Saturday, July 02, 2005

The Evil Homeowners Associations

I find myself having to rant yet again. There's just so much stupidity out there, it's hard sometimes to find time for the happy things in life. Oh well, here goes.

Today, I received a letter in the mail from my homeowners association (hereafter called "HA," because "homeowners association" is too much to type). In case any of my readers aren't familiar with these evil organizations, they are organizations set up to, in theory, make sure that people's property values don't down go down because of boneheaded neighbors doing stupid things to trash up the neighborhood. In practice, all HAs I've ever heard of exist to pretty much make normal people's lives hell by irritating them with petty complaints. I've never heard anyone say, "Gosh, my HA really helped me out!" The only comments I've ever heard about HAs were that they were bothersome at best or downright evil at worst.

For example, today I got a nastygram from my HA. It says that I'm in violation of the covenant (the agreement between a homeowner and the HA). To get back into compliance, I need to: "Weed eat around all beds, edge around the beds to redefine the edges, clear out grass/weeds from beds and apply fresh pine straw through out."

Now, you have to understand that I am basically a lazy person, and I hate yardwork; nevertheless, I do try to keep my yard from being a jungle. I would call my efforts around average, which is really what I shoot for. Some of the landscaping in my neighborhood looks a lot better than mine, some looks a lot worse. You also have to understand that this is not the first such letter I've gotten from my HA. In a typical year, I get three or four of them for stupid petty stuff.

Also, you have to understand that HAs have legal backing, and in theory, if you don't comply with their whims, they can sue you and force you to. And to top it all off, you have to pay them yearly fees for the privilege of living in the neighborhood. My fees are around $320 a year, but depending on where you live, they can be a lot more or a lot less. At the last HA meeting our neighborhood held, we had around $150,000 sitting in the bank from fees collected, and this amount has never shrunk on a year-to-year basis. This really adds to my resentment of my HA because I feel like I'm paying a bunch of money expressly for the purpose of periodically being harassed with nasty letters.

My personal opinion is that in theory, HAs are a good thing. To make the implementation live up to the idea, a few things need to happen. First of all, they need to stop bugging me and other people like me. These stupid letters need to be sent only to egregious violators of the covenant. Why? Because my average-looking yard is not lowering any of my neighbors' property values. Even if I had a below-average yard, they still need to keep their stupid letters to themselves. Only if my yard looks genuinely terrible should I get a nasty letter. If I had an old jalopy up on blocks in my yard, then yeah, I should get a letter. If my edges aren't golf course manicured, then they should leave me the hell alone. After all, I paid $200,000 for this property, and if I want my edges a little undefined and it's not hurting anyone, that should be my perogative. Second, I think that all HAs should put in writing some maximum amount of money that they will ever keep in the bank, adjusted for the cost of inflation. If the balance ever goes above that amount, everyone receives a discount on the fees they have to pay that year.

I'm half tempted to run for president of the HA for my neighborhood. It's really something that I could probably win uncontested, because it's a pain-in-the-ass kind of thing that no one really wants to do. When elected, I could then not-so-respectfully tell the agency that runs our HA to go to hell and to take a fresh bale of pine straw with them to spread through out. Then I could go find another agency to run things here and specifically instruct them to never bother the residents unless at least two complaints from two different residents are received about someone.

I would have done it already, but like I said, I'm basically a lazy person.

A buddy of mine at work once told me a story about an HA he's a member of in Florida. Because his house is in a touristy neighborhood, the HA fees there were outragous. If I remember correctly, they were like $1,500 a year or so. Anyway, one of his neighbors needed to replace his roof because some shingles had blown off. He spent a lot of money getting a nice new roof put on. The problem is that they no longer sold the exact model of shingle that he had on it before, so he picked out the closest one he could find and had them use it instead. My buddy said that he honestly didn't notice any difference, but the HA did. Apparantely, this guy and the guy who ran the HA were not on good terms, and the HA had pestered him several times about such stupid stuff before. This time, the HA sued him for modifying the appearance of his house without the HA's consent. That was the proverbial straw the broke the camel's back, and he fought back. He countersued for several thousands of dollars for harrassment and won. Guess who had to pay him the money—that's right, the rest of the residents of his neighborhood. So the HA's repeated stupidity actually cost the residents a bunch of money in addition to the $1,500 they had to pay in fees that year.

I think I'm going to go take some pictures of my yard and save this letter.


At 3:18 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I feel your pain. I work for a property management firm that manages homeowners associations. I'll let ya know it is definitely not fun for us.

Imagine every letter that is sent out being prefaced by someone who just HAS to tell me how much said stupid infraction bothers him or her. I receive hundreds of calls a week about these trite issues. "I really don't care that your neighbor's blinds aren't the same color as yours."

But just one thing of reference I have for all of you who live in homeowners associations. Don't blame your management company for most of the stuff that happens. Almost all of it has to go through the Board of Directors. They are the ones who approve the letters and many are even requested by the Board members. I get so many calls blaming me, personally, for things I never did.

As far as the money, most homeowners associations are non-profit groups. As such they need to show how they are utilizing their funds and not just "making profit." If they are sitting at $150,000 they need to have the bulk of that in reserves or plans to use it. Such as fencing, roofing repairs, signage, lights, et cetera. The goal is to use the neighborhood's money for the neighborhood. It is not meant to just sit dormant and wait for an emergency; that is what a master insurance policy is for.

At 2:55 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I actually believe they are socialized housing, and who in their right mind would allow their neighbor to dictate just how and what improvements or changes they make to their own property. And they are taking over the country, and is nothing more than Maxism.

The founders would be rolling over. Give up freedom over your own home and land.....hardly the America they envisioned.

At 11:20 AM, Blogger CPTFreedm said...

Any organization that can dictate your use of your property is collectivism ahead of liberty (for an agreed purpose). As long as non HOA housing/lots/neighborhoods are available I don't think its a problem. Don't like HOA, don't live in one of their communities.


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