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Homeowners Associations: Tiny, Dangerous Governments

homeowner_associationsThe similarities between homeowners associations (HOAs) and the government are so close that it wouldn’t be a stretch to classify an HOA as a tiny government.  Governments have the power to tax and HOAs have the power to collect dues and special assessments.  Failure to pay taxes will get you jail time and fines; failure to pay dues and assessments will get you attorney’s fees, a lien on your property or even seizure of your home.  Governments have the power to tell you what you can and can’t do, including how much water your toilet can flush.  HOAs also have the power to tell you what you can and can’t do with your property.  Some associations have very restrictive covenants that require approval from a committee before you can even plant something on your property or remove a dead bush.

Over the last several years there have been countless stories of HOAs harassing homeowners, even filing lawsuits in some cases, to prevent homeowners from displaying an American flag, allowing children to play outside (!), displaying a Christmas wreath, etc.  I found one incredible story of an HOA suing a resident for defamation after he made negative comments about them on an Internet blog.   And now I have read of an HOA that had their attorney send a threatening letter to a homeowner demanding that 2 foot tall  statues of Jesus and Mary be removed from display in the front yard.

Christian Post – In late July, the Berluches were given a letter from a legal firm that provides counsel for the Shingle Creek Reserve at the Oaks Homeowners’ Association regarding their statues.

According to the letter, the Berluches’ statues violated Article VIII, Section 2(C) of the Neighborhood Declaration of Covenants and Restriction of Shingle Creek Reserve at the Oaks.

“No building, sign, decorative or ornamental sculpture, outside lighting, fence, hedge, wall, walk, dock or other structure or planting shall be constructed, erected, planted, painted, altered or removed until the plans and specifications … have been submitted to and approved in writing by the ARC,” reads the section.

The letter threatened legal actions against the Berluches if they did not comply within seven days of receiving the notice by the homeowners’ association.

“I am in receipt of your correspondence to the association regarding the religious significance of the statues. The association has the right to inquire as to the religious purpose of these statues,” continued the letter.

“Please provide the association in writing the stated religion, the religious significance of the statues, and why these statues cannot be relocated to a different location on the lot or enclosed behind a fence out of street view.”

Charla Bansley, communications director with the Liberty Counsel, told The Christian Post that Liberty became involved “in August [when] the Berluches called their attorney, who recommended Liberty Counsel.”

“On Sept. 25 the HOA reversed its discriminatory treatment of the homeowners and approved the statues,” added Bansley

For an HOA to ask about “the stated religion” and “the religious significance” of the statues sounds an awful lot like the Internal Revenue Service asking a pro-life group to detail the content of the members prayers

Liberty Counsel founder Mat Staver said the HOA was itself guilty of violating First Amendment rights guaranteed by the Constitution.  Also at issue was the HOA practicing unequal application of the covenants.  Other yards had topless Greek statues, a life-size human skull and other statues in front yards all over the neighborhood.

One News Now – “Perhaps the prime example of the association’s hubris and intolerance is the neighborhood’s ‘Yard of the Month,’” attorneys with Liberty Counsel assert. “Standing beside the ‘Yard of the Month’ sign (a violation of the no sign rule) are two large Greek statues, a four-foot water fountain, a donkey sculpture, a flamingo, a cherub, as well as a large cement bird bath, a couple of ornamental planters, and three decorative sculptures attached to the front of the house. In total, the ‘Yard of the Month’ has 13 potential violations of the homeowners’ association rules on yard ornaments.”

After Liberty Counsel threatened the HOA with a lawsuit the statues were approved and the matter was dropped.

Homeowners Associations certainly have the potential to do good things and provide good service to residents.  I’m sure many do.  Others, like the one in my own neighborhood, collect the dues, spend a lot on unnecessary projects and ignore violations of the covenants because a majority of the homes are in violation.  Sounds a lot like a government.

Where I find HOAs to be most like government is the people who run them.  To be sure, there are some good people running some HOAs.  But there are also bad people, power-hungry, dictatorial people who seek leadership in such positions because it boosts their egos and gives them control over their neighbors.  Sounds a lot like a government.

Having lived in a neighborhood with an HOA for almost twenty years now, I would not choose to do so again.  Although those who sell the benefits of an HOA make it sound attractive – protecting property values, landscaping in common areas, perhaps a pond or neighborhood swimming pool – the detriment is having to give up rights and control of certain things on your own property.  The federal, state, county and city governments already have their nose in our homes enough.  Having to get permission to remove a dead bush or being told flying the American flag is against the rules is nothing but neighborhood tyranny.  Having said that, now I just hope I don’t live in an HOA that will sue me for making negative comments, using my own dues to pay their attorney. house flag

2 comments to Homeowners Associations: Tiny, Dangerous Governments

  • The day someone tries to form a HOA in my neighborhood is the day I either move, or fight it until it is defeated. I can not imagine having to get the approval of my neighbors before I build my pigeon loft. Or to plant a tree or bush. Neither would I expect them to ask me for my approval in the reverse. This is nothing more than an attempt to remove the rights of personal property owners. Sounds suspiciously like a liberal idea to me.

    • Oh it’s a lot like a liberal idea and sold to people with the promise of a neighborhood being closer to utopia. In reality it’s an unneeded pain in the rear, sometimes costly, with the possibility always looming that the next group of people in charge of it will be power hungry leftists. I will always advise against moving into a neighborhood with an HOA.

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