Once again, this website has passed the 50,000 mark for people visiting us during the previous month. That kind of growth doesn’t come from me or my guest bloggers, although I love them dearly. It’s because YOU are spreading the word about the scam known as the American Homeowners Association Movement. And people are paying attention.
Some family members just got back from Spring Break week in Florida with stories about yet another family member who’s gotten his back up over a minor HOA dispute. An unmowed lawn, a too-high hedge, and the wrong kind of lamp in the window. He plans to fight the HOA. I plan to plead with him to pay all the fines, shut up and carefully plot his escape.
You will not, you cannot win a fight against your HOA especially in Florida. Just pay the fines. Once you have to hire a lawyer, the tens of the thousands or the hundreds of thousands you spend will pale in comparison to the amounts in the original dispute. In other words, you lose. If you lose you’re a loser. The HOA system is not built to protect property values or neighborly love. It’s a contentious, dispute-driven organism which creates losers. But as an organism it does have a life cycle. Its death is inevitable.
If you can make a clean escape, or change the system from within, or spread the word to other homeowners…then you’re a winner.
A huge winner.
You’re right on this one. I once took a small but invalid fine from my HOA to the extreme. I sir, was right, and my HOA was dead wrong!
After spending nearly $3,000.00 to “fight it out” I soon realized that I really didn’t pick my battle well. Oh sure I won, but the $50 fine I didn’t have to pay cost me $2,950.00
Now let me not fail to mention, the legal fees on the other side, my HOA, were actually paid for by my very own dues. What did I really accomplish here, besides padding the pockets of the HOA attorney?
How did we ever design a system, where suing a corporate identity, makes you not only the plaintiff, but the defendant as well?
Remember that most of our founding fathers were lawyers!
Yep, sounds like a no-win system to me!
This is one of those perverse incentives and moral hazards that is so fundamental to the H.O.A. corporate system that nobody — not even H.O.A. reform activists — is addressing.
Maybe I’m wrong. If somebody has been floating around a proposal to deal with this issue, please let me know. But in the five years I’ve been involved, I have yet to see one.
– robert at madison hill hoa dot com
Robert, your battle was very inexpensive compared to most of the battles waged on HOA homeowners. It’s amazing to me that you can say you actually “won”. That’s something in itself! In Florida, there are HOA boards who continue to appeal after the court rules in favor of the homeowner. And then there are the HOA boards who simply ignore the court rulings in favor of the homeowner, with no consequences whatsoever!
The Florida justice system is a joke. You may be legally “right”, and your HOA dead wrong, but most attorneys know they have an unlimited cash flow for defending the HOA and prosecuting the homeowner. The HOA bullies have huge ego’s and entitlement issues and will continue to fight until a)the homeowner runs out of money, or b)the board can say they “won”. How many attorneys do you know will tell the HOA board “This is enough. Stop the madness.”? In fact, how many homeowners living in an HOA will have the courage to stand up to the board and say “Stop spending our money like it is your personal stash.”?
I’m not sure having more laws for protection will really make any difference. I believe the key is for more consumer education regarding the reality of living in an HOA. It may be the perfect type of environment for some homeowners, but for others, it’s living in daily hell. Even if a homeowner knows what they are buying into one, a very good HOA board can become a queen and her kingdom at the next annual election. When homes in HOA’s stand empty and dues are not collected, the HOA community will have to rethink its structure. I, for one, will never purchase a home in an HOA again.
The courts can be very good as a tool. In a court case you have a right to discovery and the lawyers know it. You can force hours of court appearances by the lawyers just with simple paper work. It is important not to fight the lawyers way but the best way. You have a right to all the information on the board members of the hoa. They have a right to quit but they must provide the information. They can delay but any court action can be delayed hundreds of thousands of dollars of their lawyers times by demanding documents that you have a right to see and they must provide. There are lots of complaints possible especially violation of disability rules which they will be responsible to. Forget the state level and make the complaint at the federal level. The state will wink and nod then disappear. Those that can make the court a friend which so many worry about. there is also the case for making professional complaints against the lawyer when they violate the most minor rules. They show no mercy so why should anyone give them mercy?
Holly, I could not agree with you more. I feel the only way to stop the madness in HOAs is to educate buyers not to buy into them. That will result in those needing to sell and can’t just throwing the keys on the counter and letting the banks have the properties back.
When more foreclosures happen, the banks will scream. When real estate agents can’t sell HOA properties, the Realtors will scream. When developers refuse to develop HOA properties because they can’t get them sold, the developers will scream at the cities for requiring HOA developments in order to get zoning and building permits. When buyers head to the non-HOA properties to purchase, even if they have to remodel to their tastes, the older neighborhoods benefit from re-development.
All this results in “cause and effect” or “supply and demand” and guess what? The world of creating HOAs will die in America.
Now, what to do with the ones in existence? That is the $50B question.
Dreaming…there should be dispute resolution without litigation. Colleges should offer property management degrees and to be a property manager you should have to have that degree, pass a board test, obtain a license, and be held to high ethical standards…or you don’t do business as a property manager. It makes no sense that the person who cuts your hair or files your nails has to go to school, pass a board, and obtain a license and will be subjected to inspections, but the person handling millions of dollars in dues, making business decisions and guiding others (board members), and having a profound effect on your biggest investment of real estate is required to have nothing more than a phone and a business card. There isn’t even a requirement of a background check! Heck, even the person loading your bags into the belly of a jet at the airport has had background checks and been fingerprinted.
We will never litigate the HOA world into the upright position. The homeowner can never win. Just like Dave Russell spent $2,950 to get his $50 back. He should have also been awarded his legal fees, but he wasn’t because the laws don’t allow for it. Homeowners can never be be made whole in an HOA battle because the stress they put you through is priceless and even after the lawsuit is over the HOA continues to bully you. And never forget the HOA insurance companies will step in with their team of attorneys and do everything possible to run your legal bill up. Even if it means you sit on video tape reading the emails you wrote to the HOA for a full day during a deposition! Insurance companies have billions of dollars and they don’t care if they run up a couple a hundred thousand in legal bills for the homeowner to pay. As a matter of fact, it’s a feather in their cap if they do.
Those of us that know better will NEVER buy in another HOA but the key to ending this hellish HOA battle will be won when NOBODY will buy into an HOA. Sure it will create a new mess to deal with but the restructuring will be forced into homeowner friendly solutions. It may mean condos become rented apartments and PUDs are bulldozed down, but it’s the only way to stop the madness. And there will be some HOAs that will change their ways in an effort to save themselves.