We knew what we were getting into when we purchased our home. It was a brand new house in a partially built community. Eight years later, construction is more than half complete and the neighborhood is well lived in. We have tree-lined streets flanked with magnolias, Bradford pears and crepe myrtles. Children play in their front yards and families stroll down the street walking their dogs. In many ways we live in a very Norman Rockwell-like setting. But (you knew there had to be one) we have to answer to a Homeowner’s Association (HOA). Even though we knew this going in, we’ve come to the conclusion that living with an HOA just plain sucks. That’s why I really wish my HOA would go MIA.
Our HOA is run by elected board members who make the rules. To enforce these rules, they have hired a management company. The management company, in turn, is assisted by at least one Glady Kravitz (i.e., resident snitch),
By now you’re aware of Mr. Groovy’s distaste for too much governance. I happen to be in agreement with him. Add HOA governance to federal, state and county—and it’s too restricting. The long arm of the law just seems to get longer. Our HOA rules cover things such as:
- What color you can paint your house
- What shrubbery you can plant in your front yard
- What add-ons you can build on your house (porch, sunroom, outdoor kitchen, bonus room)
- Where you can and cannot park
- What you can and cannot park (no RVs, boats, or motorcycles in your driveway)
Then there are the annoyances of living among neighbors whose houses are on top of one another. We have six feet between our home and the two surrounding us. Even though we have excellent neighbors, we still must deal with:
- Noise from parties
- Cigarette smoke
- Walls reverberating from music
- Barking dogs
Honestly, our neighbors are very considerate. They’re just living their lives and minding their own business, but these inconveniences can’t be avoided when we’re that close to one another.
And then we have the issue of HOA dues. We pay $145 a month, which is not that high—but what we get for that $145 is paltry. Our dues cover maintenance of a large swimming pool and a small gym, neither of which Mr. Groovy and I take advantage of because they’re usually crowded and there’s a lot of bickering over equipment, chairs, and unattended children. Dues also cover lawn service—which most homeowners are not happy with. I don’t even let the workers touch my shrubbery. They roam from house to house hacking away like Michael Myers in Halloween. I don’t blame them—they have hundreds of homes to cover and they’re not paid well. I blame the owner of the business, who, according to our financial statements, earns a pretty penny from our HOA dues—much more than he should. But considering he was hand-picked by the developer of our community, it’s understandable.
The best part of living under the thumb of an HOA, however, is the lovely letters sent to us by the management company on behalf of the board, informing us we must take some action. These are not requests; they’re demands. And if they’re not met by a specific date, management won’t hesitate to fine us. Remember the aforementioned resident snitch? Our community has one or two geezers with nothing but time on their hands to roam the streets examining the homes of their neighbors. Do you know what kind of problems they find? Let’s see—we once got a nasty letter about our grass not being maintained properly! Oh YES, this is a service that our HOA dues cover! Our community has been built in phases, one or two of which do not include lawn maintenance. But since ours DOES, I had to call the management company and REMIND them that their hired landscaper was responsible for our crappy looking grass. NOT US!
Then there was the letter advising us that the front of our house was dirty and needed to be painted. I seriously had no idea what was dirty and sent numerous emails to the management company with photo attachments. “Is this the dirty part?” I begged for clarification. “Or is THIS the dirty part?” Finally, we got an email saying that the metal flashing along the edge of the second story porch was the nasty culprit bringing shame to the neighborhood. You would think if they’re going to be that picayune in pointing out our transgressions they might include some photos or diagrams.
And now, the big kerfuffle this week involves a notice posted by a neighbor to our online community bulletin board claiming that one of our very own neighbors is being paid $100 an hour by the HOA to move traffic cones and perform other mundane tasks. It’s the kind of job a college student would do for ten bucks an hour. It was reported this neighbor earned a total of $14,000 last year!
Everyone is up in arms, including me, and posing more questions and comments on the bulletin board. People are pitted against one another, some saying to the original poster “you don’t know all the facts”—back and forth, back and forth—until finally, the Grand Poohbah Bulletin Board Moderator erased the whole dang thread! Neighbors want to attend a board meeting to find out what the heck is going on, but the Grand Poobah is watching, and no one has started the thread back up again. And no one knows when the stupid meetings are held!
What we do know is that board meetings are held behind closed doors. And allegedly, time is set aside before the meeting for homeowners to voice their concerns.We signed up for email notifications to be in the loop, but this hasn’t helped. These notifications give absolutely no clue as to when these clandestine meetings are held. If one should be cunning enough to find out when a meeting is scheduled, he must contact the management company if he wants his concern to be heard. So in order to speak or ask a question at a meeting, he must be placed on the agenda. Meh!
Seriously? We’d have a better chance of asking Hillary Clinton a question on the campaign trail.
So this, dear friends, is what we’re up against. And from what I hear, our HOA’s shenanigans are nothing compared to what goes on in other communities. But here we are, Mr. Groovy and I, just wanting to be left alone to do our own thing. And yet the longer we live here, the more our HOA is turning our community into a joke. Except we’re not laughing.
Keep my story in mind when you search for a house. I didn’t list the benefits of being part of a community—and some of them can be very appealing, especially if you have young children. But them rules are them rules and there’s not a whole lot you can do to change them rules unless you want to become a board member. For us, our next home is going to be on an individual plot of land. We’ll need to answer to state and county rules, which is about the most government either one of us can tolerate when relaxing behind our own enclosed walls.