The Home Owners' Association from H E _ _
HOA: BeenThere, Done That
Yes. I lived under one. A “Home Owners’ Association.” More precisely, I lived in a private townhouse community subject to the draconian rules of the builder’s charter and the HOA. This place could have been the inspiration for any sit-com episode about the worst of homeowner association rules.
Listen up to a truth-is-stranger-than-fiction nightmare on Laurel Springs Street.
Alright, there were the obvious, expected rules. One can grumble about prohibitions on painting the exterior of your house in a different color, but it is not a surprise. Also, there was no painting of your door, window trim, shutters or deck in a color other than what adorned the ticky-tacky houses all up and down the street. Furthermore, homeowners could not install an extra window unless acquiring the advance approval of the Architectural Committee. Some rules were probably welcome, such as the prohibition against parking any non-working vehicles propped up on cinder blocks. However, boats, campers, and RV’s were also forbidden. That caused a little more grumbling.
Each group of about 12 to 20 housing units had a central trash and recycling dumpster area. Some residents who lived farthest away from the dumpster innocently collected all their household trash in a few large plastic Hefty™ bags, tightly close them, and then planned to get them to the dumpster the next morning as they drove past on their way to work. We had a subculture of talented residents who could place several filled trash bags on the hood of their car and drive without losing them. (Yes, this is supreme laziness, but it was clever.) Prior to the next morning’s work commute, these homeowners placed the Hefty™ bags out on their front stoop. This was a huge no-no against HOA Rule 483 section B! They received warning letters.
No decorative garden flags can be displayed in one’s yard. Only the American flag is permitted. This caused a great ruckus and uproar when the fashion trend of seasonal welcome banners, holiday themed, and sports flags erupted on the scene, but the residents could not vote this rule out. Also, homeowners are told what dates are permissible for displaying outdoor Christmas lights.
Example of Offensive, Forbidden Flag
No Rug Shaking
There can be no shaking an area rug outside to remove the dust. Geez Louise – what awful thing could happen if someone shook a little dust and dirt (which probably came from the bottom of everyone’s shoes) back into the outside? It must be horrible because that, too, is forbidden. More warning letters.
No Shaking Out Small Rugs
In this community, one owns only the house and its “footprint” on the land. All “your yard” front and back belongs to the entire community. I find this to be a weird concept, but that’s just me. Fortunately, on my street no one acted like they could sunbathe in front of my kitchen window. We all behaved as if someone’s yard was his yard. Each townhouse owner did have an easement of 5 feet past the house walls. Nonetheless, if you planted a bush or flowers it immediately became the property of the HOA. And, you could not later pull it out without permission from the head of the Grounds Department. (Are you shaking your head in utter disbelief and confusion? So was I.) I think it was more head games to make sure we didn’t feel as though we were fee simple owners of our yard. Which we weren’t, sadly. Furthermore, it was absolutely verboten to plant vegetables outside. Vegetables!?! What’s wrong with them? This certainly brings to mind the Oak Park Hates Veggies problem in Michigan.
And, lest you think someone could sneak a tomato plant in among the clematis – no way! We actually had fellow residents who liked this rule and appointed themselves as The Vegetable Police. Or Nazis, I would say. Have you ever successfully grown tomato plants in a shaded bay window? I tried and it was pathetic.
No Earth-Friendly Practices
Other offensive outside behavior to the designers of the rules was hanging out laundry. This really gets my dander up because it is so eco-ugly to forbid people to air dry and sun dry laundry. But that’s the way it is under the evil junta of the HOA. By extension, they also forbid people to spread wet beach towels out on their rear deck railings. God forbid that residents should enjoy the community pool and then come back home and do something natural such as let the wet towels dry out in the hot summer air.
The bird feeder rule. I guess you are thinking that bird feeders are not permitted. That would fit in with the rest of the rules. However, this rule is even more bizarre. One may hang a bird feeder outside BUT it may not be higher than 4 feet from the ground. What is the reasoning? I was told that if the feeder is placed higher than 4 feet that the birds will enjoy their banquet and then do what birds do – have droppings. I guess that if they eat within four feet of the earth, they don’t defecate? Does this make any sense to you? It doesn’t to me, either.
Illegally High Bird Feeder
You may say, so what? These are silly, stupid rules. People can just ignore them. No. Unfortunately, whatever the builder’s lawyer crafted as covenants and such, which MUST be signed by all home buyers and renters – the HOA here has the right to give one or two written warnings about the rule infraction and then place a lien on the home. A lien! Yes! And the homeowner is forced to agree to all this. Can you imagine going to settlement and having the title insurance company pull up a $50 lien due to displaying a Snoopy Welcomes Autumn decorative flag?
All these rules for flags, birds, rugs, laundry and more really exist. I have not invented or exaggerated anything. They sure give me plenty of material for amateur night at the comedy club, but I’d rather live more happily and freely.
This is the way it is. If you have been nodding your head in approval over all these mandates for appearance, email me and I will give you the name and address of this development. You are made for each other. On the other hand, if you are a kindred spirit to me and know that your free creative soul craves the ability to save the earth’s energy resources with a clothesline, clean your rugs without electric vacuums, feed all birds, plant an organic victory garden (the President’s family even does that!), and welcome people with a little flag, email me and I will give you the name and address of this development so that you can avoid it like the plague.
Photos and text copyright 2012 Maren E. Morgan.