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Home Owners' Associations in Texas

Updated on April 20, 2012

HERE'S WHAT I THINK

Texas HOAs have too much power

Do Home Owner's Associations in Texas protect Property values, or are they too powerful? While the idea of an HOA is nice - protecting property values- it seems that there should be a limit on the power a Home Owner's Association can wield. HOA's tell homeowners when they have done something that affects property values negatively and asks them to correct the situation before assessing a fine, but some HOAs have crossed the line between maintaining property value and stifling individual rights.

In America, I am happy that I have the freedom to choose if I want green curtains or wood blinds, three trees in my front yard, solar screens on my windows to reduce my carbon footprint and lower my utility bills.... or do I have any of those rights in my own home?

My own Home Owners Association prohibits all of the above mentioned items. In fact, the limitations in my neighborhood are so incredibly strict that nearly 20 homes have been vacated by residents who are willing to take a loss to move to an area without an HOA. The HOA imposes fines of $50 for every violation including "Failure to remove your trash receptacle from the curb on the same day that it was picked up", "having a weed in your lawn", " curtains without a white backing". The fines are assessed late fees if not paid promptly but there is little recourse for those who had not actually committed a violation as the HOA refuses to meet with residents or accept calls- written correspondence goes unanswered.

Other cause for concern in my neighborhood is that our HOA prohibits virtually ALL eco friendly improvements to homes as they are "unsightly". While I agree that solar panels on your roof may not be the most attractive thing, they are better for the environment and appealing to buyers as they will have reduced utility bills. It is environmentally irresponsible to prohibit solar screens, solar panels, solar window film, geo thermal water heaters, more than 2 trees per property, vegetable gardens in back yards, and a long list of other eco friendly improvements.

HOAs in Texas have the ability to take someone's home. A few have made the news for foreclosing on homes of service members while they were deployed, based upon small issues such as the lawn being straggly (which they are NOT supposed to foreclose upon- but if you are unaware that they are doing this and in another country you can't fight it in court). Often, when you think you are paying for your violation, your money is applied to something else and the fees continue to grow. You pay annual or monthly fees to be treated this way and if you try to attend the meetings to vote, they will often move the location of the meeting only 1 hour before and post it on their website so they are "technically" notifying residents of the change in venue.

Recently, a bill was passed to help reign in control of HOAs, but this bill was considered to merely be a barometer for future legislation. Before the vote, our HOA emailed us a threatening letter about this vote. They demanded that all residents contact their representatives to put a stop to this bill. They pointed out that if this bill passed we would all begin receiving more violation fines and that they would again increase our annual dues.

They have been handing out more violations. In fact, the postal worker who delivered my "courtesy notice" about a weed in my lawn (sent certified, signature required-which I paid for) she told me that she had already delivered 75 violations in our subdivision that very day and she was only about 1/2 done- our subdivision only has 200 homes. She helped me look for the alleged weed in my lawn and was also unable to find one. I now take time stamped photos of my yard and home every 2-3 days so that I have something to counter their future claims.

We had a choice right? Not really. Every home that was for sale in our price range and within the vicinity of the base we were moved to during the time period when we moved 2,000 miles to get here ALL had mandatory HOAs. Every single one. More than half of those were under the control of this exact HOA. We read through over 100 homes in our price range, we initially discarded any that had HOAs, until we realized that every single one did. If we wanted to own a home without an HOA, we would need to move to a different city or double our income.

The Realtor told me how great they are, they protect your property value, they provide community centers for their residents (ours does not have any) , they maintain the common areas of the property as well. I can understand how this would be a good idea "in theory" We read the restrictions before buying, they were irritating but tolerable. The restrictions have changed and become increasingly strict, we have no voice as the small board recently held a "vote" amongst themselves allowing them the power to "vote" for new restrictions with a minority vote- meaning that the residents' input will not affect the outcome of the vote- especially as they try to prevent residents from attending meetings.

I have heard good things about HOAs in other states, but in Texas there seems to be a lot of debate as to how much power they should have.

Should an HOA be able to foreclose on a home?

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YOUR TURN!

Texas HOAs have too much power

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