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.
A few weeks ago, I ran across an excellent resource for anyone curious about the Homeowners Association experience. His website is still under construction, but Robert R. has been through the HOA meatgrinder a couple of times. He’s one of the few people who’s ever actually won a lawsuit against the parasites in the legal profession who’ve turned HOA life into a nightmare for hundreds of thousands of Americans. Since his site is still under development, I’ll let him tell his own story if he chooses to do so.
Millions of Americans have moved into covenant-protected neighborhoods, thinking the experience will be a positive one, maintenance will protect property values, neighbors will be friendly. A good percentage will find exactly what they were searching for.
Sadly, many others will discover that the move to the new neighborhood constituted a fundamental change of government. Yes, they’ve actually moved out of the United States of America and into a private non-profit corporation governed, not by the U.S. Constitution, but by a set of bylaws and restrictions. The restrictions were created by the original real estate developer and control handed over to neighborhood boards. The new corporate rules have nothing to do with the Bill of Rights with which most of us are familiar.
Most people who move into private Homeowners Associations do so because they like the apparent order, the neatness, the seeming peacefulness of the community. It’s only later that they learn how arbitrarily enforced rules and regulations can control almost every aspect of their lives. Not all Homeowners Associations are petty and dictatorial, but absolutely ANY neighborhood can take such a turn with just one local election. Voter apathy is a sad fact of American life. National elections generally attract 40% of the vote in off-year elections and 55% in Presidential elections. State elections see even less involvement by voters. By the time municipal and school levy elections roll around, voter fatigue reaches its zenith with some major funding and electoral decisions made by a tiny handful of voters.
One of the main purposes of a homeowners association is to maintain the common areas in a neighborhood like the parks and roads. The homeowners in turn are obliged to pay their dues to sustain these amenities. Often, these can be from $100 to $10,000 per year, based on the kind of neighborhood and their amenities. Moreover, not only do the residents have to pay their HOA dues, but they also are required to follow the rule book of the association.