October 29, 2018
From the article:
"In the 2000s, the Parkers thought they were buying their dream home. It was advertised at an excellent price and came with customizable options. The home was located in Peoria, Arizona, adjacent to Phoenix. The development was new, with an HOA managed by a management company.
While the Parkers were viewing the house, they asked the salesperson if they would be able to expand their three-car garage to a four-car garage. The sales person said yes, that would be no problem.
In 2016, the Parkers proudly put up a campaign sign in their front yard for Donald Trump, the only homeowners in the development to do so.
Mr. Parker was elected to the HOA board for awhile, but left after getting frustrated. But while there, the family learned the rules for additional building on the property and complied when they started their garage addition. This meant sending a letter requesting permission to the HOA board along with a copy of the plans and the permit from the city. Per the HOA rules, if the HOA board doesn't respond to a request within 45 days, it's deemed approved.
A few weeks later, the city asked them to change their building plan slightly. They made the changes and submitted the revised plans to the HOA. Again, the HOA board did not respond within 45 days, so the Parkers thought everything was fine. They resumed construction of the garage.
On January 9, 2017, when the garage was close to completion, the Parkers received a Notice of Violation in the mail from the management company. It did not specify any offense. They were then contacted by the Architectural Review Committee, a subsidiary of the HOA. The ARC chairman CC'd two neighbors on an email to them. The Parkers figured out he had put two of his neighbors on the ARC but there hadn't been a meeting, necessary to vote in officers, since October 2016. They were apparently put on the ARC illegally. An HOA board member was also later added illegally, to replace the president of the board who moved out of the development. The HOA justified it by claiming that A.R.S. 10-3821 applied, allowing them to take action without a meeting. But that law applies to nonprofits, not HOA boards. HOAs are different because they include homeowners who have a right to vote. They are governed by Title 33 of the Arizona Revised Statutes.
The HOA board next sent the Parkers a letter refusing permission to build the additional garage despite the fact that it was already built at this point. The ARC claimed that one corner was too close to the fence. This was because the city had them move the garage back, which changed the distance from 10 feet to 8.2 feet. The Parkers thought they could submit a variance to take care of the problem. Instead, they received a letter from an HOA lawyer on April 20, 2017. There still hadn't been any HOA board meetings since October, so the legal action appeared to be illegal. On May 5, the law firm sent them another letter, selectively quoting the CC&Rs. The HOA finally sent out a letter announcing a board meeting in August, almost a year after the last meeting but it was executive session only, so residents weren't allowed to attend. The HOA lawyer attended along with the illegally elected board members. "
Read the rest at Townhall.
A WORD FROM TIM, A LONG-TIME PROPERTY MANAGER:
The HOA's management company likely is not the culprit here, but the two who were CC'd in probably complained. And yes, it probably was over the Trump sign.
Management companies make most of their money from maintenance and ancillary fees, it is true, and not the management fee charged to the HOA (although that was a different division in the company I worked for) but in the end the number one thing any management company wants is peace. To that end they will try to enforce regulations, even if those regulations are wrong or misinterpreted, to keep the peace in the community. A couple of worked-up residents would be enough to get this sort of ball rolling. See, the management company can be fired; the HOA cannot.
This is a lot like the stories we used to hear about HOA's banning the display of the American flag because it was "not inclusive". We've all heard it before.
But in this case it's personal, and no doubt the two who were copied into the discussion between the lawyers of the HOA and the Parkers held a grudge against the Parkers. It may have just been personal, but it may also have been over the MAGA signs. Usually such things go hand-in-hand.
Homeowners Associations are the worst of all possible worlds. They ARE governmental entities, with the power of any governing body, but they are considered "private" because they do not represent an incorporated body. So what? They still make rules that have the force of law. Builders are quick to promote them because they are liable for the shared physical structures of a neighborhood they have built; the sewers, water lines, roads, etc. are the builder's responsibility unless there is either a municipality that will take it on or an HOA. The problem is, the HOA is a freebie, something that is staffed by unpaid people, and the types who usually volunteer for such work are usually busybodies in the first place. Only busybodies want to waste their own time telling others how to live.
So these organizations tend to be run by small minded people. And woe unto you if you buy a house in a community of that nature.
Now, you may have the same trouble in a municipality. Growing up in a small suburban community just outside of the St. Louis City limits we had all sorts of headaches with our little fiefdom too, because the residents with pull at city hall were the busybodies and they were always pestering their neighbors with some "good idea" they had. The result was that the city was very clean, very well kept, and utterly abominable as a group of tinpot dictators harassed the rest of the community, to the point where a lot of people just moved out. And while the local police were used to promote that harassment (they were the ones giving out citations) still the city as a whole was accountable at the ballot box, and in courts of law. These HOA's have the worst features of this type of community and none of the virtues.
That said, there may be more to the story than we are receiving. But in the end, the Parkers made the mistake of buying a house in such a community. And the sad fact is the HOA can change regulations mid-stream and there isn't anything anybody can do about it. It's one of the nastier aspects of them; they are gods in those neighborhoods, and the puny insects had better bow to them or else.
I would advise everyone to do your homework when buying a house. If you have an HOA - and almost everyone does who lives in suburbia - find out about it. There will be complaints on file if it is a bad one. Talk to neighbors. Talk to real estate people in the area. Look at the community; do you see personalized housing or conformity? If everything looks alike it's probably not by accident.
Remember, you aren't just buying the house, you are buying the whole neighborhood. Once in you are going to have trouble getting out; these HOA communities are like the mafia, and they treat you like mafia would treat you. Getting out can be a mother...
And the loudest nitpicking voices are usually liberals, too; remember that. Conservatives tend to be live and let live, but liberals want us all under their thumbs, and that is especially true in these little communities. Be prepared for trouble if you live in one of them; your liberal neighbors will probably bother you at some point. Just ask Rand Paul, whose neighbor punched him out for being a Republican.
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