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Monday, October 11, 2010

HOA Power Trips - Baby Boomers Embrace Their Inner Tyrant

I rarely open the letters from our Home Owner's Association (HOA); it is far too aggravating and tends to send my blood pressure through the roof. This morning, however, I did and was reminded again of why it is not a good idea to do so. If I had to do it all over again, I would never, ever buy a house with an HOA.

We should have known better, it's not like we didn't get a copy of the 60+ page CC&Rs when we bought the house, it's just that we never dreamed that anybody in their right mind would get it into their heads to actually enforce them down to the tiniest detail. The CC&Rs that came with our neighborhood are boilerplate and were written to cover just about everything under the sun, plus a few things which occur under the suns of the neighboring galaxies.

Our neighborhood is for the most part well kept and quiet, however if one were to judge based on the monthly flurry of admonishments and warning letters that we homeowners receive, you would most likely conclude that we are not unlike the frat house in National Lampoon's Animal House. These are coupled with all those little scoldings printed in the newsletter which are cynically called "helpful tips".

The board is composed entirely of members of the baby boomer generation who seem to be dissatisfied with their lives, perhaps not having achieved the greatness that they had expected or the status and wealth to which they feel entitled. Whatever the reason may be, now that they have attained this little bit of power they are hell-bent on exercising this power to its fullest extent. They derive great satisfaction out of their ability to micro-manage the daily lives of their neighbors, never failing to overlook the slightest infraction of those horrid CC&Rs - except of course when the CC&Rs are not to their own liking.

We feel so ill at ease in our neighborhood, that we no longer leave the house during the day, except by car to leave. I wait until midnight or later to check the mail or walk the dogs. Otherwise there is the chance that I will have to endure the shrieks of the President of the HOA who lives two doors up as she lists off my family's CC&R violations at the top of her lungs. Barring an encounter with the wicked witch of the HOA, just appearing outside brings the risk that one of the other venerable board members will be reminded of our existence which will result in my family becoming the focus of their scrutiny for a time - which usually results in a flurry of letters and a fine or two.

But back to the content of the newsletter. At the end of the newsletter there is usually a list of houses that are behind in their dues (they used to list them by address but have since stopped  this) - and the actions the board is taking against them. This has, up until now, been limited to recording liens against the properties of the offenders, but this morning I read that they are planning on taking the next step and foreclosing on the properties.

So anybody who is struggling already and is living in fear of bank foreclosure, now must worry about the HOA forcing their home into foreclosure over delinquent HOA dues which can range from a few hundred to a couple thousand at the most. Yes, the HOA has this power over you, and they can't wait to use it here in my neighborhood. We are not in danger of this because I always pay our dues, but I can't help getting aggravated on behalf of one or more of my unlucky neighbors who may soon be losing their home because some very small people are intoxicated with their new found power.


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