Tag Archives: Homeowner’s Associations

A Conversation the Homeowner Doesn’t Know is Going On

“Oh. you’re moving into the neighborhood? I don’t really want to interfere with your attempt to lease or buy a home in this HOA. But I work for the government. And it’s my job to make sure the landlord didn’t make any misrepresentations to you when he agreed to lease or sell his home to you.

“For example, did the owner tell you whether the ratio of HOMEOWNERS to TENANTS was out of whack here?  Since renters have a reputation for not properly maintaining their homes, FHA loans and company reimbursements may not be available to anyone in the neighborhood.

“And did the landlord tell you that several people own multiple properties in this HOA? He didn’t? Mortgage companies don’t like to hear that, because if the owner defaults, he may do so on more than one property at a time. So this whole neighborhood could be redlined. You didn’t know that either?

“Ah, and one final thing. Did the landlord tell you that you, the tenant, could be hit up for special dues and assessments if the HOA’s kitty is underfunded? Yes, Real Estate law requires buyers and renters be informed about all possible defects before a contract of any kind is signed.

“Oh! You don’t want to live here after all? We hope we weren’t the ones who scared you off.  By the way, don’t tell the landlord we had this chat. Bye bye.”

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

Another Case of HOA Abuse?

Whenever the news media start trolling for stories about HOA abuse, they seem to be buried with them. This was one of many uncovered by reporter J. David McSwane, of Denver’s Westword Magazine.

He reports that Angela Quinn, a resident in an HOA in Western Washington, was told she could not have an air conditioner in her rental home. She says her neighbor had an A/C unit, and since she was in her third trimester of pregnancy, she figured she could install one in a back window which was not visible from the street.

Angela acknowledges that she has tangled with her HOA in the past, once when she complained about the poor drainage in a mosquito infested pond across the street, once over the state of her lawn, and another time when trash cans weren’t properly stored.

So, Angela shouldn’t have been surprised when she got a letter from her HOA with a picture of her non-conforming A/C unit taken from the back of her house.

Homeowners Associations were created to maintain the appearance of neighborhoods. But it’s a short step from there to micro-managing of affairs of certain homeowners.

Angela says she has rented her home for the past four years, which may actually be her biggest problem. HOAs just don’t like renters. Across the country there are many stories about HOA managers who seem to concentrate their energies on harrassing residents of rental properties, apparently to encourage them to find homes elsewhere.

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

The Bad Side of HOA’s

Despite a few changes in law in such states as Texas and Arizona, Homeowners Associations are developing an increasingly bad reputation because of the ongoing spate of news stories about homeowners abused by the HOA system. Homeowners wrongly believe that HOAs are created to maintain property values and help homeowners get along with each other. Nothing could be further from the truth.

In city after city, stories are published about homeowners losing their homes or being hit with massive fines for petty violations such as being a few dollars late on monthly dues, or leaving the trash can out an hour after the prescribed deadline. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg.  Sometimes a Homeowners Association levies a fine just because a member of the neighborhood does a good deed. That’s what happened to Jim Lane, a resident of the Gilead Ridge Homeowners Association in North Carolina.

Lane says he always enjoyed helping fellow neigbors beautify the neighborhood. He says he noticed the neighborhood park had become untidy and unsightly, so he cleaned it up and planted some flowers there. He should have gotten a commendation from the HOA, right?

No, Lane was slapped with a fine for planting some “unauthorized flowers!’

When he refused to pay, he was hit with a lawsuit, a lien on his house and threats of foreclosure.

Lane’s sad case is not unique either. Cases similar to his are popping up in thousands of Homeowners Associations across the country. The stories are causing many people to have second thoughts about moving into an HOA. Even a Realtor’s claim that an HOA might be “one of the good gones” has to be viewed with suspicion. All it takes is a single election of a “problem board member” to completely change the flavor of a neighborhood, making property values decline instead of remain stable.

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

What Homeowners Associations Can Do For You, or To You

For you

A staggering number of communities across the nation have Homeowner $B!G (Bs Associations. Twenty percent of all American homes are in HOAs. But that belies the read figure. Almost 100% of all NEW homes are in Homeowners Associations. That’s because developers cannot get permits to build unless they agree to create restrictive covenants that subsume some of the traditional duties of government. It’s a form of tax-shifting. Instead of additional taxes, you pay neighborhood ‘dues’. It doesn’t feel like taxes, and it doesn’t create some of the legal complications involved in raising taxes.

Some people enjoy HOA life. They feel it gives them more security and provides certain community services unavailable in traditional neighborhoods. A nice front entrance. A gated community. Preservation of property values (that last one is a myth that I’ll destroy in some future blog).

The local government jurisdiction has other reasons for liking HOAs. Snow removal isn’t as important. Let those rich folks plow their own snow. Contracts for trash collection. Let ’em find their own garbage companies. Christmas lights at the entrance (Oops! Gotta take Christ out of Christmas or risk an ACLU suit!)

But for every yin there’s a yang, for every pro there’s a con. And what the HOA can to TO YOU is dizzying.

To you

The typical Homeowners Association is a police power that isn’t tied down by Constitutional restrictions on police powers. It’s a private non-profit corporation, you see? Even though it’s next to impossible to buy a new home outside of an HOA, they’re not yet considered de facto governments. Therefore the HOA can do some incredibly stinking things. Like keep out blacks. Or Jews. Or Mexicans. Or it can make life so rotten for blacks and Jews and Mexicans that they decid to create their own HOAs. If you don’t believe me, then think Shoal Creek and the quick scrambling they had to do when Tiger Woods started winning tournaments. Incidentally, we owe Tiger Woods a huge debt of gratitude for inadvertantly focusing attention on certain country club practices.

But HOAs have other stinky things they can do. They can keep out the disabled. (Don’t believe it? You’ve gotta read my upcoming book!

They can intentionally poison pets! (An actual case in Arizona where a board president ordered members to set out poison for housecats)

They can keep out the young. Keep out the old. Keep out the singles. Keep out the gays. You name the population you don’t want, and I’ll show you the caselaw where it’s happened.

They can siphon millions of dollars from construction defect litigation and sneak it into the pockets of favored contractors and law firms! (Pay attention to the burgeoning scandal in Las Vegas!)

But in thousands and thousands of cases around America, HOAs file lawsuits. Lawsuits over weeds in the lawn, grass a half inch longer than the two inch maximum, the installation of a Christian cross or a Jewish Mezuzah on a door. These are neighbors suing neighbors. These are tiny little disputes provoked by tiny little minds who get themselves elected by tiny vote margins on tiny minded HOA boards. What’s not tiny is the massive legal fees that are generated. This isn’t just lawsuit abuse, it’s the American tort system on steroids. Billions and billions of dollars are vanishing down the maw of the American lawsuit machine.

Next time you attend the neighborhood Christmas party, take a look around. Then ponder for a moment why there are so few attendees.

Ah! And follow me on Twitter. I hope I tick you off! @ward_lucas

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