The move into ‘private governments’
Since the modern Homeowners Association movement was born in 1964, nearly a hundred million Americans have made the choice to buy into covenant controlled neighborhoods. Today sixty million people live in Homeowners Associations. The phenomenal growth of the HOA has been encouraged by municipalities which are more than happy to shed some of the expenses and duties of local government. Zoning laws are expensive to enforce, but by giving quasi-governmental powers to neighborhood groups, traditional governments can shed much of the cost of keeping neighborhoods manicured. The downside is that most HOAs are run by elected officers who have little or no training or background in good government practices. Many covenants are open to wide interpretation, which gives more aggressive board officers an amazing amount of lattitude to enforce, prosecute and persecute homeowners who are deemed ‘uncooperative’. Thus, fines can be levied for such violations as planting flowers without getting advance permission from the landscaping committee, placing unapproved wind chimes on the front porch, leaving shampoo bottles visible on bathroom windowsills, and even leaving a garage door open for longer than a prescribed time. A paint job in need of a minor touchup can bring heavy neighborhood fines, painting a house the wrong color can end up in an expensive legal court case, but even if new paint exactly matches the previous paint, failing to ask for advance permission to paint is a ‘crime’ which can lead to thousands of dollars in fines, and even expulsion from a neighborhood and confiscation of your home. Unconstitutional? Nope. Illegal? Not on a bet. Won’t law enforcement intervene to protect your rights? Don’t count on it. By agreeing to sign the restrictive covenants before buying your house, you gave up an amazing number of rights.
One Hero in the Homeowners’ Rights Movement
Arizona’s George Staropoli is probably one of the nation’s foremost critics of the Homeowners Association movement. He says buyers are rarely told the kinds of rights they are tossing away when they move into quasi-government neighborhoods. His organization, Citizens for Constitutional Local Government, lobbies before legislatures, citizens groups and from his websites in favor of re-establishing Constitutional rights. His writings are prolific and there’s no element of HOA life on which he is not an expert. The deeper he digs into the abuses of the movement, the more adamant he becomes about the need for Americans to reclaim their historic property rights.
Some of the attacks on homeowners by HOA and Condo boards border on the bizarre. In Long Beach, California, an elderly disabled condo owner named Pam McMahon was ordered not to walk her dog from her condominium unit through the lobby. If she wanted to keep the dog it would have to be carried while in the building. But the disabled McMahon used a cane to walk and could not carry the 25 pound dog. So her board began fining her $25 dollars a day. The fines and the legal expenses continued adding up, until the woman was forced to give up her condo and move elsewhere. Despite federal laws which mandate special consideration for the disabled, McMahon is just one of many homeowners who’ve been forced to give up their homes because neighborhood rules made their lives impossible.
Other examples of HOAs regulations are so outrageous they almost defy description. However, in this ongoing blog I will do my best to tell you some of the more egregious stories of Neighbors At War.
Neighbors At War: The Creepy Case Against Your Homeowners Association