, single people aren’t always a good fit in HOAs. But you’ve reminded me that they can also be hostile environments. If the board is too restrictive, or if the neighborhood is filled with overly-competitive people, it can really be a toxic living arrangement. I’m of the opinion that you can meet people and make friends anywhere you’re at. But you do have to spread your wings to do it. A big part of Hannah’s social problem, I’m sure, is that as a live-in caregiver, you become as shut-in as the person you’re caring for. That will be the case no matter what else is happening in her life, or where she lives.

  77. I’m in Orange County NY. Pennsylvania is nearby (Pike/Wayne County). A lot of NY/NJ people move there bc taxes are so high. The lady I care for isn’t going to live much longer and if I don’t get a house soon then I’m going to be sol as far as financing and getting enough time on a new job. I don’t want to rent bc the rental options are too expensive and I can’t waste 15k on a crappy place. Not to mention that a lot of places use oil heat and it’s expensive.
    It’s not that I’m going to try to make everyone my bff but they have a lot of things I would like to do and I could meet people I like because of it. Also, the fact that it’s right there and not 10 miles away is a big deal to me. I’ve always lived in the Chicago suburbs and had everything nearby. Around here is miles to everything and there’s no community. It’s worse in Pennsylvania but that’s all I can reasonably afford in ALL scenarios (i.e. If my life goes in the toilet, I can still work at the five and dime and pay my bills) and I accept that.
    Hopefully, I answered your questions. Hemlock Farms is where I want to go. The homes I’m looking into are under 100k, good bones but need some cosmetic updates. My piti would be $600 or under, plus about $200 average hoa (paid yearly). I think it’s a good idea for me now but I’m not sure if it’s a good long term idea. I guess I could always sell/rent it out in 10 years if I couldn’t afford it. It’s such a hard decision bc the only person I had was my grandmother (the house I was getting) and she passed away a few months ago. I’m just feeling panicked and I’m not sure if it’s usual home buying stress or “you’re making a bad decision” thing.
    Thanks for your time.

  78. Thanks Hannah, that does clear up a few things. But is the HOA $200 per month or $200 per year? If it’s per month, then that’s too high for that price range. If it’s per year, it’s so low that the HOA board is probably very weak. I think you’re mostly worried about making a mistake, which is absolutely natural. But my thought is that you should try renting a house in that subdivision for a year to take a test run. If it works for you, then buy. If not, you can move on.

    I’m guessing that if the prices are under 100k, then a rent option would be available. I am a bit concerned that you say the houses need cosmetic updates. Usually, HOAs prevent that from happening. If that’s not happening, and with prices under 100k, I’d seriously consider renting. It won’t be a mistake if it turns out that it isn’t the right neighborhood for you. I also want to point out that not all suburbanites can “go rural”. That may be at the root of your problem – you may not mesh well with rural people and environments. If that’s the case, you may not be happy in the HOA no matter what – and that’s exactly what you need to find out before you buy in for the long haul.

  79. It’s 2254 a year. They have houses up to a million dollars. It’s the best community there. It’s in the pocanos. The reason why you can get a starter home so low is that a lot of them were bought as vacation homes and when the market crashed the value plummeted. It’s slowly creeping up but it still won’t be close to what it was. The homes I’m looking at were purchased for 185-250k and aren’t foreclosed. People are just trying to get out of the situation. It’s about 60/40 full time vs seasonal. The cosmetics means inside, appliances, flooring, some of them are too cabin-y inside for everyday life. I wouldn’t pay any less than that for a private home except the hoa. They have a very strong hoa. It’s a lot of former successful NYC people. You can see it, hemlock farms. It’s the best. There’s a few others that are a bit cheaper dues wise but they don’t allow fences and I have a dog.
    I think it’s the best thing for me for now. Once I have some friends and roots, I can see about moving to a private home. It’d be different if I was in Indiana where I know people.
    Thanks for your words. I am going to go for it. I think it’s worth the cost to get back into the world. I’m not worried about the rules stuff because I’m low key anyway. You really helped me and even though I’m doing something else, I was able to think of good reasons to your thoughts. Thanks xo

  80. I have to buy otherwise I’m going to be screwed. I put a lot of money into my grandma’s house and I helped her instead of saving. If I don’t secure a roof over my head now, I’m going to be in trouble when I’m older. I’m not worried about rural vs city. I’m more realistic about the situation and I can make it anywhere but I need humans around. I also want to be around quality people because I actually have 2 degrees from Notre Dame but got off track career wise helping my grandma. Maybe something will find me that uses my brain more. I used to live in a small cute town and I learned that you can get more chances by being around the right people who can see your personality. I’m pretty likable, lol. This was only supposed to be a year job but it’s been 4.5 and I’m getting dumber and less social by the day.

  81. Dear Hannah,
    I hope my experience will help your with your decision making.

    I’ll start by saying the best advice this Midwest woman from Kansas is going to give you about buying into any HOA is to run like your hair is on fire!

    In 2005, I was financially set for life. I bought a townhome because I wanted to be free to travel and work seasonal positions out of state without the worry of mowing grass, cleaning gutters, and taking care of the exterior of my home. I thought that is what I was buying into. In truth, I signed myself into a hellish nightmare that has robbed me of my life’s savings, retirement savings, health, and happiness. Why? Because HOA board members are uneducated, unskilled, and often times thieves. After learning my HOA has $10M unaccounted for in dues and the same guy had been president of the board for over 20 years, I filed the first lawsuit to see records. The president suddenly died and the predecessor told the court they had no records. Big lie! Next, the siding on all the housing was rotting to the point mine was so severe the electric meters fell off in a torrential rain and water poured through the holes and destroyed my entire finished basement. That resulted in lawsuit number 2 for breach of contract. Next they let the driveway on my unit drop below the garage floor and again when it rained water poured under the flooring and destroyed my finished basement on that side. They also let the fence rot to the point I could never put a dog or child in the backyard. We are now in lawsuit number 3. There are far more details but I will spare you those. Bottom line is: I’ve spent more money and energy on this supposed maintenance-provided townhome than all the other houses I’ve owned together that were not in an HOA. This is the first and will be the last HOA I ever live in.

    I’ve found neighbors will not stand up against these board bullies and they allow themselves to be brainwashed (think religious cult type brainwashing) by the board into believing the problem is the homeowner that stands up for themselves, not the failed and lack of leadership and decision making of the board of directors. So, it’s basically a war zone where I live and I wouldn’t socialize with any of my neighbors for the very reason today they are your friend and tomorrow they get on the HOA board and try to destroy you with a lawsuit and foreclose and take your home. That has been my experience.

    In addition, due to the repairs, lawsuits, and loss of value on my home for me to move I will lose over $250K now. That is cash money because I paid cash for the home and have paid for all the other with my savings. The stress of 12 years of this hellhole has caused me to lose all the pigment in my skin due to Vitiligo and some other stress-related health issues have presented themselves. At 62 years old, I should be out enjoying life and the great job I did of saving for retirement. I’m not. I’m working and paying legal bills. I cannot be out in the sun and vacationing are cost prohibitive.

    I have given you the short version of what I have been through but I hope it’s been enough for you to realize buying into an HOA comes with massive risks and can be life and health destroying. In addition, when you sign on the dotted line of ownership into an HOA you sign away your Constitutional Rights. You become business partners with all of your neighbors in a non-profit corporation. And you become the guarantor for payment on all debts, loans, lawsuits, liabilities, settlements, construction defects, and disaster rebuilds for the entire HOA. The risks are massive and there is not getting out of them if the board members make stupid decisions, steal the money, or engage in lawsuits against you or your neighbors.

    Rent an apartment and enjoy life if you do not want to own a home without an HOA. Volunteer, take a class, or find some other means of meeting friends but buying into an HOA is not the answer.

  82. I get a kick from all of you who complain about living in an HOA community. Didn’t you read the by-laws before settlement? I lived in two HOA communities, a condo HOA and presently a townhouse HOA. It’s not right for everyone. I love how our homes all looks as nice or nicer than they did 20 years ago. If you look at other non-HOA communities of the same age, people have probably changed the colors and original designs over the years…not always for the best. I don’t recommend them for growing families but it works well for our retired lifestyle. The biggest problem is finding volunteers to serve on the Board or committees. Read the rules before you buy. If you don’t like them, go elsewhere. Otherwise, don’t complain.

  83. Hi Guy – I completely agree with you about people not reading the bylaws and covenants. I saw that all the time in the mortgage business. People ignored them and assumed all was well. They never stopped to consider that certain restrictions might interfere with exactly what they plan to do with the house. But there are cases, such as with my wife and I, where a non-mandatory HOA became mandatory after we moved in and we were stuck. But I do agree that most people a) don’t know what they’re getting into and b) don’t bother to investigate. But then I also saw a fair number of people opt to NOT get a home inspection, or to ignore it’s contents when they did.

    Over the years I came to the conclusion that buying a house is mostly an emotional endeavor. Like sharks, once people “lock on” to the idea of buying a house, or a certain house, facts and potential limitations go out the window. They just want the house – period!

  84. Guy is right. They work great for retired douchebags who accomplished little in their lives, and want to try to gain some imaginary power over us young “whippersnappers” who dare to be financially and educationally superior to them by 35. It all works well for them until someone like me gets elected; then they get to sit down and be quiet, while the rational among us call the shots until they die, or go into a retirement village. The sooner the better. (SOON)

  85. Hi Jessica – In my experience the HOA boards are usually occupied by young bucks, people in their 30s and 40s who are climbing the career ladder and also looking for a side venture as Masters of the Neighborhood. Control freaks know no age limits. It might be different in senior citizen neighborhoods, but I’ve never lived in one of those.

  86. Wow…what’s with Jessica? So smart that she generalizes everyone older than her as a “douchebags” (a real sign of maturity) but hasn’t gotten her act together enough to be able to retire herself. She must have been one of those stupid asses that didn’t read the rules before settlement. Either that or she’s just a lonely troll begging for attention at meaningless blog sites like this. So sad. It’s like a club, Jessie…if you don’t like the rules, don’t join.

  87. Actually, no guy. I’m just the little woman who knows the law and the covenants, and who stepped in and saved my community from a bunch of whiny old men who thought covenants meant a lot more power and control than what they actually entail (and likely who are just like your cranky, obnoxious self). And my board follows the rules AND the law; we simply don’t allow overreaching by old timers who can’t let go of the reigns for the competent among us to handle necessary community business while simultaneously not harassing our neighbors.

    Go sit all the way down.

    Happy to take this conversation off line with you, see what kind of a tough old “guy” you really are. ANY time.

  88. Jessica and Guy – I like a lively debate as much as anyone else, but this is starting to get personal. I must ask you to take it offline, so we can keep the thread from getting ugly. Thanks to you both for reading and for your initial comments.

  89. I guess name calling is how you single handily whipped your community back into shape, Jessie. FYI, our community’s average age is 40 years old! Don’t be too quick to assume that everyone that’s retired is old (whatever that is). Most are well educated, long time residents and knew exactly what they bought into. You’re trying to push my buttons just to get a rise from me for attention and offer nothing constructive to say for the readers. My message was “Read before you buy” but you chose to pick a fight. I’m done, Kevin. Thanks!

  90. We’ve live in our home going on 15 years. When purchased we were told HOA was voluntary as well as fees of $25 a year. Never been bothered except for an occasional letter taped to our mailbox about civic meetings but that was it. This month we’ve noticed on more than one occasion a vehicle parked on our street. With new construction going on around here we DIDN’T think anything. But then this male addressed my teenage son about matters about our sons vehicle and our property, which my minor son couldn’t answer. I found it unethical, disturbing and unprofessional. I reported it to the local authorities and called the HOA legal office only to be told even if it’s voluntary I still have to comply with THEIR demands, which I find wrong when there are so many other properties in worse condition. I feel I’m being singled out.

  91. Hi Laura – I can’t know what the situation in your HOA is, but I do know that they DO single people out. I think sometimes they do it because someone has complained, other times because someone – maybe someone on the board – has an ax to grind with you. But other times I think they just go on a dragnet because they think they have to, or because they want to flex their muscles. Tread lightly until you find out what’s going on. Unfortunately, they have all the legal authority, which is why they’re able to corner people with this nonsense.

  92. Thanks for writing this article. I’d love to send it to all the developers in my area. Sadly, even the developers arranging mini farms are including some major covenants and restrictions. We walked away from one piece of land over the principle of it. They wanted us to sign away the right to have an officer obtain a warranty before coming on our property! That’s a constitutional right. We walked away at contract signing on that one. I told him if you need to have people sign away constitutional rights in order to keep property values up then I’m fine having raunchy neighbors. C.S. Lewis said, “It’s better to live under robber barons, than under omnipotent moral busy-bodies,” and I’m inclined to agree. Keep up the good work informing the public. I know in my area the highest priced homes are in older non-hoa communities. They call it “the old money,” I call it, “the smart money.”

  93. Hi Kristen – You’re welcome. Unfortunately, it’s like preaching to the choir. The only people this topic strikes a chord with are those who have come into conflict with their HOA and see their true nature, or those who got tired of being restricted to the point of diluting the entire concept of homeownership. Most people seem thoroughly enchanted with HOAs. In Gerogia the local media couldn’t say enough good about them. Don’t bother sending this to developers. They’ll just send it to the trash bin before finishing the first paragraph.

    Good catch on constitutional rights. But since people surrender them willingly in joining an HOA, I’m not sure there’s a legal case there. Unfortunately, “The System” is in bed with HOAs. That basically removes legal remedies.

    Glad your a fan of C.S. Lewis. I didn’t know he said that but I’m hardly surprised. Many others have said it as well, in a different form, but it falls on deaf ears with most.

    I like your comment on smart money, and I’m familiar with the term/concept. I’ve learned that there are three kinds of monied people types: Money, Smart Money and Dumb Money. You can pick out Smart Money because they usually don’t follow the herd. That means you rarely find them in HOA neighborhoods. That’s because they (or their lawyers) read the fine print, and never voluntary surrender property rights.

    BTW, you don’t have to have a lot of money to be Smart Money. You just have to stay alert and avoid following the herd with the money that you do have.

  94. Jessica and Guy,

    I’ve found in my HOA it’s the same as Jessica has described. Older people (75 and up) with no life accomplishments to speak of other than several failed marriages, no successful career, and a few children and grandchildren on their resume. Power hungry to the max, self-dealing, and calling the rest of us “pariahs.” I applaud you Jessica for standing up and serving on the board. We’ve had a few younger and well-educated board members but in no time they resigned. Dealing with those board members drunk on their power became too much to tolerate.

  95. Nilla, is that how you see all HOAs? Is that how you see all younger HOA board members? What did Jessica do that was worth applauding? Couldn’t it be that the previous board just was incompetent by comparison? I’m in a community of 20 homeowners and I don’t see what you describe. All would rather not be board members but realize that it’s a necessary evil to have a board in place.

  96. Hi Guy – I certainly see what Nila means. In larger HOAs it’s exactly as she says. People claw at each other to get on the board. Some of them do it in the hope of launching a political career I think. But a lot of them also seem to be on a power trip. Haven’t seen older folks dominating though. It was always the younger ones in the HOAs I’ve been in. They always seem to attract the same people types.

  97. Great article, Kevin

    I personally didn’t have a conflict with HOA when I bought a new house that had one, but indeed they are trouble and some of them are out of control. There were stories of hoa issuing parking citations then charging 10-s of thousands of dollars legal fees to go to court to collect said parking ticket. Like, can’t park on the street. Needless to say when I moved to another area I bought an older home without hoa. I am extremely happy about that. I cannot

    In our area (DC) it is very hard to find a property without an HOA or a condo with low condo fee if you buy a condo.
    Even when you buy land, it turns out there is an hoa in place already unless that land parcel is huge. In one area near a lake a 0.24 acre wooded lot is priced at $1000. That caveat? There is an hoa, and they collect $1000 per year from anyone who owns a lot. Crazy! Little wonder people want to get rid of such land at any price.

    Your advice to avoid hoa is great, but properties without one are not easy to find!

  98. Hi Vic – I get what you’re saying about not being able to find houses not in HOAs. We had the issue in the Atlanta area, where most neighborhoods have them. Here in New Hampshire, they seem to be rare, like you’d have to specifically look for one to find it. I like it better this way. HOAs are a government within a government, and we already have more than enough government at all levels. I can’t see going into one voluntarily, but I get that they’re getting harder to avoid.

  99. I own a home without HOA currently, but had a condo with one. What a nightmare that was! Everything stated here happened. Although the hefty HOA fee was $475.00 when I purchased, I understand it is now well over $795.00 a month. The assessments for additional repairs, which were not done by methods, and companies that could be considered capable, but cost-efficient, legal fees, were just constant, and in the thousands. Neigbors were charged hefty daily penalties for such crimes as unapproved doormats, hanging a lovely stained glass panel in the side window of the entry door. The personality types on the board were wanna-be politicos, people with a deep-seated need to feel important, and those wanting to control others. Never again.

  100. Hi Melanie – It sounds like you had the displeasure of living in an Elite HOA Neighborhood. Those are HOA’s on steriods. They have the usual assortment of Nazi-esque board members and rules that all HOAs draw, but they’re empowered by the need to keep the neighborhood elite. It’s a holy mission to those who’s job it is to “serve” (dictate), but they do it with all the enthusiasm of a third world dictator. After all, they do it for your own good – or so they believe. Really they do it for their own good and long-term purpose. It’s a bad situation, I’m glad your out. Those predicaments never get better, and always get more expensive.

    What puzzles me is that those kinds of neighborhoods usually draw well-to-do people. What I wonder is if a person has money, why would he subject himself to that type of oversight??? I’ve always thought of money as being a liberating force. But I see so many who are doing well financially fall into line with this kind of trap, and they do it willingly and enthusiastically. They unknowingly become toadies for the rulers on the board, and many of them support the board with the conviction of a convert. My mind is so far away from that thinking that I can’t remotely wrap my arms around it.

  101. I live in northern Nevada in a small middle-class suburb. The HOA here is run by a dictator-like retired Navy enlisted guy. He has many cohorts on the board; he is their boss. He runs the HOA like it is his own ship; giving out unfair and arbitrary “violations” as proof of his power. He is backed-up by a self-serving real estate company “community manager” who makes a monthly salary off of us. His sycophant buddies get away with many violations while the rest of us face constant fines and harassment. If they don’t like you watch out! I once challenged him at a meeting. The next day I got an anonymous note that said “You better keep your mouth shut at these meetings or you will regret it.”

    He and his cohorts are a bunch of crooks who constantly steal from the HOA. Many of them get monthly “contract” payments for doing nothing. This can’t be stopped; I have tried. This is like a criminal enterprise for these guys; and they use intimidation, promises, and threats to get voted in again and again. I quit going to meetings out of frustration. Nothing to do really but move out. I will as soon as I can. I will NEVER be a member of an HOA again. When these things go bad they can really go bad.

  102. Hi Jay – Of course, none of this surprises me. But it does seem as if you’ve got a particularly bad situation going there. Your best strategy is to lay low until you can sell and get out. Your last line says it all, “When these things go bad they can really go bad.” Most people tool along in their ignorance with HOAs. Then one day something goes wrong, and only then do they realize what they’ve really signed up for. I think the only people who have participated in this thread are the ones who have experienced the dark side. The others are happily ignorant. Of course, since HOAs are nothing if not political organisms, some people are able to get immunity based on who on the board they’re friends with. To me, it had all the trappings of being back in high school. I want no part of that.

  103. Agree with much of this article. Stay away from HOAs. Our HOA board, in Portland,Oregon, isn’t bad, but the best of HOAs are no good simply because you have no control over when or how much you have to spend to maintain your home. Our dues started out at $100/month in 2003. Today they are $300. Our taxes are about the same as the dues. We have no pool, no clubhouse, no workout room, no kids play area, no nothing. The reason is that the homes were poorly built and we’ve had 2 lawsuits that did not cover the repairs (lawyers get their 35% or so of the lawsuit proceeds). In our area, many of the developments in the past 20 years have had repairs to leaking walls, windows, roofs. Much of the problems no doubt caused by non-existent roof overhangs (eaves), so water gets into the cracks in the walls/around windows, etc. Shoddy developers and contractors, and less-skilled non-citizen labor are also contributors to the problem. I could write for hours on this HOA topic, but I will spare you.
    Just learn from my mistake: Don’t buy a home in an HOA. I’ve owned one with no HOA, and they are more work for sure, but YOU can do the work and save yourself a lot of money, or if you pay to have it done you decide WHEN to spend it – not someone else. With no HOA they can’t tell you don’t do this, don’t do that. HOAs should be outlawed, but in this area non-HOA homes are hard to find at an affordable price.
    We can rent our homes – no restrictions on that per the CC&Rs, but the management company tried to change that and I, and others, put the fear of the Lord into them over that (would require 75% vote to change the CC&Rs so that isn’t going to happen).
    I do recommend that every member of HOAs know the CC&Rs inside and out, attend the meetings, and make the board follow the rules, or else they will not follow them.

  104. You’ve covered a lot of territory James, all of it good. $300 is a ridiculous monthly fee with no amenities. Worse, it’s high enough to scare away would-be buyers when the time comes to sell. I know someone who’s in this situation right now, trying to sell her condo with a $400 monthly fee. Two other points you touched on that I want to emphasize. One, the lack of roof overhangs. A handyman in our old HOA neighborhood warned me about these. Many of the houses in the neighborhood had problems with leaking and rot. He said that was a major source of the problem. But most houses today are built the same way. It’s not so much an HOA generated problem, but it will fall on the members to fix it in your case.

    The second is being familiar with HOA regs. Most people completely ignore them when buying in. In my experience, most buyers develop buyers blindness. Real estate agents encourage it – “Oh, don’t worry, it’s like that everywhere”. If anything comes up that doesn’t support the buy decision it’s ignored. Anyone who brings it up is an adversary. Most assume “it’s all good” (I’ve come to hate that phrase, believing it represents an acknowledgement of wilful ignorance). Worse, most don’t know the regs until they come into conflict with the board, and only then do they realize they signed away their rights at the closing table.

    The basic problem with HOAs is that when you buy into one you’re an unequal “junior partner” in the arrangement, with the board acting as legally approved overlords. It compromises the basic notion of homeownership.

  105. Kevin,
    Agreed, you must read the CC&Rs BEFORE you buy into any HOA. If you think you can live with them, then note carefully what they say about the number of votes needed to change the CC&Rs. Ours say 75% of all owners must vote for any changes. That’s good – they can’t easily change the rules after you buy. Best advice – stay away from HOAs. Be independent. Be a free American. Don’t let a committee tell you how much you have to spend every month, and what you can and can’t do with your property.

    You are correct that our $300/month dues will make selling harder – today the market is good – but in a soft market (and it will come) we may have to drop the price considerably.

  106. What’s disturbing James is that the majority of people think HOAs are a good thing. Surveys have shown people prefer them, and even pay a higher price to live in one. I thought the Financial Meltdown would change this, with people being required to keep up maintenance even without a job or after having been crushed by the stock market crash, but I was wrong.

  107. Don’t put too much faith in surveys, especially those conducted by and for Community Associations Institute (CAI), the trade group whose members make their money “serving” association-governed, common interest communities. Would you believe a survey by ANY other industry measuring satisfaction for their own products and services?

    No!

    It’s like those Hollywood award shows — the entertainment industry congratulating themselves and bestowing awards. It has nothing to do with what the public really prefers. All of it is a promotional stunt.

    In fact, I have a healthy amount of skepticism about any survey. The results can be – and often are – heavily skewed by several factors: the questions that are asked vs. unasked; the way the questions are worded (leading or loaded questions); and the people who actually take the survey. All of these variables can be manipulated and then the resulting data is selectively reported to the public.

    Survey and statistical data with regard to housing and community development is both incomplete and contradictory.

    I have written about this and posted several articles on my website that indicate demand for HOA, condo property is leveling off or dropping, when you look at Census data and market surveys done by the National Association of Home Builders. See independentamericancommunities.com

    In my observation, a minority of people actively seek out HOAs. Even CAI’s own data supports that conclusion, if you look deeper than the PR effort that cherry picks what to report to the public. The reason most people buy into one of these “communities” is because, in many of the fastest growing housing markets, they really cannot avoid doing so. It’s a supply-side driven housing market, because for the past 3 decades virtually every new residential development approved by planning commisions and local governments has been HOA, Condo, or co-op. Many local governments mandate (or de facto mandate) HOAs because they don’t want to take on the expense of developing new infrastructure and they don’t want to raise taxes. So they dump construction and maintenance costs onto housing consumers. (A developer passes construction costs to the sale price of new construction.) In the end, consumers pay more, because they are, in effect, double taxed with property taxes and HOA/condo assessments, with the association providing services that would otherwise be provided by local governments.

  108. Hi Deborah – You’re absolutely right about surveys. My information comes from a major metropolitan newspaper, which makes it immediately suspect (they’re in bed with the builders, developers, and realtors, due to them being heavy advertisers). I suspect it’s that people have no choice. When we were living in Atlanta HOAs completely dominated the market, especially new construction.

    I love your Hollywood analogy, it’s another of my many soapbox topics. If ever there was a bunch of self-righteous, narcissistic, robotic hangers-on and social climbers, it’s Hollywood (ever notice how their politics are always perfectly aligned, as if marching orders are issued, and everyone goes along?). But I digress.

    Excellent, excellent, excellent point about HOA fees being a property tax. That’s exactly what it is, a tax imposed by a quasi government agency. It’s another fact few consider properly.

  109. If buyers knew the truth and massive risks that come with HOA, Condo, or Co-Op purchases they would run like their hair is on fire. The HOA is the only one I am familiar with where the buyer/consumer has no clue what the risks are.

    Examples: Every drug being advertised on TV has a massive list of possible side effects. Enough warnings for me that I avoid taking any of those drugs. When entering a hospital to have surgery there are numerous times that a staff member confirms you are there for that particular surgery. You sign, initial, and verbally acknowledge you know what surgery is going to be performed prior to being wheeled into the the operating room. When buying into an HOA it is rare to see the CC&Rs before you purchase. Nobody mentions the risks you are taking and all the discussions are about how ‘wonderful’ life is going once you move in. The truth is: You are signing away your Constitutional Rights. You are becoming business partners in a non-profit corporation with all of your neighbors. And you are becoming the guarantor for payment on all debts, loans, lawsuits, settlements, liabilities, construction defects, and disaster rebuilds for the ENTIRE HOA! Those are the details that should not be left out of any discussion about HOAs, Condos, or Co-Ops.

    I’ve learned the hard way and lost everything because of it. This HOA scam needs to be exposed on a large scale and the CAI needs to be exposed for who they are. The HOA industry is ripe with organized crime!

  110. Hi Nila – In my long experience in the mortgage business, it was common that the buyers didn’t get the CC&Rs until they were at the closing table. I’m now of the opinion that it wasn’t accidental. Not that agents or HOAs were ever afraid that people would back out – they’ll still follow the herd in – but more because they didn’t want to have to answer difficult or uncomfortable questions. Rest assured the answers would have been pure BS to move the process forward.

    Apart from the unknown financial obligations owners are taking on, is the unequal nature of the HOA/homeowner relationship. The homeowner is C-L-E-A-R-L-Y in the inferior position. Homeownership is compromised because you don’t have full control of your property, despite being solely responsible for the carrying costs and upkeep. People enter the arrangement completely unaware. And forget about hiring a lawyer and fighting it legally. The deck is stacked against you from the start.

  111. You are 100% correct. This is precisely why some of us have worked tirelessly to educate others about the risks and nightmares that exist before they make the purchase.

    Keep up the good work, Kevin!

  112. Kevin, this is the best article I’ve read in a while, and I want to thank you for getting it out there. More people need to be made aware of this, and hopefully one day this madness will end. In full disclosure, I serve on an HOA Board, and my only interest in doing so is to protect our homeowners (including my family) from petty behavior, keep costs down, and defend their freedoms as property owners. I often argue with my fellow board members, as well as our property management group, as many of them seem to blindly follow the CC&Rs as if they were a Holy text that is somehow infallible, whereas it is nothing but a boilerplate document handed down from the Developer, with no community input or consideration whatsoever. This is alarming, and the fight is exhausting. Yet I feel that I must continue, only to prevent our neighborhood from becoming another casualty of the system. I’m hoping to stay active and gain enough support to turn the tide, as lately things that have not been considered problems for a very long time are being targeted for “violations” (that very word now fills me with rage). Just today we had an incident that brought my anger to a boiling point, and I do not even know the people who were targeted. One of our homeowners had a minor flaw in a piece of their landscaping, and our overzealous property manager as well as a few board members made a huge ordeal of it. One even went so far as to personally inspect the “offending” property. All I could think about was this poor person, minding their own business, probably unaware that anything was wrong, or perhaps they were too busy with work or their families to make sure their landscaping was perfect in February. I made a statement in defense of the homeowner, and tried to emphasize that this is not something we should focus on, but I know it fell on deaf ears. Our onsite property manager is a cancer, as she spends her days combing the neighborhood for petty “violations”, all while leading most of our Board around by the nose with promises of “increased property values”. That explains why these organizations are so firmly entrenched…if you promise people money, they will buy into almost any set of ideals. What they fail to realize is that the money may or may not materialize, for all of the reasons the other good people who commented here and the article itself stated. Additionally, if you do not plan to sell in the near future, your “accumulated wealth” through increased property value only results in greater property taxes. We love our community, our home, and our neighbors, and we have been long time residents. We don’t want to see it become an over-regulated cesspool that makes people paranoid in their own homes. I will continue the fight, for my family and for everyone else here who has been snared by the same insidious trap.

  113. Bless you Nick for serving on the board and actually daring to try to do something good! And thank you for your commendation. I’ve known a few people who’ve served on these boards, and they usually get run off by the HOA Nazis who overpopulate boards. The property value issue is at the heart of the HOA problem. They get a pass on logic, compassion and fairness in the alleged pursuit of higher property values. It’s an American obsessing brought to a head in HOA neighborhoods.

    I’m with you on use of the word “violations”. It’s one of those power words pregnant with unspoken meaning. The person determined to be in violation is a “violator” by default and immediately in the wrong. It’s like being labeled a criminal. You’re guilty without a trial. The board have an us-vs-them mentality, that mostly swells their already bloated egos. But they take the moral/ethical high ground by claiming that they’re only “doing the good work of the people”, a similar justification claimed by politicians and other public officials.

    I love a line from Sleepy Hollow, spoken by Johnny Depp as Ichabod Crain, “Villainy wears many masks, but none so dangerous as the mask of virtue”. That’s a common problem in our culture. “Yes, we’re sticking a knife into your ribs, but we’re doing it for everyone’s good (or even for your own good).” The common term for such people is “do gooders” and life has taught me they never have truly pure intentions, unless self-advancement/promotion are in any way pure. Please don’t give up the fight. HOA communities need more people like you.

  114. I have lived in both an HOA and non-HOA neighborhood, I think if you are a person that lives by the rules and wants everyone to follow the rules a HOA is good. I live in a neighborhood now that has very weak HOA rules my neighbor to the left of me has gallons of old deep fryer oil and tires and broken down trailers and old plant containers and his yard has holes dug in it where his sprinkler broke over a year ago with a safety cone in the holes. My neighbor to the right has old car parts, tires, break rotors, yard debris, these are 600k houses. No one wants to come home everyday to a garbage pit and have your neighbor never mow their lawns and have weeds growing in it and all over their driveways. Also during the 2008 crash my brothers neighborhood turned into a rental house paradise and the renters did not keep up their properties the same, he had to constantly get the HOA to tell the people they could not park cars on the grass or block peoples driveways and to mow their lawns and fix their screens. A lot of people are just down right pigs and they do not care that their house is falling apart, and that is fine as long as you do not live next to me and affect the ability for me to sell my home for the best possible price.

  115. Hi Rick – I can certainly appreciate that. I’ve seen a bit of that. But where I live now most houses aren’t in HOAs, and they’re quite well maintained. If it’s a choice between a messy neighbor, or an over-bearing HOA, I’ll take the messy neighbor. Also, you pointed out that your brother’s neighborhood went to seed, even with an HOA. I’ve seen a number of HOA neighborhoods that went to seed. One of the inherent problems is that almost no HOAs have adequate replacement reserves to repair/replace common elements. Either they let them fall apart, or they hit owners with special assessments. Neither outcome is a good one.

    I’ve also experienced the HOA double standard. They go after some people, while ignoring others for the same violations. They can be very political, and the last thing I want is another governing body in my life.

    I guess I have more faith in individuals than I do in groups, and especially groups with legal authority. But if you’re comfortable owning in an HOA neighborhood, then carry on. It works for you. Viva la difference!

  116. True… there obviously no right or wrong answer to this question. HOA leadership can turn into Nazis’s or play favoritism and if you don’t have an HOA you can have neighbors that think their front yard is a good place to store all the things that their 3 car garage can’t hold because it too is so full of garbage it just naturally spills out into the yard. In my brothers case though the neighborhood failed, there were major financial penalties accessed to the owners so at least there was a little bit of satisfaction knowing they were not getting off scott free. If your neighbors are great there is no need for an HOA if your neighbors are pigs than and HOA is your only friend.

  117. I’ll take my chances in the non-HOA universe. If a neighbor is that bad you can always call city hall, as most communities have certain minimum maintenance standards. As a Bible believing Christian, I try not to forget that those “pigs” are human beings, and I might not understand where they’re at.

  118. A true community of caring neighbors would offer companionship or home maintenance help to a neighbor in need.

  119. City hall does not care, I live in the county and regulations are very loose and harder to enforce. My mom lives in the city and has a “homeless camp” next to her and the city wants it to be there, every month another old shed or broken down motor home gets placed on the property, in plain view of my moms house and then the homeless walk down to the overpass and ask for money. She has tried to put her house on the market and the real estate agents say, your house is beautiful but your neighbors bring down your value by over 50k and I doubt anyone with kids would ever buy this house. Deborah come on over and help..I doubt you ever have.. My one neighbor is a 40 year old that works for UPS and is strong as a horse and the other, is the same age I am and has son’s that visit regularly in their 20’s I have offered and I have done work but he just replaces what I have done with other stuff. I spray his weeds and pick up the trash that his uncovered cans place in the street weekly. Christians can see that people are pigs that’s a weird stance to have, I am a christian therefor my neighbors can do whatever they please… Well I am an old school old Testament kind of Christian that believes looking the other way only helps those willing to break the laws of society. Just like gun control and drugs and all the other laws society has placed on us, only the ones that would already follow the laws are affected by the laws, the rest just don’t care. I doubt you had a neighbor brind in a 1970 class c motorhome with flat tires and broken windows and park it across the street and leave it there for 8 months along with a boat that the junk yard would not even take.

  120. Rick, the irony of what you’re describing is that you actually live in an HOA neighborhood. Some people are just impervious to rules, no matter who issues them. As a manager I once worked for used to say “rules for the rule-less”. Only people who respect rules and laws actually obey them and are controlled by them. The rule breakers don’t care, and usually can’t be contained.

    Years ago I heard a saying that went something like this, “Locks aren’t to keep intruders out, but to keep the people inside honest”. I think that applies here. I don’t want to minimize what you’re describing, but there’s no solution to what you’re describing. Where you live doesn’t much matter.

  121. So true. That is why i am so frustrated. My hoa has no teeth or rules for a dirty front yard only about the type of siding your shed can have. A contract with No teeth is worthless. This will never be settled. Those that have had a neighbor that has pushed passed the point of civilty will like someone looking out for them and those that have only decent neighbors would rather be on their own. Until 14 years ago i would have not been associated with a hoa now i wish there was someone that could do something. I am not alone in my neighborhood most of us wish there could be something done. Thanks for the feed back. I only have about 5 years until i move then on to the next neighbor

  122. City and county governments view HOAs as a way to collect property tax while delegating all those pesky duties such as managing infrastructure and code enforcement.

    Citizens must demand that *real government do its job and serve its constituents, instead of enabling elected officials and bureaucrats to sit by and not care.

    The HOA is just a fourth layer of governance, usually ineffective and unaccountable to its members.

  123. Hi Deborah – This is another of my soapbox issues. Government is always looking to a) increase revenues, and b) pawn services off on someone else. As you point out, HOA neighborhoods are the perfect way for them to do both. In some cases, they don’t even have to maintain or resurface streets in the HOA. The bill for this – due to inadequate replacement reserves – is going to shock a lot of people. Since so many HOAs are fairly recent, replacement hasn’t become an issue.

    I suspect we’ll see an HOA backlash when that finally hits. Maybe that will fix the problem for good. They’re really just Trojan horses filled with a lot of over-sized egos. But like the politicians, when the dung hits the fan, the board members will be nowhere to be found when the masses are looking for culprits to sacrifice for the transgressions. In Metro Atlanta, which has more than its share of HOA neighborhoods, some of the older ones have disbanded the HOAs. By then the neighborhoods are in poor condition. I saw some once solid neighborhoods physically deteriorate in just a few years.

    Rick – maybe that’s what’s happening in your HOA neighborhood, or maybe it’s about to. For what it’s worth, that’s not an unexpected outcome. As I say, I saw a lot of that in Atlanta. HOAs go through life-cycles, and once they start declining it isn’t pretty. We lived in one neighborhood that changed radically for the worst, and we only lived there for six years. People were literally moving out in the dark of night, usually replaced by tenants, or foreclosure signs, then tenants.

  124. Kevin, your comment “One of the inherent problems is that almost no HOAs have adequate replacement reserves to repair/replace common elements” is especially painful when daily we read about HOA funds being embezzled by board members and property managers. Not to mention being wasted on costly lawsuits that should never have been filed. Additionally, the majority of board members have no clue about maintaining structures, roads, pools, or how to hire contractors. So they become suckers when a hot shot property manager recommends his ‘preferred’ contractors. It’s likely kickbacks are being taken when the costs exceed what a homeowner would pay if they hired a contractor to do just one location in many cases. My HOA has $10 MILLION unaccounted for. We will never know where that money is because the guy that was the board president for 20 years died shortly after I hired an attorney in an effort to gain access to the financial records and expenses of the HOA. It’s so easy to figure out the problems once a person does the research. What could possibly go wrong when a bunch of volunteers with no business experience have access to millions of dollars and no clue what they are doing?

    HOAs were a failed concept from day one. We are now thirty to forty years into the insanity cycle and reaping the ‘rewards’ of it. I’m with you, never again will I live in an HOA. Give me with pink house with the purple shutters and the old RV with flat tires next door! If the city won’t take care of the problems, then call the media to expose the mess. If nothing else find some investors to buy them out and clean the place up and sell it or try to get the city or county to condemn the property. These recent comments confirm HOAs DO NOT PROTECT PROPERTY VALUES!

  125. Hi Nila – I agree, the property value benefit is completely temporary. When everything’s clean and new and sales activity is brisk, the board members look like superstars. But when they begin to decline, and major funds are needed for upgrades, the alleged superstars disappear and the neighborhood goes down. Eventually the HOA is disbanded when the truth comes out. I’ve heard of too many cases where HOAs paid higher than market prices for contractors, then stuck the homewowner’s with the bill. It must be nice when you can blunder with impunity. I’ve never had a position like that so I can only imagine what that must feel like.

    BTW, a management company in Colorado told me about the “missing” replacement reserves. They said none of the hundreds of HOAs they managed had adequate reserves, and it was unusual in the industry. It’s all smoke and mirrors, until things start breaking down, then the truth comes out. Then all the happy campers who love their HOAs find out what they really signed on for. By then it’s too late.

  126. Kevin,

    I believe that Colorado management company you spoke with is full of horse manure. Or they are smoking some of that legal Colorado weed. It’s not at all unusual for an HOA to be under-funded in their reserves. You and I both know that. Property managers have about the same level of honesty and integrity as a drug dealer from what I’ve observed.

  127. Hi Nila – You may have read my comment wrong. That company confirmed the reserve problem. They said close to none of them have adequate reserves. That didn’t surprise me, since I reviewed budgets for hundreds of HOAs during my time in the mortgage business. The reserves always looked cosmetic at best.

  128. “and it was unusual in the industry.”

    I read that to mean they were saying inadequate reserves were unusual in the HOA industry. And my point, was that underfunded reserves are business as usual in most HOAs. And most of that problem exists due to lack of financial management and embezzlement by those entrusted to oversee the well-being of the HOA.

    Thank you for the clarification.

  129. My grammar was bad, but I meant to imply that having adequate reserves was unusual in the industry. I came into the mortgage business with an accounting background, so I knew what capital reserves should look like and what’s adequate. From the HOAs I reviewed, most “had reserves” but they were completely inadequate for what needed to be replaced. Meanwhile, I’d heard scuttle butt that when HOAs need money they raid reserve funds, then hit the residents up for special assessments to pay for what the reserves were designed to cover. Mortgage lending guidelines required that we review the financials for adequate reserves, but as usual it was a gray zone, and as long as they had something, they passed. Pre-2009 the mortgage industry was totally slipshod in enforcing guidelines. And if you tried, you were in the dog house. It was lending by exception – that is, everything was an “exception” to the rules – which meant there were effectively no rules. Everything was designed to facilitate more housing sales, fundamentals be damned. But I suppose the housing industry has always worked on the “blind eye”.

  130. We’re on the same page now, Kevin. 🙂

    Before I purchased in this HOA I asked to see the audits. I was denied those documents because “this is a private membership community and only members can see them.” I should have run like my hair was on fire at that point but I had no clue how corrupt the HOA industry was so I accepted it and bought the townhouse. Only to learn two years later there had been NO AUDITS for seven years! Maintenance was not being done. Again, I was denied access to any and all records even though I was now an owner. Prior to hiring an attorney the president told me the HOA was debt free and had $200K in the reserve account. When I got to the bottom of it all we had $10M unaccounted for, zero dollars in the reserve account, and $500K in unpaid bills. The board president was running for the board of an HOA in CA where he’d just purchased two units. When my attorney filed the lawsuit to gain access to the records the president dropped dead shortly after. He was sixty years old. His successor refused to put an injunction on his estate to stop it from settling. Therefore, this HOA will never know where the money went.

    A homeowner with connections to the mortgage industry sent a phony inquiry to the HOA so we could see what they were submitting to the mortgage companies. The results were shocking. Pending lawsuits was checked as ‘NO’ with a statement that the case had been settled because it was just a few disgruntled homeowners that were now satisfied. FALSE The number of rentals was far less than they actually were. And other questions were answered with false information.

    There was one case where the mortgage company did their due diligence and actually paid the county court to mail them over 100 pages of documents from the lawsuit. After reviewing the documents they denied the mortgage to the buyer. The seller called me screaming that I caused her to not be able to sell her house. She refused to accept the HOA was responsible for the mortgage company backing out on her buyer. To this day, that woman hates me, tells everybody I kept her from selling her house because I filed a lawsuit against the HOA, and says nothing but nasty things about me. She is a retired school teacher.

    You confirmed how the mortgage companies wear blinders and put those with no knowledge about the risks of HOAs into the trap. If mortgage companies did not make loans into HOAs it would help put an end to this corrupt segment of the housing industry. Nothing like mortgage companies funding organized crime! I shake my head in total disgust.

  131. Hi Nila – I’ve been out of the mortgage business for nearly 10 years now so I don’t know if it’s still the same. What I do know is that when I was in it, the whole purpose of the business was to grease the wheels of the real estate industry. Some people may think that’s just fine and dandy, especially the real estate crowd. But what gets lost in the misdirection is that lenders aren’t just lending to buyers and borrowers – they’re creating assets that will be held by individuals, mutual funds, insurance companies and pensions. If the loans are crap, the assets can collapse, which is exactly what happened in the Financial Meltdown. B and C paper was being labeled as A paper and sold at prime rates. Then the whole house of cards collapsed and the industry virtually shut down for a couple of years while the regulators sorted it out.

    I hope it isn’t working like that now, but I wouldn’t bet against it. Like the real estate business, the mortgage business is production driven. When that’s the case, quality and “details” are sacrificed in favor of more production.

    As to HOA audits, I don’t even recall that they were ever required, certainly not in the governing docs. And I can’t imagine an HOA board ever allowing themselves to be subject to the scrutiny that an audit would require. Then there’d be the question as to whether or not the boards would allow the results of the audit to be shared with the Great Unwashed – a.k.a., the dues paying residents of the HOA.

  132. When I bought the declarations said, “the treasurer shall cause an annual audit” but after I learned the board had decided not to do the audits for seven years and filed a lawsuit the board took action. They changed the CC&Rs to read “the treasurer may recommend an annual audit.” And the fools in my HOA voted to approve the changes. We have 513 owners with dues at approximately $250.00 per month. That’s a lot of money for a board of ignorant people and their CAI property manager to have access to with no audits required. In addition, after the president died they borrowed $1M from a CAI affiliated banc. They spelled it banc, not bank which I found interesting. And they were able to take out that loan without one vote from a homeowner. Yet, it was guaranteed with the dues. Again, the risks that buyers and owners have no clue about.

    It’s known that the builders, Realtors, and CAI are in bed together. The mortgage companies are possibly in there, too. It’s all such a scam on the home buyers.

    Did you ever see the movie, ‘The Big Short’?

  133. I love HOA’s because I like the fact I can have a specific group of people I can target and mess up with.

    In the way HOA’s operate they will usually sent you a letter of non-compliance one to several days after they notice a problem, and then give you a time to correct the problem.
    When they do this, I usually do one of two things depending on how I feel:
    Opt. 1) Wait till the very last day of the correction period, usually until the evening, then magically correct the problem (I will have my solution ready to implement). Don’t even bother to respond to them; if they mistakenly send another letter because they think I didn’t resolve the issue then a) ignore for 15 days or b) reply asking what are they talking about?

    Opt .2) Correct the problem immediately, and send them a respectful, almost submissive letter of apology because of my involuntary distraction, sometimes I would claim it on a sick or terminally ill family member (that doesn’t exist) or are distant aunt that just passed away (50 yrs. ago). They usually think twice before bothering you too soon again.

    After a prudent period of time depending on your busy schedule (1 to 3 mo) go ahead and re-create the non-compliance for 1 or 2 days, and remove it. Do this intermittently 2 or 3 times for a month. Then wait another month or two in full compliance. You can use different non-compliances to cause more confusion. Many times they stop paying attention if you’re good setting up your moving targets, as they don’t know what exactly to focus on.

    If your HOA is the type that does stupid “inspections” form time to time then don’t play the game while they’re doing inspections. However we did once do something interesting, we had small kids in our home who played outside some times. When a couple of HOA “inspection” gang showed up, my wife started acting paranoid and screaming that she felt threatened by strangers showing up unannounced without notice when the kids where around; and she made fuzz saying we would call the police because she didn’t know if they could be rapers or pedophiles. Well that worked, they stopped the “inspections” for years.

    Another interesting strategy I’ve done is to wait for something major to break up in the community, like a gate, the pool pump, etc. Sometimes things don’t get repaired right away because of delays getting service or contractors to come; or most commonly the general incompetence of the people managing the HOA. In these cases, the HOA is itself uncompliant for some period of time which could last a few days to months. Well, this is an excellent time to start creating little “uncompliances” of your own. Since they have a major problem they need to solve, they’ll be too careful to start bothering residents while they have not solved their problem, and if they have the face to do so you have a perfect excuse to send them a letter pointing out the really important things they have not fixed and that are really affecting the price of your neighborhood; you can even threaten to sue because of it. Sometimes this is the most effective way to get them to fix something.

    You could even implement more aggresive strategies besides the above, like arranging for the mailbox in front of your favorite HOA board president’s house to suddenly appear painted in pink one random morning; or maybe having a dozen of stray cats mysteriously and suddenly appear roaming around the neighborhood; but I won’t talk about those strategies.

    This type of moving target practice has the purpose of softening the HOA pre-supposed “vigilance” by tiring their attention span; so as to help them focus on the really important things for your community. What you want is for them to work for you, not vice-versa.

    In all, HOA living can be really fun and exciting, and stimulate your creativity which is an antidote to aging.

  134. Hi Amacuro – I sincerely hope you’re joking. Otherwise, it sounds like you have too much time on your hands, coupled with a bit of a mean streak. What you’re advocating is intentionally causing trouble, and I can’t stand behind that, even when I disagree with people or an organization. There’s enough crap going on in the world with out people like you and me adding to it.

    This is my guiding principle:

    “Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord.” – Romans 12:17-19

  135. HOA’s are evil. In my experience they do not even attempt to ensure that the value of the property goes up (or at least remains).

    My experience:
    I lived in two HOAs, one in Easley South Carolina, and the other in Atlanta, Georgia.
    My Easley experience was rather benign: The HOA never really bothered, always reached out to me in a nice way to inform me of potential violations, afforded me time or a reason. Whilst I never really wanted an HOA they were not much of a bother either so I was neither for or against them. I still own this property 16 years later and have not had much issue with the HOA.

    Fast forward to my Atlanta experience. This house I have owned and lived in the community for 12 years, and like my Easley experience was rather neutral for the first few years. In general the HOA was not much hassle except for sending out pedantic letters to add mulch in December (of which I always told them “no one adds mulch in December”).

    The real issues happened when I started renovating my basement. Since it was an internal renovation I did not need to inform the HOA and proceeded. All the below happened within a year of the renovation.

    First the HOA sent me letters stating that my yard was in disrepair and need to be fixed.

    I informed them that I knew and that I had contractors coming and going for the basement renovation and that it would be repaired as soon as the renovations are completed. The HOA said nothing.

    Then I got a letter stating that my driveway had paint on it which needed to be removed.

    Again I told them politely that the renovations were still ongoing and that it did not make sense to fix these issues since they were likely to recur since contractors were bringing in all sorts of materials.

    Then the HOA informed me that I was doing an illegal renovation.

    I informed them that the renovation was not addressed by covenants, that it was entirely internal (and thus not visible to the front yard), did not constitute a structural change to the house, and therefor there was no need to inform the HOA.

    Then they said that all renovations must still be approved by the HOA.

    Then they sent me a letter stating that I need to repaint the outside of the house.

    Now at this point the renovations were almost complete and I had replaced the sod in the front and back yards and was preparing to address the other issues (landscaping, painting, and driveway), but then I had a pipe burst within the home (from a bad plumbing job). And then I had some issues with termites (fortunately minor), but still both forced me to outlay cash that I had otherwise allocated for other uses (such as painting and driveway maintenance).

    I told the HOA but they responded by issueing me a fine, in total of $100, for not cleaning the driveway. I laughed and said “the tire streaks will not come out without replacing the cement.” I also sent them a letter from a contractor stating as such and that the driveway was sound and not in need of replacement.

    Then the HOA fined me again, this time $500 for not painting the house. And then again $25 for not cleaning the driveway, and again, and again. Each time informed the HOA that I had ongoing issues within the property and that the exterior of the house is of no importance if the structure is repaired. Unrelenting they fined me again and again.

    In total the HOA fined me over $1,000 for not painting or cleaning the driveway–neither of which would have saved the house. Had I stopped and allocated funds to pay the HOA my house would have been riddled with termites, fed to carpenter bees, and had an unusable master bath with a hole in the ceiling. The HOA did not care that the house itself might have been lost–they just wanted the illusion that everything was nice a beautiful (“pay no attention to the man behind the curtain!”).

    HOA’s do not care about your home–they don’t even care about the common grounds. The are little evil tyrants that have nothing better to do than bother good home owners.

    I now own a house in a NON HOA community and love it. I am fixing up the house and its value has already surpassed the value of the house in the HOA community. I have more than doubled my investment on this house–something I doubt would ever happen in an HOA community.

    Also, just food for thought: How much do the personnel in the property management make? Most of your fees are going to pay their salaries, not to preserve your community.

  136. Hi Chris – Sounds like it’s all in a day’s work in some HOAs. You’re right, it’s all about the cosmetics. And what really frosts me is the lack of personal contact. You’re supposed to be “neighbors” but they act like distant overseers, who are well above personal engagement. I suspect many of these board people are bureaucrats on their day jobs, and approach the HOA the same way. That’s what I don’t like about HOAs. They’re very legalistic. Rather than a personal note or phone call, making some sort of connection, they instead send a formal letter, dripping with legalese, using words like “shall”, “promulgated”, “sole discretion” (of the board), “Bylaws Section 173, SS49-A (as amended)”, etc.

    When you get one of these cold reading letters, you suddenly realize that the HOA you might have one day so enthusiastically supported are not your friends. And that’s the truth. All it takes to learn this is to come into their crosshairs. In your case, if a board member sat down with you and discussed this – like neighbors – it would have been worked out without issue. But that’s not how they work. The dictator hats come on, and you’re now relegated to the Great Unwashed of the neighborhood.

    I lived in the Atlanta area for more than 20 years, working in the mortgage business most of that time, and I’m sorry to tell you that you don’t have a legal leg to stand on. HOAs are virtual governments in Georgia, except they’re not subject to either the democratic process or to reasonable appeal. Another hated favorite: “The decision of the Board is final.”

    I’m glad you’re out Chris. That was the only workable strategy.

  137. I came upon this article as a way to soothe my depressed state about my neighbors. I will get over it, I always do, but then it always comes back around. I’ve lived in my neighborhood in Georgia for 12 years and my husband and I moved up in class,do to speak. My depressed state is the same feeling I always get – that I’m basically back in high school living in an area with cliques and people in power that have support from everyone because everyone conforms. Social media has made thus worse. My husband tells me to not comment and stay out of it. But I can’t help but defend my neighbors that are getting bullied by everyone else. The HOA is not diplomatic and does not try to resolve issues. It becomes nasty and neighbors cross the line on insults and it’s just not ok! The HOA us full of people that have no empathy or leadership skills. They are people with no social skills, and it’s like they are using their position to be popular and have a following. It’s a general rule around here that if you don’t volunteer, you have no say and shouldn’t question anything. I was the neighborhood newsletter editor when I first moved here but quickly got out because the people were so snobby I couldn’t stand it. I love my home and don’t want to move. But I’m tired if feeling like I’m in high school again. I guess I need to try to stay off the Facebook group so I can’t see what is happening. Thanks for listening.

  138. Hi Teresa – You’re not alone. That’s exactly what I felt in our HOA neighborhood in GA. From reading the many comments on this post, it seems as if Georgia is ground zero for HOA madness. That’s probably because HOAs so dominate the area. Like you, living in that HOA for nine years always felt like being back in high school. I wasn’t the only person who noticed it. People would hang out at the pool in clatches and “hold court”. They’d try to one-up each other, all while pretending to be the best of friends. Competition fed down to the kids, and our kids felt it. I found myself not wanting to have anything to do with most of the people in the neighborhood. I was happy when we finally moved out. That’s the only way to put a stop to it, to get out of high school for the last time. HOAs seem to attract people like that, especially the board members and their lackeys and wanna-be’s. You’re either “in” or your out, socially speaking. Never being one to join the dominant crowd, I was the definition of an HOA oddball. I much preferred that to being one of the faithful.

    We’ve been living in New Hampshire for 3.5 years now, and I appreciate it more all the time. There’s little in the way of conformity here, which suits a basic non-conformist like me just fine. You do what you want up here and no one pays attention – they’ve all got they’re “own thing” going on. My wife and I often say 90% of the people up here wouldn’t fit in in Atlanta, and I think the reverse is also true. The combination of transients and HOAs in Atlanta creates a conformity that’s extreme compared to most other places. I found Southerners to be more pleasant and accommodating than people in most other areas of the country. But that HOA thing seems to be the evil cousin living in their midst.

    Right now we live in a condo, and while I find the HOA to be mildly irritating, the social situation here is much more laid back. Which is weird considering they tend to be course and opinionated, especially compared to people in the South. But then New Englanders are a different breed completely.

    It seems that certain constructs bring out the worst in people. HOAs are one of them.

  139. I knew nothing about HOA’s purchasing our condo in Florida moving from Michigan. The president of the HOA refuses to speak to me so calling the property manager he said it’s own woman issue and I need to speak to her I have done everything I can I’m ready to move thank you for sharing your stories. I just want out and I don’t know how to do it

  140. Hi Cher – Since they aren’t speaking with you, you may have to get a lawyer. If you’re having a big issue, it may be time to sell and move on. It’s very difficult to fight HOAs legally.

  141. of note for Georgia homeowners, if you owe more than 2k, they can do more than just attach a judgement to your home. They can foreclose.

    They can force the sale of your home at what’s owed plus their fees for any amount over 2k. That means that if you have 80k in equity, they’re going to give that to someone else at the auction block.

    Your home’s value isn’t based on fence color homogeneity, it’s based on comps. Run people out of your neighborhood and they’ll sell for cheap. That’s what actually impacts your property value, it’s what your neighbor is willing to sell for just to get out of there. Please read that again if you don’t see it, and then talk to a selling agent. The first thing they’ll do isn’t come drive through and check that the mailboxes are all painted the same color, they’ll look at comps. And that’s it.

    The rest is all BS, comps are what set your home’s value, and that’s determined by the recent selling neighbor who is the most motivated to sell.

    HOA’s are a terribly bad idea, and wouldn’t be so bad if they had powers like foreclosure removed. At that point they’d be closer to a voluntary HOA, which has to actually convince people that they provide value to get them to pay, as opposed to to just threatening a large chunk of their life’s savings if they don’t comply. I never wanted to buy into one, and I personally never would again.

    Those riff-raff that are being chased out, if it’s because of the HOA are likely fed up and not going to wait around for the best price (especially if the level of harassment is high enough), and as such aren’t going to force the highest price for their house.

    The HOA doesn’t increase home values, higher comps increase home values, and people so fed up they’ll do anything to get out is not a situation that leads to sellers waiting around for the best price. The board gets to play king of the world, the management company and attorneys bilk the homeowners for as much money as possible (they get a cut of every penny spent, ever wonder why your management company finds a way to spend almost everything?), and in the end you get told it’s to keep your home’s value high. I personally don’t buy that line of thinking since, in our case, the HOA automatically adds about 10% in non-equity fees (legally enforceable, of course) to the ownership of our house. So the cost of our is actually quite a bit higher than 10% more than what we agreed to pay, since it adds 10% on top of the mortgage (in our case) for the life of ownership.

    It’s a trap, and I think we’ll either regulate them to the point where they’re not petty neighbor on neighbor tyrannies or just stop doing this as a society. I’d not even question paying 15-20% more for a home that’s not in an HOA because of what they can do. I would never purchase any property overseen by an HOA ever again. If that means I don’t own a house, so be it. It’s not worth the risk the way I see it.

    It’s like someone has a gun to your head, and you say, ‘put that down, let’s just talk’. They say, ‘oh, don’t be silly, I’m not going to shoot you, it’s no big deal’ and continues to refuse to put the gun down. If they didn’t want or intend to use these levels of coercion against you, they’d gladly lay them down. They won’t though, because it’s A LOT easier to get money from people when you can threaten them, as opposed to having to actually provide demonstrable value to them.

  142. Hi Scott – As a former mortgage guy and resident of Georgia for 21 years, I completely agree with all you’ve written. I’m guessing Georgia is one of the worst states for HOAs because they’re so common and have so much power. A GA lawyer actually told me you can’t even fight them legally, the deck is stacked so heavily in their favor. To my thinking, an HOA is adding another layer of government to our lives, and a particularly capricious one at that. That’s the last thing any of us need.

    We currently rent a condo, but would never buy it. The HOA here is a lot more tame than the ones in Georgia, but not entirely benign either. They’re long on restrictions, but short on solutions and benefits. The project is only 9 years old, but it’ll be interesting to see if they have the reserves to start repairing and replacing what is broken or wears out. Most HOAs don’t! That’s another MAJOR issue happy HOA homeowners need to be aware of. But in our culture, there’s a lot of whistling past the graveyard and engaging in happy talk.

    Until the bill comes due, or the HOA visits you with a nasty complaint about some imagined non-compliance.

  143. Scott Taylor your experience with HOAs is not exclusive to Georgia. It’s all over the country. HOAs are nothing more than organized crime. They have the legal power to fine, lien, and foreclose on the homeowner or condo owners. Having no mortgage makes the owner even more of a target. If I ever get out of my HOA, like you, I will never own in one again. As a matter-of-fact I would not have my name on another HOA property if it was given as a gift and totally paid for with a maid, gardener, chef, nail tech, and chauffeur included. I’d rather live in an campground where I could pack up and leave if the neighbors were bullies or live in harmony with people that are not on power trips like HOA board members generally are.

    I’ve had neighbors sell for losses of tens of thousands of dollars to get out. Many have walked away and let them foreclose. Guess what? The foreclosures are not figured into the comps. With the economy booming now and real estate selling like hot cakes they are selling for prices like never before. These poor suckers that bought in and paid these ridiculous prices will soon learn the HOA does not perform the maintenance as per the contract. And, by that point they will be upside down in these properties. So, the foreclosure process will start again. The investors love when that happens. They buy them up and turn them into rentals. We now have a high percentage of rentals. A few days ago they found someone dead in the swimming pool. I am holding my breath they do not find fault with the HOA for this death. Lawsuits and settlements are paid for by homeowners with special assessments. Not to mention my HOA has lost their insurance coverage twice in three years due to lawsuits. I should also let you know they just borrowed 1.25 millions dollars after borrowing 1 million a few years ago and paying it off. That was done after we discovered 10 million dollars was unaccounted for and $500K in unpaid bills was paid from the dues that are now over $3,000 per year.

    If you have not heard the interview with Larry Murphree by Shu Bartholomew, I highly recommend it. Every American should hear it. onthecommons dot net Reading Neighbors At War by Ward Lucas and independentamericancommunities dot com will raise your blood pressure. Until massive numbers of homeowners stand up and demand our legislators listen to the homeowners and abolish HOAs they will not go away and they are growing in numbers by the day! The lobbyists at the CAI are very powerful and they have more money than you can imagine!

  144. Hi Nila – The problem is people buying into HOAs have no idea of any of this. They believe the hype that HOAs are better for property values, and see it as protection against bad neighbors. And once they own, they think everything is great and the HOA are their best buds, as long as they don’t get hassled by the board. It’s a true case of “ignorance is blind”.

    This line says it all “Lawsuits and settlements are paid for by homeowners with special assessments”. In fact ALL expenses of the HOA are paid for by the homeowners. But the homeowners are nonetheless subject to the authority of the board. You’re paying money in the form of HOA fees to be ruled over by a board who has no fiscal responsibility.

    That’s a sobering realization, but one most don’t come to until it’s too late. We sold out of our HOA property back in 2004, and I’ve never regretted it.

  145. One of the things I am hearing more and more is about the real estate listings that say “No HOA” and there is only one reason that is happening. It’s because more people are seeking HOA free properties! People are reading the memo! Now, if only the legislators would listen!

  146. I hope you’re right about that. As far as the legislators, they’re always at least a decade behind the curve. Not to mention that as a general rule, politics is usually the problem, not the solution. By the time laws are changed, the citizenry will most likely have worked this out. If people start purposely avoiding HOAs, HOA property values will fall. Once that happens, their reason for existence will disappear, and so will they. Until then, all we can do is avoid them.

  147. Kevin, you are exactly right! The trouble is, it has become difficult to impossible to avoid HOA, condo, or co-op housing in some real estate markets. So when people start rejecting common interest housing, they will, by extension, reject entire metro areas. Huge economic implications.

  148. Interesting that you mention that Deborah. At least in over-priced markets, I can see that happening. House prices always eventually outstrip the local economy. When it does, and it becomes pronounced, there’s an exodus. The problem is that housing markets are “sticky”. Even well after major change has taken place, local governments, builders, real estate agents and homeowners hang on to yesterday. It will take years to unravel. Unfortunately, it seems most of the areas where HOAs are dominant is in more reasonably priced areas. I won’t hold my breath waiting for an unraveling to happen. We’re happily living in New Hampshire where HOAs are fairly rare. The HOA wave never hit here. But it seems people here are too independent minded to fall for it. It’s a non-conformists paradise, which is kind of why we moved here.

  149. In Greensboro, NC, Greensboro police and the Westerwood Neighborhood Association send one person after another to your property and person to try to make you do or say something illegal; if they can get you to commit, like, say, you take a baseball bat to teen-somethings that come to you @ 4 A.M. the Department, which has been corrupt for years, leaves the charge up for obvious reasons. The entire City Council is aware of this information and so are a lot of other people; this is how Kotis Properties and the City of Greensboro does business–they do whatever they please is what they do; such organizations do nothing more than feed egos in law and government who reward Community Witches aw

  150. Hi Walle – I’m not surprised at what you’re describing. HOAs and government have been in bed together from the beginning. In fact, HOAs are given their power by state law. That’s why I believe they’re best avoided. It’s an involuntary partnership between two unequal parties, the “homeowner” and the HOA. The HOA has all the power, including legally before the state, county and municipality, and the homeowner has an open ended-obligation to pay whatever the HOA demands, and to obey any rules set forth.

    Most people don’t realize this until they come into conflict with the HOA. And don’t bother thinking you have a voice. They may listen politely, but they’re going to do what they want anyway. And like high school cliques, which is what they are at the core, they will target certain people. If you’re one of them, it’s best to sell and move, even if you have to sell at a loss. They can make your life seriously miserable, as you can tell from reading many of the comments on this thread.

  151. I recently retired, I sold my HOA condo and bought a cabin in a rural area, I miss my old HOA (Home Owners Assassination) like a tooth ache
    I don’t have any amenities my street is a dirt road. I’m better off

  152. Since I left the city, the condo and the Home Owners Assassination. I have been living in a one bed room one bath cabin with my girl friend.
    We are in McMahan Texas the town population is 127 (NOT 127 THOUSAND..One Hundred and twenty seven people that is it. The cell phone does not work, the nearest market is 15 miles away.
    I get my phone and internet off a satellite dish.
    I park my truck in my front yard. My cabin can’t be seen from the dirt road that I live on too much brush and trees. I get my TV from an antenna I put together out of junk I found it looks awful but it works
    I know that I did a radical thing when I took on my new life style

    I LIKE IT

  153. The city, when we first moved into what would eventually be gentrified into “Westerwood,” in Greensboro, put a notice on our trash can that we would be fined if we didn’t take it off the curb; for whatever reason, the city didn’t pick-up the trash, why, I do not know, we weren’t home. Maybe it was intentionally not picked-up or someone had parked there. I couldn’t help but think who would have absolutely nothing better to do than call right away on someone who just got there that they didn’t even know; I would see cans out for much longer with no warnings later on. We were immediately targeted; it was clear that someone was apparently watching us instead of minding their own business. The comment above about friends not really being your friends–oh, I know all about that; all sorts of people turned on me once the City of Greensboro began screwing me–only a few didn’t: Community Watch GB took photos of me to frame me; she habitually slanders people online should she find some dirt on them; when I went to the city about it they told me to go to hell; it wasn’t nearly the beginning of what the police there can do to you if you weren’t lucky enough to be born with a shiny spoon in your mouth.

    Thanks to government, the average person cannot rent an apartment in certain neighborhoods which means there are entire cities they can’t rent in. I saw an apartment near Patrick Beaver Library that I would have normally taken but it was a nice neighborhood and when I went to the City of Hickory’s Page on the issue, they support neighborhood associations–that’s all I needed to know, that government would not only not support me but would help ruin me: I’m a veteran but I can’t take that apartment and a lot of other apartments, either, a problem I never anticipated; I have to find one where everyone is on the same economic level; if a wealthy person lives down the street I cannot live there; if I don’t know the neighborhood I cannot live there; at my sister’s, due to the number of people who screwed me in Greensboro I don’t say anything to the people across the street or anyone else on the street, either; I don’t talk to anybody; they can turn around and say something I didn’t do and I will be the last to know about it, it’s what people I knew for many years did, they all got together and came up with a story, one the corrupt Greensboro Police Department helped narrate aw

  154. At my mother’s they have cameras all over the place and whether the streets are city streets is actually something I am not sure of; if you were to walk through there who knows what might happen. I was on a bike I borrowed riding around and knew in my bones someone would have a problem with it; minutes later, some woman stopped me and asked whether I was from “this development.” I didn’t answer her for my answer would have probably had me arrested or better yet, the usual tactic, whatever she would claim after I said something along the lines of “I’m a goddamn veteran and you have no right to stop me and ask me what I’m doing.”

    When I was in Newton at a lecture I returned to find I was listed in their newsletter as “secretly using the club house trash cans without permission” and that I was “caught on camera doing it.” They threatened to fine me for throwing trash in “their” city trash can; there are others there, though, who hate the HOA and management company that runs the place that being every square inch; it is rumored that funds people have to pay for living there get siphoned into personal accounts and I don’t doubt that they do. The only black or Latino people you see there are mopping floors and scrubbing toilets; it is an all-white establishment with the Democrats, no surprise, the worst of the bunch. Given the people who own most of the companies we all work for run these places, or think they do, I did such a poor job at the job I was at at the time I almost got fired; if I couldn’t use a city trash can because someone wealthy didn’t want me to, I intentionally held-up the sort in return aw

  155. Hi Walle – Your story reminds me of the Johnny Depp (“Ichabod Crane”) comment in Sleepy Hollow…Villainy wears many masks, but none so dangerous as mask of virtue.” The problem is there are armies of people who think it’s their appointed mission in life (and sometimes it’s their job) to keep an eye on everyone and make sure they “behave”. Such people are as dangerous as any criminal, because ultimately their goal is to make others miserable. When I was growing up we had a woman in our neighborhood who called the town hall to report anything and everything on neighbors. It wasn’t even an HOA neighborhood, but such people need no justification. HOAs just give them a formal platform to terrorize others from. That’s why I’ll never own in them. But you don’t always need to be an HOA to have a neighbor who sees themselves as a cop. One of the most dangerous humanoids on the planet is the person who thinks it’s their job to make sure everyone else behaves. Of course, it’s worse when they reach political office, but they can cause trouble from just about anywhere.

    In reply to your second comment, isn’t it amazing you were in the military to keep “America free”, only to come home and have everyone telling you what you can and can’t do? It’s one of those tragic ironies in modern life. One of my greatest regrets is that this isn’t the country I grew up in. I’m not a veteran, but it amazes and saddens me how the whole concept of freedom has been neutered by vague reinterpretations. 40-50 years ago we were generally free. Today, I don’t know if anyone even gets the concept any more. You’re never free when so many things you do will be so offensive to some people that laws will be enacted to protect their preferences from your freedom.

    This is a soap box I really prefer not to get on because I can go on and on with it, and it won’t fix anything.

  156. The Greensboro Police Department has even gone so far as to come all the way to Catawba County and people I know drive me insane by not answering my emails; I am the only one telling people who want to know all about what the Department in District 3 is doing: ruining tenants is what they do. No one else, despite all the people I know are going to say anything about what the Department and K—- Properties get together and do to poor people; I gave the best years of my life there and if I can’t live in Greensboro, where I went to college, and I can’t live there then there is no point in living at all; I will never again be able to trust another human being after what the police pulled on me there aw

  157. Can you really expect misguided volunteers to do a competent job? Many of the board members are not in compliance with landscaping requirements and are violating other regs. I have concluded management companies are generally no better. A nearby community bounced between the two alternatives. The only option is to avoid HOA areas. This HOA experiences significant turnover, engages in selective enforcement and requests homeowners trim branches overgrowing the sidewalk while they ignored the same problem in common areas – until I got on their case and exposed their hypocrisy/incompetence. Social media videos of unsightly entrance* were posted. I have indicated an intention to create additional videos to alert potential buyers of purchasing property once I move from the community. I have been known to create violations in order to force the HOA to devote the time to send certified letter of infraction (ignored) and then incur the expense of cease-and-desist issued by HOA lawyer.
    *HOA response to poorly maintained entrance was lack of funding but they apparently found a bank to lend them $100 for a 30 bags of mulch to conceal the weeds. How can they maintain lack of funding with 30,000 in “emergency reserves”. I wouldn’t trust this gang with $300. Annual dues were 75/yearly but increased to 100. A few years ago I noticed excessive charge for entrance X-mas decorations and voiced concern. The following year the same amount was 1/10th the previous charge.

  158. Hi George – You’re keeping an eye on what the HOAs are doing. Most residents don’t. That enables the boards to do whatever they want. Here’s another problem no one likes to discuss…a lot of HOAs are occupied by tenants. This is especially true in condos. Tenants have no voting rights, can’t attend meetings and have no right to inspect the books. So in a neighborhood with 30% tenants, 30% of residents are intentionally kept in the blind. Most of the other 70% pretend everything is just fine and dandy. What else can we expect out of the boards? Responsible management, if it happens, is pure luck.

  159. For many years I have said HOAs are a thieves’ paradise. As more HOAs and condos are being built the opportunities increase for the crooks to get rich in HOAs and HOA management!

  160. The Rutgers Journal of Law and Public Policy held a forum and published a paper regarding homeowner associations.

    Edward Hanniman of the NJ Dept of Community Affairs who had some oversight of Associations in New Jersey was invited to speak at the forum.

    He said the following:

    “If society’s intention in setting up associations is to encourage the formation of undemocratic Gulags ruled by unaccountable boards and for the enrichment of those who profit from owner ignorance or impotency- we have succeeded completely.

    Alternatively, if the intention is that associations be formed as microcosms of democracy in which informed owners collectively wield power, maintain their freedoms and are honestly served by them neighbors and trades people- we have failed miserably.”

    This from a guy who’s job was to provide minimal government oversight
    to Associations.

  161. Wow Mike, I’m really impressed on two counts – 1) This guy said what I wrote in far fewer words, more succinctly and with greater impact, and 2) being from New Jersey myself originally, I’m shocked that anyone in a public position in New Jersey has the capability to make such an insightful pronouncement on what’s REALLY going on. Most of them can’t see their way past the bureaucracy to make such a definitive statement.

    As I’ve pointed out, either in the article or in the comments, HOAs are really governments within governments. They have the legal authority of municipalities, and they add to an already heavy burden of local laws and taxes. Most HOA residents can’t seem to grasp either, particularly that HOA fees are in reality a tax. You have no option to not pay them, nor do you have a say on how high they are or on what they’re allocated. It’s as non-democratic a set up as you can get.

    You’d be better off tangling with the city or town. At least then you might get sympathetic media attention and support from others in the community. But challenge an HOA and you quickly become a pariah prominently featured on the HOA hit list.

    Of course, since freedom is now a distant memory/historical novelty in today’s America, most HOA residents just go along to get along. It’s the new American way. How did we come to this point???

  162. THANK YOU, Mike Reardon for sharing this information.

    I’m passing it along to those in the legal and journalism fields.

  163. I am in the process of fighting my HOA now.
    They had put a proposed amendment to the CCRS to the homeowners for a vote.
    This amendment would allow them the power to fine and foreclose on homeowners to collect them.
    They said at the meeting, and recorded in their minutes, that a “no vote would be counted as a yes vote”
    You can’t make this stuff up!
    I am trying to interest the district attorney to pony up and take these guys to court for fraud.
    While fraud against a homeowner is of little concern to law enforcement, they just tell you to let your fingers do the walking and find an attorney to blow your savings and equity on, fraud against the court is another ball of wax.
    The HOA has taken homeowners to court to collect fines, in one case prior to even the CCRS being amended and recorded at the registry of deeds.
    So we will see how that goes.
    I am hounding the HOA to give me the email directory to all lot owners so that I can attempt to change the CCRS. Most homeowners stay well clear of anything to do with the HOA. Meetings are kangaroo affairs due to the absence of any open meeting law. Election and ballot law, well obviously they don’t exist either.
    My HOA, like every HOA I am aware of, is more secretive than the CIA.
    I am waiting for the “privacy concerns” response to the request for homeowner contact info so I can show the homeowners how the ballot was counted.
    The HOA is supposed to post the BOD minutes on their website, and strangely, this one is missing.
    Pathetic that property owning American citizens have to deal with these corrupt third world governances.

  164. Let me start with your last sentence – “Pathetic that property owning American citizens have to deal with these corrupt third world governances.” America and any other first world country could easily turn into 3rd world countries with little more than lack of concern by the governed. That’s where we’re heading already, and the outcome looks inevitable. Americans are yielding to authority at every turn and without question, which is at least partially why HOAs can do what they do, while knowing fully that they can get away with it. All the responsibility is on you the homeowner, while the board has none, not even to the homeowners.

    The saying “the price of freedom isn’t free” has been perverted into referring to foreign military conflicts. But it’s really aimed at domestic threats, which are the true enemies of democracy. A board, individual or governing authority will take freedom from the governed if the governed allow it to happen. The HOAs have been on this path for decades, and there’s been nothing to stop them. It’s complicated by the fact that HOAs always have an army of loyal toadies, which is basically residents who haven’t yet come into conflict with the board. And for some reason, those who do seem to lack the ability to organize.

    But moving on to your main point, when I owned in an HOA for 9 years, I went to a couple of HOA meetings. What I learned quickly was they were not open exchanges of ideas, but forums in which the Elite would tell the rest of us how things would go down. I got a sense that this was what it was like in the good, ole USSR and Nazi Germany. I gave up going, or following what was going on, and we moved shortly after. I found out on good authority that the board had the legal right to do whatever they chose, and we as “homeowners” had no recourse. Investigations into litigation against HOA boards showed there was no legal remedy.

    I wish you luck in fighting your HOA board, but in most cases the only real recourse is to move to a non-HOA neighborhood. Until there’s a groundswell against HOAs, which is not the case right now, putting a stop to this nonsense won’t happen. HOA boards are a law unto themselves, and best avoided entirely.

  165. Sorry I’ve been out of touch on this and I may catch up but people are, yes, entirely too placid, flaccid, actually, I think is a better term; what I am talking about in District 3 in Greensboro, well, I am about the only one talking about it, aside from other people in Greensboro not rich and white, which is a lot of people, they, too have had enough of getting stiffed and ignored by government and private interests. I knew someone years ago who wanted to get involved in their condo association; they came back horrified “Do not EVER get involved with those people” (Howard Cosell covered these types in one of his books, the little people with the little rules who turned the Olympics into an administrative nightmare for athletes).

  166. Hi Walle – A term that’s fallen from grace but used to be common is “little Caesars”. They’re would-be emperors who’d have their own empires if only if… The problem is there’s too many of them, and they seem to have all day to pursue their power trips. They’re part of the human condition, and we’ll never be rid of them. But the current legal/political structures seem to encourage it in a way not seen in the past.

  167. Kevin, I agree it’s best to avoid HOA-ville.

    The only problem is, what if you cannot avoid HOAs? What if you’re already stuck in an association-governed home or condo (gasp!), and you can’t sell for one reason or another?

    I regularly talk to homeowners who are literally stuck in HOA hell. Because of mounting legal fees and outstanding liens, they cannot sell. Or the condiion of their condo/co-op community is so poor — physically and financially — that there are few willing buyers. Some people are locked into their home because moving would require them to pay more money each month — even if they rent, Others have health problems that make moving difficult.

    And in some real estate markets, it’s nearly impossible to find a home in your price range that’s not a condo or under HOA rule. And that includes rental properties. An increasing number of these are condos or townhouses in HOAs.

    In fact, I have lived in towns where there’s very few rental options, of any kind, at any price.

    I think the U.S. needs to move in the direction of undoing the private governance layer altogether, one “community” at a time. Start by revoking excessive power and authority of HOA boards, as well as developer controlled communities — be they HOA or Development Districts.

  168. Hi Deborah – You’re hinting at bigger picture problems, that I’ve discussed elsewhere on this site. The entire housing situation in the US has become perverted. I covered this yesterday in Why You May be Better Off Renting Your Home. And naturally one of the issues covered is the HOA factor. But that’s just one of many. In a conspiracy like fashion, federal, state and local governments, in conjunction with builders, have worked for decades to limit housing options. It’s driving up the cost of housing, squeezing out the poor and the middle class, and imposing a plethora of taxes and regulations that are becoming harder to meet.

    As much as we want to focus on the HOA factor, it’s really just part of a MUCH bigger problem.

  169. Kevin,
    I am not in agreement about our Constitutional Democracy.
    If you read what happened during the Constitutional convention back in 1787 you will see that those guys nailed it.
    The checks and balances, pitting each dept. of government against the other and the bill of rights combined make our government as good as it gets.
    The human nature factor was recognized as the main problem then, as it is today.
    Woodrow Wilson was jailing journalists for sedition during WWI.
    Roosevelt threw an entire race of Americans in concentration camps.
    African Americans were lynched by the 10’s of thousands with impunity.
    Winston Churchill probably said it best:
    “Democracy is the worst form of government…except for all the others”
    HOAs are just a pimple on the butt of American history. We may not live to see it, but I am sure they will be sorted out properly someday. We usually, eventually, get it right.
    As far as packing up all of our stuff and moving, that is just not going to happen. In fact I just bought the lot next door to build another house on it.
    I live in a “fly in community” where I have access to my plane and the runway anytime I want to go flying. I love it.
    The HOA has no practical impact on any of us living there. There is no impact on how I enjoy my property.
    The folks who are drawn to the HOA are the last folks I want to socialize with, and I don’t. Hardly anyone goes to their meetings, which I have called Kangaroo affairs in every communication to everyone I can.
    They need water thrown in their faces when they get out of line, and they know I have no hesitation to do it.
    Lawsuits: What a waste of money!
    Just draw up your own complaint and file it at the courthouse.
    I have done this before. It costs $95 to file and I forget how much the Sherriff wants to serve them, but it is not much.
    I lost my lawsuit and that’s how much money was involved.
    To hire an attorney to botch the job is ludicrous. I was just as capable of botching it myself. But I learned a great deal, and there is always next time.
    The law library was free to join, and the clerks there were eager to help. Everyone has a story about Associations, and everyone hates them.
    When I find some time I plan to draw up another complaint seeking to have the bogus fine amendment declared invalid.
    I am crossing my fingers that the district attorney does it for me.
    I will keep you posted!

  170. I wish I could agree with you Mike. You’re right that the founding fathers got it right. But it’s what’s happened since that’s diluting the checks and balances. The HOA fiasco is part of much bigger problems. I hope you’re right, that it will be sorted out, but I don’t share your optimism. To me the ultimate solution is to “vote with our feet”. As long as people keep marching into HOAs, they’ll keep feeding the beast, and it’ll get increasingly oppressive. But if people stop moving in, and the existing owners leave, the HOAs will go away due to economic factors.

    It’s an interesting phenomenon with megalomaniacs and bullies – they tend to go away when the money disappears. If that doesn’t happen, our children and grandchildren will be dealing with HOAs, only they’ll be a lot worse by then. Maybe that will provide the incentive for the next generation to avoid them. That’s basically how these cycles play out anyway. They work until the costs exceed the benefits, then they finally disappear. I don’t see it happening through the legal or political systems, since both are the very systems that have created the HOA monster in the first place. Not to mention that HOA boards are often springboards for officers to transition into politics.

    That’s another example of how you get into “all these things are related”. That sounds more than a bit pessimistic, but I’m probably a few years older than you, and have seen how this stuff plays out. “And they all lived happily ever after” is a childhood nursery rhyme that doesn’t work nearly as well in the real world.

  171. The problem is everyone who told me “People with money and people like you are no comparison–they can do whatever they want to you–it’s their neighborhood: you’re just a tenant and you have to understand that.” Guess who told me that: my mother, the majority of the City of Greensboro and all of my friends.

  172. OMG
    I just saw a case in GA. The HOA decided to sign everyone up for a healthcare club that was independent of the HOA.
    https://scholar.google.com/scholar_case?case=18367204931496410163&q=deed+restrictions+invalid+amendment&hl=en&as_sdt=80400c3004&as_ylo=2014
    The HOA then told everyone there were raising their dues to pay for this.
    Like it or not, you were now paying for a swim and tennis club off premise.
    The lower court ruled that this was crazy, but the appeals court said NO, the HOA has such broad powers that this was perfectly fine.
    Do not EVER buy an HOA property in GA!!!

  173. Hi Mike – I owned a house in an HOA neighborhood in Georgia for nine years. I fully agree, don’t buy in an HOA neighborhood in GA. Under state law they can do anything they want. Other than buying and selling the house, you’re a tenant in one of those neighborhoods in the meantime. They can tell you what you can and can’t do, and they can even be as arbitrary as they like. Most people don’t have the funds to sue an HOA even if they’ve clearly stepped out of bounds. It’s a very unequal relationship, and that’s fundamentally why I have a problem with it.

  174. The courts reasoning below:

    “The boards of the Association and the Fields Club agreed that the Fields Club needed to increase membership to be financially viable. This could be accomplished if members of the Association were required, rather than merely invited, to join the Fields Club and pay club membership fees.”

    These HOA members feel just like Ned Beatty after his Georgia experience in the movie Deliverance.

  175. Yes, Kevin it was a nice addition. One of my sources responded saying the documents have omitted anything by Edward Hanniman.

    Mike, pro se lawsuits have not proven to be successful against the legal teams of the HOA boards. In many cases when there is litigation the HOA board contacts their insurance company who in turn assigns a team of attorneys to the case. At that point, they work to bled the homeowner out of their financial resources. Without an attorney the homeowner gets chewed up and spit out in the courtroom because the opposing team starts filing motion after motion, delaying trial dates, and jumps in for summary judgement as often as the court allows. They will withhold discovery documents until the 11th hour and the homeowner cannot read those documents fast enough to counter them in court. HOAs are about destroying those who do not go along with them. Trying to obtain the email addresses will be met with a brick wall. They will declare privacy and refuse to give you the names and emails. I’m not sure what state you are in but your county may very well be able to provide you with the property addresses and names of owners. I’ve done this before. They do charge but it gave me a way to contact my neighbors via mail and then I obtained their emails when they attended meetings held to try and recall the board. That was not successful as the board refused to accept the signed petitions for the recall and set a date for the special meeting to be held for the vote to be taken.

    I understand you not wanting to leave your fly-in community with the hangar next door. I’m familiar with those. However, if the board sets out to destroy you they will deny suspend your use of the air strip and leave you with no way to fly your aircraft without having your bank account held hostage. In addition, most states allow for HOAs to lien the property and foreclose on the lien. Many states have non-judicial foreclosure. I highly recommend reading Neighbors At War The Creepy Case Against Your Homeowners Association by Ward Lucas. Shelly Marshall has some emails on Amazon called HOA Warrior and HOA Warrior II. Those would be good places to start. You might want to contact Shu Bartholomew at onthecommons dot net and try to become a guest on her HOA radio show. After hearing your story some of the experts that listen to the show might be able to offer you some help.

    I’m with Kevin. Pack. Sell. Move. It’s the only way to save your sanity, health, and bank accounts. Good Luck!

  176. Hi Nila – There’s one consistent pattern on HOAs I’ve noticed over the years, both on this blog thread and on other sources, and it’s what I believe to be the critical takeaway. No one goes up against HOAs and comes out on top. I don’t care what state, and what the specifics of the issue are, the HOA always wins. I think that’s the message, and that’s why, yes, moving is the only real recourse.

    I’ll say it again, the HOAs won’t be beaten until we vote with our feet and move. Without loyal subjects (and even unloyal ones) HOAs can’t survive. Until then however, they’ll always win the day. I’ve not seen nor heard otherwise from any quarter.

  177. Kevin, there have been limited cases when the homeowner “wins” in court against the HOA. I’ve written about some of them on my website and elsewhere. Mostly, these were Fair Housing cases and a few First Amendment/Free Speech cases. BUT…and this is a big BUT…considering the years spent in court, the stress, and the upfront money spent by many of the Plaintiff homeonwers, the damages awarded in the end were a mere pittance.

    And, these are the common themes in all of these “success” stories:
    * A Fair Housing Agency of HUD intervened on behalf of the homeowner, bearing much of the legal expense. In the end, the HOA ended up paying fines to the Agency, and very limited damages to owners/residents. In most cases, the owner or resident is forced to move out of the HOA/condo/co-op during or shortly after this process, as a condition of a settlement.
    * The homeowner went pro se, but happened to be a retired attorney, Prosecutor, judge, etc. with legal expertise, familiar with the court system. That limited their legal expenses, but required a great deal of their time, plus court costs. Not to mention the stress operating as a party to the legal dispute, rather than as an attorney working for a client.
    * The homeowner had ample financial means to hire the BEST legal representation, and fought the battle mostly on principle. In the end, they spent tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars, and did not recover all of their attorney fees, but still considered the battle worth it.

    Plus, once the homeowner wins, if they don’t move out, they become a target of the HOA, who will look for any opportunity to retaliate against the owner who dared to challenge the HOA’s authority.

  178. Each is an example of a very limited victory, and usually of limited benefit to the homeowner. Fair Housing cases really don’t count, because they’re about discrimination and not the power structure of the HOA. In more common situations, such as requirements or prohibitions by the HOA come out against the homeowner. And even in the rare cases where the homeowner wins, the cost outweighs the benefits. Also, a win in one case doens’t result in reform of the entire HOA system. It’s seen as an isolated case.

  179. Kevin,Nila,Deborah
    Nila and Deborah I recognize your names and have been following you for years!
    Shu knows who I am and testy Mr. Bergman does as well. I have had email exchanges with Ed Hanniman where he tells me he is getting into a lot of trouble being so vocal about this issue. He has been ordered to not speak to any news agency by the Department. The AARP quoted Hanniman extensively in their amicus brief to the Twin Rivers case. Shu should have all of the information about Hanniman. I bought Ward Lucas’s book and have had brief email exchanges with him as well.
    You guys are all the forces for good battling this god-awful evil that is thriving in our country.
    The only reason I am picking a fight with the HOA at this time is because I have sniffed out some decent ethical people who are running the show today. My neighbor directly across the street is on the BOD of the association and we have had some very frank discussions.
    I told him that yes, things are running just fine now but we are only in the Gorbechev era. Some kleptocratic thuggish Putin is only waiting to arrive and it is inevitable that he will.
    Back in the Stalin days of my HOA, the BOD recorded in their minutes that a “no vote would be counted as a yes vote” when they amended the Declaration to include the power to fine and foreclose.
    You really can’t make this stuff up.
    So I have started to raise hell about this invalid amendment and want it expunged from the restrictions.
    I have complained to the district attorney, and since the HOA took some common land and built aircraft hangars and are renting them to the public, they are now engaged in trade and commerce. This opens them to PUBLIC discipline regarding MA 93A law, unfair trade practices.
    The Attorney General of the state is allowed to intervene in those kind of cases and I am raising hell to get them to do so.
    The BOD of my HOA actually did an unheard of thing last year. They relinquished some of their power!
    The BOD used to be able to amend the declaration with just a majority vote of the BOD. They amended the bylaws to require a majority vote of homeowner AND the BOD to amend.
    GOLD STAR for these guys!
    But no good deed goes unpunished, and I am now demanding that the fines go away as well.
    Nila, my heart aches for you when I hear your story. I get so mad at these injustices that are hurting people like you. It can all be explained by an industry that seeks to mine our savings and equity in our homes to survive and thrive.
    Kevin, great article! Keep up the good work!
    Mike Reardon
    reardon at verizon dot net

  180. Nila, I saved the entire Rutgers report including Edward Hannamans section.
    It is VERY odd that it has been removed from the web.
    Send me an email and I will get you the report
    Mike reardon@Verizon.net

  181. Whoa! Hangars were built on common ownership land??? Who funded the construction? Please don’t tell me they took out one of the CAI affiliated HOA loans!

    If I read that right the BOD just put all the owners at more risk if there would be an accident, fire, or other disaster that hits those hangars. Who pays for the liability insurance? Or are they selling the hangars similar to these stupid ‘Condo Garages’ that are being built in Kansas? I see warning lights flashing everywhere and they aren’t on the runway!

    By the way, if they are renting those hangars that income is taxable. (You probably already know that.) And the Secretary of State would probably like to know they are no longer operating as a non-profit corporation.

  182. It’s an inevitable outcome – when an organization/entity has unlimited power, it’s just a question of time before they get into activities and ventures that are just plain wrong. You have to hope they lose their charter as a result. If not, this HOA thing will get even more nightmarish than any of us pessimists can imagine.

  183. Nila,
    Even worse. A guy in the subdivision entered into a complicated agreement with the HOA. Basically he financed the hangar construction on common land.
    The CCRs expressly prohibited satellite on any lot. The CCRs expressly prohibited any amendment to the CCRs that are less restrictive than existing.
    But this guy owns a radio station and there now sits a 10′ satellite dish on his front yard.The CCRS were changed to allow it.

    From the “you can’t make this stuff up” column.

  184. But more interesting.
    The Edward Hannaman section of the Rutgers Journal of Law and Public Policy has been deleted from the paper.
    I am in contact with the Editor in Chief of the journal.
    I asked her why this content was deleted.
    She just got back to me and said she did not know nor authorize this and is “investigating”.
    Interesting
    Will keep you posted

  185. NOTE TO WALLE A – As much as I’d like to entertain your comments, you’re mentioning individual names, particularly of public officials. What you’re writing could be interpreted as slander or libel by a court of law. For that reason, even though this is a forum to voice concerns and opinions on HOAs, you’re comments are too specific, and I can’t allow them to be published. It’s not that I’m taking the side of your opponents, but rather that I don’t want to give them legal ammunition against either you or me. For that reason, I’ve not cleared your last 4-5 comments for posting. I hope you understand and can keep your comments more general going forward.

  186. I’m confused.

    An individual funded the hangar construction? So he owns the hangars? Is he leasing the ground where they sit?

    I recall some legislation about satellite dishes. Possibly Deborah Goonan recalls the details? I’d think 10’in diameter might be excessive though. You really have a mixture of issues in that HOA, Mike. Shaking my head.

  187. I am confused too. The secretive conduct that exists in every HOA is practiced in mine too.

    The FCC does not allow any private restrictions with regard to sub-meter dishes. The Direct TV type. But HOAs make “rules” about them anyway.

    This thing on the front lawn of a neighbor is a transcieving (it transmits as well as receives) monstrosity. It is not FCC protected and was specifically prohibited by the CCRs.

    It was the quid pro quo for providing the financing for the rental hangars.

    So we have ballot fraud that resulted in fines and foreclosure, and self-dealing that resulted another alteration of the CCRs.

    But as I learn more about these HOAs across the country, what is happening in mine pales in comparison to other, larger HOAs. It is apparent that there is a systemic rottenness right to the core of this housing system.

    And it is enormous! The Billions of dollars that are involved and the absence of virtually any financial controls that would provide some small oversight to these sums, it seems intentional.

    Well, who are we kidding, we KNOW it is intentional.

    The Boston Globe did that Spotlight investigation that received world wide acclaim for exposing another institution that was rotten at its core.

    I am surprised there has not been some big picture investigational reporting about this common interest development scheme.

    I mean, Marco Rubio was spawned from Becker Polikof, an ENORMOUS community associations law firm. And he was being groomed for the oval office!

    I predict public opinion will turn on these HOAs at some point, but I am not holding my breath.

  188. Mike I think the problem is that no one in politics or the media want to oppose the real estate industry. It’s tentacles run too deep. The media won’t kill the golden goose (real estate advertising) by reporting these stories. The politicians are probably in sync with the HOAs, if you get my deeper meaning. And the general public has been so brainwashed into thinking HOAs are a superior form of ownership that they won’t raise their voices in protest. Residents don’t even pay attention to the financials of these organizations. They whistle past the graveyard and hope/assume everything is as it should be. Then when the HOA hits a financial snag – resulting in a special assessment – the board members fill everyone’s heads with BS and complexity, and the residents just go along.

    Complacency is the enemy of truth, and we have plenty of it in our society. Certainly more than enough for the manipulators to do their dirty work just below the radar. And I think they know it.

  189. Kevin,
    If the Boston Globe can take on the Catholic church, in Boston of all places, then I think exposing the systemic corruptions of common interest developments is conceivable.
    I just don’t think the main stream media is aware of the scope of the problem yet.
    Years ago, during our Stalin days of our HOA (I think in terms of other historical dystopian disasters)I started a blog that lampooned and mocked the politburo of our HOA.
    It was effective!
    Those pomp as asses could not take being laughed at. Some resigned and others started to watch their step knowing I would blog about them.
    Public scrutiny is what is lacking in these places, and I am sure you have noticed that when the media laches on to a story about flags or little lending libraries….this many times produces the desired result.
    That is why I really enjoyed your article. It was an effective and subtle condemnation of how things are being done in HOAs today.
    We need more of that!

  190. The Boston Globe will take on the Catholic Church because it has no financial benefit from it (no ad revenues). As well, to move in a different direction, it’s become socially cutting edge to take on religion in the 21st Century. The Globe can’t lose on this one. But with HOAs, they’re courting the wrath of the real estate establishment, and their ad dollars. As the saying goes, “follow the money”.

    As to this article, it’s been one of the most popular and enduring on this site, but it hasn’t scratched the surface. I lived in an “HOA world” in Atlanta, and believe me, this doesn’t register as an issue with the vast number of people. Until there’s a scandal that can’t be ignored, despite the financial risks, it’s not likely to go anywhere. It’ll take a scandal declaration by the leaders of the PC movement, and they have other interests at the moment.

    After all the corruption exposed during and after the Financial Meltdown – then summarily ignored – the HOA stuff is small potatoes, easily ignored. I’m not at all hopeful on this one. Corruption is how we roll these days, and the biggest penalties seem to fall on the whistle blowers. That’s certainly true with HOA residents who dare challenge the board. It’s spelled T-A-R-G-E-T-I-N-G.

    I’m really surprised your board didn’t take legal action when you started a blog. We still have freedom of speech in this country, but only when it doesn’t piss off the wrong people. I’m glad it worked though, and maybe it’ll encourage more people to do the same. Blogs are really the last remaining bastions of free speech, since the mainstream media no longer tolerate it from non-PC sources.

  191. Kevin,
    You need to come up to Boston. The Catholic church is a sacred cow and are VERY politically powerful.
    The Globe showed real guts and integrity taking them to task, and it paid off in a big way.
    But you are correct about HOAs. We are demographic that does not get a lot of sympathy. What happens to angry old affluent white people, well the general public thinks we get what we deserve.
    So it is difficult to gain any traction with the media.
    Most stories I read in the paper conclude with “while most HOAs are well run” the horrible incident we are writing about is essentially an “isolated incident”.
    Meanwhile the largest consumer fraud in American history continues.

  192. For the record Mike, I’m only up the road a piece in New Hampshire, so I’m as close to Boston as I want to get. But we get the Boston media up here, and I hear nothing about HOAs ever.

  193. Kevin,
    Oh yes I did receive a letter from the HOA attorney threatening me with a libel suit.

    I wrote a nice letter back explaining why everything was true (the defense to libel), and that as limited public figures the HOA guys were fair game.

    I even assured him that if I ever saw a particular name published in any forum aggrandizing himself as “President of our HOA” I would publish in the same source that he “ripped off a 91 year old man”.

    Which he did. Another horrible HOA story. And all true.

    I never heard another thing.

  194. For sure a lot of legal threats are just that. An attorney sends out a very formal and threatening letter on the firm’s letterhead, which is usually enough to stop an opponent with out ever actually taking legal action. I’m glad you stood your ground. That’s being a real patriot in my eyes.

    BTW, yesterday we were up in Maine for the day and I saw a sign in a shop that said the following: “The duty of a patriot is to protect his country from his government”. If we add HOAs (or corporations) to that saying, I’d say it rates a great, big AMEN!

    Most people think they’re being good patriots/citizens/employees/etc. when they just go along with the problem. But silence is compliance, and that’s big part of the problem. I fall into that category as well. I may write about this stuff, but I’m not trying to lead a movement, which would be more effective. But there’s so much out there that’s wrong, which issue do you choose to lead a movement against???

    That’s why I don’t.

  195. Oh a fellow New Englander! I agree totally with that guy from Maine’s sign. It must have something to do with our obnoxious winters, but we don’t tolerate tyranny.

    Speaking of tyranny, I like to read the Federalist Papers. Those guys, especially Madison, really nailed it thank God.

    Federalist 47:

    No political truth is certainly of greater intrinsic value, or is stamped with the authority of more enlightened patrons of liberty:

    The accumulation of all powers, legislative, executive, and judiciary, in the same hands, whether of one, a few, or many, and whether hereditary, self-appointed, or elective, may justly be pronounced the very definition of tyranny.

    Can you think of any applications to this political theorem?

  196. I’m actually only a partial New Englander. I was born and raised in NJ but lived in Georgia for 21 years before coming to NH. But of the three states, I like NH the best by far. New England is highly underrated. And yes, I’ve noticed the more free-spirited attitudes up here, and it’s one of the things I like best about it. I can live here, be a non-conformist, and fit-in without having to fit-in. Politically, I’m a libertarian who supports the original constitutional foundation of America. Unfortunately, that’s no longer in place, nor is is supported by the majority of citizens. But somehow we’ll continue to muddle through.

  197. I’ve started a collection of letters from attorneys that threaten me with lawsuits. A previous CAI property manager deserved all the exposure he got, but he sure did not like it. I wrote a couple of responses to his attorney and never heard from her again. Most people see that letterhead from the attorney and run and hide. Precisely what they are trying to accomplish when writing them. Overall, I’ve found people that buy into a townhouse or condo association are looking for somebody to take care of them. Either with their property maintenance or their emotional instability. They need a lot of hand-holding and decision making is not something they are comfortable with. They will allow themselves to be controlled like remote-controlled airplanes. Thus, I’ve found the HOA environment to be very cult like.

    Oddly, enough Judy Thomas of The Kansas City Star has exposed the Catholic priests and the HOAs. She is fearless. But a journalist that does her research and provides the reader with the truth. The paper is still loaded with ads for HOA communities that are being developed. It seems the editors were willing to take the risk. I recall the first of the HOA series had over 1,000,000 hits before the paper was published. That surprised the management because they had no idea that much interest in the HOA topic existed. Until the risks are required to be presented before the buyer signs on the dotted line the corruption in HOAs will continue to grow. And some people know the truth and still buy into an HOA. I’ve spent countless hours educating intelligent people who call me and tell me they just bought into an HOA! They hope nothing will go wrong.

    Thank you, Mike for your contribution to these comments. (Check your email) Kevin, please keep up the good work!

  198. Nila, you’ve hit on one of those Big Picture Problems, that people want someone to take care of them. They’ll overlook all sorts of evil under the blind assumption that “somebody else” knows better. It may be that such types will never be roused. Even if they suspect foul play, they won’t react to it for fear of rocking the boat and upsetting an order they’re certain is somehow benefiting them.

    In that way, those of us who are free thinkers – and in the decided minority – face an uphill fight to rally the masses (who also don’t want to be rallied). It takes a certain amount of courage to finger evil, and most lack that courage. Making it harder is that most systems are set up to marginalize free thinkers. The whistle blower becomes the lone troublemaker, even though others may be sympathetic. As you point out correctly, HOAs are like cults. It’s not just the boards either. They always have an army of faithful toadies, some of whom are receiving special privledges, and others who are lackeys by birth, and will always support the establishment without question.

    In my younger days I spend a good bit of time challenging established orders. Every now and again you score a victory, but most times you get snowed under. That’s when I learned it’s better to leave a corrupt situation and move on. That’s why I’m self-employed. I couldn’t deal with the nonsense that’s part of the game with most employers.

    No, I didn’t fix any place I ever lived or worked, but that’s kind of the point. They’re impervious to being fixed. It’s why they’re a mess in the first place. That’s why I say it’s best to vote with our feet and leave. 100 years after we’re gone, these corruptions will still be there. The goal then should be to get away from them to the degree we can, then get on with living our lives the way we want.

    I didn’t come up with that strategy by the way. I’ve read it in other sources. It’s even in the Bible (Matthew 10:11-15 – Jesus explained that some people would just not get it, and to just move on; in Matthew 7:6 he uses even stronger language, saying “do not throw your pearls to pigs”). That may sound like defeatism, but I prefer to think of it as moving onto more fertile ground. You’re better to leave where you’re not wanted, and to go where you are and can be more effective. And if enough people bail out, the HOAs – or whatever the organization – will finally collapse. They can manipulate the laws, but they can’t survive without loyal subjects.

    Once you realize how many organizations are really about control, your perspective begins to change. HOAs are fiefdoms, and little else.

  199. I escaped from the City of Austin Texas and a HOA in May of this year. I live in a rural cabin now. No Home Owners Assassination and no city ordinances. Too get away from the HOAs It means making sacrifices.I gave up all amenities including paved roads. I did something about the HOA nightmare.
    I ran from it.

  200. I think you did the right thing Stephen. Within the HOA the board has absolute power. You can challenge them, but you’ll spend money, get ostracized in the community, and ultimately lose. It’s better to move out, and move on with your life. You may not be able to slay the dragon, but you CAN prevent it from having dominion over your life. Let someone come behind you who doesn’t care. Or better yet, as Nila put it so well, someone who wants to be taken care of, and thinks the good folks at the HOA board are there to do just that.

    Until they don’t. Then maybe our side – and we’re the good guys – will gain another convert.

  201. As with all things living in HOA always has it ups and downs mostly down. But I most make a point, HOA’s do not protect property values the market does this is a complete meth as given by the HOA Industry (developers/homebuilders – HOA management companies – HOA attorneys – HOA Collection Companies). While I have lived a number of HOA communities’ three of which 1 Condo Association, two single families homes I was the President of that HOA. In those HOA’s we bent over backwards to accommodate the homeowners wishes with fair election and open meetings and allowed property owners to voice their concerns. Now that I moved into my current HOA community, I was completely floored as to how this HOA board was running this community and how a developer who has been in this association for over 40 years and is still in control of this association. This developer better known as Avatar dba AV Homes, Inc has pulled off a complete scam upon the members who are completely uneducated, it only took me one year to figure there was something very wrong. Do not believe the hype of “CARE FREE LIVING” it is a complete lie. Before ever moving into any HOA, your real estate agent should provide the following and it is shame they are not required to do so by law. How many lawsuits have been filed against any homeowners? How many lawsuit have been filed against that HOA, How many homes have been foreclosed on for past due assessments? The last five years of the financial statements, how much is in the reserve accounts for the last five years. Who is running the HOA as in management companies? People must also have “Articles of Incorporation” on that HOA plus any sub association that falls under any Master Association along with all resolution/amendments to the CC&Rs. You must also understand your State Corporation Laws, most of your HOA and even Condos’ are corporation and those laws will prevail. As with anything concerning any HOA people must understand their state laws and the original CC&Rs then follow any amendment/resolution to those declarations. In most cases even on many other states it is called “Un-Fair Trade Practices”. You almost have to be your own attorney/researcher. Where to start? 1st your county tax assessor’s office, than your county clerk of records – document search, court case search if your county provides that portal, it is public information while your association is not. I advise anyone who is dealing with any HOA, do not verbally talk with them doing it in writing and sent that letter via certified mail keep your records/photos/request, it may very well save you and your property. HOA Reform is very badly needed in each and every State, stay on top of this push for consumer protection.

  202. Hi Donna – You’ve made at least a dozen outstanding points. In my experience, homebuyers don’t bother to look at the condo docs, nor ask their attorney, let alone do a deeper investigation. In a way, they deserve what they get.

    But the biggest point you’ve hit on, I think, is the myth that HOAs are better for property values. That’s probably the main reason people move into them, which is really the greed factor. My theory is that real estate appreciation is the primary driver in the homeownership equation (otherwise many more would rent as was the case up until World War 2), and HOAs seem to sweeten that outcome. But as long as the HOA cartel can get people to believe they’re better for property values, people will more than willingly surrender their freedom for the “priviledge”. Excellent point, thanks!

  203. My husband and I just bought a house in Georgia with an HOA, after having lived in a neighborhood for 24 years that didn’t have one. We closed Friday, but still have not seen any rules, regulations, or covenants. No one has told us anything about it. We have three dogs, and now I don’t know if they have a restriction on how many dogs you can have or the size of the dogs. My stomach is a mess, because I won’t get rid of my dogs. Is it typical for them to not let you see the rules before you close on a house? That seems wrong to me. The only reason we are leaving our current house is GDOT is widening the highway and they bought our house to tear it down for the expansion. Otherwise, we wouldn’t leave. We’ve had code enforcement called on us a few times from a vengeful neighbor, so I don’t even understand the need for HOAs because the county can still be called if people don’t keep up their property. Should they have showed us the covenant before we closed to make sure it was something we wanted to do? My husband is disabled, so turning around and having to sell this house as soon as we bought it would really suck.

  204. Hi Joyce – You’re supposed to get a copy of the condo docs before closing. But in my experience, they often don’t arrive until the closing, as which point you have no time to review them. I’ve not heard of anyone not getting them at all. And if so, I would think you’d have a good legal case if a review of the docs prohibits your dogs. But the case would be against the seller and real estate agents, and probably not the HOA.

    Get a copy of the docs as soon as possible and review them. If there’s no restriction on the dogs you should be OK. If there is, you may need to consult with a real estate attorney.

  205. It’s not unusual for a buyer to not see the CC&Rs and Articles of Incorporation before closing or even after closing. Many times the buyer has to contact the county and get a copy of the recorded declarations which is important because those are the official ones. Some HOAs (like mine) distribute what they want the rules to be but they did not pass with the number of required votes. I had new neighbors asking me questions about the CC&Rs and I had to tell them those documents were nothing but pieces of paper for the recycling bin because they were not valid. For example: The documents said no one could own more than two units and must personally occupy one of them. New owners were hearing of owners with fifteen units (all rentals)and were confused. They had no idea they bought into an HOA with such a high number of rental units. The cost of litigation against the HOA for distributing false documents would have likely exceeded the price paid for the townhouse. Legal battles with HOAs require the owner to have a bottomless pit of money. The HOA attorneys know how to bleed the homeowner out of their financial resources and then figure out a way to take their home from them in foreclosure.

    If the neighbors are already calling animal control I would put the place up for sale before sunrise in the morning. Get out as fast as possible! Run like your hair is on fire! Once you get on the radar screen of the HOA board and their cronies it’s hell to pay every hour afterwards. There is no escaping these people unless you move. HOAs are very much like cults. They pick and choose who they are going to treat with respect and who they are going to destroy. And just like a cult, anybody that speaks out against them is going to be destroyed by harassment, intimidation, litigation…you name it. And if the homeowner is weak…elderly, ill, young, single, widowed, and the property is mortgage-free…YOU ARE A TARGET!

    So sorry to hear you’ve purchased into an HOA, Joyce.

  206. Nila, you make many good points.

    I am personally aware of an HOA that provided incomplete documents to the buyers prior to sale. The buyers made review of said documents a contingency, as well as inspections.

    HOA dragged its feet getting documents to buyer until the end of the inspection contingency period. Thus, buyers had to rush through 100+ pages of legalese, and decide whether or not they could live with the restrictions. Buyers did go through with the sale.

    However, after the sale closed, the seller’s agent handed over additional architectural controls and amendments to the CC&Rs that has been in progress while buyers were waiting for their appraisal and mortgage approvals.

    And in the 4 years of owning their home – before wising up and selling – those CC&Rs and Architectural standards were amended several more times, without a vote of all members. Only the representatives of the Master Association had the right to vote! They held nonrevocable proxy for all the owners in their voting district or subHOA.

    None of this was apparent to buyers at the time of sale. Only an attorney or educated consumet would have been able to understand the fundamental flaws in the CC&Rs, bylaws, and the HOA concept in general.

    Reading the documents is an exercise in futility.

  207. Long ago I figured out the CC&Rs are not worth the paper they are written on. My HOA documents said and still say I have access to the financial records of the HOA. False. I spent $10K in legal expenses and court fighting to get access and the HOA president, under oath, told the judge they had no records. She stuck with that story until I got the District Attorney and the police department investigator involved. Suddenly…she had records to turn over.

    The records also say they will maintain the exterior of the units. That did not happen either. They breached their contract. More money down the drain for litigation. The insanity never ends but the homeowner will never get what is written in those documents. As I see it, it’s all a bait and switch.

    Your example is more proof of the deception in which HOA ownership is based. The only way to avoid living in an HOA nightmare is to not buy or rent in an HOA. No exceptions.

    We’ve been in this HOA abyss for enough years we know pretty much every angle of the HOA scam, Deborah. But do the powers that be listen to us? No. Why? Because it’s such a big money organized crime syndicate and they do not care about the sucker that buys into an HOA!

  208. It seems the HOA docs primarily serve to protect the HOA board, not the residents. Nor does it actually require the board to do anything they don’t feel like doing, or no longer feel like doing. It’s like a lot of controlling documents today (like the US Constitution, employer handbooks, and even laws) that look good on paper, but aren’t routinely observed. As a friend of mine from Germany said, “Contracts in the US don’t mean a thing, people sign them with no intention of honoring them”. I think he was right on the money with that observation. HOA docs are Exhibit A.

  209. I think your friend from Germany. The disgusting part in the case of HOAs is the fact a HOA board will fight to the ends of the earth to destroy a home/condo owner that does not comply. The case in Olathe Kansas speaks to how crazy it can and does get. Bottom line it’s who has the most money to stay in the court battle. The answer will always be the HOA because they have the cash and assets of every owner to take if they need it to financially support their side. Plus, in many cases they are able to pull in a team of attorneys from the HOA’s insurance company.So the HOA can easily have access to a billion dollars where homeowners do not. It all makes for a very unfair advantage over the homeowner. Perfect example of the deck being stacked against one side.

    Best use of the CC&Rs is to use them as toilet paper!

  210. I just finished fixing up my rural cabin. I painted the cabin light blue according to my Girl Friend’s specifications. I had my front porch rebuilt. I cut down a tree that was a threat to the cabin. I did not have to ask permission from anybody.

    This is life the way it should be for a home owner. For the most part people will take care of their home investments.
    HOAs are an excuse to take property and force people into an ever increasing spiral of debt.

    When I left my old HOA condo life has been hard in some ways but better in so many more ways. Leaving amenities and the city was a cultural shock but I’m over it now IT WAS WORTH IT

    HOA ESCAPEE

  211. Hi Stephen – Bigger picture, it’s sad what’s happened to homeownership. When people buy a house today, they buy with the concept of the way it USED to be. But there are so many restrictions now, it’s like you’re really renting your house, and “ownership” only kicks in the day you sell, hopefully at a profit. But that’s part of the problem. People have sold their souls to the devil, giving up what used to be traditional property rights in exchange for a hoped for higher future value and a big windfall later. HOAs just magnify the problem. I feel bad for people who bought condos and now they aren’t worth what they paid for them in much of the country. So owners gave up property rights and didn’t get the hoped for windfall.

    Even if you never make a windfall on your cabin, at least you’ll be able to live in it and do exactly and precisely what you want, with out some version of Big Brother watching your every move, and ready the pounce the minute you violate some arbitrary rule.

  212. Congratulations, Stephen! Oh, to be free from the shackles and that constant threat of a life sentence! That should make you feel like the richest man in the world! There is no price on sanity and peaceful living…enjoy it!

    Kevin, I was a buyer of a townhouse with no concerns for making a profit. I planned to live her for the rest of my life. No, I pray to get out of here alive. I bought because the appeal of ‘maintenance-provided’ so I could travel and work out of state and not have to worry about a thing on the exterior. Little did I know it was a farce. Actually, a scam. No maintenance on the exterior caused massive damage to the interior…all after I spent tens of thousands of dollars updating everything and installing wood floors. The severe failed maintenance even allowed the siding to rot to the point the electric meters literally fell completely off the siding in a torrential rain storm. Water poured in the hole the size of a five gallon bucket and sprayed out the breakers on the electrical panel. The exterior wall in the kitchen was covered with a board that was GLUED over massive wood rot and left for years; the HOAs idea of maintenance. The water leakage rotted the interior sub floor and the flooring contractor refused to install the new floor until the sub flooring was replaced because he was afraid of it falling through to the basement if too many people were standing on it at the same time. Here’s the kicker…the circuit court judges say the HOA is entitled to be paid all of their dues regardless of whether the maintenance is performed or not! Pay for non-performance, pay an attorney, and pay to repair the damage. Does that sound like maintenance-provided living to you? It’s a living hell is what it is!

  213. This HOA business is a “deep dark hole”: They use the monthly dues to fight against you, if the money they use starts to get thin, they raise the dues AND the people who give up the fight and just decide to sell now have to be SILENT about what they went through with the HOA in order to get the next sucker to buy their home so the cycle can start all over again Wow! No wonder this nonsense is allowed to continue, it’s a tangled web..smh
    Thanks to this page, Imma heed what I have read..no “fool me once”..I’m looking for “NO HOA’s” only from now on in my real estate search.

  214. You’ve figured out the HOA scam, Dan. Any home/condo owner that speaks up gets destroyed along with anybody that supports that person. The HOA isolates their target, wipes them out financially, gets the neighbors to shun them, forces them out by bullying or foreclosure, and scares the rest of the home/condo owners into silence. This is why they are called the HOA Nazis.

    The web is tangled because the HOA industry is organized crime that is legal and massively well-funded. In addition, when needed they can call upon their insurance company’s legal team to help destroy the home/condo owner. My HOA did that so many times the insurance was canceled twice in three years. The result is very high deductibles and premiums. Of course, that doesn’t really matter because the HOA has access to all the money they will ever need through the home/condo owners via dues increases and special assessments.

    If you ever decide to read a very comprehensive book about HOAs, I highly recommend Neighbors At War The Creepy Case Against Your Homeowner’s Association by Ward Lucas. I amazes me when somebody reads that book and turns around and buys into an HOA. And, of course…a short time later they are having problems with their HOA. And I’m not at all sympathetic because they were well-informed and did it anyway. I think I heard a saying that applies, “you can’t fix stupid.”

    Realtors are saying they are hearing more people say don’t show me a place with an HOA. Hundreds of thousands of people all across America need to stand up and demand the legislators listen and abolish the creation of HOAs moving forward.

  215. I don’t think they need to abolish HOAs, but they do need to severely restrict their powers. Right now they have virtually unlimited powers, and that can’t be. What we need is a Homeowner’s bill of rights within an HOA that needs to be legally enforceable against the HOA, up to civil and criminal penalties against the board. If that happens, no insurance company will insure HOAs and they’ll be forced to disband. I can see HOAs for very limited purposes, but this blanket power they have is way over the top. Sure, provide for and maintain common elements, but don’t be telling people what they can and can’t do with their property. And make HOA dues voluntary only. Nobody should be forced to join an HOA.

  216. I respectfully disagree with you, Kevin.

    What you are speaking of is a Neighborhood Association. I have no problem with those. HOAs are corporations that would still hold power under corporate law with or without a homeowner’s bill of rights. I’ve been down that road. I worked with Kansas legislators from 2008 to 2010 to pass the Kansas Uniform Common Interest Owner’s Bill of Rights Act. The CAI lobbyists got the teeth taken out of it. It’s basically worthless but there are no penalties for breaking it. The lobbyists own the legislators.
    Plus, any bill of rights requires the home/condo owner to litigate in order to enforce their rights. Who has the most money? The home/condo owner or the HOA? The one with the most money wins in 99% of the cases. The deck is stacked against the home/condo owner. Not to mention it’s stressful and takes years out of your life.

    HOAs need to be abolished going forward, HOAs that can be disbanded should be, and the ones left need to be under the jurisdiction of the Attorney General in each state with annual requirements for financial accountability reported to the AG’s office. Failure to do so…jail time for all board members.

    City codes are restrictive enough to keep properties in appealing appearance. If more people would just step up and report the violations those neighbors will get the message not to live like pigs. Let the city handle it not Mrs. Busy Body who targets the neighbor’s she doesn’t like.

    As I see it, with HOAs it’s either all in or totally out. There is no in between when a corporation with CC&Rs exists.

  217. Kevin, I agree on several points.

    HOAs could still exist for very limited purposes — such as vacation or resort communities, or perhaps college student rental condos. HOAs and condos don’t really serve any beneficial purpose for residential living, but I can see the usefulness for these commercial / investment purposes.

    I still say that owning a home or condo with mandatory HOA and common intersest ownership can be a very risky investment. This kind of real estate should be sold as an investment and NOT as a place to live — and with full SEC financial disclosure, professional management, and 100% accountability to consumers — be they owners or guests of the community or short term tenants.

    As a commerical investment property, there’s no purpose for volunteer boards here to muck up professional management. And since everyone connected to management and maintenance is PAID, they cannot get off scot free under the “business judgment rule” that applies to nonprofit volunteer board members. AND—for tax purposes, treat these HOAs as what they are: for-profit businesses. I say there must be thousands of HOA/condo “communities” that operate as de facto commercial/for-profit enterprises — many as rental communities, others as vacation destinations, etc. They should not get tax advantages of nonprofits. And they should not be sold to consumers as “dream homes” or “forever homes.”

    As for the bulk ot current HOAs —I agree wtih No mandatory membership for residential HOAs — membership in all mandatory HOAs should be converted to voluntary memership. That alone would create a much higher level of accountability. There should NOT be an absolute right to collect money from housing consumers! If the voluntary HOA offers something of value, consumers will be happy to pay for it. If not, then the HOA ceases to exist. Simple as that.

    But I also agree with Nila. Going forward, local governments must STOP mandating or permitting the establishment of residential mandatory membership HOAs. HOAs do a notoriously bad or inefficient job of maintaining infrastructure and they aren’t well-suited to providing public services such as security, traffic control, and code enforcement. Those jobs should be left to well-trained public servants, accountable to consitutents at the ballot box.

    Developers take advantage of their 100% control of new communities by cutting corners on infrastructure, and passing the cost of construction and future maintenance onto future homeowners. That increases their profit margin big time. But there’s certainly no advantage to homeowners.

    Local government officials, who have been short-sighted for the past 3-4 decades, love the fact that they can collect the same level of property taxes from HOA homeowners, and provide LESS service than they do for the non-HOA homeowners. But it’s coming back to bite local governments as these communities age and their condition deteriorates. The courts are clogged with HOA disputes, and crime and blight take over the more neglected communities — so local tax dollars fund increased police, social services, etc. for all the broken HOAs and condo associations.

    And I agree that HOAs should not be telling people what they can and can’t do with their property. But the ROOT of these rights of an HOA is the Covenants, Conditions, and Restrictions, also known as Declarations, deed restrictions, or CC&Rs. My opinion is that CC&Rs need to be limited by contstraints of the U.S. Constitution — whether there’s an HOA to enforce them or not. The majority of CC&Rs are either unconsitutional or they duplicate local zoning and building codes.

    We need a Civil Rights II, complete with new federal laws that uphold private property rights and rights to privacy. HOAs and CC&Rs began to grow in number right after Civil Rights acts in 1968 and the early 1970s. What we have now is HOAs that engage in discrimination by CC&Rs. The HOA doesn’t like your kids, so they enforce rules against play structures in the back yard. The HOA doesn’t like people with disabilities, so they force you to beg for permission to install a wheelchair ramp, or park a specially equipped van in your driveway. The HOA doesn’t like someone because they’re the “wrong” type of neighbor, so they selectively enforce rules about paint color, landscape choices, display or flags or religous symbols, etc. The industry claims that you signed a contract, and you “agreed” to abide by these rules and standards. They say the HOA is not REALLY discriminating or abusing you. They’re just enforcing rules, and doing a “thankless job.” But that’s all a farce.

    And don’t overlook the fact that developers and owners of community amenities use the CC&Rs to endow themselves with perpetual control and powers to collect fees and/or shield themselves from liability for poor construction or mismanagement.

  218. Why not pass a law that puts a home owner in a position where the HOA must buy out any home owner they don’t like at market value plus 25%
    This way the HOA gets the worst end of the deal

  219. Good points, Deborah.

    However, even with professional managers (a term is use loosely because anybody can be a property manager in my state as long as they have a working phone and a business card) there are issues of self-dealing, corruption, and embezzlement. These people need to be prosecuted the same way any public official can be. They also need to be required to have credentials that are not issued by the CAI.

  220. Nila & Deborah – I still say all that goes away if HOAs become voluntary. If you have rec amenities, like pool and tennis court, then the HOA exists only to maintain that. Who wants to use those facilities pays the HOA fee – after all, someone has to. And if you don’t want to use them, you don’t pay/join. Of course they know if the dues aren’t mandatory NO ONE will pay, and good-bye pool and tennis courts. In most HOAs only the minority of residents use those facilities anyway, so mandatory dues means you’re paying for what you’re not using.

    But let’s not forget, if no one bought into these neighborhoods they’d go away on their own, no legislation necessary. But as Doug Casey refers to the average American – “Boobus Americanus” – most just follow the herd and do whatever is in or cool, without much investigation of the facts or consideration of potential outcomes. The problem is the average American has been trained to be an obedient consumer, who can’t get out of his or her own way.

    I’m including myself in that description because 22 years ago we bought into an HOA. But nine years later we sold and moved out, never to own in an HOA again.

  221. Voluntary is not a solution that I see viable. A community that ages and the people age with it will not support the pools, clubhouses, tennis courts, playgrounds, golf course, etc. Once all the amenities start to fall apart the expenses grow and people will not pay it voluntarily. And the cities will not let the amenities be bulldozed under because they are part of the original design of the HOA. The liabilities that come with amenities make them unattractive to start with but rarely does anybody recognize that risk until it’s too late.

    The renters are the ones that use the pools and amenities in my HOA. That leaves the owners to pay for the amenities that make renting in this HOA attractive. Yes, the landlords are paying for them, too.

    Bottom line is HOAs are not working. They are creating war zones instead of neighborhoods. They are destroying people’s lives and bank accounts. If they worked as written on paper and everybody living in one was Mr. Rogers then life would be perfect in an HOA but that’s not reality and it’s never going to be.

  222. Nila, I agree with you that there’s a lot of not-so-good management of HOAs. However, this is less of a problem in wealthier communities for two reasons. First, people of wealth tend to own more than one home, so they are realistic about what it costs to maintain real estate. Plus they are willing to spend the money to maintain their investments. Second, if management or the board or the developer doesn’t perform according to contract, or engages in potentially illegal conduct, wealthy owners have the means to hire the best attorneys and to persuade public officials to investigate wrongdoing. Money talks.

    So, for the top 10 or 20% income tier of buyers/owners, I can see HOAs surviving, despite all their warts and potential for controversy and corruption.

    But for the rest of us, the voluntary HOA or better yet NO HOA is the way to go. Kevin, in some parts of the country, it’s nearly impossible to buy a home that is NOT HOA or condo. This is especially true in the Southern and Western U.S., and in and surrounding major cities. The only way to avoid HOA or condos is to RENT or to MOVE to another part of the state or country with more nonHOA options. If more people would do that, it might force the industry and local governemnts to stop creating more HOAs.

    New condo construction is already way down from where it was pre-2008, simply because banks won’t write mortgages for them. You often have to pay cash for a condo these days, although I don’t know why people fall into that trap.

  223. I’m familiar with the HOA conundrum in the South. We lived in Atlanta for over 20 years, which is HOA Central. Hard to find a house that wasn’t in an HOA there. But that was part of the reason we left Atlanta – there’s too much of the same of everything. In New Hampshire they’re rare, especially among detached houses.

    I’m not sure new HOA construction is down specifically, as much as new residential construction in general has been running only about half of what it was pre-2008.

    But I do know of HOAs that filled in their pools because of high insurance premiums, and once they do the HOA weakens and can even disband. Pools seem to be the central amenity that keeps these legal contraptions “in business”. People want neighborhoods with pools, but don’t realize what they’re giving up. In the neighborhood we lived in the first thing they did with people who didn’t pay their dues was suspend their pool privileges. The board understood the central attraction of the pool. Without pools my guess is 75% of HOAs would collapse. Most residents are unknowingly paying too much for a pool membership, then surrendering their sovereignty. The irony was that there was a community pool in town that charge just $3 per resident to use. If a family of four went to the pool 20 times during a summer, at $12 a visit, it would cost a lot less than the annual HOA fee.

    But aaahhh here in NH we have our choice of four community pools and all are FREE for municipal residents. Nope,I don’t miss the sun belt, I don’t care how warm the winters are 😉

  224. Nila, I do think voluntary is an option. Here’s why.

    I know of some smaller HOAs that gave up on their swimming pools and tennis courts. The cost to fill in the pool and dig up the tennis court was less than maintainting them. Once these structures are gone, the HOA can sell the land parcels to either adjacent homeowners or third parties. Someone might even build a home or two on those lots. It has happened! In some cases, the HOA conveys the land to the local govenment, and they start to maintain it. This works if the land is near an easement zone (such as parcel that has nothing more than an entry monument or a grassy “park” that no one uses.)

    The biggests obstacle to going voluntary is that the HOA has to relieve itself of the duty to maintain infrastructure such as storm water facilities or private roads. But more and more HOAs are working with local governments to form tax districts or set up local tax assessments payable over 10-20 years — then the local government brings the roads or stormwater facilities up to current building code, and maintains it going forward.

    After this happens, there’s no reason for HOA membership to be mandatory. The only real duty of the HOA at this point is enfording rules portion of the CC&Rs that most people would rather not have to live with.

    And the same goes for many large scale communities built with Development Districts — since the HOA (or POA) has no responsibilty for maintaining common property (because the Developement. District does that), then why must membership in the homeowners/property owners association be mandatory?

    At one time all HOAs were voluntary neighborhood associations, civic associations, or clubs. HOAs became mandatory when a minority of homeonwers who actually use common amenities decided that all their neighbors should pay their “fair share” of the const of maintaining these assets. Around the same time, local governments started dumping maintenance of private infrastructure on HOAs, which, of course, requires mandatory contributions because everyone benefits from working storm drainage and passable roads. Local governments know that voluntary HOAs won’t last when people stop paying, and that why they favor the mandatory HOA.

    And then maintenance provided multifamily properties were marketed to home buyers as a convenience. Clearly, that doesn’t work well in many condo and homeowners associations. You can have voluntary HOA for a townhouse community, but then each owner must do their own maintenance or arrange for someone else to do the work. With stacked condominiums, that’s not possible. The only solution is to dissolve/terminate the condo association and turn it into rental apartments. That’s happening with greater frequency in older condo associations — but there are always some condo owners who LOSE big when forced to sell their condo because a owners of a super majority of condos want to sell and/or turn them into apartments. That’s why condos are an even bigger risk than single family detached homes with an HOA.

  225. Voluntary would not work in a PUD like mine. We have one water meter for four, three, two, or single units. If three people in one building did not pay the one owner would be paying for water for all just to have running water in their home. The roofs have no break line so there is no way to replace the roof over your one unit. In many units they share one big driveway and parking lot. All of the cul-de-sacs are private streets.

    Our city will not allow an amenity to be removed. My HOA has two pools. At one time it was discussed to remove on pool. The city said, no because the community was an original plan of two. They did allow one tennis court to become a basketball court. The HOA has spent at least $1 million on the clubhouse since I’ve lived here and the rental income is around $2,000 per year.

    In the best interest of every owner and the City my neighborhood needs to be bulldozed down and redeveloped. Due to the fact so many of these units have wood rotted frames due to failure to maintain. The stucco is cracked on my units and the mold is showing on the outside. The land is worth far more without this dilapidated HOA.

    Rentals are probably 40% or higher in here now. So, you’re right if they dissolve the HOA and investors bought the units it might work if they could also get the amenities erased.

    As it is, it’s nothing but a hellhole with a tremendous amount of money being wasted to keep it afloat. Not to mention the lawsuits that are fueled by board members so full of evil and hatred they cannot see straight. Never again would I even consider living in an HOA. I would not take an HOA property as a gift!

  226. Maybe that’s the out then. HOAs are relatively new animals, mostly in the last 20-30 years. The ones I’ve seen disband were older. Maybe when it reaches a point where maintenance collapses, the will to keep them going will stop. Then local governments will be forced to step in. I’ve seen them where the amenities have been eliminated, the properties have deteriorated, and renters became more common. I think that combination is the death knell.

    As more of these HOAs fall into the same sorry state, governments may be forced to take action. Otherwise they may be forced to take them over. If people stop paying fees and the physical structure deteriorates, the HOA is nothing but an empty shell waiting for execution. It’s nature taking it course. I think that will become more common as these projects age out.

    It’s not unprecedented either. It’s happened in a lot of of old, once prosperous neighborhoods. Then look at apartment buildings. They go condo and coop precisely because they’re falling apart and the landlords can no longer maintain them due to falling rents. That kind of grand scale shift could happen as these projects get older and crappier. That of course will be more likely in lower priced HOAs where residents are more subject to economic displacement.

  227. Sadly, once these HOAs become dilapidated the CAI affiliated banks (known as bancs) step in and loan them millions of dollars. That money is repaid by the HOA dues and special assessments. Could it potentially end up with the CAI owning all of these old HOAs? Possibly.

    I can assure you the city and county are losing massive amounts of tax dollars on my HOA. This land could be redeveloped into so many things that would benefit so many people. I worked on finding investors to buy it all and found some people that were interested but the old despots on the board put the hammer down on that. The City would support the redevelopment in a New York second. They know this PUD is a total hellhole.

    We have areas where old stately mansions once were. Many of them have been purchased and much bigger mansions have been built on those lots. These are areas built by JC Nichols after WWII. It can be done but it takes the blessings of the city to do it.

    I see the CAI as the biggest problem. They are powerful lobbyists and the legislators certainly do listen to them and comply with their demands. They teach the HOA boards, attorneys, and property managers how to destroy the home/condo owners. It’s nothing but legal organized crime.

  228. Kevin, you said:
    “As more of these HOAs fall into the same sorry state, governments may be forced to take action. Otherwise they may be forced to take them over. If people stop paying fees and the physical structure deteriorates, the HOA is nothing but an empty shell waiting for execution. It’s nature taking it course. I think that will become more common as these projects age out.

    It’s not unprecedented either. It’s happened in a lot of of old, once prosperous neighborhoods. Then look at apartment buildings. They go condo and coop precisely because they’re falling apart and the landlords can no longer maintain them due to falling rents. That kind of grand scale shift could happen as these projects get older and crappier. That of course will be more likely in lower priced HOAs where residents are more subject to economic displacement.”

    You’re parially correct. These places go through a cycle. And the mulifamily condo and townhouse communities are hit hardest, simply because — as Nila described — the HOA has so many maintenance responsibilties. Once the HOA starts neglecting the property and people stop paying in full and on time, the downward spiral begins.

    These days, however, apartment buildings are NOT going condo or coop. It’s the other way around, and has been for about a decade. In fact, a lof of apartments that converted to condos pre-2008 are not deconverting back to apartments! I have covered this issue extensively on my blog. (Independentamericancommunities.com)

    In cases where the condos are very old and run down, developers/investors will buy out the association, raze the building(s) and start over. They will redevelop the site with luxury condo towers, market-rate or upscale apartments, or commercial property. Or some cobmination in a mixed use project. This only happens if the location is in demand.

    If the run down condos or townhouses are in a poor location, it becomes the burden of the local government, with eventual condemnation.

    If any apartments are going to “go condo” in the future, I predict it will happen in areas with an oversupply of relatively new apartment buildings. But with condo loans much harder to get than mortgages for single family homes, I don’t think we’ll see a big rush to convert rentals to condos this next cycle.

  229. Nila, I know that some condo and homeowners associations were once apartment complexes. That’s why there are shared lines for utiities and one continuous roof over townhouses like yours.

    That’s a big drawback of buying an apartment to condo conversion.

    There are ways to separate utility bills by installing submeters. The utility suppliers will work with the HOA, but the HOA has to be willing to cooperate, and there is some upfront investment.

    And there are architectural solutions to divide townhouse roofs and siding in order to achieve units that can be individually maintained. Again, it requires cooperation and some upfront investment. That’s hard to achieve in most HOAs.

    Sadly, in your case, it seems that dissolution/demolition of the HOA is the more likely eventual outcome.

  230. Oops, I meant to sayIn fact, a lof of apartments that converted to condos pre-2008 are NOW deconverting back to apartments! I have covered this issue extensively on my blog.

  231. I believe that to be true. The builder of our current condo (which we rent and will never own) has moved to building apartments instead, citing a higher return on investment on apartments than condos. BTW, our condo is 35% renters. I think that’s common with condos. They’re largely in-lieu apartments, owned by a single individual. I’ve long believed ultimately condos will revert to apartments. They’re bad investments except in the strongest markets. I’m surprised they’ve survived as long as they have. After the 2008-20009 meltdown entire condo nbhds went full-on or near ghost, that’s how bad it got. Values falling as much as 90%+ in overbuilt markets. They’d be a great investment after that kind of plunge but few have the stomach for it, in addition to the fact that at that point they’re no longer being maintained and often go to seed, occupied by squatters.

  232. I inquired about having my own water meter….it was going to be around $5K per unit and the water department was not in favor of it. There is also the issue of sewer lines. We share those and if we had separate water lines the sewer would still be an issue. If a problem would develop then who would pay for the sewer line repairs? It was a list of things they addressed with me. Which boiled down to it’s not cost effective to do it.

    Yes, many apartments were condo conversions and they have been nightmares. I’ve been contacted by people who have bought them. They are hard to find financing for and they are hard to sell.

    There is no comparison to apartments and condos, as I see it. My dad owns apartment buildings. He never ignored maintenance. The cost to do so just raised the cost of repairs. They were built with the highest quality materials and brick exteriors. He built them in the early 1960’s. Those buildings still look like they are brand new. The owners after him have taken very good care of them. And many of the tenants have been there for twenty years. While I was deciding about where to buy (when I made this horrible decision to buy a townhouse) I rented one of those apartments. They are not in a city where I want to live permanently or I would have moved back there years ago to escape this HOA! Investors take care of the property where HOAs have a bunch of morons making decisions about projects they have absolutely no clue about. Not to mention they have a far bigger budget for doing so than the investors do. I’ve protested condos as long and loud as I can. I see now my city is building apartments but not condos as originally discussed. Perhaps my efforts were not in vain, I’ll never know.

    I do know when I drive around and see the townhouse and condo communities in my city they all look like crap. All on valuable land. All about 30-40 years old. It’s time for investors to start buying them and bringing the bulldozers. In the case of my HOA, I only hope I live long enough to see it!

  233. A big part of the problem is that the HOAs never have the money to do proper maintenance. They’re supposed to have reserves, but they’re never adequate, forcing them to go the special assessment route. My thinking is if they adequately budget for replacements and repairs, the HOA fee would be so high as to scare away potential buyers. So they keep the fee artificially low, then stick everyone with the assessments. And if they don’t do that, or the residents don’t want to pay the place falls apart. Then property values fall, people mail in the keys, and the fate of the project is sealed. I’ve seen that with older condos in particular. But the municipalities love them because they bring in tax revenues with a disproportionately low impact on the local school systems.

  234. Kevin,
    You go right to the heart of the problem.
    Amateur volunteers are being put into fiduciary roles in their subdivisions or condos; should we be surprised at the disastrous and inevitable result? .
    I think the best way to attack this pathological paradigm in property ownership is to insist on mandatory financial audits of these communities.
    These financial reports would then be distributed to all stakeholders in the community.
    This HOA/Condo “industry” is all about the money, there is no question about that.
    The complete absence of any financial controls or requirement for transparency is absurd.
    Resolve this issue, and I think the all of the others would begin to fall in line.
    The “industry” of service providers would fight this tooth and nail, which should be enough by itself to inspire stakeholders/homeowners to support legislation aimed at financial transparency.

  235. The “municipalities” as you have said “love” CIDs because they can increase their tax base, but are relieved of providing the services they would otherwise have to provide to conventional subdivisions.

    How can it be that they are not “state actors” and subject to the laws. and most important, the enforcement of laws appropriate to them?

    At the very least we need to have adequate financial controls and oversight.

    I believe it would be the silver bullet; the stake through the heart of a parasitic industry that thrives on looting our savings and equity in our homes as their business model.

  236. You may be on to something with that Mike. If they’re accountable financially – and they absolutely must be to the homeowners who are in fact the owners (not the board) – accountability would develop in other areas. As well, the homeowners also need to be able to bring legal action against the boards for mismanagement. That would put the fear of God into them.

    Of course, a financial audit falls apart completely if the vast majority of homeowners don’t even both to read the audit reports. Like democracy and the economy, all the crap happens largely because the public prefers to ignore what’s really going on. But it’s definitely a step in the right direction. Especially if capital reserve requirements are enforced. My guess is it will lead to far fewer HOAs, and a lot more disbanded ones. You might even get board members resigning when they realize what the audit will reveal.

  237. My HOA CC&Rs stated, “the treasure shall cause an annual audit”

    After two years of asking to see those audits I learned there had been no audits for 8 years. Annual dues exceeded $1.2M. That left $10M unaccounted for. Maintenance not being done to the point the structures have wood rotted frames due to rotten siding. Payroll for 20+ employees that were doing nothing but driving around the neighborhood and gathering at various locations to talk and smoke. Trust me, I saw it all.

    While working on the Kansas HOA bill we tried to get the AG’s office to become involved and require the HOAs to submit an annual audit with a penalty for failure to do so. The AG said NO WAY! Not getting involved. HOAs are private corporations and those who buy into them chose to live that way when they signed the contract.

    The problem is, nobody understands the absolute power HOAs have. Nothing in any contract details they have all the power and the homeowner has no protection against them. And the homeowner that opts to litigate will be run into bankruptcy over legal bills.

    Can you sue the HOA board? Yes. My attorney has said several times the board members in my HOA should be sued for breach of fiduciary duty. He follows that with…it’s worthless to sue them if they do not have the insurance policy that allows you to receive a monetary reward. If they have no assets or retired and living on social security it’s futile to sue them. The argument from the CAI is always going to be if board members can be sued they will not volunteer to be board members. This gets a lot of sympathy and support from the legislators. Nobody wants to acknowledge that it opens up the flood gates for self-dealing, embezzlement, corruption, kick backs, and more.

    As I’ve observed for over thirteen years of living in an HOA the problem is not money it’s financial management. The board makes poor decisions on contractors and the work has to be redone over and over again. Thousands of dollars will be spend on a job that if done by a licensed skilled contractor would cost a few hundred dollars. They know nothing about strategic planning, construction projects, or business management. What do they do? They hire some hot shot with a business card and a working phone number with CAI credentials to ‘manage’ the HOA for them. They are talked into million dollar loans, spending money to “spiff” up the community while letting the maintenance of the properties fall to dilapidated levels. So, the entrance looks fancy, the clubhouse looks like the Taj Mahal, the pools are pristine, flower beds are visible BUT the townhouses and homes look like shanty town. The property manager smiles all the way to the bank because the stupidity of the board members are allowing them to pay him $400K year and a 10% finder’s fee on a $1M loan. Leaving the HOA/homeowners in massive debt, rotting frames on their units, and dictators as board members.

    No matter how it’s sliced and diced the HOA housing concept is only good on paper. In reality it has not and will not ever work. It’s destroying home ownership and lives. It’s made communities into war zones. The only people that love them are the attorneys and property managers that are getting wealthy and the board members that are stealing the HOA funds. Everybody else ends up a loser in the HOA game.

  238. If you try to take legal action against a HOA the assassination will come after you. They will fine you and come up with some reason to FORECLOSE
    on your home. Your credit will be wrecked for years making it hard for you to get a job or another home probably both……Your best bet is to quietly sell out and run. The amenities are not worth the hidden vulnerability. If your assassination is good now get out before the corruption sets in then it is too late,

  239. Nila – That’s where the concept of “cut your losses” comes into play. Better to take a hit now, and move on with your life, than face the prospect of either a) taking a bigger loss later, and/or b) surrendering control of your life to dark forces. It is the hindsight thing, but my guess is you’ve probably avoided other crises in your life as a result of this one.

  240. You are 100% correct, Stephen!

    My attorney told me to get out in 2007. I’d made many improvements to this townhouse and hated to think about walking away from all the work and money I had spent. I planned to live here the rest of my life. You know they say hindsight is always 20/20 well I should have done what my attorney told me to do. I would have taken a substantial loss but nothing like I’m going to now.

    You’re right again by saying if it’s good now, get out. It’s not a matter of ‘if’ an HOA will go south, it’s a matter of when. The risks are so massive it’s like balancing on a high wire over a canyon and hoping high winds don’t blow through…eventually they will. Every HOA is just one vote away from becoming a living hell!

  241. No doubt the HOA industry has weaponized fear of financial ruin as a method of maintaining control of their income stream.
    And nothing is more vile than that.
    I have never bought the argument that homeowners are “apathetic” when it comes to their property. It is just a fact that in the current climate of the courts lending the “presumption of validity” to the actions of HOAs and the state refusing to act in clear cut violations of the law, it is foolish to attempt to fight them.
    Homeowners instinctually know that something is wrong with how these private organizations operate, and stay as far away as possible from them.
    But historically fear has never been a long term strategy to maintain control, and I can’t imagine that it should last much longer in HOA land.
    After all, the right to property is right up their with life and liberty. It is a right that is Constitutional in dimension. I can’t imagine that this unprecedented assault on our property rights can continue too much longer.

  242. I wish I could agree with you on that Mike, but there’s the concept of “sheeple” and it seems to describe most people. In my own experience, people living in HOAs are like the unknowning masses in a 1950s horror movies. Even when it becomes clear there’s a problem, they continue to put on the happy face and pretend all is well. Most don’t become aware of how evil HOAs are until they’re in direct conflict. And even then the reaction if often under-reaction. I also think the sheeple effect is why other residents side with the board against the “problem resident”. They prefer to pretend that person is a trouble maker, because it’s easier and more peaceful than getting involved.

    We can’t forget most residents drink the Kool-Aid of “the HOA is here to protect my property value”. That’s powerful and leads to the sale of an awful lot of rose colored glasses.

  243. Kevin,
    I have seen first hand the “sheeple” effect, I would not argue differently at all.
    I think it is the primary reason this pathology has gone so far.
    The intellect of most of these HOA attorneys or property managers is so lacking that they certainly can’t claim credit for a situation that has been rewarding to them beyond their wildest dreams.
    Like most thieves and thugs, they are just taking advantage of a systemic defect that only requires a lack of conscience to exploit.
    My hope is that the courts, and eventually the legislatures in this country glom onto the inequity, and begin treating these HOAs or common interest governances for what we know they are;
    Tin pot tyranny’s seemingly designed to loot the savings and equity of homeowners unfortunate enough to be living in them.

  244. As someone smarter than me said “no con can be effective without a willing mark”. There are unfortunately many, many willing marks. We all fall into that roll in some area of our lives.

  245. Yes but we are talking about property and property rights, not some inconsequential snake oil remedy.

    Property rights are enumerated in the Constitution of every State.

    The scam of HOAs is as simple as it is insulting to those rights. Developers get to build and the town gets to tax….but the town is relieved of providing the services they would otherwise provide.

    And when problems arise, the towns and state shun any responsibility for their own creation.

    The only reason it has gotten this bad is because the “professionals” who profit from the inherent conflict are busy down at the Statehouses
    preventing reasonable law from being enacted.

    I recognize several of the names posting comments to your article, and they are doing a terrific job of publicizing the issues, I see more and more of this around the country.

    From academia to activist homeowners, the industry of HOAs is under attack.

    I am not holding my breath waiting for positive results, but I am certain the tide will change someday.

  246. From Mike’s comment:

    “My hope is that the courts, and eventually the legislatures in this country glom onto the inequity, and begin treating these HOAs or common interest governances for what we know they are;
    Tin pot tyranny’s seemingly designed to loot the savings and equity of homeowners unfortunate enough to be living in them.”

    The problem lies in this, Mike. Only one or two homeowners will stand up in front of the legislators and fight for rights against this HOA abuse. The others sit back in their recliner at home and watch while the courageous few are shot down over and over and over again by the lobbyists from the CAI. And the legislators eat up the lobbyists every word while the few homeowners are ignored. I’ve been there…many times. The lobbyists always use the “see how many homeowners you have standing here. These problems are isolated incidents otherwise this room would be full of homeowners!” And there you have it. Until the home and condo owners are willing to stand up in the numbers of tens of thousands all across America there will be silence from the legislators. As long as the mortgage companies will loan the money on HOA properties there will be no legislation. And of course, as long as the sheeple believe the Realtors that push the “HOAs protect property values” propaganda there will be people signing themselves into HOA Hell.

    There are only a handful of ways to end this HOA nightmare that I can see. Make no loans for mortgages. All owners stop paying dues and bankrupt the HOAs. Or simply walk away and refuse to buy into an HOA of any kind. The solution is not going to be easy to stop this insanity that was started with the intentions of discriminating against certain groups of people from it’s conception. It was a bad idea then and it’s only gotten worse over the past five decades.

  247. Well I served on an HOA Board for three years and left due to the blatant unethical behavior of the board and management company. I found being the only ethical person on the board is a lonely place to be (hope I dont sound too righteous but it’s sadly true). After unsuccessfully searching for a 5 acre lot somewhere that I could live in peace, we ended up buying a new home in a small HOA community thinking everyone would be so happy with their new homes that nobody would be the HOA tyrant. Am now fighting the builder who is acting as the HOA and is making life hard on me as I try to improve my lot. The approval process is going to be an uphill battle likely because I complained about some shoddy work they did. I wish I had moved to the county and bought an old house far, far away from others and that had no HOA. Now I’m stuck again. Any value an HOA offers is more than offset by the bad they cause. Sorry for my rant.

  248. Dave is the perfect example of why the old worn out saying of: “If you want to change the HOA run for the board” is bogus.

    One or two honest people with integrity cannot change a thing on a board of 5,7, or 9 despots. I’ve seen this happen many times before only to watch the good people resign and often times sell and move out. Once they see behind the scenes they want to run from the HOA.

    At the risk of being a broken record, I will say again…Every HOA is just one vote away from being a nightmare. NEVER think the HOA across the parkway, down the road, in the next county, or on the lake is a better HOA. There is no such thing as a good HOA. If it’s good today tomorrow it could infected with a non-treatable cancer. One vote or one property manager can make the whole community toxic. I’ve lived in a toxic HOA for over thirteen years. And having the developer run the HOA means you have no say and he’s going to dictate every move you make. The BEST move to make is to sell and run like your hair is on fire!

  249. There was a time Nila that I would have read your (and my) comment and thought: “These people are dysfunctional and have issues working with others.” LOL. That was long before having served on an HOA board. Now we know better! I am kicking myself for “hitting the trust button” and trading freedom for a nice new house. I’d rather have the freedom!

  250. Don’t kick yourself Dave, that’s how most people view HOAs. I liken it to the saying “A conservative is a liberal who’s been mugged”. Everyone’s in love with HOAs until they get mugged by one. Until then they’re all happy idiots. I was in that camp early on myself.

  251. The difficulty of dealing with my HOA board lies with the fact they are dishonest, self-serving, corrupt, hateful, and full of revenge because I’ve told the truth about their actions and behaviors. My tolerance level for liars and thieves is a big zero.

    They tell the neighborhood I am a liar. That is totally false. I have always been known as a brutally honest person. I’ve worked in sales and customer relations for over forty years. Not once have I have an integrity complaint. I’ve dealt with thousands of clients and passengers. When I worked for the VP of an airline resolving issues with angry passengers no one ever accused me of being unfair or dishonest. I moved into this HOA with no option but to deal with these unprofessional and dishonest despots who are absolutely ridiculous. There is no reasoning with them. They refuse to exhibit the slightest level of common sense. And they are using my neighbors’ money in their efforts to destroy me. When I first moved in I was very professional with them. I’ve learned over the years these people are evil hate-filled street fighters and their attorneys are the same. My attorney is very professional and he’s asked their attorneys several times if a settlement could be reached. Response: No! We don’t want to settle we are going to take her house! Or No! We’re going to bankrupt her!

    Hopefully, sharing this more personal information will help you see I am not some out of control hot head, but someone that has been pushed beyond my limits of dealing with these HOA bullies!

  252. I think another issue is that they can arbitrarily go up.. sometimes by a LOT each year. HOA fees used to be affordable – maybe $50. But many places are now charging $350, $450, $620 a MONTH for the fees, that of course is in addition to an already steep mortgage. So say you do eventually pay off your home, well now you are stiffed with a $1300 HOA fee in 2040. Yeah no thanks! Property taxes are already bad enough!

  253. Nila, I understand completely what you’re going through. Sorry to hear they are that vindictive. The good news is it seems they are giving you plenty of ammo with their mean and unprofessional comments! Good luck and I hope you prevail.

  254. Thank you, Dave.

    I will not be prevailing. This case has been dragging on for over four years. We’ve had four trial dates…all canceled by the HOA. We’ve been to mediation twice. We settled. I followed the settlement exactly as agreed. The HOA changed the written document from what was agreed upon in mediation and demanded I sign it. I refused to sign anything other than what we had agreed upon. The judge sent us back to mediation. The mediation was another county judge who notified him the first time the case had been settled. After mediation failed the second time, the mediator ordered us to a four day jury trial. The judge denied me a trial. Denied me an affirmative defense. Awarded the HOA summary judgement to foreclose and take my mortgage-free home. I got an anonymous call that the judge on my case had been the former HOA president in his HOA. His wife was the current president. And the property manager involved in my case is the property manager for the judge’s HOA. I was given websites to confirm this all to be true. My attorney filed to recuse the judge. The judge refused. We went to the chief judge and waited nine months for his decision. He decided the first judge did not need to recuse himself. We now go back to court for the date to be set for the sheriff’s sale of my townhome.

    Here’s the kicker…this all started because the HOA refused to replace the driveway to my home that had dropped below the garage floor. This drop was so severe I had to use four wheel drive to get in my garage. I do not own the driveway, the HOA does. They wanted me to replace it even though I am holding a document that was included with one of the annual reports as a numbered page that clearly shows in the “chart of responsibilities” that replacement of the driveway is on the HOA. I also have a rotten fence out back surrounding a small area that is considered to be mine to maintain but I have no ownership in. The fence is rotten. Again, on the chart it shows replacement of the fence is on the HOA. Since the driveway dropped and water has poured underneath the garage and causing massive flooding in my basement, I had to hire contractors to try and repair my basement. The work was expensive and the townhouse never had the flooding problem in thirty years until the driveway dropped so low. Therefore, the cause of damage to my finished basement lies with the HOA. Due to failing to maintain their driveway they breached their contract with me. I withheld my dues because this was the third breach of contract I have dealt with. The HOA placed a lien for the dues and foreclosed on the lien. I put the amount owed into the escrow of my attorney as agreed in the mediation. The HOA was to replace the driveway and fence and I would have then released the money from escrow to them. When the changed the agreement to read they would “repair” the driveway and fence, I refused to sign. I have been told by three contractors the driveway is beyond repairing, the base has eroded due to infiltration of water and cannot be repaired because the base under it needs to be replaced. It’s asphalt. The fence is rotten beyond words. You could not put a child or dog inside the fence and expect them not to push on a few pickets and escape. The money I placed in escrow would have covered the cost of the new driveway and new fence. It was my intention as soon as the driveway and fence were replaced to release the money, have the lien removed, sell and get the hell out of here. The HOA has opted to spend money on four attorneys, drag this case on for over four years, and no doubt spent several hundred thousand dollars on legal bills, the foreclosure process, and there is more they will be spending. Why? Because Kansas allows me 12 months to stay in the property once it’s sold on the courthouse steps. The HOA has to pay the taxes, insurance, and HOA fees for that 12 months, not me. Have you ever heard the saying, “You can’t fix stupid?” In the beginning my attorney thought this was all over the HOA wanting their dues. I told him this has nothing to do with money. It’s all over power and revenge. They want to destroy me financially, take my home, and leave me homeless because I exposed all the corruption of the HOA and the property manager. To me, it appears the judge is in on it. My attorney now agrees with me…it was never about the money.

    HOAs are legal organized crime syndicates. Nothing more. Stand up to them and their CAI affiliated attorneys and property managers will stop at nothing to destroy you. Do my neighbors know exactly how their money is being spent? No. They know the HOA dues have gone up again and the HOA has taken out another $1.25M loan but they have no clue what has been going on. Not one of them or the board members shows up in court and we’ve been running up and down those court house steps for over four years…over a driveway and a fence. Guess who else has been picking up the tab? The taxpayers. Everybody has lost so the bullies on the board could destroy the one person in the neighborhood that stood up for the truth. I will never stop telling people to run from an HOA like your hair is on fire! I’ve paid too high a price not to.

  255. Nila – My thinking is let them foreclose so you can get on with your life. Since there’s no mortgage on the property there’s no loan being defaulted on. It may be the best outcome possible given that all attempts to get a legal remedy have failed. Your life and sanity are worth way more than that house.

  256. I’m done dealing with them, Kevin. When the judge said the HOA does not have to provide by the contract but the homeowner has to pay the dues. I recognized how deep the organized crime goes. They will get the townhouse and I will be set free. Granted I’ll lose $500K+ and not live the retirement life that I saved and planned for, but some of the best laid plans still fail. It’s the price paid when dealing with crooks, bullies, and organized crime.

    Unfortunately, I cannot get my health and 13 years of my life back. But I can continue to warn others about the risks of owning in an HOA!

  257. My Girl friend and I went camping. A private contractor picks up my garbage on a contract basis since I don’t live in a city. The contractor picks up the trash on Wednesday I put out the trash on Tuesday night and went camping I came back on Friday picked up my trash can on the side of the dirt road I live on no Problem.

    Oh How Great it is to be able to get away with this kind of thing

    One more benefit to run from an H.O.A.

  258. Stephen, your trash story makes me smile! You are definitely living the good life…I envy you!

    My HOA stopped my trash service July 1, 2014. When they deposed me for EIGHT HOURS one of the questions from their attorney was “What are you doing with your trash?” My response, “None of your business.” That threw him a curve ball so he asked if I was putting it in one of my neighbor’s trash cans? They video tape my house so he knows I’m not carrying my trash to a neighbor’s house.

    I wish I’d of said I was throwing it in the attic! The BOD would have gone crazy trying to get a search warrant to come check the attic. That would have been hysterical!!!

  259. A new one for me as of just yesterday that is unique. 12 of us bought expensive new construction houses from a builder clustered around a million dollar 30 year old home that is also part of our HOA (builder is the HOA still). We just found out the builder while simultaneously acting as the HOA sold that existing house to a person who they knew planned to establish a 24/7 behavioral health patient home in violation of the covenants which prohibits any business with only exceptions of a home business (home office). Meanwhile they give me grief for putting in home improvements exactly like they are building on other homes. Understand this is sticky and complex stuff but this highlights that the advantages of an HOA vaporize quickly while the disadvantages prove to be quite persistent.

  260. Have you checked the county records to see if the 30 year old home is actually part of the HOA? Or did the builder own it and build the HOA around it? There was a case like this in Nevada where the home was behind the HOA gates but indeed not part of the HOA. The owner fought a long hard fight in court but won. http://neighborsatwar.com/2016/09/jonathan-friedrich/

    When you check the county records you’ll be looking to see if the deed reflects the HOA. Also, developers submit their plat to the city planners. Pay them a visit and ask to look at it to see if the HOA surrounds the house or includes it. You may want to consult with an attorney after getting the details.

    HOA propaganda promises rose gardens but fails to mention all the thorns!

  261. Here’s more information on the Nevada case, with references.

    https://independentamericancommunities.com/2017/07/09/jury-rules-in-favor-of-homeowner-in-case-of-non-existent-hoa/

    Developer controlled HOAs are a big problem across the U.S. I’ve seen Realtor/Broker controlled HOA’s too. These places are run like mini fiefdoms.

    The industry trade group that pushes HOAs (they call them “community associations”)keeps telling the public and Legislators that HOAs are democratic communities where homeowners elect their board members. That’s pure propaganda. In many cases, it’s a bold face lie.

    And even in owner controlled HOAs, fair and clean elections are rare. There’s no accountability!

  262. Deborah, I couldn’t agree more. To call what is going on in HOAs “elections” is a downright Orwellian distortion of the word.

    The folks with a direct interest in the outcome are counting the ballots in secret. This is what happens in banana republics.

    My HOA actually recorded in their own meeting minutes their intention to “count No votes as Yes votes”

    This resulted in the HOA empowering themselves with the ability to Fine homeowners, AND collect those fines by foreclosing on the permanent lien that was only to be used to collect the annual assessments.

    I have attempted to raise this issue (ballot fraud resulting in alterations of my deed restrictions) to an agenda item at the annual meeting, and the HOA refused to bring it up.

    So what is next?

    Much to the “service providers” delight, it will be the basis of a lawsuit!

    It is almost to absurd to believe!

  263. You’re in a tough position I’m sorry to say Dave. If you asked me for advice I would say sell and run now! Get out before the sun rises!

    The only way to fight this is in a legal battle of the developer breaching the terms of the contract. If you go that route expect to spend $100K to $500K or more on legal. That’s if you can find an attorney that will represent you. It can’t be just any attorney. It must be somebody with a vast knowledge of HOAs. Your developer holds all the power. He is running the show the way he wants to. As soon as they becomes a half way house or whatever it’s going to be the fighting and feuding is going to escalate and the property values will start to tank. Thus…get out now!

    Trust me on this. No roof over your head is worth living in hell to have it. My attorney told me to get out in 2007. I thought I could help turn the HOA around into a responsible, transparent, well-maintained community. At that time I had no idea how much power and corruption dwells within the HOA. I so regret I did not listen to my attorney eleven years ago. The price for not taking his advice has been more than you can fathom.

  264. I do have one disagreement these places with HOA’s are not neighborhoods there subdivisions. There’s nothing neighborly about them. I like you have lived in them all. We all have walled ourselves in. We drive up our driveways open our garage doors with a push of a button and before we even get out of our cars we push that button to close that door before anyone can see us and may ask us something. How dare they, if they only knew how busy we were. I’m 63 and living alone for the first time in my life. After 46yrs he had grown tired of tormenting me. He’s trolling girl’s watch out. I’m fine being by myself but I would love to live in a neighborhood like I grew-up in. If someone died we knew it they day they died. And we all sprang into motion.If someone got hurt we took turns doing whatever they had that needed to be done.People were just as busy back then as they are today.But we were “neighbors”. They don’t build anything these day’s without an HOA. So when I’m looking I have to look at older neighborhoods which I love anyway. But I do have “must haves”. Because of my age and a female.I won’t live anywhere that has bars on the windows and doors. I won’t be afraid to open my windows and doors even at night. Teenagers don’t bother me. I would rather be around them than a lot of old grumpy and gripey people that find fault with everything and everybody. A sure way to get old fast is to only hang around old people.If I want to plant a vegetable garden in my FRONT yard as long as I’m not selfish and share. I get the blessing of the neighborhood.I like to create things and some things are to messy for the inside of my house.I am way to obsessive about my house being eat off the floor clean. But I like getting my hands dirty.I want to be able to build a small building in my back yard to make messy things in. Ok, does anyone out there know of this perfect place where we can be neighbors again? Where we can learn to like each other warts and all?

  265. Hi Laura – I certainly don’t know of any. Some people I know are only friendly with one or two houses on their street, and that’s the optimistic scenario. Most fit the description you gave about people pulling into their garages, closing the door, then disappearing. We had a neighbor like that for 9 years when we lived in an HOA neighborhood. She lived right next door, but we never knew her. She’d pull into her driveway, right next to the mail box, get her mail from the car, pull into the garage, then close the door, never to emerge. Many of the houses on the same street seemed unoccupied. And that was in the South, where everyone (theoretically) is happy and friendly.

    I have to disagree that people were just as busy years ago. The pace of life really has quickened. Computers, regulations, requirements, work schedules/pressures, broken families, 24/7 entertainment – you name it – all combine to create an extreme level of busyness. Something has to give, and it’s usually personal interaction. There’s just no time for it.

    I also believe we’re more materialistic than ever. It’s all about stuff and money. The stock market and artificially low interest rates have a lot to do with that. So does the accumulation of stuff. But where it may be most acute – and here’s where we get back to HOAs – is with property values. Until the 1960s, a house was a place you lived in. Since the 1970s, it’s become an “investment”. It’s all about “protecting my property value”, which is a code phrase for making sure the value continues to rise. HOAs are believed to facilitate that.

    But life works much differently when where you live is perceived first and foremost to be an investment. The concept of neighborhood works only to the degree that all participate in making sure “my house continues to rise in value”. That’s a very different dynamic than the community that used to exist in neighborhoods. No one cares about that aspect anymore, except superficially at planned block parties and HOA sponsored happy events, which most residents don’t participate in anyway. HOAs create the illusion of happiness and community, but the real thing is usually sorely missing.

    At the mall where I do my morning walk in bad weather, there are mostly elderly people hanging out early. You can see a very different dynamic among them. Some come to exercise, but most come to interact. They clearly represent a different generation, one for whom social interaction was seen as central to life. I don’t think we’ll be doing that in our 70s and 80s. It’s a behavior we’re not familiar with as a result of growing up in a very different world.

    The changes started with the Baby Boomers, which you and I are both a part of. We can seek genuine community, but I haven’t found it, other than in churches, and then only among true believers, who are united by their faith. In today’s America, we’re not united by anything real. We fly the flag, pledge allegiance to it, and sing patriotic songs, then have little to do with the people around us as we’re inundated with the doctrine that “the world is a dangerous place”.

    How the hell did we reach this point???

  266. From my experience the typical HOA is difficult to distinguish from a criminal enterprise, high school click gone amuck or a cage full of monkeys with typewriters trying to recreate the declaration of indispensable. Currently living in one with an extreme degree of disfunction and can’t get out fast enough. I will never buy in one of the Paton places again.

  267. That’s very poetically put PJ, and right on point. I’ve always considered the high school clique concept to be one of the most integral elements of HOA boards, and even of some of the residents. Unless you fit neatly in that realm it can be an uncomfortable experience at best, and a hostile one at worst.

  268. Hostile? I found it enjoyable to shame this inept HOA by posting You Tube videos of unsightly entrance; paver brick median with moss growth and other negligence. Within a week they addressed the problems but the videos remain. After I unload this property I will identify the community to expose HOA clowns in an effort to deter home shoppers. The 13 views were HOA board members and a few like minded neighbors who received the unlisted video link.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Vej-7efSEKQ

    These were same HOA clowns who once boasted about the regal entrance, after needlessly flushing $10,000 on paver brick which they allowed to become an eyesore. The unvarnished reality reality regarding the HOA problem is quite simple. You can’t expect back slapping volunteers to perform adequately and the costly professional management companies they may utilize typically aren’t an improvement.

    The practical solution is to avoid close proximity to other houses. Unfortunately, far too many people categorize a good neighbor as someone willing to overlook their indiscretions.

  269. Hi George – That’s a novel way to get the board’s attention. But my guess is some HOAs might take legal action against you for doing so. After all, it’s not the board’s money that will be spent on legal fees, but the resident’s money.

  270. I know from communicating with many homeowners that HOAs do take legal action against them when they publicize the HOA’s poor management, lack of transparency, or any other faults.

    I’m aware of HOAs that claim defamation, and insist that the whistleblower will reduce property values by exposing the truth aout the HOA.

    Even if the HOA has no legal leg to stand on, they have more money to pick legal battles that most homeowners do.

  271. Yes, research has revealed the primary reason for a HOA is to maintain property values. However, this gang of rotating misfits with frequent turnover has permitted 2/3rds of properties to ignore landscaping requirements. 100 properties are not in compliance. There are some homes in this TWENTY YEAR OLD community with no front yard shrubs or trees, although they “must have” 6 shrubs and 2 trees. This HOA actually appointed a pimple-cream sales rep as PRESIDENT a few years ago since she was the only volunteer. She promised to address the nearby backyard eyesore created (5 tons of excavated swimming pool dirt) several years ago but it is still there. The new-and-improved bozo HOA is a lawyer and he promised to resolve the problem also – but the problem remains and is easily viewed from GOOGLE AERIAL. It is unlikely this HOA would take any action based on critical materialpublication given the fact they were not inclined to spend $500 to have their lawyer issue a cease-and-desist to have the dirt pile removed.

    Besides, there are many ways to skin a rat and remain anonymous. I previously authored a pictorial mailer to residents depicting the board as a clown with their head up their posterior. Why? Their annual mailer advised residents to trim trees overhanging the sidewalk – while they ignored HOA trees overhanging the sidewalks bordering the common areas.

    The most interesting element of the paver brick contractor was the fact the slack jaw they hired was a resident of this community and had the lawn mowing contract for the common areas. I once noticed tire tracks on the sidewalk while walking the dog. Photographed and measured them. They were obviously truck tires. Imagine my surprise when the first Pick-Up I examined up the street was a match – parked in front of the lawn mowers house. I had no reason to believe it was the truck. Tread pattern and width exact match. He got a terse message on his windshield advising him the next time he went “OFF ROADING” the PD would be at his door. This event relates to my general comment about neighbors. Although this is a middle class, single family residential area of 160 homes (200 to 250K) in NW INDIANA it is infested with unsavory characters. 20 percent is sufficient to render an area unappealing, although it may seem attractive at first glance.

    My next location will be a few acres in Michigan bordering a wildlife area.

  272. Thanks for this great article
    We are purchasing our first home soon I’m a nurse and my husband is a Combat Wounded Warrior Marine. We’ve been through hell and back with multiple deployments and now we are ready to purchase our permanent home and just want peace and quiet and privacy We fell in love with one house only to find out there was an HOA the agent told us the listing agent said that it was a very laid-back community and the restrictions were light but when we read the Restrictions we didn’t see anything light about the restrictions Not to mention that the house we were looking at come to find out the main board member of this HOA is the person selling this house. Maybe he’s laidback back but who’s to tell who will come in next either way we will have already said we’re never buying a house with an HOA of any kind. We’ve had friends who did and it turned into a nightmare
    That’s awesome article just reinforced our beliefs and in fact we actually learned a few more things from it so we thank you very much for putting this information out there
    We hate that we can’t go forward with this house that we love but we are confident we will find one restriction free so that we can truly enjoy the privacy and freedom we’ve worked hard to defend and now be able to enjoy

  273. I think you’re making the right choice. You can never know how much privacy you’ll have in an HOA until you move in. But even then, the rules can change. What people don’t realize is that a single rule change can be a game changer. That possibility is always real in an HOA. No matter what, when you move into in HOA, someone else has a level of control over your life and your right to live in and enjoy your home.

  274. Thank you Kevin for your response to our statement it just reinforces our belief not to ever buy in to anything that has HOA restrictions or anything attached to it
    It may take us a bit longer to find our permanent home but we will find it and then we will be restriction free and it’ll be all ours We love this website and we are going to visit regularly thank you so much we learned so much just by spending a little time on here

  275. Applause to you Kevin for saving this couple from HOA Hell! I literally have tears in my eyes I am so happy your website saved these people!

    I’ve had neighbors that were combat veterans. After living in here for a short while they realized there are two types of war zones. The one where you fight for your country and the one where your neighbors are the terrorists that will destroy your civilian life while you fight to live in peace in your own home. Not to mention flying the Marine Corps flag will provoke a board member to send demand letters that it come down immediately!

    Those guys have all sold and gotten out of here. The ones I’ve talked with bought acreage outside of the city and will build a home or bought one they will restore. Every single one of them said NEVER AGAIN WOULD THEY OWN IN ANOTHER HOA!

    Congratulations to T and Jake for doing their research! Thank you for your service! Semper Fi.

  276. Thank you Nila Ridings. We are grateful for your kind words and we will never be able to thank Kevin enough for this site. If we said thank you in every language in the universe it still wouldn’t be enough 🙂

  277. Does the question become which type of HOA is most offensive.

    1) The lackluster volunteers who ignore all but the most egregious violations by neighbors-from-hell, in which case why bother paying the annual dues. This type of MIA board members is also more likely to neglect common areas.

    2) The extremists who rule with an iron fist and frequently enforce regs in a biased and unpredictable manner.

    The retired couple up the street escaped this #1 type community in search of a #2. They were pleased their new HOA had a reg that required property owners to remove mobile basketball rims when not in use and store them out of sight.

    It would be interesting to learn if readers had more problems with undesirable neighbors the HOA failed to reel-in and problems with neglected common areas or other direct conflicts with the HOA that did not involve other property owners – including annual dues deemed excessive.

  278. That’s an outstanding question George! I think both are equally bad for the homeowner. In the case of the first HOA, it’s like not having an HOA. If you’re paying dues, there’s no point – the money is being wasted for who knows what. In the case of the second, you’re voluntarily submitting to a gestapo. From what I’ve seen, rules like removing basketball rims are picayune, and are usually the tip of a very treacherous iceberg. And I’m saying that even though I’m not a basketball fan. Houses are for people to live in and enjoy, and rules like that suggest the board doesn’t share that concept of homeownership.

    So maybe the moral of the story is the best kind of HOA is no HOA. Even if you’re in one that seems moderate, balanced and accommodating, a change in board members could lead to a move in either extreme direction. The basic problem is that HOAs are NOT democracies. Even as a matter of state law, homeowners are required to comply under the force of law. That’s an unequal arrangement, and one no one should enter into voluntarily.

    The fundamental problem with HOAs is you aren’t just buying a house, you’re also buying the neighborhood. That’s true of every neighborhood, and every community. But since HOAs have power over your life and your home, it adds a level of complication (and even disaster) that shouldn’t be part of the homeownership arrangement. Think about it – either you own your home or you don’t. You don’t sort of own it, as is the case with HOAs. Sort of owning a house is non-ownership.

  279. I love this comment board. Thank you for providing it.

    We just bought in a brand new community of 15 houses. We just left an HOA community hoping to get away from that dynamic but we could not find a new house that was not in an HOA governed community. Those homes without HOAs had major problems like chain link fences across the street, run down houses nearby, etc…

    Anyway, the owners will take over the HOA from the builder next summer and having seen how HOAs can do more harm than good, would appreciate any thoughts on how to keep the HOA from becoming out of control from the beginning. Our By Laws and Declaration are very broadly written and suggest that the board has lots of power and plenty of room for interpretation. I already see a couple personalities becoming eager for power by running neighborhood meetings as they are already board members, doing lots of curbside talking about issues, alliance building, etc.. From the last HOA we lived in, I can see where this is going, even though it is all still pretty positive for now.

    Any thoughts on things one might be able to say or do to keep the HOA under control before it even gets incorporated? Comments for the first HOA meeting that might open some eyes without looking like a negative person?

  280. Hi Diedra – This article is now a few years old, and I continue to be amazed and humbled by the readership and comments it’s drawn. My guess is there are more people than I originally anticipated who have had HOA issues, but very few places to weigh in on it. Generally speaking, it’s one of America’s social orders of faith that HOAs are an unqualified good. It’s always difficult when any activity or institution is thought of as being beyond question. But those are exactly the very things we need to question in life. No creation of humankind is perfect, and when we stop questioning the efficacy of one, we’ve lost touch with reality, as well as control of the situation.

    But back to your situation. The fact that it’s a small neighborhood could be to your advantage, unless of course the plan is to expand the neighborhood. But I’d suggest getting on the board yourself, and working to be a voice of moderation. That will either work beautifully, or it will make you realize the situation is beyond hope. Unfortunately, all groups are most heavily influenced by one or two strong personalities. If one of them has less than honorable intentions, there won’t be much you can do.

    I read a long time ago that there are two basic kinds of people in the world. One just wants to be left alone to live her life, and the other just wants to be able to tell the first one what she needs to do. It’s a darker side of the human condition, and it shows up in all phases of life. But when it affects your home – which should be personal safe space – it digs on a deep emotional level, as well as on a practical one.

  281. Thank you Kevin! I intended to not run for this board to find some peace as I was a board member in previous communities and found that being the fixer and voice of reason is thankless and makes you a target of the strong personalities:). But you are likely right. Thank you for your reply.

  282. George,

    Excellent post, and you raise a very important question. I’m going to have to vote for #2 here (Extremists who rule with an iron fist). Although the people described in #1 can be more of an annoyance and an obstacle, the people who fall under #2 can really do the most damage. These are the people who wield the CC&R document like a bludgeon and constantly beat their neighbors over the head with it, nitpicking details that most homeowners probably never considered, because they feel somehow personally offended by someone’s parked car or landscaping preferences.

    The majority of people I have spoken to who favor HOAs give me the same reasoning: “If we didn’t have rules, my neighbor would have cars up on blocks in their front yard, and we’d have pink and purple houses lining the street!” This could not be further from the truth. Is it possible without some kind of pseudo-government attempting to monitor everyone’s every move? Absolutely. Is it likely? Absolutely not. It is statements like this that are perpetuated by the Property Management companies to incite fear in homeowners, which allows the HOAs and PMs to dig their claws deeper. As neighborhoods increase in density near desirable employment markets, with postage stamp sized properties, people become increasingly fearful that something their neighbor will do will upset them. Instead of handling it like adults, many of us are far too willing to turn over absolute control to some 3rd party with no vested interest in the quality of life in the neighborhood, only the continuation of their own business arrangement with the Board and/or Developer and the resulting monetary reward associated with it. They claim that their mission is to “increase property values”, but in truth it does not matter what property values do under their watch, as long as their watch continues. All of the propaganda about boosting property values and protecting you from “undesirables” is just that…propaganda.

    We have plenty of rules that govern home ownership without HOAs, and they’re called laws. In my experience, the law covers a high percentage of obnoxious behavior, and there is no need of a set of extra rules. A great example of this is the barking dogs problem…that likely violates a noise ordinance, which is county law.

    In full disclosure, I have lived in an HOA neighborhood for 6 years, and I was voted onto the board after promising to do my best to end the petty behavior that has been damaging our neighborhood for years. It’s an uphill battle, but one worth fighting. I fell into the HOA trap as a first-time home buyer who did not know any better, and unfortunately it means I will one day have to turn over the keys to our beautiful home to some potential buyer and rebuild somewhere outside of this madness.

    A quick note to T and Jake: Thank you for defending our country, and it gives me great joy to know that you did not purchase a home in an area that is against the values you have protected.

    Also, thank you to everyone on this message board. I haven’t posted in a while, but I read these messages every time I get an alert, and the fact that there are other like-minded individuals out there gives me hope that these corrupt mini-dictatorships will be ended one day.

  283. Hi Nick – I was immediately struck by “If we didn’t have rules, my neighbor would have cars up on blocks in their front yard, and we’d have pink and purple houses lining the street!” – that’s the very same argument I heard again and again. It must be part of some sort of HOA talking points. And I love your description of board members who want to beat people over the head with the regs. That’s totally true.

    But what I really want to get to is your point about inciting fear. This is part of a bigger picture problem in our culture. We’re being convinced from every direction that we can trust no one (except the government), including neighbors and even family members. This street-level paranoia is tailor-made to HOAs. Since they represent a form of lower-level government, they’re portrayed as saviors and protectors against all that we’re told we need to fear.

    So if you watch the news, or even listen to office chatter, you’re convinced you’ll be safer in HOA neighborhood. But if people in general are really that bad, then there’ll be plenty of bad apples in the HOA, and even on the board. This is another classic example of where building fences around yourself ultimately puts you into a jail cell of your own creation. Then you’re locked in with the very neurotics you’re trying to hide from.

    But people do that all the time, because they’re convinced safety is what’s most important in life. I completely disagree. In my own life’s experience, I found that the more you get to know people, and even open up to strangers, the more you realize the vast majority of people are not a threat.

    But when you hide behind fences, which is what HOAs are in a metaphorical sense, it becomes even easier to assume everyone is evil, and you need to find organizations to protect yourself.

    This is also why even within an HOA people can’t do the adult thing and work out their differences on a one-to-one level. They want to know that they can run to the “teacher” (the board), to file a complaint, and get “justice”, protection, and retribution.

    It really hints at the darker side of the human soul. HOAs seem to be collection points for that type of personality. That’s probably the main reason I don’t like them. It’s almost as if all the darker sides of the human condition are only fed and enhanced by HOA structures.

    When all is said and done, HOAs point to a much bigger problem. People don’t talk to their neighbors anymore, they don’t want to negotiate their differences, and prefer to hide behind the perceived security of a quasi-government organization.

    We can’t fix the human condition, but we can certainly stay out of the neighborhoods where the darker forces tend to fester. That means avoiding HOAs whenever possible.

  284. And one other comment I wanted to make Nick, you’re thanking T and Jake for service to this country. It’s a cruel irony that one would go to a foreign country, and risk his or her life to fight against dictatorship/terrorism, only to return home and be subject to a panel of dictators in their own neighborhood.

  285. Many point to ponder here in response to these recent comments.

    I’m in total agreement with the comments about T and Jake fighting for freedom only to come home and chance the dictatorship in an HOA. Fortunately, they were smart enough to avoid the war zone that awaited them.

    This HOA is the only one I have ever lived in. All the other homes I’ve owned were in non-HOA subdivisions. It will never happen again! Since my HOA is supposed to provide maintenance on the exterior of our PUD; homes, duplexes, and four-plex townhouses, I recognize they attract a certain type of people. Mainly women. Women who have never owned a home without a spouse or lived with their parents. Widows that had husbands that ‘took care of everything’ or elderly couples anticipating one of them will soon be the survivor of the couple. Divorced men that has lost all but their shirts in a divorce. And a few younger women out of college with some money for a down payment on an inexpensive townhome/condo. Few of these folks are free-thinking with common sense. They are followers not leaders. I am the exception. I’ve never been married, owned a home since I was 29, had interesting and demanded careers, and been blessed with common sense. When I saw the maintenance was not being done, the president was very shady, and $10 Million was unaccounted for…I stepped up and started asking questions. Others had pushed for information but when the board president threatened them with a lawsuit they immediately backed down. I didn’t. I hired an attorney and shortly thereafter the hot shot president dropped dead. His successor was a power-hungry old bar fly that gave all these other women the impression she was somebody special. They bought her bull crap and kept her on the board. Needless to say she hates me. I called her out on self-dealing…she created a decorating business and funneled the rehab of the clubhouse through her ‘company’ then the newsletter started having advertising only for us to learn she was the publisher and the advertising dollars were being paid to her through her ‘publishing company’ which published nothing other than the HOA newsletter. She was the editor and called those she didn’t like “pariahs” in the newsletter. And in a court case under oath in front of a jury she told the attorney for the homeowner she wrote that because these people are nothing but “pariahs.” The HOA lost all counts of that lawsuit and the judge told the HOA attorney her number one witness did her no good!

    Moving forward…my unit has massive damage caused by failed maintenance to the exterior. I refused to pay dues into this corrupt organization after paying for several years and seeing nothing done and incurring damages to the interior of my unit. It’s been a living hell for over thirteen years! I learned from an employee of the property manager (CAI affiliated) that this self righteous board president had the employees working on the INSIDE of her home doing projects she wanted done while being paid by with MY HOA dues. They were not allowed to drive the trucks to her home they had to walk so as to not raise suspicion. When her neighbors found out what was happening to keep them quiet she asked them to make lists of what they wanted done to their units and she sent the employees over to do their work to keep them quiet. This was all going to come out in my lawsuit because this employee had already blown the whistle on his former employer who instructed them to remove rotten siding and if they was frame damage to cover it up and not tell the homeowners! However, none of this will be known now because the judge denied me a trial, an affirmative defense, and awarded the HOA summary judgement to foreclose and take my mortgage free townhouse.

    The judge had endorsed this corruption by also telling my attorney, me and the HOA attorney that the HOA does not have to perform per the contract but the homeowners must pay the dues!

    The board claims they did not vote to foreclose on my home but their number one attorney did. (They have four attorneys) He’s a CAI lobbyist. So, without ever discussing one word with me about the problems with my house, the board allowed their attorney to foreclose on my property, spent who knows how much money on four attorneys which they are paying from the dues because they’ve had the insurance canceled twice in three years due to lawsuits, and now they will end up with a townhouse they have to do the repairs on in order to sell it. There is no way they can ever come out ahead financially. Here’s the real kicker…we mediated this case. I agreed to put up the dues I owed…$10K…I did that. The amount to repair the problems around my townhouse were less than $10K. After I did everything as agreed they denied they agreed to it. Even though the mediator was a county judge that notified the judge on the case that it was settled. They still denied it so the court allowed them to not adhere to the settlement and the judge denied me a trial and gave them my townhouse.

    After working and supporting myself since I was seventeen years old, I end up in my retirement years with health issues caused by stress from this HOA nightmare and homeless. I’m not sharing my story for sympathy. I just want people to understand how corrupt and insane these HOAs are and how the court system favors the HOA nearly 100% of the time.

    I am looking forward to living outside this HOA and I pity the poor suckers that are suck here. Some of the board members have died, moved, and left the board but it’s still the same toxic place it’s always been because there is no level of intelligence on the board and they spend all the money on attorneys and property managers. Not to mention they have taken out a $1M and a $1.25M loan with no vote or input from the homeowners. Payments are made from the HOA dues. HOAs are insane and nobody should ever consider living in one for any reason and I say that speaking from experience!

  286. That really a sad story Nila. “Some of the board members have died, moved, and left the board but it’s still the same toxic place it’s always been…” – this is a point I covered in the article. It’s not specific people, but the type of people HOA boards attract. 100 can move away or die, and there’ll be a long line of the same personality types to fill their shoes.

    Your story about the courts reminds me why the Bible tells us to stay out of the civil courts (“If any of you has a dispute with another, do you dare to take it before the ungodly for judgment instead of before the Lord’s people? – 1 Corinthians 6:1). I don’t care what the detractors say, the older I get and the more I see, the more I realize the validity of the Bible.

  287. Once toxic always toxic in this HOA because some of the same people are still on the board and the one that did all the self-dealing, lying to the judge, and calling people pariahs is still running the HOA. The president at this time is dumber than a box of rocks so she gives him direction on how to run the HOA. As long as she’s still breathing this HOA will be run by her. I think she’s almost 85 years old so you’d think she’d be running out of hatred and anger pretty soon. She’s had people in training for awhile though so this toxic HOA will remain the same until it falls down or is bulldozed down. Decent people that have been on the board resigned because they could not deal with the corruption. They have contacted me after they resigned and told me why.

  288. Something I’ve come to realize about old miserable people is that many of them are actually being sustained by their hatred/anger/vindictiveness. I’ve seen this before. It’s like they’re empowered by anger, akin to being on an unholy mission. In a perverse way, it gives them a purpose in life, and a reason to go on.

  289. All my life I’ve had elderly neighbors. People that were close as family. Some outlived my parents and I stayed in touch with them and went to visit in other states until they passed away. I still think of them with such gratitude because they were not only good friends to my family but good examples in every way. Seeing the vile and vulgar nastiness of these elderly people on this HOA board has been a shock. I don’t know any of their children but I wonder what type of people they are having been raised by this despicable bunch. I noticed one trend with the woman. They’ve been in multiple marriages and divorces. I wonder if that has made them bitter towards the world? Whatever it is it’s made them very toxic people and the HOA board has been the perfect setting for them to destroy those this dislike and drag them up and down the courthouse steps because it is costing them nothing because the homeowners are picking up the tab on the legal bills. In essence, HOAs feed the monsters.

  290. On the divorce front, a former pastor of ours said that if you’ve had multiple failed marriages, you have to take a close look at the common element in each – YOU! You could have heard a pin drop in an auditorium holding about 3,000 people. But I think his assessment was right on the money. I know of one woman who has been married four times, and was recently divorced again – in her 80s!

    (I’m sorry, I can’t help but notice these things…maybe it’s my “talent” for connecting the dots?)

  291. After dealing with these people I cannot imagine anybody wanting to live with them much less be married to them. I’ve been told some very interesting stories about these women and men on the board from people that know them outside of the HOA. Let’s just say none of it was flattering. They certainly are not people I would ever pick for business partners but that’s one of the many downsides of owning in an HOA, your neighbors are also your business partners in a non-profit corporation. Few people realize that when they buy into an HOA. Shake my head!

  292. The majority of my issues with inept HOA were due to bad neighbors and HOA unwillingness to address the problems. And never think the local PD is your ally when dealing with problematic losers with noisy dogs, intrusive cameras and other matters. If you expect results be prepared to play hardball and back local law enforcement into a corner with persistent assertiveness by making them realize the EZ road is dealing with your offensive neighbors rather than dealing with you. I’m a former IRS employee and adept at confrontational negotiation.

    1) After numerous documented complaints regarding a noisy dog the PD was compelled to issue a citation but only after numerous complaints. PROBLEM RESOLVED. That backyard neighbor moved out and was replaced by another problematic neighbor with a noisy dog.

    2) After a different backyard neighbor/misfit situated a soffit mounted camera at my backyard (invasion of privacy circumventing 6 foot fence) for reporting his noisy dogs I ultimately confronted PD sergeant and read him the riot act for 20 minutes regarding his unprofessional patrolmen. The cop I called to take a report on the camera refused to do so. His bad. The sergeant called him on the carpet and made him complete a report. The sergeant did not refute the facts presented regarding my observations of poorly trained underlings and became an ally. He approached the camera freak and told him to move the camera or he would refer the matter to the local prosecutor. PROBLEM RESOLVED

    In order to impress the camera freak/noisy dog owner with my diligence I created a large billboard: NO CAMERA ZONE by ORDER OF PD. Much to my delight this lowlife neighbor eventually decided to move but how was he going to sell a house with that sign in my backyard facing his backyard !! He flushed $$ consulting lawyers to no avail. The HOA was not going to make me take down a sign “authorized” by the PD regarding a matter they ignored. He pleaded with me to remove the sign. Delicious !!! This SOB was affiliated with a dog rescue operation and kept (noisy) strays despite HOA regulation allowing FAMILY PETS only. After he was spanked by the PD I took the precaution of threatening legal action against the pet rescue outfit for failing to enforce their policy that stipulates foster parents must comply with landlord requirements. HOA = landlord. After allowing him to squirm for a few weeks with the sign remaining in place I removed it.

    3) The camera freak was a pal with my next door neighbor lawyer. That idiot thought he was going to ram my fence with his push lawn mower in a foolish attempt to damage a panel, when he was more likely to break a wheel. Dagwood Bumstead didn’t realize I was on my back porch at the time and started filming him immediately while calling the cops. Three patrol cars arrived since I implied the vandal was in danger of bodily harm. He was caught and admitted to ramming the fence. BUSTED ! That clown got divorced and moved.

    4) The neighbor directly behind me, who adopted a noisy stray from the kennel keeper, filed several false reports alleging I threatened to harm their dog when in fact I never spoke to them. A member of the PD issued a department email making all officers aware of the possibility of false reports – after confronting this trash and telling them he did not believe any threats were made. PROBLEM RESOLVED

    These matters do not encompass all issues with bad neighbors, which also included two deputies who conspired to harass me after I reported one of them for parking their personal motorcycle on the sidewalk. Needless to mention, that conspiracy ended badly for them. After this place is sold I will never live in close proximity to anyone. Living in any community is a dice roll. Unfortunately, far too many people consider a “good neighbor” as someone willing to overlook their indiscretions. Given my experiences in this hell hole I would be partial to a home association that rules with an iron fist since I am not likely to violate any regs. I have twice the amount of required shrubs and trees while 70 percent of properties lack the mandatory minimum.

    It may interest readers to learn one of the unqualified HOA presidents who reigned for a year was caught lying when alerted of the new neighbor across the street who situated their refuse containers so they were visible from the road- and my kitchen window. Upon emailing her, alerting her of several homes with exposed containers, her immediate reply was “they have been contacted”. Of course that was not possible since she was notified the same day the newbies across the street violated the reg. When presented with this fact she started dancing and implying offenders ignore her requests to comply with the regs, and she sends letters until blue in the face. HOA regs should never be voluntary compliance.

    There is no peace of mind when a property owner is plagued by lousy neighbors and equally pathetic HOA. Very much looking forward to the day when I adopt Jeremiah Johnson lifestyle !!!

  293. George,

    Sounds like a real mess, but you made a couple of good points here. The biggest takeaway I got from your post concerns proximity issues. You said “After this place is sold, I will not live in close proximity to anyone…” Bingo! We found the root of the problem. Living in a densely populated community requires a certain amount of tolerance. If you live near people, they will have dogs, children, lawnmowers, etc. There will be noise. They will probably do something you do not like, and how you deal with it is up to you. I agree that a good neighbor is someone who is willing to overlook small indiscretions as long as they do not have an impact on their quality of life, but I would further extend that by saying that a good neighbor also does not actively do things to hurt those around them.

    However, the HOA model turns that logic upside down and allows people to pack into subdivisions like sardines without any expectation of giving or receiving tolerance. You’re in close proximity to people, and you now have the right to beat each other up over every little detail of what is done on someone else’s property. It’s petty and sickening.

    A good example: You mentioned the refuse container situation, where your neighbor placed it in direct view of your kitchen window. I’m willing to bet it wouldn’t matter so much if your neighbor was a quarter mile away, but if your neighbor is 6 feet away, it becomes bothersome. The answer is proximity.

    The camera issue is absolutely reprehensible. This happened to my parents years ago, and is currently happening to a good friend of mine. They have a nightmare of a neighbor who blows an airhorn at them if they are having a quiet conversation on their back porch after 10 p.m. (Keep in mind that these are massive, well-insulated houses with about a 20 foot gap between them). He calls the police on them every time they have friends over, and you better believe he has filed multiple complaints with the HOA. There have been absolutely no penalties to my friend, and that further infuriates his neighbor, who got himself into trouble after he decided to shoot his garden hose over the fence at them one night because they were sitting on their own back porch past the time that he deemed acceptable. Now, the kicker: This piece of trash installed a camera overlooking the backyard of my friend and his family. He has three small girls, which makes this even more despicable and generally creepy. He is one of those types that cannot deal with the sound of a pin dropping after the sun goes down. Again, someone who should not ever live in close proximity to people. We all have choices, and we can choose to live the way we want, not attempt to impose our will on others.

    I’m sure you can tell by now, but I’m more of a “live and let live” type of person. I’m not a good fit for an HOA, but as a first time home buyer I did not understand what I was getting into. I’m with you…one day when we sell, we’re going to get some space between us and the nearest home, and there will definitely be no HOA involved. Our new home will be as beautiful as our current home, but that is only because it is my preference and I take pride in our place. It’s a real shame though, because we do not need much. Our current house is more than adequate, highly upgraded, and pretty easy to maintain. We’ve had several sets of great neighbors in our time here, and never had one issue. They’ve had barking dogs, small children, garage hobby woodshops, and every sort of noisemaker you can imagine…and we loved them. I attribute that to a blend of tolerance and luck. I joined our HOA board to try to steer it towards maintenance of common assets (of which we have a lot), and away from chasing down “violators” of nonsensical restrictions or listening to the petty rantings of the grossly intolerant who chose to live in close proximity to people they cannot stand.

    However, HOA’s are like cancer…once it takes hold, it’s really hard to get it all out. We could have lived out the rest of our lives in this home and done just fine, but now that I know that truth I know we eventually have to move on. I know that you have expressed the intent to do likewise, and hopefully we will find some peace one day.

  294. Hi Jon – Not according to the scores of people who have weighed in with similar stories. My guess is you haven’t been targeted by your HOA yet, so you continue to believe they’re completely benign. But your position will certainly change when you come into conflict with them. It’s only then that the inherent unequal partnership arrangement comes into clear focus. Please don’t be so quick to dismiss the darker side of HOAs, it’s real.

  295. HEY !! I’m beginning to appreciate this gang of volunteer misfits with a martyr complex. Isn’t it charming to see Xmas decorations at the entrance until the end of Feb? Flashback to approximately 10 years ago when I noticed bizarre $1,500 budget item for someone to devote a few hours to string lights on entrance shrubs and store the decor in their garage in the off season. After calling attention to this curious matter the charge the following year was appropriate $150. Maybe the brother-in-law of the HOA president relocated and could not longer claim the $1,500 gravy train.

    While it can be assumed there might be a few associations (of thousands) who function in a competent and non-imposing fashion the best advice is to avoid HOA communities. Not surprisingly, there is never more than 10 percent of property owners in this neighbor that show up at the annual meeting. Like many neighbors I went to ONE and was underwhelmed by board member antics. One clown boasted about the newly installed $10,000 paver brick entrance and foolishly compared the decor to a nearby area with much higher value real estate. After a few years it was necessary to “motivate” the incompetent board to hire someone to remove unsightly growth that accumulated between the bricks.

    Upon questioning a homeowner in a nearby community I was informed they keep bouncing between resident HOA board members and the professional management companies. Fortunately, most buyers do not evaluate the HOA dilemma prior to making the move……which will benefit me when this place goes on the market.

  296. Nick D. says: I joined our HOA board to try to steer it towards maintenance of common assets (of which we have a lot), and away from chasing down “violators” of nonsensical restrictions or listening to the petty rantings of the grossly intolerant who chose to live in close proximity to people they cannot stand.

    VALID PERSPECTIVE. The purpose of HOA boards was to maintain property value. This HOA board pretty much ignores everything, which is why so many property owners have failed to maintain shrub and tree requirements. Lifestyle related noises are generally tolerable but everything is relative. Regular or constant nuisance barking is not acceptable. The two most common complaints to this middle class town PD are barking dogs and loud music.

    A few weeks ago I was standing near the entrance to my garage when another irresponsible pet owner with an aggressive pit bull (walking on the side walk) permitted the mutt to charge half-way up my driveway while barking and growling at me. Only after yelling at the human mongrel, informing her the driveway was PRIVATE PROPERTY was she inclined to offer perfunctory, “I’m sorry”.

    Contacted animal control after covertly following her home to get her address. Upon mentioning to the dog cop I have concealed carry permit he did not hesitate to point out a homeowner can take “necessary measures’ to neutralize the threat of a dangerous dog on their property -leashed or otherwise. He then visited the nuisance dog owner to issue verbal warning. There can no doubt she did not expect to be followed and was not expecting animal control at her door. The last time it was necessary to contact him was due to dog owners ignoring the mandatory leash law in this city. Dogs on public property must be leashed. I’ve seen them dash across roads into oncoming traffic and present other problems………..like the time I was riding my bike at 11pm and two bull dogs rushed into my path. The brain dead homeowner said there was no need to worry because they don’t bite !!

  297. So far in my life I’ve owned 4 houses. Only once (the second house I bought) did I almost make the mistake of buying into a HOA. Co-workers and even my agent at the time (which also happened to be a former co-worker) told me the horror stories of HOAs and how I should avoid them like a angry hornet infested room.

    In my experience the houses that were in great looking neighborhoods remained as great looking neighborhoods. The one (first house I bought) was in a not so nice looking neighborhood and that’s also the way the neighborhood looked when I left. People that take pride in their houses will continue to take pride in that house. It seems that neighbors will by default try to keep up with each other. If I’m the first out clear my sidewalk and drive after a snowstorm, the neighbors are normally out doing theirs after they hear the motor on my blower. The same with mowing the lawn. My house had an exterior update a few years before we bought it, so I still have quite a few years before having the touch the siding again. But I still power wash it twice a year. I’ve had 4 neighbors that have updated their siding and / or windows in 2018. And we manage to do this without having to shell out HOA fees and receive nasty letters from some group that have deemed themselves the keepers of the integrity of the neighborhood.

    A strange story though. My previous house which was smack in the middle of nowhere in a very loose cluster of 4 or 5 other houses and the very definition of a fixer-upper. I had my nearest neighbor, who lived about a 1/4 mile away, stop by my house one day while I was trying to mark off something else on the endless list of things that needed to be fixed or replaced. It was the first time I’d been within, well, 1/4 mile of her. She tells me that she’s about to sell her house. I give her the normal “oh, sad to see you go” (as if I would have noticed that she left). She then tries telling me about a covenant that the homeowners have. I tell her that’s interesting and just listen for whatever else she’s going to say. She then says that her real estate lawyer wants me to sign it so her sale will go a bit easier. I asked what this was supposed to cover and how much was it expecting from me. The neighbor stated that it helped pay for maintenance to the gravel road that serviced the houses about a mile North of us and something to do with a pond that was about 1/4 mile North.I explain to her that I wan’t told about any of this when I bought the house, that I’m sorry if it will make things more difficult for her sale. But I’ve already signed everything that I’m willing to sign in relation to the house. She tells me that she’ll need to pass that on to her lawyer. I wish her the best and tell her it was nice to meet her. I never heard another thing about it before getting rid of the house. There was no way I was going to voluntarily add to my expenses of contributing to some fund to add gravel to a road that went back to the other houses (my house was on the main, paved, county owned road (as was hers) and some overgrown pond that I never had a reason to go to.

  298. Hi Andre – I’ve actually heard of that type of arrangement when I was in the mortgage business. It’s not actually an HOA but a road maintenance agreement. They’re usually for private streets, though they’re usually unpaved (which is why the municipal government doesn’t maintain it). They’re rare and mostly in rural areas, but they’re not unknown.

    I agree with you about the maintenance thing. When buying any house you should study the neighborhood carefully (every seasoned real estate investor knows this well). If the neighborhood is well-kept it’s a good neighborhood. If not, it’s time to move on and keep looking. That’s true with both HOA and non-HOA neighborhoods. And for what it’s worth, I’ve seen plenty of HOA neighborhoods that go to seed. The HOA usually disbands due to a lack of fees.

    Contrary to popular belief, HOAs can’t prevent a neighborhood from going into decline. Just take a look at the many dilapidated condo neighborhoods there are. HOAs didn’t stop any of them from falling apart, especially when property values are dropping – another problem HOAs are powerless to stop.

  299. I’m a retired mental health professional (PhD). I’ve lived in a large HOA in central CA for 9 years and I’ve studied it’s history and problems extensively. It is a “poster child” for HOA problems. The biggest problem I see is that the vast majority of stories/articles/books on HOA’s talk only about the typical mundane problems. Meanwhile, underneath, HOA’s are really a form of “social engineering” at it most insidious and worst. For example, gather together any group of people, give them a governance structure wherein you have a “Board” that has vague but extensive powers and group-members have few powers and few recourses to any abuses-of-power and you’ve got a prescription for social/emotional disaster. HOA’s DO CAUSE PTSD, especially for those who get involved in the politics/governance. See my website — http://www.hvlowneradvocate.x10host.com/index.htm

  300. Welcome to the discussion Michael, and thanks for weighing in. I don’t know (and can’t comment) about the PTSD aspect, but I do fully agree with the imbalance you’ve described. I’d take it a step farther though. It’s like a high school clique/caste system, except it’s legally enforceable. Which actually sounds a lot like a recipe for PTSD, that many experience from bad high school episodes.

  301. If you find a neighborhood without an HOA for the most part it is fairly old, which is fine but a lot now look like a ghetto. Case in point. My sister has lived in her house for 35 years. Back then it was a cute upcoming area. It has no HOA. Across the street, the guy sells used cars. Compliance can’t get him as he backs them in and unless you can see there are no plates, there is no violation. A block down the street one house has four mattresses piled in the front yard (months now) and a boat in the empty lot next door, complete with a tree growing out of the center. There is another house down the street who has decided to divide their house and now rents it out as a duplex. IF there was some type of HOA, she wouldn’t have to live in what is now a complete ghetto.

    Some rules are necessary. When you sell your house, how appealing would it be for a future buyer to see your neighbor across the street working on his truck in the drive, or garbage cans everywhere? The first thing I look for when buying, is the neighborhood. If I see RVs or boats parked in the drive, trash cans everywhere, I move on by. The house I was looking at might be nice, but the first thing people see when they preview your house is the surroundings outside. I care about my house and my home’s resale value. Yes, even before I buy, I am thinking resale.

  302. Much of what Susan has stated is covered by city codes. If her sister lives in a city, she should review the city codes and report the violators to the city department that will send a city employee out to address the issues. That is what she pays taxes for.

    Nobody needs an HOA to protect their property values. What they need is to know the city codes and have them enforced.

    In many cities the older areas have formed Neighborhood Associations. Those are basically neighbors helping neighbors and many times helping with clean up and painting for those unable to do it themselves or financially unable to do so. The neighbors never have the power to fine, lien, or foreclose on their neighbor. There is no non-profit corporation involved. And there are no dues paid to an HOA.

  303. Hi Susan – I generally agree with what you’re saying, but I don’t think an HOA is necessarily the cure. I’m saying that because I saw a number of HOA neighborhoods that went into serious decline. They look no better than the neighborhood you’re describing. At the opposite end of the spectrum, I’ve seen too many very well preserved and maintained older non-HOA neighborhoods to believe that HOAs are the secret sauce.

    You’re absolutely correct that before buying a house you must first carefully inspect the neighborhood. If it displays pride of ownership, it’s a good neighborhood. If it doesn’t, you shouldn’t move there. That can happen whether it’s an HOA neighborhood or not.

    Part of what attracts people to an HOA neighborhood is the newness. After all, most neighborhoods today – particularly in the Sunbelt – are HOAs. But eventually those neighborhoods won’t be new anymore. When they are, the “in” crowd will move on to the next new thing. They’ll leave behind a less prosperous group of homeowners, who lack the funds to maintain their properties in top condition, or even to pay the monthly fees. That’s how HOA neighborhoods go to seed.

    And of course as discussed in many of the comments on this post, some HOA neighborhoods are run into the ground by poor management, particularly poor financial management. A good example is replacement reserves, to cover the replacement of common elements. In most HOA neighborhoods these are seriously deficient. When a major replacement comes up, a special assessment needs to be imposed. If it’s too high, on top of an already high monthly fee, it can discourage new buyers into the neighborhood. That can cause property values to drop, which will accelerate the departure of the “in” crowd.

    The point is, there’s no perfect world, and HOAs don’t necessarily move us closer to it.

  304. My physician told me I have a form of PTSD from the stress of living in my HOA. A few years ago I lost 100% the pigment in my skin from an autoimmune disease; Vitiligo. The Dermatologist performed many tests only to find all of them negative leaving the only cause prolonged stress. Having no pigment drastically changes the life of someone that has spent most of their life outdoors. I can no longer be in the sun for more than a few minutes because I’m high risk for skin cancer. Not to mention, direct sun on my skin feels like I have been thrown into a microwave oven.

    I can feel a physical change in my body when I drive into my HOA entrance. My blood pressure rises and I feel tense. A feeling of sadness washes over me. I’ve never been incarcerated but it feels like I am driving myself inside a prison. Dr. Gary Solomon wrote HOA Syndrome and I can relate to a great deal of it. I’ve talked to other HOA owners that relate to it as well. I do not doubt Dr. Gingerich’s statement “HOA’s DO CAUSE PTSD” for one second.

    I’m currently reading THEM by Ben Sasse. He’s addressing the loss of neighborly love; how and why it’s happened. I intend to write him when I finish to let him know he need look no further than the HOAs in America to know why we no longer love our neighbors. HOAs have turned neighbors into enemies and neighborhoods into war zones. Why? As I see it, when one neighbor can suddenly become a board member and fine, lien, and foreclose on somebody that used to be their friend (or they pretended to be) it creates a severe distrust. One learns to be very cautious of every person in the neighborhood. I have often said, I fear my neighbors most because they are the closest terrorists to me. I’ve lived this in my own HOA. People have used me to write letters, help with their lawsuits, research information on their behalf, and it was all for no pay. I was just being a friend. But when they got on the HOA board they were quickly converted to the deranged thinking of the established gestapo and suddenly I became their target. I could write a book on why not to trust your neighbors in an HOA!

  305. Hi Nila – It reminds me of George Orwell’s famous quote from Animal Farm, “All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others”. In the story, the animals rebelled against the human owners of the farm and took it over. When they did, they developed a Constitution of 10 different rules, to ensure equality among all the different animals on the farm.

    Over time, the pigs took over leadership of the farm. They trained puppies to grow up to be an army of attack dogs to enforce the rules. Gradually the 10 different rules were reduced to a single one, which is the quote above. It was meant to convey that the pigs were more equal than the other animals. This is how many people in a position of leadership see themselves. It’s less about responsibility, and more about power.

    Orwell’s book was of course an allegory, and it has been made into a cartoon movie. But the basic theme of the book is deadly serious. It’s that when someone rises to a position of power, they lord it over others, to the point where the one time friend/ally becomes a new enemy.

    Jesus even said this in Matthew 20:25-28: “Jesus called them (the disciples) together and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave— just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

    He was demonstrating the better way to leadership, which is servant leadership. But that’s not the way it works in the world. Instead, people rise up to positions of authority, and “lord it over them and exercise authority over them”. That’s where the problems come from, and it’s usually progressive in nature.

  306. Exposed garbage cans, driveway mechanics, mold on the siding, etc etc are symptoms of low life neighbors which can happen anywhere, including HOA community with inept volunteer board members.

    Three years ago I pointed out a huge pile of excavated earth and debris in the backyard of a nearby scumbag who installed an above ground pool. It was reported to the gung ho AVON LADY president in 2016. She thanked me for the photos and promised to address the matters. Two years later it was an egg head resident LAWYER president who made the same empty promise. This HOA is reluctant to pay the HOA mouthpiece $500 to issue cease and desist, despite accumulating 40,000 in the emergency fund. In many cases the problem is due to low life neighbors, compounded by HOA board who are frequently inept (this area) or in some cases over zealous.

    10 to 20 percent of undesirables is sufficient to tarnish a community. They are the ones with barking dogs, derelict vehicles, etc. The “nice old lady” next door piled mulch and debris against my wooden fence and when confronted refused to address the problem. She got slapped with a $400 civil suit and prudently paid the claim before the court date.

    Two nuisance neighbors have moved out fortunately. I won’t bother approaching new next door neighbor or introducing myself. I have had 4 neighbors who shared a property border warned by police. One of those neighbors was a lawyer caught ramming my fence with his lawnmower. We were on speaking terms before he allied with a new neighbor who was harboring noisy pets for an dog rescue operation – in clear violation of HOA regulations that only permits family pets. All of these nuisance scumbags were shut down by yours truly. I did not move to this community to become the town cop.

    NEVER TRUST YOUR NEIGHBOR was a comment rendered above and unfortunately that is frequently the case. It matters not if they are HOA board members. Experience reveals far too many people categorize a good neighbor as someone inclined to overlook their indiscretions.

  307. That seems to be the problem George. One HOA let’s everything go, and the neighborhood gets trashed, and another – run by a board of wannabe Nazis – terrorizes the residents, as if they aren’t dues paying members of the HOA, but annoying serfs who need to be tightly controlled.

    I personally don’t want to be living in either type of neighborhood if I can possibly avoid it. Each comes with its own set of problems. Sometimes in the lax neighborhoods, the troublemakers are friends with the board members. So they do wacky things with the property, or with pets and cars, and it gets overlooked. HOAs aren’t equal democracies. Some people really do enjoy special privileges, while others get leaned on over the slightest infraction.

    But I often say, HOAs are like high school all over again.

  308. Today I just happened to meet an 89 year old widow that recently sold and moved from her HOA. She said, “I hated having the bossy woman that had been the board president for fifty years telling me how to live my life!” She’s now rented an apartment. I told her she made the absolute right decision and knowing that just made my day!

    As our visit continued I shared why her selling and moving to a rental came with no risks like living in the HOA. She had no clue of the risks she had taken when she purchased that property. And I could tell from what she was sharing that tyrant board member was preparing to fine, lien, and foreclose on her mortgage-free property. I’m so thankful she got out when she did!

    I’m thrilled for this lucky lady who now lives HOA FREE!

  309. I agree 100%, Kevin. When the HOA board and their team of attorneys know the elderly widows have mortgage-free property it’s like blood in the water. They seem to target those folks knowing they cannot stand up to a legal battle, are easy to bully, and often times have no one to call to stand up with them.

    We had an elderly widow in our HOA. She is deceased now, but she called me MANY times to go to her attorney with her, take photos, write letters, and support her battle against them. Her property was mortgage-free. Before she met me they were charging her for things that she should not have been paying for. The HOA board hated her with a passion! If she had been 20 years younger they would have been ripped to shreds because she had plenty of money to hire attorneys. Her health failed and her attorney put the place on the market and sold it to get her out of this nightmare.

    HOA boards can truly have some lowlife coldhearted scumbags running them. Not to mention there are CAI member attorneys just waiting to help take down their prey for them.

  310. Sometimes the little guy prevails !! Flashback to the days when I had a condo in Florida. After noticing the brackish water sprinkler heads near the AC condenser unit were causing premature rust I confronted the gestapo. They were out gunned by my large poster with a dozen photos of units rusted away, compounded by improperly aimed/maintained sprinkler heads.

    Began the conversation with tongue-in-cheek comment about maintenance men intentionally aiming the heads at AC units of outspoken residents. Imagine my surprise when the HOA VIP exclaimed, “they have been instructed not to do that” !! Case closed. They rolled over and reimbursed me for the cost of a new condenser to replace 8 year old unit. Didn’t have to play the trump card and threaten to present my theory to other property owners and pursue class action remedy. Within a few years all the bushes near the AC units (along with elevated sprinkler heads) were removed. It is difficult to fathom how that organization did not anticipate the problem developing (independent of any intentional aiming vandalism) with several thousand owners failing to explore the impact of sprinkler heads too close to AC units.

    Then the vultures attacked !! I am referring to hideous turkey vultures flying in from nearby mangroves and using the condo roof as a landing strip and sunbathing platform. The buzzards are known to peck at anything obnoxious and created a leak that dripped into the attic down to the rear sun porch. It was time to knock on the HOA door again. They had to foot the professional estimate for new carpeting, ceiling repaint and color TV. I performed the clean up with a carpet rental machine in a few hours; slapped some paint on the ceiling and got an old TV replaced with a brand new Sony.

  311. Renting vs owning? Home values in this area are projected to rise 3.5 percent in 2019 !! My portfolio managed 4.2 last year, which is why this place is going on the market in the near future – hopefully before the roof, furnace or AC needs replaced. 3 years ago the taxes jumped 25 percent so all of the schools could get a facelift……which included an Olympic size pool for the HS. Was that really necessary? Meanwhile I dodge potholes in the road on the mountain bike.

  312. George you’re going to get me on my soapbox about property taxes! That seems to be going on all over. Taxes are going up and up, and yet the physical infrastructure is deteriorating. Roads are saturated with potholes and cracks, and years past needing to be repaved, sidewalks are crumbling, and we’re told there isn’t enough money to fix any of it. Some communities and counties are even extending scheduled road repayments to fit within budgetary restraints.

    Meanwhile, millions are being spent on school buildings, yet there’s substantial evidence that the quality of education is declining. Rather than investing the money in creating criteria that’s actually relevant for the real world, they keep packing in more math, more science, and more courses and doctrines that would better be considered propaganda than education.

    But they invest in new school wings, new equipment, and world-class sports facilities. I’m still trying to wrap my head around why any high school needs its own swimming pool. It’s like they’re building country clubs that are turning out poorly prepared students.

    And in the meantime, the community’s physical structure is declining and taxes are still going up.

    I’ve got to get off this soapbox, otherwise I’m going to write an article length response here.

  313. Yes..folks without a HOA can let a neighborhood go to hell, but at the end of the day, they still got their FREEDOM and not paying HOA fees that amount to “lifetime mini-mortgages” on property you already paid for. If you are seeing all this in a non-HOA neighborhood, you can fix that by working with city and county councils and boards that can create citations for breaking environmental laws like littering, damaging grass etc. It should not take a HOA Gestapo where you are paying out high monthly dues to fix some of those issues…at least you don’t have to worry about losing your home in that ghetto.
    You know how America got rid of it’s bad littering problem? EDUCATION…many people just didn’t realize how bad it was on the environment to liter..so America put the little crying Indian guy (who was not even and Indian) back in the middle 70’s to start an anti-littering campaign. Places got cleaned up.
    Sometimes, just sitting down with your neighbor and talking to them can let them realize things they didn’t know about how to keep a property up. Monetary incentives can work also where your neighborhood comes up with a stash fund to award the “Yard of the Month”…having barbecues and inviting folks to your neighborhood from the city or county to talk and educate folks on how to keep and maintain a good looking neighborhood can all be done. But folks don’t talk to their neighbors anymore and are LAZY! They rather higher someone and pay them good hard earned money to rule over them and take away their freedom…SAD!
    It’s that same mentality that’s got us paying companies millions of dollars to sell us WATER when we could just make laws to preserve clean water so it would be pure and clean in the first place.
    I would rather work to clean up that neighborhood with Education and creative ideas and keep my Freedom than to have to pay a lifetime HOA mortgage so someone can alway’s hold that cloud over my head knowing they can just pull the rug off from under me and take my house because I got the wrong color plants in my front yard…NO THANKS! Keep your HOA.

  314. Hi Dan – I love your mini-mortgage analogy, it’s right on target. The difference of course is that while your mortgage may one day be paid off, your HOA dues never will be. Much like property taxes, they’ll only go in one direction – up. There are people who bought their houses 30 or 40 years ago, and after paying them off, the property tax bill is now is higher than what their total house payment used to be with the mortgage included. It virtually nullifies the advantage of paying off the mortgage.

    How long will it be before the same situation develops with HOAs? I don’t suppose many people can imagine that their current dues of $250 a month may one day be $750, or even $1,000, but it could happen. And let’s not even get into the added complication of special assessments. I know someone who had a condo fee of $325 per month, that went up to $445 for two years due to a special assessment. It’s hardly unusual.

    And though we don’t think of it this way, HOA dues are really a legally enforceable tax. So for example while you might have a “low” municipal tax bill of $3,500 per year, if you’re paying $250 for an HOA fee, that’s an extra $3,000. The reality then is that your tax bill is really a not-so-low $6,500.

    I also like your various references to freedom. That’s really at the root of the whole HOA conundrum. Americans have forgotten not only what freedom means, but how important it is. When you reach that point, you’re totally willing to surrender it to anyone who promises to make you richer, safer, or more comfortable. Those are the exact promises HOAs hold, as do so many other elements of our culture. People are falling for it because they no longer appreciate how important personal liberty is. Unfortunately, once you lose it, you don’t get it back.

    And you’re right again, in that two or more free people can almost always work out their differences. But it’s when you get a higher authority into the mix that that goes away. The game is no longer mutual respect and benefit, but finding ways to manipulate that authority for personal benefit. HOAs are saturated with that kind of behavior.

  315. Dan Oglesby, I agree with you on all counts! Some people have a high disdain for government. But, at the end of the day, HOAs, though private organizations, are enabled with government powers. The have too much power and no accountability. ( https://independentamericancommunities.com/2017/03/28/recipe-for-hoa-abuse-too-much-power-no-accountability/ )

    At least real government elections are bound by Constitutional principles of one person, one vote, and the process and polling places have far more controls over the election process than the typical HOA, condo, or housing co-op.

    Say what you will about it, but REAL governments are still accountable to the public, and their bad actions are more readily exposed by the media. Not so with HOAs. These private Associations limit access to meetings – it’s members only — and sometimes members are not even allowed to attend board meetings.

    The general public, the media, and prospective home buyers cannot get access to financial records. Buyers often have to pay management companies hundreds of dollars, just to obtain copies of governing documents and buyer disclosure packets. (With no guarantee that you’ll get an accurate picture of the condition of the HOA)

    Heck, I talk to a lot of HOA property owners who cannot get access to financial records and meeting minutes — including some board members who don’t go along with the schemers and opportunists on the board who regularly exploit homeowners and tenants, too.

  316. And, one other note about some previous comments. A lot of Americans are fed up with THAT homeowner — the kind who is obsessive about rule enforcement, the kind who looks down upon anyone who owns an RV or a boat, the kind who bullies and exploits the Association to take advantage of the collective purse of the HOA to show the HOA board who’s boss, etc. That kind of homeowner is no better than an abusive HOA board or management company or real estate developer. Abuse is abuse, no matter who engages in such behavior.

    It all proves that the HOA model of housing development and governance is flawed to the core. It breeds social conflict and actually encourages materialism and selfishness, a judgmental and punitive attitude toward one’s neighbors, a disrespect for rights of the individual, and corruption.

    There are not enough well-meaning people in any given HOA “community” to overcome a system that is intentionally set up for exploitation and abuse. The only rational option is to reject the HOA. Good people must turn away. The HOA cannot be “fixed.”

  317. I agree on all counts Deborah. HOAs are really private governments that lack any objective oversight. You’re also hitting at an important point, in that HOAs can turn neighbor against neighbor. This is what I meant in the article when I said HOAs enable complainers to hide behind fences and attack their neighbors. When you have that kind of anonymity, toxic/neurotic behavior is only encouraged.

    I like the way George Kowal approaches the HOA. He attacks it, knowing it’s the source of the problem. Turning on your neighbors only makes the problem worse by empowering the HOA board. Disunity and animosity among the residents is their best cover. But if neighbors could get together and rally against the board itself, constructive change can happen.

    But I understand that a lot depends on your personality and the willingness of your neighbors to cooperate – as well as the power the board has. In some neighborhoods, they’re virtually unassailable. In others, good luck getting any of your neighbors to join in a crusade against them.

    It’s almost like it’ll require a mini American Revolution in each of these subdivisions to bring about any meaningful change. I think most people would rather not get involved in that kind of effort. When things get bad enough, either from aggressive tactics by the board or neighborhood neglect, they’ll just move and leave the problem behind.

    On one hand that’s counterproductive. But on the other it’s consistent with the time honored saying, “you can’t fight city hall”. After all, the board has the bylaws, the blessing of the state, and control over the resident’s money. That can make it a bigger battle than most people want to fight.

    The far better strategy – and what I hope we’re beginning to accomplish with this forum – is that people will avoid buying into HOAs altogether. A “starving the beast” strategy is likely to be a lot more effective than mini revolts in tens of thousands of neighborhoods. And unfortunately, I don’t see this rising to the level of a national political agenda. Too many are too happy with HOAs, and we have much bigger fish to fry, like the healthcare crisis, under-employment and the widening wealth gap.

  318. HOAs need to rise to the national level because far more people are being destroyed by them than one would believe. Only a small percentage of the HOA nightmares appear in the media. Many people sit silent for fear of retribution from the HOA board if they speak up. And like you said, many will just move and leave the problems for somebody else to try and clean up.

    I would be totally fine with paying dues if the services written in the contract with the HOA were being performed. However, when the maintenance is not being done, $10 million in HOA dues is unaccounted for, and the property manager has his employees covering up rotten frames on houses and doing work INSIDE of board member’s home while those workers are being paid with MY money, I say enough is enough. The ONLY recourse a homeowner has is to stop feeding the monster. Then they foreclose and take your home. As I’ve learned from the judge on my case, “The HOA does not have to fulfill their side of the contract but the homeowner must still pay the dues.” How’s that for extortion? The contract is one-sided. The homeowner receives nothing for the $3,000 they are paying per year. It’s insane. Yet, the Attorney General will tell people all day long not to pay contractors in full until the work is done. The homeowners in maintained-provided HOAs have no choice. They cannot hire their own contractors or the board will sue them. They cannot do anything but let their property rot away and then sue the HOA. Who will them come back with a team of attorneys from the insurance company to try and bleed the homeowner into bankruptcy rather than admit the HOA has breached their contract. It’s absolutely insane. There is not other thing a consumer can buy that does not have some protection against failure to perform or damages caused when it does. If I buy a toaster and it malfunctions and burns my house down you can bet there is a law to provide me with restitution for the repairs and inconvenience. Not so with buying a home in an HOA. The HOA can let your house rot to the ground and there is nothing the owner can do but watch it happen while paying the HOA $3,000 per year or more!

    Until we have hundreds of thousands of homeowners screaming on TV, marching on the sidewalks in front of the state and federal legislators nothing will change with regards to HOAs. They just keep building them when they need to be completely against the law to create.

  319. It’s all economics Nila. The politicians are in bed with the builders – who create the HOAs – because new construction raises the tax base. Then the city/county is in bed with the HOAs themselves because the HOAs provide in-neighborhood services that the local government would have to provide otherwise. So because of the HOAs, the municipal governments don’t have to spend as much on maintenance and capital improvements like road repaving, freeing up their budgets for their pet spending projects, which is dedicating more money to salaries and benefits for municipal employees, and building or expanding schools, which is always politically popular.

    Nothing in that arrangement gives any wiggle room to the resident of the HOA. The vested interests are getting what works for them, so the residents just have to suck it up and deal with it.

  320. The challenge to reform is the fact that HOA’s are “voluntary.” It is also the key to reform though.

    As we all know on this blog, HOA’s are increasingly not voluntary due to more and more local jurisdictions requiring them for all new sub divisions (for the purpose of passing off certain infrastructure maintenance to residents, to seek proffers of donations of goods and services from the developers to the local jurisdictions and a way to force local policies on residents).

    The key to reform is highlighting the fact that they are in fact increasingly not voluntary. If mandatory, HOA’s should “By Law”, wield less influence over the lives of homeowners and residents, not more.

    I suggest state by state legislation that requires at least 50% of all subdivisions in a major population center to be non-HOA or voluntary HOAs only (with voluntary amenities provided only and no restrictive covenants on owners).

    I welcome your thoughts on this and how I could go about doing this.

  321. Hi DeDe – I doubt that’s workable. The problem is that HOAs are part of the public mindset now. Like air and water, no one questions them, least of all the politicians. The only way to make something like that happen – and I absolutely agree it needs to – is if we get a grassroots movement in every state. I don’t think enough people care about this to make that happen. I also fear that if it went to public referendum, the majority would vote in favor of the current structure with HOAs.

    That’s because the majority people who live in HOAs are happily ignorant. But the people who don’t live in HOAs will be told their taxes will go up, which they will, because the local government will need to assume responsibility for services in the HOAs, including road repavement.

    I’m particularly open to your suggestion, because when we bought into an HOA neighborhood many years ago, it was voluntary. But shortly after we closed on the house, it was voted mandatory. Personally, I think anyone who buys in a voluntary HOA should have the right to opt out of participation. Since it becomes a legal requirement after the fact, you no longer enter into the agreement voluntarily, but under force of law.

    But that’s how crazy and corrupt everything is becoming in our culture.

    Great idea, I just don’t think it will get any traction. I realize that sounds defeatist, but I believe the only solution to the HOA problem is to avoid moving into one of the first place, and to sell and move out as soon as you realize what’s really going on. Despite how evil we understand HOAs to be in this forum, and the many thousands of other people out there, HOAs remain enormously popular. Politicians and local governments love them, the real estate industry cheer leads for them, and many of the residents believe they’ve died and gone to heaven.

    The Bible says “… even Satan transforms himself to appear as an angel of light!” (2 Corinthians 11:14). There are other devils out doing the same thing, and one of them is HOAs. But now that people have turned into sheeple, it’s easier to do than ever. The bad guys don’t even have to try too hard, they just have to get a propaganda machine rolling their way. And rest assured, that’s exactly what they’ll do if they’re challenged politically or legally on a grassroots level.

    I can picture it now…hungry, poorly dressed little kids with dirty faces holding placards saying “Don’t take away my HOA and leave me and my family homeless.” A slight exaggeration perhaps, but that’s how we roll in 21st Century America. Everything is framed as a play on the heartstrings. And in the unkindest cut of all, the HOAs will use the resident’s money to pay for the propaganda.

  322. Kevin I like this blog and appreciate and understand your comments. Yes it does sound defeatist but I understand why. You make great points. I guess my question (not criticism) is if not to change something for the better, then what is the purpose of the blog? It appears everyone on here is preaching to the choir. But for many of us, we are all still goose stepping to buy in another HOA despite our full understanding; because it is no longer voluntary in most places. I get how hard reform would be but there are ways to change every major wrongful trend in our country. Heck, I remember when it wasnt good to be a socialist in this country :). If someone can change that then why couldnt like minded people point out the flaws of this concept and change views on it? My point is perhaps another blog is needed where informed people strategize on how to make steady positive changes. Or perhaps a non-profit. Over time we could see legislation passing in some states like the one I proposed i my earlier comment. Once one passes, others will follow. FYI: I just reluctantly bought a new home in a small HOA after rolling the dice. It is already looking bad. The same old dynamics are showing and the builder is still building houses. Why you ask? Because we couldnt find a nice new home in a non-HOA area. My opponents will tell me that proves their point. But I say actually it doesnt (because correlation is not causation). Thank you for your response. I hope to take some of the comments on here and use it productively to drive change starting with my state assembly rep.

  323. DeDe, what I would suggest is if you have the inclination to get a grassroots movement going, then go for it. I get what you’re saying that some areas have very few non-HOA options. That’s certainly true throughout the Sunbelt. It was true when we lived in Atlanta, but even there we managed to find non-HOA neighborhoods. The problem is you’re taking on a massive system. Most of us don’t have that kind of time.

    My guess is you’ll have to start with a large-scale education process, and that’ll cost money. (BTW, that’s what I think we’re already doing on this forum, as there aren’t many others in the space.) Then you have to be prepared for pushback from very well-funded opposition. It’ll take years and deep pockets.

    It may be that the situation is already too far gone in the Sunbelt states. My guess that is that the movement would have to start in the northern states, which aren’t so HOA concentrated. But in those states, there are non-HOA options, so it will be a nonstarter.

    I get your point, but it’s one of those situations where you really have to count the cost before moving forward. Meanwhile, if you’re working to fight politically, and masses of people are continuing to move into HOAs, that force alone works against you.

    Maybe you can take the lead with it, and then solicit other people on this forum to join you. I’m certainly open to that.

  324. DeDe and Kevin…

    Grassroots efforts have been started all over the country. You name the state with the exception of Alaska and I can tell you who in that state has tried to change the direction of the HOA industry.

    As you probably already know, I’ve been involved in this HOA movement since 2007. I worked with the Kansas legislators to pass the HOA bill; Kansas Uniform Common Interest Owners Bills of Rights Act. What happened? Why is it worthless? After working day and night and making about 25 or more trips to Topeka the bill passed without the teeth in it. The Local Government Committee decided to enlist the help of a KU law professor to help write the bill. A group of us had submitted everything needed in the bill to make it clear and providing protection to homeowners against outrageous and aggressive HOA boards. The KU professor decided to bring in a law professor from Connecticut to help. The bill was written and passed with all the teeth missing. The activists were all in shock. What happened? Here’s what happened…the CT law professor was with the CAI. He made sure that bill was worthless. The thousands of hours spent and the trips to Topeka (at my own expense)were wasted. The HOA industry is controlled by the CAI. For those who do not know who they are it’s the Community Associations Institute. For many years they controlled the media…keeping all negative HOA stories away from the viewers. Ward Lucas retired as an investigative reporter in the TV industry and wrote the book, Neighbors At War The Creepy Case Against Your Homeowner’s Association. The book is excellent and should be a must read for anybody living in or thinking of buying into an HOA. The CAI also has a massive membership of property managers, attorneys, vendors, and HOAs. They fund the lobbyists and they have a ‘play book’ that teaches all the tricks to taking property from homeowners in foreclosure. They make sure the legislators keep this despicable practice legal. Basically, the HOA industry is nothing less than an organized crime syndicate. It’s a $90 BILLION industry with little to no oversight. Most property managers are not required to have any educational background or criminal background checks. In Kansas, the only thing needed to be a property manager and have access to tens of millions of dollars of other people’s money is a business card and a working phone number! This is true in most states. And if there is some education in the field of property management….the CAI is teaching the seminars and handing out the certificates. It’s pure propaganda. So, anybody that tries to right this wrong of HOAs is up against a massively-funded and highly-corrupt group with the power to totally destroy your life!

    I’m living proof of it. I have worked to expose these people. In return they have been committed not to follow their contract and do the maintenance needed but to destroy me personally. Take my home. Drain my bank accounts. And leave me penniless and homeless. My attorney says he has never seen anything like this in a court of law. Well…welcome to HOA Land! In my case, I strongly question whether the judge is not in on this whole thing. His actions have been extremely bizarre to say the least.

    Others have tried to educate such as Shu Bartholomew with her On The Commons HOA radio show. Deborah Goonan with her blogsite independentamericancommunities dot com. Shelly Marshall with her ebooks on Amazon, HOA Warrior and HOA Warrior II. Evan McKenzie with his books Privatopia and Beyond Privatopia. I believe he also has a blog. George Staropoli with his website pvtgov dot org. Just to name a few.
    No one can offers solutions because their aren’t any. The only solution is to STOP BUYING INTO AN HOA!

    Yes, I understand the connections between the cities, counties, National Board of Realtors, National Home Builders Association, and the CAI. They are all part of the propaganda of HOAs protecting property values. Bottom line…if Realtors tell builders they cannot sell properties inside of an HOA…then the developers will go back to the cities and advise they will not build a development with an HOA. And if developers and builders are going broke and their lenders are stuck with a bunch of property and housing they cannot get sold….THEY will be in the faces of the legislators demanding changes. The only way to stop all of this is to figure out a way to shut down the CAI. Therein lies the root cause of the HOA industry problems! It’s one big circle of people taking advantage of people within the legal limits of the laws…that the lobbyists are writing.

    I’ve nearly killed myself fighting this industry and trying to wake people up. And I’ve watched other people do it, too. I support anybody and everybody that wants to tackle the monster. Just remember it gets richer by the year and you’re going to be paying out of your own wallet.

  325. De De, quota systems usually don’t work, and they result in unintended consequences. Perhaps there’s a simpler legislative approach: “local governments shall not mandate HOA for new development.” It would be a small step in the right direction, although not foolproof.

    It’s far more important to suggest and promote better alternatives to HOAs, and, more broadly, alternatives to common interest housing. Common ownership, or collectivism, doesn’t work well — mainly because property rights are so intertwined with our inalienable (God given) rights.

    I think public policy should discourage condominiums. If you own a condo, you don’t own land beyond the foundation of your dwelling. You are better off renting an apartment or a house. Most consumers have figured this out already, in the wake of the last housing crisis. Condos never really recovered after that, and banks don’t like to approve mortgages for condos anymore.

    More recently, the industry is trying to resurrect the condo, in the form of a townhouse or “site condominium.” But this type of housing is fraught with problems. I don’t see a lot of eager buyers.

    As for planned communities with single family homes, the percentage of new construction governed by HOAs has remained steady in the range of 67-72% for the past 4 or 5 years. The market is saturated. If it weren’t for local governments mandating HOAs, the market would have reached the tipping point many years ago.

    In some parts of the U.S., maintenance and services once provided by HOAs is shifting to Special Tax Districts and/or back to municipal government. I have been following and writing about this trend toward de-privatization of services on my blog.

    What’s happening is that homeowners in older planned communities and many of the smaller, no-amenity communities are finding out that they cannot afford to maintain their private infrastructure (private roads, storm water drainage facilities, water/sewer services, street lights, bridges, dams, etc.) The typical HOA board has no clue how to monitor, inspect, or maintain their infrastructure. And it’s nearly impossible for HOAs to hire competent contractors at competitive prices. Either the contract is too small and no one wants the job, or there’s a contractor conflict of interest with the board members or management company. Can you say “kickbacks?”

    When it comes to security, there are many privacy concerns with HOA camera surveillance. There are serious safety concerns with poorly trained, poorly screened private security guards. These are very unpopular with homeowners. Americans in HOAs are gaining a new appreciation for municipal and state police, and even gated communities are asking them to patrol behind the gates.

    De De, you also mentioned voluntary (optional) membership HOAs. Well, consider this. If your mandatory membership HOA could divest itself of infrastructure maintenance and private services, there would be no reason to force every homeowner to pay HOA assessments. Homeowners would be paying property (or sales or income) taxes instead.

    The HOA would have almost no essential function. Thus, it could become OPTIONAL.

    Of course, in HOAs with expensive recreational amenities to maintain, it’s more complicated. But I am aware of several smaller communities who decided to permanently close their swimming pool or tennis or basketball court. It was cheaper and easier to fill in the pool and tear out the sports court, than to fix it and maintain it for a handful of people who actually used them. In some cases, the HOA even sells the land to a new owner so the can build a house on the lot. There are many defunct HOAs like this in the U.S.

    Some of the very large HOA planned communities have incorporated as cities, but, unfortunately, they usually keep the HOA, just for enforcing the CC&Rs and architectural standards. However, over time, I predict these “standards only” HOAs fading away over time, or evolving into civic or neighborhood associations. Most people lose interest in rules and standards over time.

    Other “big picture” solutions would be to explore win-win incentives for private ownership of lots and home vs. shared ownership of housing. At the same time, implement disincentives for land banking by developers, nonprofits, and governmental agencies. (https://www.communityprogress.net/land-banking-faq-pages-449.php#What%20is%20a%20land%20bank?). A big part of the problem is that there’s too much land under the control of a few people.

    Thanks for the discussion.

  326. Deborah – When we lived in the Atlanta area I saw what you did, with HOAs disbanding, and others filling in their swimming pools. I think what a lot of people miss about HOAs is that they’re at their most desirable when they’re still new and shiny. Once they get beyond 20 years old, and the bill starts coming due for major capital improvements, the homeowners lose interest. That’s when they start voting against improvements. It’s probably the first time in the existence of the typical HOA when the unit owners actually band together and take a stand to stop something.

    Once they do, the board is permanently weakened. Unfortunately, the common facilities then go into decline, and the neighborhood becomes less desirable. When that happens, residents begin deferring maintenance, and the whole thing begins circling the drain. It’s usually shortly after that the HOA either disbands, or becomes a much more limited agency, with greatly reduced fees and authority. It’s also when owner occupied houses are converted to rentals, and property values decline, made worse by the uniformity of the neighborhood, which is no longer seen as an advantage.

    That’s how, contrary to popular belief, HOAs can turn into undesirable neighborhoods. Nobody sees it when the neighborhood is new, but it evolves as age begins to set in, and the real cost of the project becomes obvious.

  327. Kevin, you’re exactly right. The truth is, all neighborhoods — HOA or not — can fall into decline. There are many economic causes and effects that have nothing to do with HOAs or Covenant enforcement. It’s mostly a matter of whether or not the people living and owning property are able and willing to pay for a nice, safe neighborhood — whether through public (taxes) or private (HOA fees) means.

    The HOA industry of 30-40 years ago started convincing home buyers and federal housing and economic policy officials that private governments (HOAs) could do a much better job that municipal or county governments. They presented HOAs as self-sufficient, democratic utopias and cities as backward and bureaucratic. But by now it’s quite clear that HOAs fail at a much higher rate than municipal governments. And cities can recover and bounce back with support and new investment. HOAs are temporary by comparison. At some point, they become highly dysfunctional, irrelevant, or completely broken. Many get so bad that the only solution is to condemn, raze, and redevelop.

    Apartment stacked condos and townhouses fare the worst, unless the owners have plenty of money to sink into big renovations when the structures are 25-30+ years old.

    Actually, although they are sometimes referred to as “private government” HOAs are really COLLECTIVES.

  328. My HOA has two swimming pools and had two tennis courts. The city agreed to allow one tennis court to be converted to a basketball court. The pools cannot be filled with dirt because the city says the community was developed with two pools and they must remain because that is how the PUD was approved. The pools are used mostly by tenants of the rental units. Since I’ve lived here hundreds of thousands of dollars have been spent on the pools. The clubhouse has been another major expense. It is rarely ever rented, but the property manager works in there with the utility bills running close to $1,000.00 per month. The economics of it all make no sense but that is pretty much the way HOAs operate; wasteful spending by board members with zero business acumen.

  329. Deb, Nila and Kevin,

    Wow! I really appreciate your insights and sharing your experiences. I have learned a lot from your posts. I now better see the depths to which this industry protects itself. I always knew HOAs were an important part of the real estate industry marketing strategy but I had no idea that it was so powerful and corrupt.

    I will spare you all my tales of woe but I will tell you one: my reward for protecting the homeowners of one HOA we lived in previously from an out of control board member was reprisal covenant citations upon selling our home. No one else, just me. Just one example of what I have experienced.

    My new community is in an HOA. I had no other choice because the only places around here not in an HOA are dumpy (again, correlation not causation) and I did want a nice new home. Like you all have pointed out, the county governments like the tax dollars so they are in bed with the developers and the HOA is standard fare in that business exchange.

    Question: Our builder is starting to build the last street in my development in about 6 weeks. The By Laws have us transitioning control of the HOA when the third of those five houses is sold, sometime this summer.

    What can I do or say to dampen the potential of this 18 home HOA becoming a nightmare? Any recommendations on what I can do or say to keep them in check or to enlighten the owners about the dangers that lurk ahead so maybe others will be skeptical of their schemes? Running for the board is dumb. I have been a board member before and found that you have less power on the board when dealing with a narcissist board president than if you are an informed homeowner. Are there any tactics you can recommend? I already see the little “cabal” forming between three specific people.

    Thank you.

  330. You’re welcome, DeDe

    Suggestions:

    Make sure the bank account cannot be accessed by less than two people, preferably three. All checks must have those signatures. Absolutely no ATM cards. No credit cards.

    Immediately create the reserve account. This is where a vast majority of HOAs get into trouble by never having enough in reserves.

    Require an annual audit by an independent auditor, NOT some property manager that cannot certify the audit.

    Do not allow the HOA to join the CAI, hire a CAI member property manager or a CAI affiliated attorney.

    Term limits on board members. Otherwise, you run the risk of one or two becoming the dictators to all.

    If any changes to the CC&Rs are made and passed by the required votes be sure those are recorded with the county.

    Do not become friends with any of the neighbors. Share nothing about your life, jobs, finances, or investments with them.

    Document EVERYTHING. Keep a log book on every discussion you have with anyone in the neighborhood, board meetings, or discussions with an individual board member. Note the time, date, place, who was present, what was said, what action will be taken and by whom. If there is an ARC be sure everything you ask of them is documented in writing and with photos, if possible. Take photos of everything and keep them for as long as you live there. Keep every email, letter, and piece of paper sent to you by the HOA board or property manager. No matter how mundane it may seem, keep it! Record the board meetings.

    Never pay HOA dues with auto pay from your bank account. Write a check and mark ‘Paid in full’ on every check. Keep a copy of the check and the date it was mailed or handed to someone with the HOA…noting their name in your log book.

    I’m sure Deborah will have many more suggestions. As I recall, Shelly Marshall has a lot of good information in her HOA Warrior and HOA Warrior II ebooks…around $5 each.

    My best advice is to start packing and get out now. If you are already seeing the “cabal” forming…run like your hair is on fire! Read Neighbors At War by Ward Lucas.

    Most people buying into and living in HOAs do not realize they have signed for the following:

    Signed away your Constitutional Rights.

    Became business partners with all of your neighbors in a non-profit corporation.

    Become the GUARANTOR FOR PAYMENT ON ALL DEBTS, LOANS, LAWSUITS, SETTLEMENTS, LIABILITIES, CONSTRUCTION DEFECTS, AND DISASTER REBUILDS FOR THE ENTIRE HOA. The risks are massive and not worth taking to put a roof over your head.

    It only takes one vote to put some power-hungry Nazi type on the board and the entire HOA becomes a war zone.

  331. De De — I’m not an attorney, so I cannot speak to the legal complications, but…

    Since this is only 18 homes, you may have the potential to dissolve the HOA at the time that developer gives up control or shortly after control transfers to the owners. Talk to your neighbors now, and feel them out. Do most of them want to get rid of the HOA? If so, you may have up to 15 votes against the 3 votes of the brewing HOA cabal!

    Starting now, here’s what you need to look into:

    What common areas (if any) is this small HOA responsible for maintaining? A private road? A storm water pond? Drainage facilities (underground or above ground)? Street signs or street lights? An entry sign? The less the HOA has to maintain, the better.

    I assume there are no recreational amenities such as a pool or playground in your case. But local governments sometimes force a developer to establish some token common ownership, to justify the “need” for an HOA.

    Start exploring ways to shift HOA maintenance responsibilities to the local government, possibly through short-term or long-term establishment of a Special tax District. Find an ally on your County commission to work with you on this. As long as owners set up a way to pay for maintenance (let’s say it’s a private road), the County is more likely to agree to do away with the HOA’s obligations.

    BUT…this is important…make sure NOW and before turnover, that any private infrastructure or construction is completed up to County (or City) building codes. Sometimes developers get away with taking shortcuts or cost-saving moves, and passing off a road or storm water pond (or whatever you have) that does NOT meet the County’s minimum standards. When that happens, the County(or city) won’t adopt it for future maintenance unless and until the HOA pays to bring it up to current building codes. So you want to make sure your developer takes care of this before turnover, if possible.

    Read your state laws that are applicable to your community. You may need to contact your county or state representatives to have them refer to you applicable statutes. They differ state by state, and it depends on when your community was developed/when the origina documents were filed, as well as the type of housing. (Condo, HOA, co-op, HUD subsidized, 55+/Older adults, etc.)

    Carefully review your HOA’s CC&Rs, ByLaws, and Articles of Incorporation (if your HOA is incorporated). Read and understand the process for amending these documents and/or dissolving the association. Consult a qualified real estate attorney with knowledge of HOAs to clarify any misunderstandings, or to help you follow the correct process for amendment or dissolution. Avoid CAI-member attorneys that primarily represent HOAs and developers. They have a vested interest in perpetuating HOAs and giving HOA boards more power, which is often abused.

    You’ll have to come to some sort of consensus with your neighbors — if you don’t have enough people to dissolve the HOA, you can still amend the governing documents. Some suggestions. Start by removing power of the HOA to fine members and foreclose on their homes. If you must collect mandatory fees, it’s fine to allow the HOA to file a lien that can be collected when the house eventually sells or if a lender forecloses.

    Better yet, see if you can convert the HOA to a voluntary membership organization vs. a mandatory membership HOA. If your HOA can divest itself of mandatory maintenance obligations, this should be a realistic option.

    If your HOA cannot be dissolved and must be mandatory, your goal is to minimize the HOA’s power over private property rights, to limit each member’s financial obligations, and to make sure that all owners play an active role in decision making.

    Make sure all owners are required to vote on amendments to bylaws as well as CC&Rs. (Not just board members) The less power members delegate to a board of 3 or 5 or 7 people, the better. With such a small community, decisions should be reached by a vote of everyone and by consensus.

    Maybe you can eliminate the board hierarchy over members altogether.

    Every member should have to vote before initiating a lawsuit, increasing the annual budget, or paying for any major changes or renovations to the common property, for example.

    Work with owners to amend Covenants and Use Restrictions — the fewer restrictions on private property, the better. Less is more. Your county/city may already have ordinances and building codes that meet your expectations, and take care of 95% of health, safety, and nuisance issues. If they don’t maybe your town/county can enact them.

    Get rid of any picky, subjective, or unnecessary rules and restrictions that obsessive homeowners want to strictly enforce now or in the future. Do away with the Architectural Committee, if there is one. Do you really want to ask permission from your neighbors before you change the color of your front door? Or add some new rose bushes? Theoretically, you could eliminate all restrictions on private property, and defer to local ordinances and building codes. Then the HOA doesn’t have to enforce rules at all.

    Realistically, you can probably get a majority of owners to agree to get rid of the most vague and problematic restrictions.

    Make sure you add an expiration date for the CC&Rs — most of the time, they have a perpetual renewal, unless 2/3rd vote to dissolve them. But studies show that CC&Rs become less desirable and have no impact on property values once the community is about 20-25 years old. Even earlier than that, there’s only weak and inconsistent evidence that CC&Rs support higher property values. (Contact me via LinkedIn, Facebook, or Twitter if you’d like details)

    Remember — your CC&Rs and Bylaws were written primarily for the benefit of the developer — not homeowners. That’s why they tend to cause problems for future homeowners and residents.

  332. Hello De De.
    I was in your position many years ago, with a still active developer and underbuilt subdivision.
    Our developer was very hands off, and the original CCRS (that we read very carefully) were benign. We decided we could live with them and purchased our lot and built our home.
    THEN came the “dedication” which transferred control to the residents.
    The CCRS , through unilateral alterations of just a few lot owners (board members) became ever increasingly hostile and threatening, culminating in a new power, the FINE. The board actually recorded in their minutes that a “No vote would be counted as a Yes vote” with regard to that one.
    So I would be very careful with those CCRS with regard to how they can be altered (I hate the word “amended” as that implies a valid process).
    I would think that with all of the information out there about the danger of HOAs to your interest in your property, that you might have better luck convincing your neighbors about the need for prudence in their situation.
    Good luck and let us know how things go!

  333. I am extremely frustrated with the prevalence of HOA communities where I live. I moved to CO from New England (where HOAs are still comparatively rare), and I am aghast that so many people are willing to pay someone else money to be told what they are allowed to do with their own homes! Thankfully I do not live in an HOA, but between the city’s restrictions and the historical society, I almost might as well. I have some sensitivities and really shouldn’t live in a home with lead paint, but anything newer-built around here comes with HOA restrictions and I absolutely will not ever live in an HOA. I wish there were a resource out there to help you find areas without HOAs, or a search filter on real estate listings so you can filter them out.

  334. Hi Dee – You might tell your real estate agent to show you only non-HOA properties. Of course, if there isn’t much, he or she may not give you much time. Unfortunately, control of all kinds is creeping all around us. The whole concept of what home ownership used to be has become watered down to be meaningless. All any of us can do is work to minimize the intrusions.

  335. Extensive research revealed HOA are not obligated to enforce the regs, or can do so in an such arbitrary and cavalier manner the covenants are essentially meaningless. This is the classic back door……….

    “Above everything, the board of directors is required to act in the community’s best interest, financially and practically”.

    It was invoked when a neighbor (who has fled this community) complained about next door neighbor with exposed trash receptacles in his driveway, 15 feet from the property line. A board member told him, “there is nothing we can do”. Translation: we are not inclined to spend $500 for the HOA attorney to send cease and desist to a dozen irresponsible property owners who ignore HOA form letter to comply with the regs.

    That retired former resident ended up in a development that enforces ALL regs with an iron fist, which includes no exposed portable basketball rims that are not in use. Roll them out of sight when finished vs anchoring them with sandbags or creating typical eyesore, and keep them on private property vs situating them in the cul-de-sac.

    My experiences indicate the problems typically involve undesirable neighbors who have no consideration for others. They ignore property maintenance and embrace obnoxious lifestyle.

    This development has no recreational areas, but when this inept HOA neglected maintenance of the common areas I resorted to documenting such with videos. Upon receiving You Tube links they immediately rectified the unsightly conditions at the entrance. Another tactic utilized was anonymous mass mailer to residents, depicting board members with their heads firmly situated up their posterior sphincter. Once again it served as adequate motivation for them to address common area tree branch trimming overhanging the sidewalks. This topic was ironically addressed in a HOA mailer advising residents to trim their trees !

    While the age of a community can be a factor in terms of appearance and appeal, the importance of a HOA is diminished if recreational facilities are absent and common areas are minimal. Once again the bottom line becomes personal responsibility, pride of ownership and common sense civility. Unfortunately far too many property owners ignore such.

  336. My experience is the worst offenders go unpunished, while people who are generally compliant get nailed on technicalities. The unequal treatment of residents by HOA boards is one of my main issues. It leads me to conclude that some are connected and protected, while others are persecuted over nonsense. It let’s the board flex their muscles, while giving special treatment to their friends.

  337. Kevin,

    You are correct! My HOA picks and chooses who they go after and who they don’t. In my case, my house have never had any violations of the rules. I have never been in the faces of the property manager or any of the staff. I wrote very professional emails and letters…no response. My issues have all been with failed maintenance on the part of the HOA that caused massive damage to the interior of my home. You would not believe the mess I have lived with for fourteen years! And the damage that has been done to my personal belongings. In mediation we reached an agreement…I followed that agreement to the tee. The HOA changed the agreement AFTER the mediation and tried to force me to sign it. The judge sent us back to mediation where the board members denied they had ever made the agreement. We were with the same mediator both times. He is also a county judge that notified the judge the case had been settled after the first mediation. In my opinion, the judge on my case should have held them to the mediation agreement. The money I put in my attorney’s escrow (which was the amount THEY asked for) would have covered the cost to replace the driveway and fence. The issues would have taken care of and I could have sold and left the HOA. No, they hired more attorneys…they have 4 total….and spent $125K on legal bills that they are now demanding I pay.

    George Kowal said, “Above everything, the board of directors is required to act in the community’s best interest, financially and practically”.

    Which is exactly why my attorney says my HOA board members need to be sued individually for breach of fiduciary duty. They’ve spent $125K in legal fighting over issues that could have been taken care of for $10K and I put that money in escrow for this to use to pay for it. In addition to demanding the $125K they are also foreclosing and taking my mortgage free home.

    HOAs are insane to say the least!

  338. Deborah thank you for your outstanding thoughts and ideas. Our only amenities that we have are a city storm water retention pond on our common area plus 5 small strips of grass with baby trees and a sign and two small stands of woods that are all common areas so I guess this means we have to remain mandatory. All streets, sidewalks, lights are public. The city made the builder give us a social gathering place which is a stone wall with benches and a place where you could put a grill. So the pond is probably the reason why we have to be mandatory if I get what you’re saying. But perhaps your ideas to amend the By Laws and CC&Rs to limit foreclosing on someone’s home is a good start for us. The Declaration says the BoD can promulgate rules and regulations for homes. I like your idea of making it consensus to do that. I love all your thoughts. Very helpful.

  339. Nila, thanks for your suggestions! We should a 3 person board so all of them signing checks is a great idea. I like your financial and audit suggestions especially as it sets the right tone. Great point about becoming a Guarantor for payment on all loans, debts, lawsuits, etc…. Sadly I cant pack my bags and move 🙁 My hope is to keep them in check and convince a few others about the dangers that lie ahead of them with this entity so we dont see as uch of the bad stuff. Thanks!

  340. Mike thank you very much. Yes it sounds very similar to my current situation. Interestingly your comment reminded me of a former community we lived in years back where the HOA Board took the hands off approach on covenants and that actually backfired on us too as it loosened up the oversight and a rogue board member started doing things under the table (no meetings, no newsletters, he and his friends broke the rules, etc). We are really at the mercy of whoever lives near you and their personal values. Thanks again

  341. Reading this disparaging article and the corresponding comments was somewhat depressing. I have lived in several HOA communities. At my first one 30 years ago, I had no issues, and no idea what was going on, lived there for 3 years, and then relocated. The last 17 years I’ve been in a community with an HOA. Our HOA was turned over from the Developer to the community 10 years ago, and 5 years ago I decided to engage and get involved. Prior to that I was perfectly happy to exist without knowing how things were being run. So I went to my first HOA meeting and “ran” for a board seat unopposed. They were happy to get interest. After 1 year as a general board member, 1 year as secretary, and now 3 years as treasurer, I’ve truly engaged as a key board member. I have the time to engage as I’m retired and have an interest in serving my community, not making and enforcing rules, but rather improving the community and making it a good place to live. Yes, there can be strange personalities on the board, and also among the members in the community. We do try to engage in activities that will foster higher home values such as improve entrance aesthetics while ensuring cost effective maintenance practices. As volunteers, it is thankless, and participation from community members is often difficult. We never seem to get it right, for at least a few homeowners, but we keep trying regardless. We’d love to have more engagement from residents, not just complaints, but true effort and involvement. While I understand the many comments regarding the numerous issues that residents have with their HOAs, I encourage members to get involved, attend board meetings, join the board or a committee, and most importantly try to understand a board member’s point of view and see things from a different perspective on occasion.

  342. Hi Art – It is admittedly good to hear a positive report from an HOA insider. But I believe the many complaints listed in these comments are legitimate problems. Unfortunately, there are a lot of poorly run HOAs out there, especially those that are mostly about rules and regulations, rather than community interest. I agree, residents should get more involved. But I’ve known plenty of HOAs that are run by private cliques. It’s hard to break in, and harder to stay in. I’ve known people who were run off, and others who discovered their opinions didn’t count, even as board members.

    I’d like to say the bad ones are the exception, but my personal experience points in the opposite direction. I don’t mean to take away from what you’re saying, but you may be a rare gem serving in one of the better run HOAs. The way they fail to budget for replacement reserves – then hit the residents with special assessments – alone is reprehensible. From what I know of HOAs, and that’s a lot, replacement reserves are supposed to be budgeted for, not handled by special assessment.

  343. Kevin, I don’t disagree that legitimate problems exist, that many HOAs are poorly run, and that it’s too easy to get caught up in the Rules & Regs. Some of that is due to residents that can’t or won’t deal with issues with other residents head on, and rely on the HOA board to fix things for them. Thus boards are SOMETIMES drawn to enforcing rules & regs because unfortunately it IS the community interest. The private cliques are no doubt difficult. I dealt with that first hand when I first joined the board. There are ways to effectively overcome some of the clique issues. In my case, I repeatedly insisted on using logic in the decision making process. I found a few allies as I continued to stress intelligent decision making, and eventually outlasted the clique. Its not easy, by any means. Since becoming treasurer we’ve reached our reserve goals within 2 years, and without undue stress on the budget. We’ve also held dues steady for the last 5 years, while fighting to hold expenses down. And with the economy improving we’ve negotiated better savings rate terms with our bank, moving from .1% to 2.0%. That’s an extra $500-$600 income that will help to pay for the new website we’re working to implement. But changing the direction of an HOA starts with engagement, effort, endurance, and persistence to fight for the betterment of the HOA and the community. I din’t have the time when younger, working full time and raising a family, like so many posting on the blog, so I understand the difficulty in members engaging in their HOAs. But my biggest advice to those “stuck” in an HOA community is to use your vote to remove bad board members and work to secure better ones. Most Declarations provide for annual elections, which is the best and easiest way to effect change.

  344. Hello Art,
    I understand your perspective with regard to “getting involved”, it sounds like it worked for you.
    But I do have a question for you. When you say “use your vote” to get things accomplished, what happens when the board cheats on the ballot?
    The board of my HOA counted a “no vote as a yes vote”, in quotations because that is exactly what they wrote in their minutes regarding how ballots would be tabulated.
    This vote was not some insignificant issue, but for an alteration of the deed restrictions which gave the board the power to fine.
    Without any vote at all, they further altered the restrictions and repurposed the permanent lien on our land, which was only to insure collection of the annual assessments, to collect those fines.
    Both the DA and AG of my state refuse to get involved, and instead directed me to a private attorney.
    So now I am looking at spending my savings, and perhaps the equity in my home to defend and assert my rights to my property.
    So what oversight and transparency requirements do you think are needed with regard to these HOA governances? What level of enforcement of the law?
    Or do you think just the good intentions of some extraordinary people
    are all that is required.

  345. Mike, if I understand you correctly, the board basically cheated the process by making up their own rules when determining how to count votes. And then they created rules without a vote that should have been required by the HOA Declarations? If the DA and AG refuse to engage, then it sounds like you have little in way of legal alternatives other to retain private counsel on these particular matters, and I understand the expense is likely prohibitive. But are others in your community not concerned as well as to how matters are being handled by the board? How are those officers allowed to remain in office when the next election is held? Why is the membership not being encouraged to vote them out and replace them with competent, reasonable people? If this is an individual dispute between you and the board, then I can understand members not wanting to get involved, but if you feel wronged, and the community is aware, and agrees with your position, then other than legal action, voting in the election is the only power that you and the community have, assuming they don’t cheat in board elections. Our HOA board chooses to retain legal counsel to advise the board regarding the proper understanding of the governing documents and how to apply them in the decision process. But I have no advice if your HOA board chooses to take inappropriate action and the membership accepts it without attempting to replace the board.

  346. Been there. Tried that, Art. We had signed petitions of over 50% of the homeowners requesting a special meeting be called to vote to recall the board members. The president refused to accept the petitions. When I retained an attorney they still refused as well as denied access to all records. The reason for this was because we discovered $10M in HOA dues were unaccounted for. No audits had been done in 7 years even though the CC&Rs said the “treasurer shall cause an annual audit.”

    I found skilled people that were willing to serve on the board and try to help the community off its knees. The board and their cronies walked the neighborhood telling lies to homeowners to scare them into not voting for me and the candidates I recruited. They told people there dues were going to be raised, the candidates were going to try and make money off of them, and I was a liar. They were successful in keeping the honest and skilled people off the board.

    Today, they hang signs begging for board members. Two of the ones that were elected to keep me and the others off the board have now died. Another sold his rental after violating the architectural rules for replacement windows and brick molding on the trim.

    After what they pulled off with spending $125K on legal bills to sue me the board (all those on the board during the time of this lawsuit) could be facing a class action lawsuit against them as individuals for breach of fiduciary duty. If that lawsuit is filed they will have to pay for their own legal representation and hire their own attorneys. The days of being able to destroy their targeted neighbor while using HOA funds are over. I pray that lawsuit is filed and these board members are taken to their knees and their bank accounts are drained. They deserve it. The families of the two dead ones most likely will not be affected.

    Art, you sound like a great board member! Rarely are their people willing to stand up and work as a volunteer for their community. When the board members in my community fought like wild animals to stay on the board I knew something wasn’t right. They actions have done nothing but destroy an entire community. Keep up the good work. Sadly, once you decide not to be on the board any longer it’s a gamble on who will replace you. And will they have your level of integrity or not? Time will tell.

  347. Here are the facts: It is not that uncommon for an HOA board to attain and hold onto a controlling voting interest in the organization (corporation). In such cases, it become mathematically impossible to “vote the bums out” so to speak. This is especially true in Declarant-controlled HOAs. Declarant = a developer, or the developer’s or home builder’s family and friends that remain on the board. Sometimes there’s a real estate owner or investor group that owns enough homes or units in the association to hold most of the votes, and enough influence to sway a few allies. The odds of an election upset in such cases — slim to none.

    The other reality — there are many communities that simply have ZERO qualified people to serve on the board. Consider some 55+ communities where all the residents have aged over the years — say age 75 and up. Many of them don’t have energy or good health, and others who might have served before have burnt out.

    Or what about “affordable” condo or co-op associations made up of working adults — most of them with more than one job and kids to take care of. Or veterans with PTSD. Or single parents of disabled children. These are people who could barely afford a cheap condo or townhouse, most of whom don’t even have a personal checking account. How can we expect such a group of homeowners to effectively self-govern and manage their affairs?

    Many, many association-governed communities have fewer than 20-30 units. There might not be a single good leader among a group that small. But there’s almost always an opportunist or a bully. Funny how that works.

    Larger communities tend to have “professional” management. That often makes matters worse, especially when the board just lets the manager take over, with little or no oversight. The truth is, the vast majority of people buy into these communities because they count on someone else taking care of business, so they don’t have to. And they are often willing to pay for that, sometimes way more than they should. People expect that they won’t have to lift a finger or give a single thought to keeping the place well-maintained and well-managed. That’s how these places are sold to them. So it shouldn’t come as a surprise that few care enough to pay attention — until it’s too late.

  348. AMEN,Deborah!!!

    You are 100% correct. I know the people in my PUD are either elderly, young, or too lazy to step up and serve on the board. Thus, eleven years ago I recruited some excellent people to serve on the board with business degrees, construction backgrounds, project management skills, and vast knowledge of managing a business. They understood the need for reserves and sound financial management with transparency for all. The old board and their cronies made sure such talent was not going to ever serve on this HOA board. So…one of the board members they kept re-electing opted to push for a lawsuit and spend $125K on legal bills fighting a $10K remedy. Once accomplished, he dropped dead.

    The HOA concept was failed from day one because no matter how it’s sold there is no way to run a multi-million dollar business with a bunch of volunteer board members! What bank would loan a business a million dollars with a bunch of unskilled volunteers running the company? Yet, they loan that amount to HOAs all the time. Why? Because they set it up so the dues that the homeowners are paying will be repaying the loan + 6% or more interest.

    Giving volunteer board members the powers to fine, lien, and foreclose on their neighbor’s house is about as insane as it comes.

    You sure hit the nail on the head with people not paying attention until it’s too late. That is the ONLY TIME they pay attention and by then they are in quicksand and sinking fast! Keep up the good work Deborah!

  349. I sympathize with both Nila and Deborah in their HOA situations. Age does seem to be a factor in finding good board representation, and even in the voting process. We live in an upscale community and many homeowners are retired professionals, but also including a good mix of younger families. Having experienced professionals available certainly makes the situation more manageable, but sometimes there are too many cooks as well. I am a former business executive with a financial and operations background. Understanding financial implications in decision making is a necessary component for good leadership, regardless of the business situation. I think an individual’s motives are also an important consideration. I consider HOA members to be customers of the business, and while sometimes difficult to satisfy, that is the mindset that our president and myself have taken. He is also a former business executive who is just trying to help the HOA be successful and the members satisfied. While I’ve dealt with cliques and bad former HOA directors, we’ve not encountered the severe situations that some of you have. I do feel fortunate that we don’t have the extreme HOA situations that I’m hearing about, and I do worry to some extent about leaving the board in good hands when I decide to move on to my next phase of retirement.

  350. Art, with all due respect, I’m not looking for sympathy. My mission is to educate the public about the realities of common interest development, deed restricted communities, and HOAs. For the past four years, I’ve been following current issues, reading, listening to homeowners, researching and analyzing the history, politics, and dysfunction in HOA-governed housing.

    If you think that the problems described on this forum are “isolated” and that the observations and stories shared here are “extreme,” then I invite you to visit my website (Google Independent American Communities or my name) and spend some time reviewing nearly 1500 articles that document prevalent and predictable economic decline, social discord, abuse of power, and corruption.

    For your information, and for the benefit of readers, I have observed that upscale communities are hotbeds for some of the most bitter HOA power battles and litigation. Sometimes it’s a battle of egos among “neighbors” who have the money to file lawsuits, just to prove a point. Sometimes homeowners have to defend themselves from a board member on a power trip. Just because homeowners are highly educated and wealthy, that doesn’t necessarily make them good neighbors or ethical leaders.

    It doesn’t matter whether the members of an HOA are rich, middle class, or poor, young or old — the same predictable problems manifest themselves over and over again, sooner or later, in virtually every community. Some are a bit more resilient than others, but almost every HOA governed community follows a cycle of eventual decline, despite all the industry’s claims that HOA’s protect property values.

  351. There are several excellent academic treatments of the problem as well.
    These works should and do have more weight than the thousands of anecdotal stories such as mine.
    In 2008 the Rutgers Journal of Law and Public Policy held a forum and published a paper titled:
    Homeowner Associations: Problems and Solutions.
    A state official in NJ, Edward Hannaman who dealt directly with HOAs was asked to speak at this forum.
    He is quoted as saying:
    “If society’s intention in setting up associations is to encourage the formation of undemocratic Gulags ruled by unaccountable boards and for the enrichment of those who profit from owner ignorance or impotency- we have succeeded completely. Alternatively, if the intention is that associations be formed as microcosms of democracy in which informed owners collectively wield power, maintain their freedoms and are honestly served by their neighbors and trades people- we have failed miserably.”
    It is evident that there is a systemic rottenness in this common interest development scheme, and at this point (in my opinion) you have to be obtuse in the extreme not to recognize this.

  352. Excuse my obtuseness as I comment in reply to the last few posts. I never professed to have expertise in the field. I am somewhat knowledgeable in how to run a business, and more specifically in the areas of accounting and finance, operations management, and marketing. Yes, mostly business disciplines. My intention was to offer what I felt were practical alternatives to some of the issues and shortcomings that were being voiced in the article, as well as in the details of this comments section. I’m not focused on changing the legal and political infrastructure currently supporting HOAs. I was just trying to offer some practical insight as to what worked for me. Apparently the HOA environment is wrought with evil, the outlook is glum, and efforts to improve one’s HOA situation is currently hopeless, at best. No sympathy from me moving forward. I’m just going to mind my own business and do the best I can in support of my HOA.

  353. Art, I hope you won’t turn and walk away. We need guys like you to learn and understand the depth of corruption and abuse that is taking place in the HOAs across America. Every person with knowledge about HOAs is priceless.

    I meet so many people that tell me how they solved an HOA issue or changed their HOA. They try to convince me the solutions are simple. Once I share the depth of my research, study, and experience that includes over 100 hours per week for over eight years they realize they only know the tip of the iceberg. Those of us with vast knowledge become targets because the HOA industry thrives on ignorance. The more home/condo buyers they can get to sign on the dotted line of ownership the bigger the HOA monster grows.

    Wealth is not excluded in the HOA battles. I know of lawsuits were the homeowner has spent in excess of one million dollars on legal bills. We have a case just a few miles from my house where the owners are mostly retired professionals or they are still employed, but their HOA board and the homeowner they are battling with have spent collectively almost a million dollars in legal bills. What are they fighting over? A little landscape wall and the fact the homeowner didn’t say, “Mother may I build this little wall?” He claims he had permission the HOA board claims he did not. You can read this story with an internet search of Kansas City Star HOA Hell Series by Judy Thomas. The HOA is Avignon in Olathe, Kansas. This story was also featured in the Wall Street Journal a few weeks ago.

    Until the level of knowledge among the general population rises regarding HOAs, the housing industry in America is going to fall into a major crises in the future, as I see it. This failed concept needs to be stopped not built upon because the foundation is crumbling.

    Fortunately, for your HOA you are a retired professional. My HOA has store clerks, retired teachers, women who have survived due to multiple marriages, and mostly low income earners. These people have no background or skills for running something as simple as a lemonade stand much less overseeing the maintenance and monthly dues of 513 homes. They have built such a reputation there are very few; maybe two property management companies, and one or two law firms that will represent them. That means they are at the mercy of paying whatever these people decide to charge. And from my observation they have certainly taken advantage of their ignorance…costing the entire community precious financial resources.

    Again, please don’t go away and mind your own business. The more you know the more likely your HOA will be not to the make the mistakes so many HOAs have. Following Deborah’s blog is time well-spent. Reading the book, Neighbors At War by Ward Lucas is priceless. I know it took me several years before I felt I knew this HOA topic with a high level of expertise. Fortunately, now there are people to lead the way. I did not have that advantage when I started down this path, but you do and I hope you’ll take a advantage of it.

  354. An interesting back and forth. A microcosm of what is happening times 70 million other people or so.
    HOA governances, which IMO have more in common with third world kleptocracies than any public government found in the Western world, are strangely, even enthusiastically embraced by otherwise model American citizens.
    And perhaps not by coincidence HOA board membership, those “thankless” positions, do come with a few perks. Unfettered access to the finances, a “free” attorney on speed-dial, immunity from persecution of petty offences and perhaps the most seductive, the ability to impose your will upon your neighbor. These are seductive to even well-intentioned people, never mind what happens when a lesser variety comes onto the scene.
    Right and wrong, equitable and not, these values become subjective when self-interest is involved. The numerous stories of theft, embellzement, petty disputes being raised to an art form not to mention financial devastation. All curable by someone with Solomon like wisdom who dusts off his hero suit and steps up to get involved.
    Incredible, and the hits just keep on coming.
    Which, on the bright side, has given me a renewed appreciation for the remarkable form of government our country has.
    Separation of powers, checks and balances, transparency requirements…the bill of rights…
    Clearly our model of public governance is NOT designed to thwart that metaphoric citizen who will put a rusty chevy on blocks in their front lawn.
    Instead Madison, Jefferson, Adams et al were a lot brighter than that.
    The tendency for ANY governance, no matter how small or petty, to become oppressive without the requisite constraints is a mathematical given. Our State Constitutions and Federal are nothing if not an instrument of constraint against those who believe they have the mandate to govern.
    Constraints completely absent in common interest development governance.
    It does amaze me that this very simple, acutely true observation is completely disregarded by people whose very heritage should make them know better.

  355. Hi Mike – I think it has something to do with what Upton Sinclair said: “It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends on his not understanding it.” I think that explains why people who should know better often dont’t. Also, I don’t think most people appreciate what we have as Americans, with the type of government the founding fathers have given us. That’s why even civil government of the people, by the people, for the people is being gradually eroded. Like Esau, Americans are selling their birthright (freedom) for a bowl of stew (comfort and the perception of security). It’s just easier to do with HOAs since they’re both local and and protected by law. There’s more propaganda in our culture than most of us understand, and that’s why even otherwise smart people fall for official narratives. Look at all the young people who are being herded into college in exchange for a lifetime of indebtedness. It happens all the time, so the HOA love affair shouldn’t surprise us. Independent thought gets overwhelmed by groupthink.

  356. Yes,
    It is a dystopian nightmare right out of an Orwell novel in some of these subdivisions.
    And for the very same reasons Orwell was warning us about.
    The recent back and forth a case in point.
    I have seen the Condescending “advice”, quickly followed by the adolescent self-righteous indignation when rebuffed ad nauseum in both print and in person by HOA operatives.
    Is it a personality disorder that attracts so many of these people to positions of power over their neighbors?
    In any case, it is people like Deborah Goonan et al and their remarkable efforts that restore my faith in human nature. And provide some light at the end of the tunnel in what I believe to be the greatest assault on property rights in our time.
    But with so much money involved, 80 billion a year! And the “professionals who specialize in HOAs” lobbying for unfettered access to it, I am not holding my breath for change anytime soon.

  357. It is Mike, but that’s the world we live in. It leaves us little choice but to figure out our own solutions, wherever possible. That usually means avoiding these little power clusters whenever we can. The problem is there seems to be more of them all the time, and in more places.

  358. This subdivision is 21 years old. I was on the verge of attending my second annual HOA in 12 years to question why the entrance median lacks attractive, mature, healthy trees. Of course no point would have been served.

    My property has hearty 30 foot trees planted by bird guano, but the dozen board members who have served during the last 20 years have yet to install and maintain median trees. This recent gang of misfits were the same ones who had to be motivated to have the entrance paver brick pressure washed last year, after they received videos of that eyesore.

    The first and only meeting attended 10 years ago, subsequent to submitting an anonymous complaint about habitually noisy dog, resulted in observing a gang of buffoons (including the noisy dog owners) making light of the issue. I silently observed, exited and never attended another meeting.

    As stated previously; many neighbors consider a “good neighbor” as someone anxious to overlook their indiscretions. Subsequent to my one-and-only meeting I had two nuisance dog owners cited by local officials and several others warned. One of those irresponsible dog owners approached by animal control was the former HOA prez/Avon Lady. She was less qualified to serve as president than the German Shepherd she allowed off leash on the sidewalks. City ordinances require all dogs be leashed on public property. Another irresponsible dog owner allowed two bull dogs to rush me as I rode past on my bike.

    At that same meeting a board member boasted about the new $600 planters in the entrance median, inviting comparison of this community to a nearby subdivision with much more costly real estate. His junior high school mentality was not awe-inspiring. Did the board consider the median lacks a water supply to nourish planter flowers. This HOA board can’t keep the trees alive and they squander $3,000 on planters.

    I have lost all interest in addressing matters that benefited the community due to a host of reasons. I was once trimming common area growth across the street, posting pink tip snow snakes at the entrance to prevent city snow plow from damaging sod and other matters. These activities were performed under the radar with no intention of self aggrandizement. My goal has become prepping the house for sale and much anticipated relocation.

  359. Unfortunately any neighborhood is a dice roll, particularly the high density, 1/4 acre layouts. Isolated acre is much more appealing.

  360. I have lived in a dozen different neighborhoods in Texas and Georgia, both without an HOA and with one.

    I will always seek out HOA communities because they are well worth the small fees. I don’t like that I can’t deduct HOA fees as a tax, because it really is a tax, but the benefits far outweigh the very, very few horror stories. Most of them are simply caused by poor over-siight or poor training of HOA staff or the property manager.

    Property management companies are a varied lot – they are becoming more professional and those HOA’s that can afford annual audits don’t have the kinds of troulble we read out. Anytime someone is unfairly treated or abused by any governing body, it’s a headline story. Never mind that 92% of HOA members are happy with their association and the amenities they provide.

    HOA’s were supposed to protect property values, but most of what they do is to maintain amenities are there better than what the local county or city can provide. They do that very well. The problems I have read about are most often caused by unethical or inexperienced property managers, who are hired by HOAs to collect dues and manage the finances.

    The other problem with HOAs is that they are vastly different, because developers don’t pay much attention to what their lawyers cobble together to form an HOA. Some have obtuse restrictions and others have CC&R’s that are unenforceable. Condo associations are much more complicated, but more states have enacted rigorous rules for condo associations. Unfortunately, they haven’t done the same for HOAs.

    I think the root of the problem is that HOAs should be able to make rules and levy fines for non-compliance. That makes sense and it doesn risk anyone losing their home. Unfortunately, that’s not how most states set up HOAs. The all have one thing in common – they can foreclose on member’s property for not paying dues.

    They can also file a lien, which can mess up your credit rating, prevent you from re-financing, etc.
    And, they can file a lawsuit.

    But, the truth is, that’s rarely what happens. In most cases, delinquentcies are put on payment plans, fees and fines are waived for people who pay up, and frankly, most HOAs really do protect property values and give homeowners a peace of mind.

    We all focus on the horror stories. Its our nature and we should. But that doesn’t mean a manditor HOA is a bad thing. The statistics suggest just the opposite. HOA neighborhoods DO look better and enjoy higher property values than non-managed neighborhoods.

    Before I moved into an HOA neighborhood, I had to use the local elementary school for meetings. Our libraries are always booked up and most restuarnta no longer have meeting rooms. We don’t even have churches where I live, even in city limits. The HOA community center is where we meet and where we vote.

    My property values have almost doubled in 17 years. So have my property taxes, school taxes, insurance, etc. My HOA fees have gone up an average of 5% per year, which allows them to pay a living wage to the landscapers and staff. And, larger HOAs are able to employ full-time in-house staff instead of using a property management company.

    The other side of the coin is that most of the people who get cited for leaving out a garbage can too long usually get that fine waived by appealing it. We all make mistakes and there is a hear process and most HOAs have regal board meeting where you can talk directly to management and the board. Most people don’t take the time to do so – I’ve been on both sides myself.

    HOA’s a the most basic local government body for many of us.
    And EVERYONE always says they don’t have time to volunteer or serve on their HOA board.
    I take that to mean they are satisfied with the management or they would show up at meeting.

    I think the just of this story really lies with bad property management, not with the HOAs, which have grow in popularity from about 70,000 in the US in 1970 tumor than 400,000 in 2019.

    Check your facts. Google it. Look at CAI.org

    There is nothing to be afraid of and great deal of security with a good HOA.

  361. The CAI, by its own admission, is a trade organization of venders who provide services to HOAs.
    30,000 members strong, or less than half of one percent of the 70 million homeowners who live in HOAs. Yet the CAI oddly claims to also represent homeowners, as well as their paying “professional” tradespeople in their literature.
    The CAI is very active, with 57 chapters across the country, in lobbying efforts to limit any legislation that would provide effective oversight, transparency and accountability to HOAs. In short, they oppose any legislation that would impact in any way, their access to the 80 billion dollars taken in my HOAs annually.
    In other words, to quote the CAI about the happiness of homeowners, is like looking to the fox for information on how the hens are doing. Not to mention how the hen house should be built.
    But even the laughable “push poll” paid for by the CAI on homeowner well being did not arrive at a 92% happiness rating, so I would go back and check my facts on that one.
    About a “basic governmental body”, I prefer mine, local, state and federal to be premised on the protection of the rights of its citizens. Rights enumerated by our state and federal Constitutions.
    To confuse what is going on in HOAs with our venerable “real” governments, on any level, is a profound ignorance of even a basic understanding of the history and purpose of our American Constitutional government that is mind boggling in dimension.

  362. “Check your facts. Google it. Look at CAI.org”

    Enough said right there! I knew when I started reading this the CAI was somewhere in there. I read all the way to the second to the last line and found it.

    HOAs are destroying home ownership in America. Do not believe the propaganda of the CAI. They write the playbooks that teach the property managers and the attorneys exactly how to screw the homeowners and steal their homes. Read the HOA HELL SERIES written by Judy Thomas of The Kansas City Star. Before the first one was published she investigated HOAs for 3.5 years. She published the truth and she’s since heard from thousands of homeowners with HOA issues. So many she hasn’t got the time to call or email all of them. She told me it would be a full-time job to keep up with all the calls and emails.

    Russ Hodes certainly hasn’t been living the nightmare I have in an HOA since 2005. And he most definitely hasn’t listened to the abused homeowners/condo owners/Co-Op owners that I have since 2007 nor has he been sitting in the courtrooms listening to HOA cases that I have. Spreading propaganda benefits no one! Please quote those state statutes that protect condo owners. I want to read them. Oh wait, they don’t exist. Why? Because the CAI lobbyists make sure the legislators do not pass any bills that give the homeowners or condo owners their well-deserved rights. I don’t doubt for one second the CAI affiliated attorneys haven’t influenced the composition of the CC&Rs and Articles of Incorporation of every HOA created in America. The CAI, Homebuilder Associations, National Board of Realtors, and the city planners across America are all in on the HOA scheme together. Add in the CAI affiliated property managers and HOAs are nothing but a disaster waiting to happen. One vote is all it takes to put some power-hungry little Nazi type on the HOA board and every single home and condo owner takes a brutal beating in some form or another.

  363. First of all, the web address for CAI’s website is incorrect. I know this because I have visited their website numerous times. I disagree with 99% of CAI’s public policies and legislative agenda.

    CAI is a trade group. Its members are mainly community association managers and attorneys, plus some HOA vendors. Then there are the “homeowner leader” members, or like-minded HOA board members. Many of those homeowner board members, by the way, are also Real estate brokers/agents, Insurance brokers/agents, attorneys, local or state politicians, community or property managers, real estate investors, or owners of companies that provide services to their HOA (and others).

    HOA abuse of power and community dysfunction are quite common, not rare at all. CAI and the industry that reaps profits from HOAs would like you and the general public to believe otherwise. But the tide is changing as the truth comes out. The majority of people in the U.S. don’t like HOAs, condos, or co-ops, and most people avoid them if possible.

  364. If you get that impression that many people, including myself, believe the CAI is primarily comprised of self serving venders and bottom feeding lawyers, you would be correct.
    In Massachusetts, the NE Chapter of the CAI is comprised of such a law firm.
    On their website they used to crow about a legal “win” where a condo owner was ordered to sell his home to pay the $60,000 in fines…..for feeding the birds on a street OFF the condominium property.
    Trs. of the Clarendon/Warren Condo.v.Cotto
    https://casetext.com/case/trs-of-the-clarendonwarren-condo-v-cotto
    This decision was so offensive to the legal community in Boston, that a reputable firm, perhaps the most reputable (think Boston Legal) took the case pro-bono and had it slapped down on appeal.
    The refence to this case has since disappeared from the CAI memberlawfirms website, I would like to think for the shame of it.
    How these people sleep at night is a mystery

  365. Thank you, Mike Reardon for providing this valuable additional information!

    Personally, I think CAI proposes a toast every time one of their members pushes a home or condo owner to the point they commit suicide, too.

  366. Selfie Stick Spy utilized by HOA !! Not surprisingly, the HOA board president was in violation of the new reg being enforced according to news report video below.

    “Homeowners say HOA crossing the line selfie stick”
    YOU TUBE VIDEO

    The comments are equally amusing.
    LAST YEAR, MY HOA STARTED USING A DRONE. They started using a drone, flying from one house to another, hovering and taking pictures. In August, the drone hit a tree branch over my yard, and fell…. into my son’s kiddie wading pool!

    ========

    In most cities Code Enforcement cannot go on private property to investigate a complaint. It must be visible from public property or from adjacent private property with owner consent. Also, the city will not use Google Aerial to investigate a complaint.

  367. Long ago Ward Lucas predicted drones would be used by the HOA boards to spy on homeowners! Sounds like his prediction has come true!

    The insanity of HOA living/survival is beyond words!

  368. It’s unfortunate but any technology that can be used will eventually be used for an unholy purpose. That includes any technology geared toward snooping, monitoring or violence. This is hardly a surprise.

  369. There are dis-advantages when you run from an HOA..I had to give up paved roads and amenities. I just got invited to a dirt road party. I coughed up $300.00 to pay for materials. The party is a BYOT (Bring Your Own Tractor) and be prepared to do a lot of work I’m not sorry I ran off to live is the sticks.

  370. HELP!! i SUBMITTED A REQUEST WITH idea of shed placement, In compliance with color, materials, size, location. They said it could take 30 days to hear back. We are at about 45 days. They only have a voicemail to be reached and I have called a couple times with no reply. There rule for not doing a shed should not be bound if THEY ARE NOT in reasonable communication. (Provided it’s done in compliance with color, size, shingles, etc.)

  371. Hi,
    I sold my house after 16 years and bought a waterfront condo 3 years ago, I like my condo, the views and everything else except the fininical condition our board has put owners in.
    Nobody ever asked any questions about fininical cashflow reports ww are given 1 time per year on a plain white paper and the board refuses to provide requested entitled records for months.
    I requested a bank statement that shows assn.account balances on 12/31/2018 to see if they match the numbers on the lone cashflow statement we are given 1 time per year, a balance sheet has never been provided to owners or potential buyers.
    The board pres.had been in power for about 5 years and than resigned about a month after the 2019 election. He hired himself, son in law, daughter, wife and friends to provide services such as cleaning 8 building hallways in 4 plex, about 30 minute job max, he pays his wife $50 per building,which should be $4800 and $1800 higher than a estimate I got from a cleaning business which is insured, licensed bonded, him and rest do not have contractor insurance, they found a insur.rep.who thinks ok to hire uninsured contractors since they would have to provide neglect but said nothing about damage, injury they could cause and not be insured and what personal injury would do to insur preminums.$38k in last 3 years to mow grass and clean hallways..I divided cost of mowing for each year and it’s pretty hard for me to understand how we have 37 weeks of grass cutting in North Dakota.
    Theex.pres, the remaining VP have made false statement one after the other.Pure lies..
    Assn.insrance premium went from $6500 to over $14000 in 3 years with no claims,owners never given change of policy materials as required.Found besides normal board insur.there is non disclosure of records coverage, dishonesty policy,employment practice insur,business practice insur.on only 1 board member, assume it’s on pres.who resigned and still runs the show from the back and than can hire himself and family and thinks it’s not still conflict of interest.
    I’ve asked the board to put me in as pres, the board has not nominated or even sent notice of vacancy to all owners, board pres.refused to provide off site owner contact info before the last election, he is only one who has communicated with them,one owner who owns 8 units- 8 votes gives him proxies for voting.
    Its unbelievable, the entitlement these inexperienced business and facity management voulenteers feel entitled to do as they please

  372. Unfortunately Dean your situation isn’t unique. I’ve heard there was that kind of use of insider contractors in our condo before we moved in. But the financial non-disclosure problem is all too common. The boards don’t want to be held accountable, and if you sniff to closely you could invite retaliation. Too many of these boards function like private fiefdoms who do exactly and precisely what they want. And then when major repairs or replacements hit the unit owners get hit with special assessments, that can be so high as to impair the owner’s ability to sell their units. And it all happens because little or no money is ever set aside for capital improvements, even though the condo docs always contain language requiring such reserves to be created and maintained. Again, no oversight means these shortfalls that result in extra charges go undisclosed – until the board “needs” a special assessment.

    Our board is so short on funds they call on owners to do exterior maintenance just about every year. It may not be money, but it’s labor, and that has a cost as well.

  373. EXTERIOR MAINTENANCE!! I used to clip the trees overhanging the common area sidewalk across the street in this single family residential area. However, a few years ago I elected to humiliate and shame HOA board members with covert mass mailing, after the arrogant board advised homeowners to clip their trees in proximity to the sidewalk. The illustration in the mailer featured a contorted clown with his head firmly entrenched in his anal sphincter.

    This community has NO amenities and very little required maintenance to the common areas. The same trees have once again overgrown the sidewalk. This gang of misfit volunteers do not hesitate to warn homeowners of 12% accumulated interest on unpaid dues while ignoring duties which require minimal attention.

    They only had to hire a competent lawn mowing service and instruct them to trim the trees once a year (hand clipper chore) and spray unsightly weeds at the entrance. It is inconceivable they are apparently oblivious to common sense management procedures. I was more competent as a teenager with a lawn mowing and dog walking service while in HS 50 years ago.

    There can be no doubt many boards alienate and discourage members of the community who could serve as capable board members. After attending ONE board meeting 10 years ago it was woefully obvious this board could not attract capable volunteers. I am not the only resident who attended one meeting.

  374. George this is why I despise those HOAs that are all about rules and regulations (what YOU the property owner MUST do) while absolving themselves of any responsibility. Like telling you what you can’t do, but not giving you a reasonable alternative. Our board requires us to move our vehicles during snow plowing. We have 50 units and only 12 guest spots, and we’re not allowed to park on public streets. So while telling us all the places on the property we can’t park during a snow storm – other than the 12 guest spots – they leave us to sit in our cars or drive around until the plowing is done. It reminds me of what Jesus said to the religious leaders 2,000 years ago – “They pile heavy burdens on people’s shoulders and won’t lift a finger to help” – Matthew 23:4. Human nature never changes. Give people some power and it turns them into masters of the universe, completely unaware their real job is to serve the people. If humanity could embrace the concept of servant leadership most of our problems would go away.

  375. I used to live in an HOA neighborhood. No gated entrance, no amenities, just grass cutting services. It was mandatory but the fee was so low it felt like a good neighborhood contribution. It was an airpark so there was a 4,000 ft grass runway that needed to be meticulously maintained, along with common areas like elevated grass taxi ways that provided all 100 two to six acre lots access to the runway. The fee was $500 paid annually. There was a board meeting the month before the annual dues were to be paid. The discussion centered around raising the fee immediately to something like $1300+ annually due to the need to repave the roads on the northern side of the airpark and possibly install unmanned gates. They proposed a 5 year plan. The north side which had a separate entrance from the main road was established probably 15 years before the south side was built out, and those of us that lived on the south side with the newer roads were not too happy to hear about immediate increased costs for a benefit being realized 5 years from then. I proposed a one-time assessment the to next year’s dues to get the job done all at once at that time and save costs on the construction set up. A shouting match ensued and all of the board members resigned one after the other. All that was left was this poor paralegal who then had to run the meeting around periodic shouts from an angry audience. Nothing was resolved and everyone left without a resolution. We moved shortly thereafter.

    I’m shopping for a new home now and I keep seeing these homes in golf course communities (yacht and country clubs) that are selling for $200-300k less than what they would normally be valued at outside of these communities. I’m also noticing that the listings are usually very old (as long as 5 years!). The HOA dues are in the neighborhood of ~$2,000 per month and the membership is a separate fee! The listings are stating that there is an equity stake owned by the HOA that the home owner is required to buy into. I’m not exactly sure how that works but it sounds like the condo HOA situation you described in this post. You own the inside or essentially just the value of materials that were used to build the house, and the land it’s built on is rented to you… It’s almost ironic to call it a Homeowner’s Association when you don’t truly own your home…….. Anyways, it doesn’t seem like the primary goal there is to keep home values high because you have to give your home away in order to get a buyer that’s willing to pay the HOA dues alone. One example I just saw that prompted my research of the matter was a one story 3/2/2 pool home sitting on a half acre lot on the golf course. It has two story high ceilings in the living areas, very posh, huge bedrooms and bathrooms, at 2,200 sq ft and they are asking $150,000. With 20% down, principal and interest is $572 per month and the HOA is $1,991 per month! The property taxes for the year of 2018 were $600 less than the monthly HOA. With approximately 250 homes they are bringing in ~$500k/month. It definitely doesn’t cost $6 million a year to maintain an 18 hole course, a few tennis courts, a small gym and pool. How does this type of HOA benefit anyone?

    Needless to say, if I find a home and have even the slightest sense that there could be an HOA, I verify before proceeding. From my experience going forward, even if it’s only $25/mo it’s a hard pass for me.

  376. The idea of HOAs keeping property values up is a myth. I told my realtor to not show me any houses with an HOA and reading the comments I’m not the only one. Why would you limit your Market

  377. Hi Don – I think in some markets, where HOAs are more common, HOA property values may be higher, due to the perception they’re “better neighborhoods”. In other areas, where they’re less common, they can be a negative (people don’t want the regulations or be required to pay fees). The problem is that it’s really about what you can get people to believe. If enough people in a market believe HOAs enhance property values, it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. Unfortunately, the general public tend to follow the herd or adhere to the “conventional wisdom”. If a narrative is repeated enough, it comes to be believed. Whether it’s inherently true or not is an entirely different story.

  378. The HOA that existed here when we bought our house was fine. They kept the neighborhood neat and tidy. They weren’t smart ppl, but they did their jobs. Not many complaints. The HOA that was hired a couple of years later is full of ignorant Nazi types whe barely speak proper English. Education level…very low. They sent os a notice that we have weeds, we don’t. And a long legalese paragraph about how and where we must have no weeds. WE HAVE NO WEEDS. I pull weeds every morn, early, when I go out to get the paper. The photo they sent with the nasty letter WAS NOT OUR HOUSE. It was the home of neighbor who had just had major back surgery, her husband had left her for another woman. I was planning to mow, edge her front lawn for her, but her lawn service did it before I did. That’s what good neighbors do. It was a July 3 and landscapers didn’t work that week. Probably vacations. The photo of that house had address showing, not even similar to ours. House not similar to ours, either. It’s brick, ours is large Texas stone. Good thing they sent photos. Plus her offense was about 9 weeks ago and the letter came this week. Her lawn has been mowed NINE times since then. Plus the weeds come from the areas the HOA is responsible for, that’s where they are, not in the sod planted in our yards, the sod didn’t come with weeds.

  379. HI All, I live in St. Louis, Missouri and dealing with a “few” situations on a couple of condo’s that I own. Everything you say is true and it holds true in Missouri too. Like you all I have experienced so many emotions that I did not even know, I too could just knock my neighbors teeth down her throat and know that I would feel so much better and truly, she so deserves it. (Because of her and the Boards ignorance they allowed her to drill a hole in her closet wall, through the separation wall, into my closet wall, then run a PVD pipe through that and drain her condensation in my floor drain because it was cheaper than fixing her drain…..that is the short of it). That is so horrible and I feel so bad for even thinking that, much less saying it out loud! I am not a violent person….but the financial devastation that HOA’s and Condo Associations can drive a person into, should be absolutely illegal. These Associations are the most corrupt and incomprehensible soul-less human beings I have ever ran into and they always do it with a smile on their faces. UGH!!! Long story short I have lost $67,000.00 in 5 years, the condo’s are in a great area, they are not that expensive, but my husband and I are both only children and we are taking care of our elderly parents, so we moved them out there, thinking affordability, community and safety and just all kinds of warm and fuzzy, then enter…..THE CONDO ASSOCIATION. A very rude awakening. It so can lead to bigger issues, they don’t have any foresight and yes, money is always the main focus. Invoice padding runs rampant. Like you I too started a blog here in Missouri regarding this condominium complex and aired all that they have done and all their dirty laundry. Like you all I don’t wish misfortune on anyone, because at one time or another we have been there, but you can’t fight congress and the Associations are like Congress. I started my blog June 8th of this year and it is just now catching on and there have only been 4 sales total this year and no sales after the publication of my blog. I am so happy I found this blog, thank you all so much. I am going to subscribe to this blog to learn more, I will not use anything from this blog on my blog though, I may ask from time to time, but will not do it without permission and if the answer is no, I am fine with that. All kinds of unethical behavior and mismanagement of money that we all work so hard for, and then just to be taken advantage of, because they can…. Thank you all so much, again.

    Pam McCarthy

  380. Hi Pam – I’m so sorry to hear about your problem. But if there’s any comfort to be taken it’s that you aren’t alone. What’s tragic is that these episodes don’t make it to the media. Either people are too timid to go public, the media doesn’t accept the stories, or the victim is under threat of retaliation. So people suffer in silence, always thinking they’re alone. And few experiences in life are more soul-crushing than realizing you’re a victim in your own home. It’s supposed to be a place of safety, a literal sanctuary. But when you live in an HOA community you quickly learn you never really own your home. The HOA has all the power.

    I love what you wrote about “…they always do it with a smile on their face”. That’s been my experience. But that’s just the public face. If you get into a conflict with them their inner-Nazi comes out. There was a popular song back in the late 1960s that repeated the phrase “smiling faces tell lies”. How I wish that weren’t true, but it often is. Smiling should be an indication of happiness and welcoming. But too often it’s the veneer that covers malice. There’s no human behavior more deplorable than someone who can smile while thrusting a knife into your back. And unfortunately, some people are REALLY good at that. It makes a strong argument for demon possession.

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