Why You Should Avoid Buying in HOA Neighborhoods



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 )


250 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.
    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?


    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


  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.
    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”.
    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


  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,

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