Home Owners Associations: Democracy or Little Napoleons?

I am renting in a neighborhood that only recently has seen their Home Owners Association (HOA) really “energized.”  This group spent a good bit of their time fighting to get the roads paved and they finally won this 4 year long battle. [1.  The builder of the community went bankrupt and, along with the issues surrounding home warranties and repairs, also failed to put the finishing two inches of asphalt on the roadways.]

Once this hard fought and necessary battle was won, the HOA celebrated their victory, and opened up a Yahoo Group to the community to enhance communications.  Alas, this seems to have brought out not a spirit of friendship and community but one of sniping and backbiting.

Everyone has their own little petty concerns that bother them.  Of course, what seems to bother them the most are what their neighbors are doing with their own property, or with their cars in front of their property.  And of course, all arguments er discussions are brought up with the “greater good” at heart, the greater good being, of course “Property Values.”

Sounds fair, right?

Try this one.  The first comment (and I mean the very first comment) was that, now that the roads have been paved and it is easier to get into your driveway, we need to mandate that everyone parks in the drive and ban parking on the streets in front of their own home.  Oh, and if you have too many cars for the driveway–you need to park in your garage.

The battles have continued, over swimming pools, RVs, pets, fences, and all the various other issues that can annoy neighbors.  But despite all of this, one things remains constant:  no one wants to participate in a Democracy.  They want things to simply be “their way.”

As I mentioned I am renting, so I honestly have “no dog in the hunt.”  I couldn’t care less how things are for the long term.  I just enjoy watching this little corner of America play itself out.  So I have until now just stayed out of the discussions, and watched–and laughed.

This weekend after a rather lengthy back and forth discussion with someone having violated a “24 hour RV parking rule” by 48 hours, I finally offered up my suggestion.  The argument seemed to focus on two things.  First, one group was adamant that “these are the rules” and it doesn’t matter if you like these rules are not, rules are rules and must be followed.  The other group (to summarize) essentially argued that some of these rules are silly and the application of fines and punishments for silly rules is beyond silly.

So I stepped in and suggested that, here in America, it might be a good idea to put the various rules up for a referendum.  Let the community decide as a whole, through a vote, which rules are important and which are worth modifying or discarding.  Then, as we always do in America, live with the will of the people until the next opportunity to change the rules presents itself. {2.  The current rules were simply “handed down” as an edict from the builder when he created the community (remember the builder? Bankrupt and all…) The various members did agree to the rules when they moved in, but are these rules to remain etched in stone for all eternity? ]

Seems simple.  But nooooooo… You can’t change the rules.  The rules are the rules.  And of course, my FAVORITE argument was this one:

“The only people who would want to change the rules are the people who want to break them in the first place.  We shouldn’t give these lawless people a voice!”

SERIOUSLY?  Yes… seriously.  That was the response.  Um. Duh.  People who repeal laws usually do so to allow a behavior that had previously been made illegal.  Remember Prohibition anyone?

I could go on, recounting story after story–the stories are numerous and honestly, I am saving every one of them, hoping some day to turn this dysfunctional microcosm of America into some sort of Erma Bombeck style book.

In the meantime, I would LOVE to hear from each of you–do YOU have any HOA stories you can share?  Horror, humor or happy?


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