Dream Home Gone Bad | The Ultimate HOA Nightmare

Sometimes people get to own their dream home, complete with fine furnishings, a swimming pool, and a well-guarded community, where they believe they will live forever.  Unfortunately, neighborhood squabbles can make those dreams vanish. All too often, that moment of horror is delivered on a silver platter by a homeowners association.

Technically, a homeowners association is an organization of homeowners that looks out for the common good of all neighbors. But sometimes, the interpretation of “common good” turns into a nightmare. And a new resident finds the community is not so neighborly after all.

A.J. Vizzi bought his “dream home” in the Eagles Homeowners Asso0ciation near Odessa, Florida. Vizzi owned a brand new Ford F-350 pickup truck. But The Eagles deed-restrictions don’t allow pickup trucks of any kind. Had Vizzi purchased a Cadillac Escalade or a Hummer it would have been allowed. But his F-350 had to stay out of sight, inside his garage.  The truck, Vizzi said, was too large for the garage. Beginning in 2001, the HOA began ticketing Vizzi, saying his truck was in violation and had to go.  The tickets kept coming, the fines kept growing.

Finally, The Eagles filed a lawsuit against Vizzi. He stood his ground. The case wound its way through the lower courts and then the Court of Appeals.

In March of 2010, nine years after the fight began, the court not only ruled that the F-150 was legal in the community, but Vizzi’s neighbors now have to pick up the tab for all court costs. It awarded more than $187,000 in legal bills to Vizzi. Presumably, the Eagles also has to pay its own legal bills. So a mindless fight over a pristine, new pickup truck kept the protagonists awake for nine long years, and cost the HOA nearly a half million dollars. The attorneys all got paid, of course, but the neighborhood lost a half million.

The case should give pause to any prospective homeowner looking for a dream home. The Eagles looks like an unhappy place to start chasing that dream.

Vizzi and his family decided to move away from the petty viciousness of The Eagles. They now live on acreage away from the nightmare of Homeowners Associations.

Ward Lucas
Author of
Neighbors At War: The Creepy Case Against Your Homeowners Association

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Ward Lucas is a longtime investigative journalist and television news anchor. He has won more than 70 national and regional awards for Excellence in Journalism, Creative Writing and community involvement. His new book, "Neighbors At War: the Creepy Case Against Your Homeowners Association," is now available for purchase. In it, he discusses the American homeowners association movement, from its racist origins, to its transformation into a lucrative money machine for the nation's legal industry. From scams to outright violence to foreclosures and neighborhood collapses across the country, the reader will find this book enormously compelling and a necessary read for every homeowner. Knowledge is self-defense. No homeowner contemplating life in an HOA should neglect reading this book. No HOA board officer should overlook this examination of the pitfalls in HOA management. And no lawyer representing either side in an HOA dispute should gloss over what homeowners are saying or believing about the lawsuit industry.

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