One of the most fundamental problems with the American HOA system is that it actively encourages apathy among its residents. In a hostile neighborhood, homeowners are afraid of being targeted for public shaming or humiliation. It makes neighbors paranoid of each other, afraid to be activists. After all, most of us want to live in private homes in a human quest for peace and quiet. That, in turn, makes people unwilling to participate in the governing process. Stay home, don’t make waves, don’t stand out from the crowd. Beyond all else, don’t show up at HOA meetings.
Bam! That’s the dynamite!
Once you remove a majority of the neighborhood from the governing process, small-minded power-hungry dictators are free to threaten, defame, cheat, steal, and embezzle with pure abandon. It’s hog heaven for human swine. With tiny majorities behind them they rise to the top where they create neighborhood havoc, usually by finding and tormenting a handful of targeted ‘unwanteds.’ An unwanted homeowner can be anything from a single mom to a family with a Down’s Syndrome child, to unmarried couples, black families, Jews, gays, lesbians, essentially anyone the dictator on the board thinks can be easily targeted. It’s fundamentally good war strategy. Don’t give the enemy a reason to fight back, turn the enemy against itself. Churn up chaos and drive homeowners further behind their shield of apathy.
That brings us to a crazy situation in the Gilbert Homeowners Association in Dallas. A single man owned a condo for years but his domestic partner is not listed as an owner. He’s deemed by the HOA to be “a guest.” The HOA board in its lawsuit against the couple said, “Ken Ray (the guest) is not an owner of the condo….under current Texas law he is, therefore, not a member of the Association.”
It gets a whole lot crazier. The two men claim they tried to get the association to repair a leaking sprinkler back in 2008. The repair never happened. The two domestic partners began to get a little more aggressive in trying to get the HOA to fulfill its obligations to repair the damage. One of the men discovered the contractor who was supposed to do the repairs was a daughter of a board member. The homeowner demanded to see the HOA’s financial records.
That’s when the proverbial “ship hit the span.”
The two domestic partners claim they were indirectly threatened with “use of a firearm.” Their sprinklers were purposely turned off damaging their landscaping. The front gate entry code was changed so that the buzzer went to the management company, not to the mens’ condo. Threats were made to physically remove “the guest” from HOA property. The men were prohibited from hiring their own contractors to repair damage caused by the board’s neglect.
The lawsuits and counter-suits mean the eventual legal bills will stretch into the hundreds of thousands of dollars. A jury verdict against the HOA could conceivably stretch into the millions.
If so, one more American HOA could be forced into bankruptcy. It’s happened before.
“I see stupid people. They’re everywhere. They walk around like everyone else. They don’t even know that they’re stupid.” -slight rewrite from The Sixth Sense, 2007