Another Long Homeowner's Association Rant

It seems there is an emergency in my neighborhood, and that emergency has only one solution – MORE RESTRICTIVE COVENANTS! What is this emergency? The newer homeowners (that would include me) just don’t care about their property. They don’t keep things up, they don’t mow, they leave inoperable vehicles in the yard – all sorts of nefarious activity! Property values are dropping, and long-time residents can’t sell their homes ** just because they have ne’er-do-well neighbors**! If we don’t vote for more restrictive covenants, 10 years from now none of us will be able to sell our homes! Sure, it would be nice if people could work this stuff out between them, but we need to make more rules instead!

You might think, by the way some residents and the Board of Directors members talk, that this property neglect is rampant throughout our neighborhood. If property values are falling fast, and many people can’t sell their homes, it must be a good percentage of problems, right? At least 10 percent of the homeowners are negligent, right?

Out of 709 homes in the neighborhood, between 10 and 20 are problems that the BoD feels need to be addressed. That’s right, at least 97% of the homeowners are doing the right thing without covenants to tell them to.

Our property values are not falling – they are holding steady. Yes, I know houses are selling for the same prices they were 2 1/2 years ago. Is it possible that has more to do with the changes in our economy – at both the state and national levels – than with our lack of covenants? Is it possible that the 50 or so brand-new housing additions within a 10-mile radius has anything to do with that? (Our neighborhood was built in the early 1960s). I’m sure that because the realtor-resident that provided this information is in favor of covenants, neither of those are factors.

The Board of Directors is tired of getting complaints about neighbors not maintaining their property. They’d rather neighbors work it out between themselves. So to fix it, they are going to institute a better way for folks to avoid conflict and turn what could be a simple conversation into a legal proceeding. And by instituting covenants, we now need mandatory dues – complete with billing and collection agencies.

I understand the motivation behind covenants – but I don’t believe they work. I especially don’t believe they will work in this neighborhood. People who buy homes here do so in part because of the lack of covenants – they want to live in a place where people take care of their homes because they want to, not out of fear of liens. I love my neighborhood, and I won’t move if the covenants pass, but I fear they will detract from the community spirit that attracted me and WinkieHubby in the first place.

Yes, I am planning to run for the Board of Directors at the next election …

Sounds like our Condo Assosiation. Some recently passed rules include:

No bike riding on the street… Then what are the fucking bike lanes on the street for then!

No groups of more the 3 are allowed to congregate on community property (anywhere not inside is community property) Yeah, that works well, especially on the ballfield or playground, which were not exclued at all.

No altering of landscape, except by the maintainence staff… This must exclude the outside of anyone on the association, since they have entire gardens outside their condos.

They give us fines for things, and there is no recourse. You can appeal it to the board, but hey, they gave you the fine in the first place. They tried fining our neighbors for a noisey dog for about 6 months. The problem was the dog was dead for 5 of those months. They refused to budge, even after being showed the vet reports and such. They were fining my wife for illigally parking every day. Even when she wasn’t there, I’d have a ticket on my car with her info. There were times she ran inside and I ran out to go to work, car still running, there was a ticket. Finally, she caught him and told him if she caught him by the car again, she was going to kick him in the nuts, and call the cops to tell them she found someone breaking in the car. That was the end of the tickets.

Our daughters go to school together now. His daughter is the class tattletale. Go figure.

When I was buying my first house a little over a year ago, I specifically told the realtor that I was not interested in any house with a homeowner’s association. He was great about it, but asked if I’d be willing to take a look at ONE place that was in between two others we were looking at one Sat. afternoon even though there was an association.

I looked. It was great, but not great enough to warrant the intrusions into my personal life and decisions as to how to maintain and decorate my first self-owned residence.

The last place I looked at was the one I bought. I fell in love with it immediately. Great neighbors who mind there own business and let me mind mine, all the while looking out for each other without intruding. If my neighbors have a problem with me, or vice versa, we talk to each other about it and take care of it like civilized adults. Granted, that’s happened all of twice in the year I’ve been here (once in each direction) but it was so damned gratifying that it feels like a very big deal to me.

After reading the above, I’m glad I went the way I did. Good luck to you in your fights.

Luckily, things can change fast. We had an “activist” board on our condo association a few years ago that was realy uptight about rules and enforcement and following things to the letter. People were starting to get really pissed because instead of things being handled in a neighborly, collegial way (for example, christmas lights up too long–why not inquire and learn that the owner is sick and help him take them down?), things were being done “by the book” (they got fined). And the association seemed to take the view that they’d better enforce EVERYTHING, no matter how minor, lest they later get caught up in accusations of unfairness or inconsistent enforcement. Fines and warnings right and left. Pissed off neighbors. Loss of community. Angry letters about issues placed in peoples’ mailboxes. People not talking to each other.

Some of us went to some meetings to voice our consternation over what was happening to the community and got sick of them saying “the lawyer recommends this” and condescending to residents like they were children who had to be policed and controlled. So we voted their asses out in the next election. The people on the board now are the neighborly, kind ones, and it’s back to being a great, relaxed, cooperative neighborhood.

There is hope!!

I just faxed in an offer on my first house. I had the same idea FallenAngel had–I generally wasn’t interested in a place with a HOA to deal with.

In my hunting, though, I came to understand why they’re necessary–because houses in newer neighborhoods in most places around the country are built almost on top of one another. We passed on the “nicest” of the houses we really liked almost entirely because you could spit from either side of it and hit the next house. When houses are that close together, an unkempt neighbor can’t help but affect your property value, since it’s all but on your property.

So I understand why they’re necessary, even though I personally prefer not to have to deal with them. (I like older houses anyway.) Unfortunately, they too often give a soapbox and a position of authority to self-righteous assholes, as described above.

Besides, if my new house had a HOA, what would I do with all my old junk cars?

Dr. J

Thanks, guys – I’m less pissy this morning, but now I’m more worried about the little details. Like the fact that in the proposed covenants there is no “ticket” system. Your neighbor decides your grass needs to be mowed, so he pays for someone to do the work, then puts a lien on your house! Without the involvement of the homeowners’ association! That scares me a little.

Cranky – we’re thinking that anyone new running for the board isn’t going to have much trouble getting elected. The annual meeting is in 2 weeks, so I guess we’ll see what happens. I think we decided WinkieHubby is going to run, since he’s much better at dealing with pissy people than I am.

One of the first questions we asked when looking for property in Maryland concerned HOAs. The neighborhood where we bought doesn’t have one and doesn’t want one. I can’t wait till we move there.

The HOA in my current neighborhood was just turned over to the residents since the last home was sold. My neighbor is the secretary. She said when they called the first board meeting, most of the board didn’t even show. No skin off my nose - until they get organized, they won’t be collecting dues. But I do wish they’d get the psycho on my left to clear the dozens of full trash bags off her side porch… Apparently, she can afford a $140K house, but she can’t swing $10/month for garbage collection.

Christ, every time I read one of these things I’m glad I moved to the country. We prefer to settle things better friends and, with each of us owning several acres of land, the pressure isn’t really on.

For example, the farm behind my house is being developed. 150+ acres into 26 home sites with a minimum plot of 3 acres. Those of us who’ve been here were concerned at we all got together and met with the developer. He’s working with us and will build a fence for me on the border.

And he probably knew we’d just take pot shots at the streetlights of the new houses with .22s if he didn’t.

Many cities, counties, and towns have ordinances forbidding leaving junkers in the yard; it isn’t just a matter of neighborhood covenants. Personally, I don’t think this is a freedom worth fighting for. YMMV, and clearly does.

I agree that sometimes someone lets the grass grow 2 feet high because they were suddenly incapacitated, to the point that they couldn’t hire somebody to mow the yard. But IME usually either there’s an absentee owner who has made insufficient provision for taking care of the property, or the residents of the house are the “if I want to let my grass grow, that’s my right” sort, rather than someone who can be persuaded by neighborly conversation.

Will those sorts of conditions next door, or across the street, make it harder for a homeowner to get a decent price on his own house? IANA realtor, but I’d put money on it. And why should Homeowner A be thousands of dollars poorer because Homeowner B decides that lawns don’t need mowing, or are a good place to store a car up on blocks?

If you want a meadow, rather than a lawn, then do like Jonathan and live out where meadows are the norm. But if you make the choice to live in a neighborhood of quarter-acre lots, what you do affects your neighbors. And if enough people in the neighborhood act as if that’s not so, it should not be a surprise if rules are passed to deal with the most common and blatant offenses.

The ‘broken window’ school of social theorists used to claim that the tipping point was when around 3% of properties went unmaintained. I don’t know if that’s where they still think the line is, but nobody thinks you have to have half, or even one-fifth, of the yards going unmowed before realtors start steering people away from the neighborhood. A surprisingly small fraction of bad-apple houses can spoil the whole barrel.

If you want to get your money back out of your house someday, there are really only two options: live in a neighborhood where people maintain their properties, or don’t live in a neighborhood at all. If you go the latter route, then you don’t have to worry about covenants. But if you do the former, you should understand the culture you’re moving into; it shouldn’t take you by surprise.

And this is why I don’t live in a neighborhood that has a board of directors tell me that I can plant tulips in my flowerboxes, but cacti are out.

Because it seems that it always starts with just a little bit of intrusion, and then it gets worse and worse and worse until they tell you that you can only go jogging outside if you wear the approved warmup suit.

We are moving from a non-HOA community to a new area with an HOA. This is what we have in the non-HOA:

Next door neighbors who have a vintage VW Bug that hasn’t run in two-plus years sitting in the side yard. Along with a whole bunch of other stuff. When we listed the house, we had to go over and ask them to clean it up. The car still sits, immobile. And OBVIOUSLY immobile, too - all four tires are flat.

We’re hoping for good things with the HOA. We intend to get on the BoD when the developer turns it over to the residents (we’ll be the third family to move into the community). We don’t want a Nazi Board, but we do want to have standards enforced.

My parents lived in a condo with a Nazi Board. The condos in the area were upscale - three and four bedroom duplexes. The restrictions were the following:

  1. No kids under 18.
  2. No pets (my parents were not informed of this rule until AFTER they closed. The Board couldn’t understand why they wouldn’t just get rid of their eleven-year old dog and fifteen-year-old cat just for the privilege of living there.)
  3. Hi, Opal!
  4. No cars parked in the driveway. My dad has a '67 Impala hardtop that lives in the garage. That meant that SOMEONE’s car had to live outside of the two-car garage. But not in the driveway, even though their next-door neighbor regularly parked his Lexus there. My dad parked in the street. Somehow, this was preferable to them.
    Now, keep in mind, that these are expensive places. They have three and four bedrooms. But no kids allowed? No extra cars? What is one supposed to do with the extra bedrooms? How many empty nesters NEED three or four bedrooms, especially if their guests aren’t permitted to park there? The Board tried to sue my parents about their pets. They didn’t get far - especially since some of the residents also had pets. “They’re grandfathered in” the Board said. My dad said, “Okay, show me where.” They couldn’t. But “It’s an upscale community - we need to keep up the standards so that we can sell our units,” they whined. (It wasn’t even a private street.)

Eighteen months ago, my parents put their condo up for sale. At the same time, three other residents did the same. In three weeks, my parents’ unit sold (for which they’re thanking their lucky stars).

To this day, not one of the others has.


Two houses down a developer buit one of those new style houses. The kind that eat up the entire lot.
For laughs we looked it up on

$350,000 dollars!

and it stood unsold for about 6 months.
They then listed the house as a lease property.
It was leased for a year. The couple has since moved out.

the house is, again, empty.

and will be for a very very long time.


because the house next to it is in such shambles no one would pay THAT much money to buy a house (especially when they can buy an equal house on another block. It’s all the rage to knock down old houses and put these beasts up, unsold, you see)

the house next to it is what mr baboon and I call the “Blair Witch” house.

The owner is not all there, mentally (truly, not sarcastically). I have heard rather interesting stories about him from some of the neighbors.

he stopped me once as I was walking my dogs to tell me that he was being evicted and that his house was going to be knocked down the next day. I really believed him.

it wasn’t knocked down.

I am genuinely surprised that the contractor hasn’t tried to buy him off. something tells me that this is gonna get ugly before its over.

I know virtually nothing about these associations. So I have a few honest questions:

What kind of enforcement ability do they have? What if you just don’t pay their “fine?” What is the teeth behind their rules/covenants?

If anyone told me my yard wasn’t good enough I would NEVER mow it again, and I would put up a fence so no one could do it for me.

It is MY fucking yard and if I want a pile of trash, or a rusty old car sitting on my law, THEY WILL SIT ON MY LAWN!

Just send a letter to the association stating that your are seceding from them and creating you own association called the “Fuck You, Association Association.” Then put a big sign in your yard advertising your new association in 3’ tall letters.

No, I don’t actually own any land, but I would actually do this if anyone told me what to do with my yard. Associations to preserve historical houses and trees etc are great, but I would never put up with anyone telling me where to park on my own property.

I think an HOA with a bit of leniency is the right compromise. You’ve got a way to keep people from letting their property (which you have to look at) go to complete hell, but you don’t have someone micromanaging your every move. Unfortunately, once the rules are written down, you don’t always control how much they are enforced. But they’re not all bad.

The HOA would then hire someone to take care of your lawn, attached a lein to your property (which, until you pay it, you can’t sell your home). They will then probably sue you for payment and screw up your credit. Finally, they will repeatedly sodomize your springer spaniel.

So if you don’t want to mow your lawn for yourself, do it for Fluffy.

And paint the fucking rafters while you’re at it.

BTW, they’d first hire someone to take down your fence and charge you for it.

bernse - My neighborhood’s covenants:

  1. were initiated by the developer
  2. ‘run with the land’
  3. enforcement is by lawsuit (can be initiated by the HOA or any homeowner in the neighborhood)
  4. can be changed by action of at least 2/3 of the property owners.

(1) and (2) are the norm, as I understand it. I don’t know about (3) and (4).

To be more specific:

Back when the neighborhood was still on the drawing board, the developer spelled out the covenants in a legal document, recorded the document in the county land records, and incorporated the HOA. It was spelled out in the covenants that the covenants would ‘run with the land’, that is, the covenants would operate in a way similar to a perpetual easement on each lot, and would apply to the lots as owners came and went.

So, mblackwell, an owner can secede from the Association’s authority - by moving out of the neighborhood. But the property can’t secede.

There’s no trickery involved here: when my wife and I signed a contract to buy the house, we were informed that there was a HOA, and a copy of the covenants were made available to us before closing. In fact, we had to sign a piece of paper acknowledging our awareness of the covenants, our recognition that they applied to the property we were buying, and indicating our willingness to abide by them. To disregard the covenants would be to go back on our word.

One might ask why the developer took the trouble to set up the covenants and the HOA. The answer would presumably be that it made the properties more desirable to buyers - why else would it go to the trouble? Like I said earlier, people want to protect their investment in a home. And if you’re in a traditional suburban development where you can throw a Frisbee from one house to the next, the conditions of neighboring properties, and of the neighborhood as a whole, have a significant effect on the value of your own home. The covenants provide a mechanism to assure that successive owners will continue to maintain their properties, thus enabling you to maintain the value of your own lot.

My HOA is pretty relaxed about minor violations of the covenants. When I read the covenants at the time we moved into the neighborhood, I noticed that there were several houses on the neighborhood’s main street that were out of compliance in minor ways. I believe they still are, and I’m sure nobody’s taken anyone else to court.

I’ve taken no sample, but I wouldn’t be surprised if that’s not far from normal. Yes, the anal-compulsive HOAs that won’t let you put up colored Christmas lights are the ones that make the news. But why does anything make the news? Because it’s different. So I think it’s unreasonable to assume, absent more evidence, that such HOAs are the norm.

OTOH, if I were one of Winkie’s neighbors, I’m sure I’d be in the group voting for basic covenants about not keeping junkers in the yard, and keeping the lawn mowed. Maybe property values are holding steady now, while there are only 10-20 problem houses in the neighborhood. But if that turns into 40-50 of them, you’ve likely turned a corner, both in property values and in attitudes; by then, you might have enough car-up-on-blocks types, and their friends and sympathizers, in the neighborhood, that you couldn’t get stuff like that passed anymore. I’d want to be proactive about basic stuff like that.

If that makes me a jackbooted thug, then so be it. But at the time of purchase, the HOA already had that authority over the property; that can’t be a surprise. And this is the pre-existing culture here - that of people who care about the value of their properties. One shouldn’t expect them to change, but rather to use the means at their disposal to protect what’s theirs.

My husband sings with a guy who lives in a neighborhood with an HOA. They’ve got rules like you can only paint your house a color on the approved list of colors. They got pissed off at him because he installed a vinyl deck at the back of the house instead of a wooden one. They screamed and yelled about it, but that’s about all. :rolleyes:

RTFirefly, a couple of clarifications:

  1. When we moved here, the homeowners’ association was voluntary. We were told more than once that no covenants exist, both by the seller and her realtor. Even now, the association itself does not have the authority to enact covenants – they must be voted in by 51% of the residents. Also, they don’t seem to have the authority to enforce the covenants, either – hence the “neighbor pays and puts the lein on your house” issue.

  2. City code already covers the issues the covenants would cover.

  3. It’s not that anything in the covenants is anything that I am opposed to, or would not follow. It’s just that we moved here SPECIFICALLY due to the lack of covenants, because they rub us the wrong way.

I fully understand the purpose of covenants. I simply don’t like them. If I wanted to live in a neighborhood with covenants, I would have spent the same money to move into a brand-new house that didn’t need the wallpaper replaced in every room, or the genuine 70s green shag replaced. They weren’t here when we got here, and I don’t have to like it that they are coming.