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Homeowner's Association Gone Too Far?

Posted by tom418 (My Page) on
Sat, Jun 4, 11 at 16:42

I bought a house in a new development 15 years ago. As a prerequisite to the town allowing the houses to be built, it was mandated that a H.A. be formed, for the purpose of taking control over some open space of wooded area. It was also mandated that the homeowners form an association and purchase liability insurance for the open space.

Through the years, I have seen signs of abuse of the HA's powers. Years ago, they wanted people to mow the "city property" portion of an undeveloped lot. Then there was talk about getting everyone's mailbox to be the same. Now I find with my annual bill, that I'm asked to contribute for a park bench and picnic table to be located at the circle end of the cul-de-sac.

My attorney thinks that my only obligation is to pay a pro-rata share of the insurance for the open space, as that was the original purpose of the association. They claim that "election to purchase a bench and picnic table will not change dues". I say bull! What if the insurance goes up next year? By purchasing tables and benches, there will be that much less money.

Thoughts? Now I know why the next house I buy will NOT have an association.

Also, aren't homeowners associations required to file 1120-H
returns with the IRS? I'fd love to take a look at the finances.


Follow-Up Postings:

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RE: Homeowner's Association Gone Too Far?

been there. swore next home would not have a HOA and that was a requirement. found a perfect place with no HOA and life is wonderful. home values are not any lower than subdivisions with HOAs, and there are not purple houses or trailers or trampolines or junk yards. neighbors generally mind their own business and don't worry about what the other properties are doing. it is most awesome. no general areas to mow/upkeep, no meetings, no requests for more speed bumps, no rules, etc.


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RE: Homeowner's Association Gone Too Far?

I believe our HOA has to publish or make available its budget to residents. I usually see it in the newsletter once a year.

My experience with our HOA has been fine. But while house shopping it has been interesting to see which neighborhoods have HOAs and which don't - and how the fees vary. And honestly I couldn't really see a difference in the neighborhoods with $30/month dues and those that didn't have an HOA.


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RE: Homeowner's Association Gone Too Far?

"Now I find with my annual bill, that I'm asked to contribute for a park bench and picnic table to be located at the circle end of the cul-de-sac."

ASKING you to CONTRIBUTE is not the same as them raising your HOA fees. Its a donation......its your decision whether or not you donate. If you don't think you will ever put this table or bench to use yourself, then I sure wouldn't donate.

Most HOAs would put something like this to a vote, and then pay for it out of the HOA fees collected. Them asking for donations seems like they are being nice about it.

I prefer to live in an HOA - as long as they actually enforce the regulations. My previous house - the HOA was run by a bunch of cowards, and they didn't enforce regulations, and that's one of the biggest reasons we moved. HOAs are in place to protect property values. Without an HOA, my neighbor could paint his house pink with purple trim, and let his grass grow 3 feet tall, and there wouldnt be a thing I could do about it. Being in an HOA gives me more protection from idiots like that. Another great thing about an HOA - I only pay $150 per year, and they pay for electricity for street lights, any street repairs needed, cutting the grass and planting flowers and shrubs in the common areas, and they pay for snow removal for 3 miles worth of roads - I think thats a real bargain.


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RE: Homeowner's Association Gone Too Far?

"Without an HOA, my neighbor could paint his house pink with purple trim, and let his grass grow 3 feet tall, and there wouldnt be a thing I could do about it. "

You could look to local government to pass actual laws and then enforce them.


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RE: Homeowner's Association Gone Too Far?

Pay your bill... and don't donate if you don't want to.


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RE: Homeowner's Association Gone Too Far?

luann: My point was, no matter how you slice it, they are taking monies from our general fund, and purchasing park benches with it.
Also, inasmuch as the SOLE purpose of the association should be the open, wooden space, I don't think what happens at the end of a cul-de-sac should be the association's business.

This isn't (nor should it be) a typical homeowner's association. Yet, they are trying to turn it into one.


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RE: Homeowner's Association Gone Too Far?

Do you have a copy of the covenants? If not, you should get one. You may be shocked at what they are allowed to do. We had a HOA in our last home and they tripled the dues one year because they wanted to have more cash reserves. They took a vote at a meeting and it was overwhelmingly voted down by the people in attendance. The HOA president took a stack full of proxi's from homeowners who didn't bother to attend and voted all of them in favor of the increase. That was completely legal by the rules of our HOA.


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RE: Homeowner's Association Gone Too Far?

Our sole experience with 'group living' has been owning a vacation rental condo. Not terrible, but...I would not want my main residence to be subject to a HOA.

Our city government enforces good laws about many things that affect my contentment with our neighborhood. You can't let your grass grow unmowed or the city will mow it and bill you. You can't park overnight on city streets. You CAN paint your house purple, but I haven't seen anything that isn't tasteful so far! You can't build anything *weird* because the Building Review Board has to pass on new costruction and extensive remodeling. Zoning takes care of the nitty-gritty of height, bulk and safety codes. You can't remove a sizeable tree without a permit. You can't let your dogs bark for hours. You can't 'party hearty' and loud past 11 p.m. I think we get great services for our RE taxes -- no HOA add-on's are required.


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RE: Homeowner's Association Gone Too Far?

Our HOA maintains our pools, tennis courts, stocked lake, 25 acres of wooded common grounds, biking/walking path, children's playground, basketball court, parking lots, and a very attractive community center for approximately $600/year per household.
I think it's a bargain.


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RE: Homeowner's Association Gone Too Far?

Bill: My atorney, at my closing had informed me that the ONLY thing I have to do is pay a pro-rata share of premiums to cover insurance on the wooded parcel. Period.

There ARE NO bylaws about colors one can paint a house, lawn cutting, etc. Maybe I'm confusing (or more likely, my NEIGHBORS are confusing the HA with HA's that they've had experience with). That's why I'm upset about what our current board (all newcomers) are proposing.

That's why I pointed these things in my orginal post. Time to give my attorney a call. I am not one of those in favor of a HOA. If I were, I would have bought a condo, or rented an apartment. Never again. I'm done with cul-de-sacs also. At least here, it engenders the false belief that the street is owned by the homeowners, and not the public.


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RE: Homeowner's Association Gone Too Far?

Having been stuck with an HOA situation twice, I have found that the only way is to join them - get yourself elected to the board and "infiltrate and subvert".


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RE: Homeowner's Association Gone Too Far?

"My atorney, at my closing had informed me that the ONLY thing I have to do is pay a pro-rata share of premiums to cover insurance on the wooded parcel. Period. "

You need to get a copy of the covenants and restrictions and review it carefully.

Your attorney may have just been summarizing the C&Rs at that point. There are usually ways to amend them.

This would not be the first time an HOA has overstepped its powers.


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RE: Homeowner's Association Gone Too Far?

I think it would be worth the time of you and your neighbors to draft a formal letter from an attorney to the current HOA and residents reminding them of these things, and include a copy of the covenants.

And the day I let a bunch of soccer moms and their brow-beaten husbands tell me I can't paint my house purple and what I can plant in my yard..... Diversity of opinion makes the world a more interesting place, as does learning how to deal with those opinions. Seas of turf grass with islands of beige, taupe, ecru and bisque are nauseatingly boring. Plus, it's much, much easier to find your own house / give directions. It's two doors down from the Professor Plum house, next to the teal one. Or whatever.


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RE: Homeowner's Association Gone Too Far?

I've heard a lot of stories of HOAs going "too far" (like the veteran who wasn't allowed to have Marine bumper stickers on his car, or the former POW that wasn't allowed to fly a flag), but I don't think asking for donations for a single bench and a single picnic table to be anywhere close to "too far".

I think someone needs to take a breath and gain some perspective--no one is stealing your money or taking away your freedom. Wouldn't all this time you've spent fretting and threatening be better spent on an enjoyable hobby? I could think of a million things I'd rather do than talk to my attorney--especially about something as trivial as this.


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RE: Homeowner's Association Gone Too Far?

This has to be one of my favorite HOA stories.

Here is a link that might be useful: EPIC Thread. Homeowner vs HOA


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RE: Homeowner's Association Gone Too Far?

Well revamp, that's your opinion.

But what started as an association whose ONLY purpose (according to legal documents I signed) was to provide insurance to cover open space has evolved into cleanup schedules, MANDATORY donations for a bench, suggestions
for people to have similar mailboxes, and, years ago, a "mowing schedule" for each of us to trespass over to someone's property and cut grass belonging to them (good thing nobody had an accident, huh?) .

Yes, I WILL have an attorney deal with this. It's called "Nipping things in the bud". I've heard of a woman losing her home to foreclosure becasue she didn't remove her window screens "in time" and couldn't pay the HA imposed penalty.

Oh and yeah, mandatory "contrubutions" do constitute theft, in my book. I wont even bother explaining that to you.


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RE: Homeowner's Association Gone Too Far?

I remember stories a few years back about how many HOAs in AZ were catching crap because they wouldn't allow people to have native desert landscapes in their front yards and were forcing residents to have green, lush turf lawns. In the desert. During a historic drought.

revamp, I think the point is that this particular HOA was formed for a singular purpose and has begun to creep into the more traditional "nanny" role. Sounds like the new board doesn't know about the original intent of the HOA or its covenants. That is exactly what attorneys are for.


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RE: Homeowner's Association Gone Too Far?

As billl says....get a copy of the covenants. It's your first step. Procede from there as you see fit.

I certainly understand your reasoning and actually agree with it. If what you state is accurate, then it does appear like certain people are trying to turn the association into a more 'encompassing' control entity. And, perhaps with enough backing and support they can. It was attempted in our community before I moved out of a metropolitan area. Petitions flew to establish an HOA and thank God enough of us refused to sign that it never got off the ground. The militant petitioners referred to us as 'non-residents' even though most of us had been there long before they moved in.

There is a place for HOAs...or rather there are people whose needs are fulfilled by living in a regulated community. More power to them if it works for them. It's not my cuppa tea and I'd never buy where one exists. That's just my preference. But if I had purchased a home in a newly built community where an association had to be formed to cover liability issues, I'd also want to be danged sure to fight its powers ever expanding past that one objective and yes........it is worth the time and trouble because if anyone is apathetic about letting their guard down, they could awaken and wonder how that silly rule happened. Happens all the time in city governement.


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RE: Homeowner's Association Gone Too Far?

You asked for thoughts and when someone gave you an opinion you didn't agree with, you jumped all over the guy.


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RE: Homeowner's Association Gone Too Far?

"berniek-This has to be one of my favorite HOA stories.
Here is a link that might be useful: EPIC Thread. Homeowner vs HOA"

Great thread! Some good ideas about how to deal with those who abuse their power.


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RE: Homeowner's Association Gone Too Far?

I have to agree with revamp. At first, everything Tom said made me believe that the neighbours were just asking people to do things voluntarily. Nothing wrong with that in my books.

If they are trying to force you to do something, that's when it's time to call the lawyer.


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RE: Homeowner's Association Gone Too Far?

I'm in agreement with Scarlet2001--the best way to deal with an HOA is to get elected to the board.

At the very least, someone in the household has to attend the HOA meetings on a regular basis. It's perfectly legal for the board to make amendments to the orginal HOA agreement giving them more power and more responsibilities. And the only way to protest this sort of thing is to know about it and the only way to know about it is to attend the meetings. And speak up when you disagree with things.


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RE: Homeowner's Association Gone Too Far?

Scarlet said:

"Having been stuck with an HOA situation twice, I have found that the only way is to join them - get yourself elected to the board and "infiltrate and subvert"."

How did you get "stuck"? Didn't you know there was an HOA before you decided to move there? Did they trick you?

Then Camlan said:

"I'm in agreement with Scarlet2001--the best way to deal with an HOA is to get elected to the board."

So you both knowingly purchased a house in a community with an HOA, decide you don't like the rules (when the rules were already spelled out before you purchased), and now to combat the "problem" you will seek a position on the HOA board. Very doubtful you would actually do this, I doubt you would really want to invest any of your time with all the meetings or dealing with any problems that may arise. I know you are just blowing smoke. Your "desire" to be elected to the HOA board is not because you are interested in your community and desire to see it remain a nice place to live - you just want to join for your own selfish reasons.

It's very simple - if you don't like HOAs, then don't move there. You have no right to complain about it when you knew beforehand what you were getting into.


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RE: Homeowner's Association Gone Too Far?

cas66ragtop, I don't live in an HOA neighborhood and never have. It's just that I've heard so many, many complaints about HOA boards that I've determined that if I ever did have to live in such a place, I would become active in in the association, as a way to make sure that I could protest against new rules and regulations that I didn't like.

It would not be something that I wanted to do; it would be something that I felt I would have to do, in order to protect my rights and my investment in the house. It would be just one more reason why I would not want to buy a house in an HOA.

But I sincerely hope that I never have to purchase a house that has an HOA. But if I do, then I would take an active role, so that I would know what is going on, and not get blind-sided with additional requests for money, as the OP was.


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RE: Homeowner's Association Gone Too Far?

It's just that I've heard so many, many complaints about HOA boards . . .

Just to balance out what you hear, I lived in an HOA community that was fantastic. It was well-run, the majority of the people cared about the community, and houses in the community were highly sought after. There was one crotchety old guy who complained about everything the HOA did. You can't win.


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RE: Homeowner's Association Gone Too Far?

cas66ragtop, what's wrong with getting duly elected to the board for the specific purpose of loosening the HOA's rules? Would you have the same reaction to joining the board in order to tighten the rules?

A quick search on realtor.com, in one of the more recently developed communities around here, reinforces my suspicion that it's hard to find a non-HOA development in some areas.


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RE: Homeowner's Association Gone Too Far?

It's not hard to find a non-HOA development - just drive around and look for a community where you see a boat parked on the grass or a big-honkin' motorhome parked on the side of the house ugly-ing up the neighbor's view. Maybe the back seat of a car sitting on the front porch.


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RE: Homeowner's Association Gone Too Far?

"It's not hard to find a non-HOA development - just drive around and look for a community where you see a boat parked on the grass or a big-honkin' motorhome parked on the side of the house ugly-ing up the neighbor's view. Maybe the back seat of a car sitting on the front porch. "

Or...drive around what is often considered "millionaire's row" in some towns, where there are large, beautiful, distinct homes on large lots. Often these are older streets where the doctors and lawyers of the community have lived for years. Some towns it is the high dollar water front communities. Often the homes are older with some new homes also, and usually they are not cookie cutter in any way and most are custom built. Sometimes they have their own tennis court for an individual home. These areas often do not have HOA, as they were usually subdivided in these large estate lots before HOA became the norm.


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RE: Homeowner's Association Gone Too Far?

"It's not hard to find a non-HOA development - just drive around and look for a community where you see a boat parked on the grass or a big-honkin' motorhome parked on the side of the house ugly-ing up the neighbor's view. Maybe the back seat of a car sitting on the front porch."

Or purchase in a more upscale development.

We have no HOA in the infill development my older house is located in (the infill was 1976, my house is the original farm house from the early 1930s) ans everything is well cared for.

Folks do not tend to junk $850,000+ houses.


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RE: Homeowner's Association Gone Too Far?

If you live in an HOA community, you have a vested interest in where the association is headed. It's no different than a town official running for an elected office and why that person usually must be a resident. It's, again, you have a vested interest in what direction your rules and by-laws take. If the OP doesn't want to see an HOA grow from a necessary background entity to avoid liability issues, who is to say that this is any more selfish than one who does wish it to grow to an entity to control every detail of a community's appearance? It has to do with resident's perception of what they find is desirable..........it's simply a matter of personal choice. It doesn't make either of them right or wrong and certainly doesn't make it selfish. Few people run for anything if they aren't impacted by it in some respect. I didn't pay politics that much attention either until I became a business owner and owned property. Standing for something is always better than apathy and if you don't think it's worth your time to be aware and involved, you certainly can't complain when you wake up to find your world changed.


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RE: Homeowner's Association Gone Too Far?

I wonder if you have actually ever used that attorney. Mine charges $375.00 per hour and the clock starts when he picks up the phone. I sure wouldn't want to get him involved with a lousy park bench.


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RE: Homeowner's Association Gone Too Far?

Actually, Don I have used the attorney, a few days ago. At the closing, he said that if I ever needed anything, call.

So, I did. He sent the HA a letter, and that was the end of the bench idea. I also got the town involved, and they politely reminded the HOA president about the limited requirements of the HOA (it's in the deed of our properties).

So the bench idea was dropped, and a notice of reduced dues was sent out, with an OPTION of voluntary contributions, as was done in the past.

As far as needing something to occupy myself with, (as one poster suggested): It is my belief that poeple who find the need for uniform-colored mailboxes (previous officers of our HA) are the ones who should spend their time on a hobby. I really don't think mailboxes can ruin a neighborhood.


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RE: Homeowner's Association Gone Too Far?

Good for you! I completely agree.

Jane


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RE: Homeowner's Association Gone Too Far?

So you both knowingly purchased a house in a community with an HOA, decide you don't like the rules (when the rules were already spelled out before you purchased), and now to combat the "problem" you will seek a position on the HOA board. Very doubtful you would actually do this, I doubt you would really want to invest any of your time with all the meetings or dealing with any problems that may arise. I know you are just blowing smoke. Your "desire" to be elected to the HOA board is not because you are interested in your community and desire to see it remain a nice place to live - you just want to join for your own selfish reasons.

It's very simple - if you don't like HOAs, then don't move there. You have no right to complain about it when you knew beforehand what you were getting into.

Sigh. FWIW, HOAs vary a lot. I've left in several HOA communities. In one that I lived in you had to get HOA approval for changing a plant in your backyard. I could sort of get the idea of having approval for the front...but the back? Sigh.

Anyway we moved to a place with a HOA that was much, much more laid back. There were regulations that were much less intense and the HOA generally wasn't filled with control freaks. There was one person who wanted to be (and had previously been on the HOA) and ran for election and wasn't elected since no one wanted that type of enforcement. So, two different HOA boards with the same rules can be very different in how they enforce.

As for the one saying it is easy to find places without HOA by finding junky places that is really very one-sided. We currently are building a house in a non-HOA neighborhood. You can guess it probably doesn't have an HOA due to the fact most homes are on at least an acre and the houses aren't cookie cutter and many people have more pets than most HOAs would allow. However, the houses are all neatly kept and the price ranges on the street range from around $200k to over a million.


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