By Dawn Cranfield
Florida Couple Harassed by HOA Demanding Grass Instead of Rock
HOA or Gestapo?
For many Americans, the American dream of a home with a white picket fence includes a Home Owners Association (HOA). However, for some, what was once a governing board meant to keep the neighborhood neat and tidy, the HOA is an overbearing, demanding, nuisance infringing on the quiet enjoyment of the very residents it once sought to protect.
Bill Byron, of Florida, has discovered just how tenacious these HOA’s can be; he has been given a notice and just 10 days to remove over $5,000 worth of recently installed decorative rock and replace it with St. Augustine grass. According to Byron, he replaced his grass with the hardscape to save water and St. Augustine grass “typically overwatered and soaked in too many chemicals, is one of Florida’s biggest environmental problems.” (wesh.com)
“‘It took me a year and a half, almost two years because I’m disabled and it is hard for me to do it, but I wanted to do it myself,’ said Byron.” (wesh.com)
Florida is not the only state where people struggle existing in an environment with regulations; Texas has nearly 5 million residents living within an HOA, and the complaints are stacking up.
Anna Chambliss bought a home in Pflugerville’s Windermere Community and immediately began receiving violations from her HOA: barking dogs,
“trash containers not stored, lawn maintenance needed, tall weeds, violation of code — blah, blah, blah.” (kxan.com)
Additionally, Chambliss was fined for not mowing a side yard where she did not
even have grass.
Other HOA abuse of power in Texas includes the story of a Houston Marine who received a violation for displaying an American flag in his backyard instead of attached to his house as approved; and a couple in Sunset Valley that was denied the use of solar panels on the front room of their home.
My experience with an HOA stretches from the sublime to the mediocre and finally ends in the nightmarish.
When I first started paying HOA dues, they were around $40 a month in 2001; the services received in exchange were equitable, as this was a condominium. There was snow removal (albeit, not a lot was required in that particular region), yard work (including tree service), fresh paint every four years, pool maintenance, and general upkeep on the property.
Over the years, the fees increased, inevitably, and the services started to slide; no longer could I walk out my front door at 6 a.m. to go to the office and find a freshly cleared sidewalk. I started to notice bits of trash littering the gutters, where I previously did not see one scrap of paper; and little by little, other annoying things started to appear on the property.
Finally, by fall 2007, the fees were an exorbitant $143 a month; I wanted to start a fire and noticed there was an overgrown tree laying on the roof of my house and covering my chimney. I called my HOA and asked for removal, lest I start a fire and light the whole building; I was told it would be taken under advisement. I was incredulous.
The following week, same phone call; then I started with letters and emails for weeks. Finally, I attended a meeting and discovered there was “not enough money” for tree abatement for the entire complex. At that point, it did not matter to me; a stiff wind could take the dead tree and wipe out my front window.
After much debate and $2,000 from the HOA, my tree issue was settled, but the rest of the complex looked old and dilapidated. As I pondered the much bigger issue of how, after all of these years could the board be out of money with fees that high and seemingly nothing going out, I reluctantly joined the board.
By the time I joined, I realized it was a mistake; the board functioned (or rather did not) like a dysfunctional family. Governing members ruled the complex with an iron fist, passing out citations to their neighbors over the smallest infractions, looking up ancient bylaws just to put pressure on residents, and allowing others “passes” if they were well liked.
The most egregious thing I saw was when board members would “grand-father” in their own infractions while at the same time writing a nasty-gram to their fellow neighbor, a resident who had lived there 20 years longer than they had. My tenure lasted only 2 months before I resigned.
While some are pressuring their legislative body to become involved and pass laws limiting the powers of these bullying HOA’s, if you are having trouble with your HOA, get involved, go to meetings, have a voice. Refuse to allow yourself to be victimized by sermonizing board members who live in glass houses.