Homeowner associations (HOAs) are meant to keep a neighborhood up to snuff. Unfortunately, many of these organizations are run by people who have way too much time on their hands. They become petty inspectors, fining residents for the most obscure, ludicrous rule infringements. These are some stories of people’s altercations with their HOA that made them vow never to move into a neighborhood that had one ever again.
I had just moved into my house a few months prior when I got a letter. I was threatened to be fined $200, stating that my mailbox wasn’t black. I thought surely they had the wrong house because my mailbox was, in fact, black. So, I contacted the HOA, and they gave me the runaround, arguing that it wasn’t. I told them to come and look.
Of course, they said it was on me to prove to them it was black. So, I snapped a photo and emailed it to them. I heard nothing back for well over a month, then got another letter giving me a “courtesy” week extension before I would be fined. At that point, I was livid. I contacted the HOA again, asking for an explanation of what the problem was.
I was finally told that my “neighbors” felt my mailbox was rather worn and needed to be painted or replaced. It wasn’t black enough for them. So I painted it. A few months later, I learned that the HOA would replace the mailbox. I called them to ask why they threatened to fine me when they were the ones who should replace it if it was not up to standard. They stated it was because they had no open work orders for my mailbox and that it was my responsibility to notify them if it needed maintenance, not theirs.
My parents lived in a neighborhood with several local physicians. One had around six kids, and the youngest had profound autism and was non-verbal. He was about five or six at the time and loved riding his little tricycle in their driveway, which was pretty large. He would do it for hours. His mom stayed home with him for the most part, and she and her husband became concerned that he would drive into the road if they happened to look away.
So, they got some orange construction netting that they would just put across the end of the driveway while he was out there and would take it down when they went back inside. I always thought that it was a good idea to keep him safe. Several of the families in the neighborhood were not pleased with this and said it was an "eyesore," so a meeting was called. Then things went off the rails.
It turned into an onslaught on how they were taking care of their son and how it made the neighborhood look "ignorant" to have that netting up. Needless to say, no one offered any other options, and this family was so irate that they packed up and moved within a month. They moved out to the country somewhere, where the son could ride his bike for hours on end.
When we first moved in, I asked the neighbor across the street how “serious” the HOA was. He said, “Bad,” and then told me he got a notice about his recycling bin being left on the street for too long along with a photo. The photo was of him walking the recycling bin back to his garage. I needed the HOA to come out to “approve” a fence I was going to install.
The lady at the HOA office was very nice and said my plans were within the covenant by-laws and that we just need to have the “inspector” check it out himself to sign off on it. When the “inspector” got to my house, he said he didn't understand what I wanted to do. I explained the type of fence I wanted to install, and he said that, to his knowledge, it wasn’t allowed.
I walked him out to the street, pointed two houses down, and said, “That house right there has the fence I want to install.” He scoffed, walked down to look, and sure enough, it was EXACTLY as I described it. He told me, “Well, we don’t like to have a bunch of different types of fences in the neighborhood.” I replied, “I don’t care what you prefer."
“The covenant says I can have that fence, and that’s what I’m going to install because it’s within the specifications of the covenant.” The old fella didn’t have much to say after that. I got a letter the next week saying I was “approved for fence install.”
My dad moved into a new townhouse. It was a foreclosure property, as the previous tenants were kicked out for not paying their mortgage and for not paying their HOA dues. They gave everyone in the HOA new patios and decks the summer prior. It was required, and the tenants had to pay for them in monthly installments over the next three years, along with their HOA dues.
There was a rule in place when they got the decks: You couldn't move out without paying off your deck first. Since the property was foreclosed on, he was told by HOA that he would not have to pay off the deck as he was not responsible for doing so. He thought, “Sweet, free deck,” and signed off on the matter. Big mistake.
He moved in and then started getting assessments from the HOA for the deck, even though he wasn’t supposed to be paying for it. He fought it with the board. Even with the signed document saying we didn't have to pay for the deck, the board went against him. He ended up having to pay off the remaining balance.
My father-in-law’s condo corp had a shared pool. The old folks didn’t like to share, so they had all kinds of silly rules—no more than one guest per resident, residents only times alternating every hour, etc. My father-in-law couldn’t even take his own two grandkids for a swim because he would exceed the number of allowed guests.
There were so many rules, yet the pool was usually empty. Because the residents were breaking the rules, they passed a new one stating that if any resident was caught breaking the pool rules, they would close the pool to everyone for a week, post the offender’s name and reason for the closure on the community bulletin board.
When we moved in, someone stopped by to say hi, but more like to tell us our boat couldn’t be parked on our lot. My wife told her well, we read all of the rules, and it didn’t say that. She replied, “Well, I wrote the rules, so I should know.” My wife told her to go read them again. We didn’t hear anything for months. I thought it was over, but I was so wrong. When we got our annual dues packet, there was a newsletter saying our lot was in breach and that we had stated plans to modify our garage to fit the boat, which we never said.
They suggested setting a deadline for us and setting a vote to add boats to the list they already had, which included campers, fifth wheels, motor homes, and travel trailers. We bought the house, intending to build a detached garage. However, to comply with the design rules, it would cost us $90K. My neighbor had been there longer than we were, and they had a boat in their driveway as well.
The HOA sent us a series of nasty notices to remove the dead tree in our front yard. The tree had lost all of its leaves, and it was unsightly, apparently. The catch was that they sent us the notice in November—you know, FALL, when perfectly healthy trees lose their leaves. We pretended we didn't understand which tree they were talking about until spring when the tree magically came back to life.
When I was a kid, I lived in one of the two front rooms of the house, which were the hottest in the summer and the coldest in the winter. My dad didn't like to use the AC, so we all just had fans. One summer, it got so unbearably hot in my room that fans weren't cutting it. I was miserable, so my dad put an AC unit in my window. Unfortunately, my relief was short-lived.
The HOA told us to take it down because it was an "eyesore." My parents told them it was for their child, but they didn't care, so my parents had to take it down. The kicker was that, just down the street, a guy who had the exact same model house as us had an AC unit installed in the same exact window as the one we had it in. The HOA never said a word to him.
My dad had retired and decided that he wanted to buy a camper and travel. My mom was all for it, and they were both very excited. So, my dad ran off and traded his F-150 truck for an F-250 with a big diesel V8 engine, bought a gooseneck camper, and waited for spring. The camper was in the backyard, and the truck was in the garage—no big deal.
Soon thereafter, he got a visit from a lady. She had a list of rules from the HOA that was established long after my parents had built their house, saying that he couldn't have the camper on his property because it was an "eyesore." This camper was in the backyard, behind a 6-foot tall privacy fence. So, my retired parents were expected to abide by rules they didn't agree to. He never moved the camper.
I was watching a friend’s house while she was away. I left my car at her house, in her deeded spot, with a visitor tag, to drop her off at the airport. I then went home to my house, slept, went to work, returned the next day to feed the cat, check the mail, and get my car back. My car was gone. I called her on vacation. She found the number for the property management, and I called them. They told me it was towed because it had a flat tire. It wasn’t flat when I parked it less than 24 hours prior. Two hundred ninety dollars later, I had my car back.
My friend’s HOA was insane. They actually used rented surveying equipment to determine that his clothesline was one inch taller than his fence and fined him several hundred dollars for breaking the "structure beyond the fence" rule they had. The same HOA had someone walking around actually measuring the length of the grass with a ruler and issuing warnings for mowing.
When I was a kid, my dad's appendix ruptured, and he was in the hospital for almost a month. My mom was with him most of the time, and my siblings and I bounced around between my grandparents’ and friends’ houses. About a week and a half into his hospital stay, we got a notice from the HOA that our lawn was overgrown and that we would be fined if it wasn't mowed ASAP. My mom called the president to explain the situation, and her response was, "There are plenty of lawn care companies in the area that you can hire if you are unable to make time to take care of it yourself."
We had left our garbage can out because we were out of town. Our neighbor was to move it back for us but forgot. We got a nasty letter from the HOA president. However, we had almost instant karma just one week later. We were walking our dog around the complex when the same president was passed out behind the wheel of his running car in front of his garage. Of course, we didn't want him to croak of possible carbon monoxide poisoning, so we called the authorities, who gave him a DUI.
During a major drought, with watering prohibited by law, the HOA decided it simply had to take drastic measures against any grass turning anything other than bright green. So, they hired a company that spraypaints your grass to make it look healthier than it is. The way this was being rolled out was that the HOA was hiring the company, and we were being required to all chip in for the shared cost separate from our regular maintenance fee.
This alone had a ton of people up in arms, but it got so much worse. There was also the very real concern that this wouldn't be healthy for our pets and kids. The spinsters on our HOA board didn't care about anything other than power tripping and cats. After repeated assurances that it was totally safe for dogs and kids alike, the first family got their lawn treated.
They were handed a list of dos and don'ts, such as making absolutely no contact with the lawn for 48 hours, taking your kids to the hospital if they put the grass in their mouth, etc. The family threw a fit and promptly called everyone else, including physically going to their neighbor as the guy was preparing to do the next lawn. Everyone in the HOA told the guy he was not allowed to treat their lawns.
The guy then insisted that his being hired by the HOA trumped anyone's right to turn him away. The HOA threw an absolute fit and threatened to fine nearly everyone with some ridiculously excessive amount upwards of $10,000 for failure to comply with this mandatory lawn greening. The board was able to get away with so much for so long because they held their meetings during the workday because they were retirees.
But at the next meeting, people showed up in force. The HOA board told them that it didn't matter, they were the board, and everyone could suck it. However, everyone under the age of 90 in my HOA was a young professional, including nearly a dozen lawyers of various specialties. It took about a minute for someone to point out that our bylaws allowed for the recall and election of a new board if a special quorum was reached.
The HOA needed a quorum of something four to conduct business, but if more than 40% of the residents were at a meeting, they could force a vote to recall the board and elect new officers. We did. They were all recalled, and new officers were elected. The HOA meetings were moved to weekends. We also amended the bylaws to make everyone in the HOA a member of a committee that gave everyone more of a say in these things.
My HOA decided that my trim needed to be painted RIGHT NOW. They threatened me with a $100 a month fine if it wasn't. The trouble was that it was January, and I lived near Chicago. As I was buying the paint, the salesperson kept telling me that the paint won't dry. It will just freeze and fall off within six months. I was selling in the spring anyway, so I didn't care. I painted the trim at a temperature of 7°F.
I went away for a long weekend and left after work on a Thursday. Late Friday afternoon, my water heater burst and flooded my entire townhouse. When my neighbor got home from work, he saw gallons of water running from underneath my garage door. When he realized I wasn’t home, he tried to find my phone number, and when he couldn’t, he called the HOA to notify me.
The lady that answered said that since it was “after business hours—it was 5:01 at that point— the matter would have to wait until Monday.” My wonderful neighbor ended up calling the non-emergency line, and they came and shut my water off from the street. When I got home Sunday morning, I couldn't believe my eyes. My entire house was damaged, and I could see my attic from my basement.
After severe panic and a frantic call to my insurance company, we started the process of repairs. I needed to have a dumpster placed in my driveway and a moving pod to remove what was left of my furniture while they began drying out the house. I got a visit from the HOA. They didn’t like how “unsightly” my home had become and wanted these items removed from my driveway.
I essentially told them that they could take their complaints and shove 'em. I was able to get a little revenge as well because I stopped paying their fees. They couldn’t fine me before six months had passed and I was moving in less than five. I’ll never own another home with an HOA ever again.
When we moved in, we got permission to build a fence. They said cedar-treated pine was fine. Well, a neighbor didn't like that and called the HOA. We got an email shortly after that from the HOA president that there were some concerns about our wood. So, he came by real quick to give it a good sniff to see if it was, in fact, not cedar.
Our HOA hired a management company to run the day-to-day business. That meant that a guy would ride around taking pictures of petty stuff and mailing offenses to homeowners. I had so many quarrels over nothing. The HOA didn’t have any teeth behind the infringements since the bylaws didn’t allow fines. Somebody came up with the bright idea to start imposing fines to ensure compliance.
That was when I ran for and won the vice presidency of the board. Another gentleman who was fed up with this nonsense ran and won as well. We didn’t have the power to dissolve the HOA, but we decided the next best thing was to paralyze it. Without us in attendance, the board could never reach a quorum to conduct business, and they never did.
My husband and I were getting our first apartment. It was the beginning of August in South Florida. On the day we moved in, we saw a letter posted for the HOA stating that someone had to be present in our unit while the workers would be there to work on the central cooling unit. It was no big deal, as I had the ability to work from home sometimes, so I did.
At the end of those two days, we were told that the project “was bigger than expected” and found out exactly what was happening. They were replacing the piping of all 22 units in our complex. Our bedroom closet had one of the two access points to the roof. That roof access was utilized 24 days out of August, anywhere from 1–14 hours a day. We spent the entire first month of our marriage alongside repairmen.
When we were privately renting in a townhome community, the dumpster had video surveillance so that the HOA could fine anyone breaking the rules as far as what we were allowed to dump. One day, my significant other and I got a call from our property manager alerting us that the HOA had fined us $250 for unlawful dumping.
After racking our brains about what we could have possibly thrown out that wasn't allowed, we decided to call up the HOA to see if we could see the video. They would either transfer us to someone else that would hang up, their hours would change to where no one would answer the phone, or they'd promise to get the video to us the next day, etc.
This went on for about two weeks. Finally, my significant other got to see the video while I was at work. I texted him to find out what was on it, and he said the video was of a middle-aged Asian lady throwing out a bunch of furniture. It was the stupid property owner's freaking wife.
I wanted to tear out a bunch of evergreen bushes that ran alongside my house. We tore them out and were debating on whether to burn them on-site or put them in a burn pile that I knew about 10 miles or so away. I opted just to burn them right there. I had an open area next to my house that was about the size of a single lot.
We put the bushes in the open and ran a garden hose out to the area in case it spread. Then, I decided that I should get a burn permit. So I printed one and took it to my fire station to be signed. I came back and put the burn permit on my steps and set the fire. The bushes were fairly green, so they didn't want to burn aside from the initial flame up. I needed some accelerant.
I ran to the store and grabbed some cheap lighter fluid. I returned, and my buddy told me that some HOA person came by and told us that we couldn't burn things. He said that he didn't care and was calling the fire department. About then, I heard the fire trucks getting closer. The HOA guy pulled up to see what transpired. The fire truck pulled up and saw us doing everything right. They turned off the lights and sirens and waved at us. The HOA guy peeled out and left.
My family was in the service, so we moved around every four years and lived primarily in base housing until we moved from Georgia to Michigan. My parents moved into a nice subdivision that was an offshoot of an even nicer subdivision. There were no signs for our subdivision, but with the lot size and general attitude of neighbors and their own lawns, you could tell the difference.
After graduating high school, my parents decided to move around the corner to the nicer subdivision. This is where the trouble began. That subdivision had a lake, so you were either a lake person or not. The board for the subdivision had a clear plan, creating a park-like atmosphere, and had recently begun implementing decisions based on aesthetics and some newish bylaws they had enacted.
The problem was that these bylaws affected my parents' plan to put a fence and pool in their backyard. The bigger problem was that they enacted the bylaws incorrectly and never recorded them. By then, my mother had gotten her law degree. So, when they posted a cease and desist notice for our backyard renovations, my mom called them on it. The HOA declared they would tear down our fence, but my parents weren’t having any of it.
This board was simply being implacable. In Michigan, you have to have a fence if you want a pool. It's a safety thing. The people with lake houses didn't need fences and thought they were offensive and against their park aesthetic. So, my parents offered to put up a really nice fence, but they still refused. Other people had similar issues with the board, offering many solutions only to be denied.
It was clear this power-tripping board just didn't want fences and thought they had the power to decide. It got so bad that another homeowner lost a sale of their house because a new buyer with small children couldn't get approval for any kind of fence for their wooded lot. After hearing other’s horror stories and seeing the pushback from the board, my parents decided on the nuclear approach.
Construction on an expensive white vinyl fence began, finished, and the pool equipment was on the way when we received the stop order notice. They even went and hired an attorney to "put a stop to us.” This attorney invited everyone to a sit-down. They rented out a boardroom at a local eatery. My dad said he didn't want anything to do with this and asked that I go with my mom to provide backup.
Not realizing what I was about to witness, I blithely agreed and showed up in my polo and cargo pants. Everyone else was in suits and ties. The full board of old angry dudes was sitting there waiting for us when we arrived. My mom sat down. They start talking about costs and how they had to hire a lawyer, and how she would have to pay for that because she created the problem.
My mother just cut them off and said, "What makes you think you have any right to impose this rule?" They all turned to their attorney, who replied, "Um, Miss, Ma'am, we had a vote." Then my mom took out the recorded bylaws and flopped them on the table, and said, "Really? Because it's not in here." There was an awkward moment of silence as they searched through their papers.
My mom, seeing the opportunity, pounced: "See, what I think happened is you had a vote, but it was wrong. These bylaws require a majority of the lots to vote in favor of a change to be made. You had a majority of the votes cast, not a majority of the total lots. So what you really had was a plurality, and that vote never passed. You can see the rules for voting here,” and she pointed to the page.
But she wasn't finished. “And you can see that the rule was never changed in the official bylaws either. Probably because it never passed. And now, NONE of you have bothered to even read or follow the bylaws, and you're trying to impose them on me. Well, I can tell you THAT'S not gonna happen. Thank you, gentleman. I will not be paying a dime for any of this or your attorney, have a good day."
Then she got up, looked at me to get up, and we marched out. They actually had the gall to try to hand her an invoice for the lawyer as she walked out, and she just waved it off. That was the day I knew I wanted to be a lawyer. Serving fools like that, my mom showed me what it was to stand up to those who had let power go to their head.
When we rented, the HOA would report to our property manager, and then the property manager would call us to let us know what we had done wrong. We were notified of so many things that had nothing to do with us. We got a call that we couldn’t have a grill on our front porch—we didn't even own a grill. We were told that we are only permitted one car parked on the street and that our other two vehicles need to be parked in the garage.
We only owned one car at that time. We got a call that neighbors were complaining that our dogs were barking at all hours of the night, but we didn't have dogs. The weirdest one was when our property manager called and said, "You need to move the doormat that you have leaning against your house." My husband went outside and found a doormat leaning against the neighbor's house.
As homeowners in a different neighborhood, we were written up for not taking Christmas lights down in a timely manner. It was mid-January, and we had been gone for my grandpa's funeral. So, we took them down right away as soon as we got the write-up. We received no warnings, as was procedure, just a straight write-up. When I alerted them that the lights were removed, they got back to me saying we didn't remove all decorations.
I had a snowman on the door that said, "Let it Snow," and snowflakes in the window. They were winter decorations, not Christmas. They were extremely snotty about it until I pointed out they had broken their own procedures by not giving us warnings and that we felt targeted. They dropped it. Then, one year, we decided to redo our landscaping.
The landscaper had pavers sitting in the front of our house, so it was obvious something was up. We got a letter in the mail telling us to cease and desist as we hadn't gotten HOA approval to landscape our backyard. The letter included a photo. The angle of the photo clearly showed that whoever had taken it had gone into our backyard to take it, which they are not allowed to do. I emailed them, pointing this out. They dropped it. It just shows what a pain an HOA can be.
The average age of the HOA was about 60 years old. At the time, I was 16. We had a community pool, and my mom got HOA infringement letters because I wore a bikini to a swimming pool. I thought this was odd, so I wore a one-piece. We received another letter saying my bathing suit was risque. They dropped it when my mom told them it was our high school swim team uniform and to please explain how it was provocative.
The next summer, they had new rules that made it basically impossible for any kids to enjoy the pool. It soon became an old folks' pool. But the truth was even more twisted than that. The authorities did an undercover sting operation, and half the HOA were taken in for using it as a launching platform with their swingers club. They were imprisoned for lewd and lascivious actions in a swimming pool.
Karma was lovely that year. The pool rules were rescinded, and we got to use the pool again. As I got older, I learned a valuable lesson—never buy a home that has an HOA. Most of the time, it's run by old people with a superiority complex issue.
My family moved to a new neighborhood when I was in kindergarten. My dad had built an amazing playhouse for my siblings and me. It had miniature windows, a small door, working lights, and even AC. It was a tiny house before tiny houses were a thing. It was beautiful. He had built it on cinderblocks so that we could move it to the backyard of our new house once we moved.
The homeowner's association refused to let us bring it, citing that the neighborhood doesn't allow "toolsheds" because apparently, they are an eyesore. Backyard playgrounds were fine, but somehow our playhouse didn't qualify as a playground. My younger sisters and I were devastated. I remember crying and crying because I couldn't keep the playhouse that my dad worked so hard on.
The fake HOA in our neighborhood started off as a neighborly gesture. Dues were cheap, and the money was spent on clearing the roads, some spring dumpsters, and a Summer BBQ. Then the bored housewife who had nothing better to do became president of the HOA. That's when things went south. They started holding elections and meetings and, of course, raised the HOA fee by 200%.
She talked about new street signs, new roads, and gates into the neighborhood entrance. Our home was the original property back in the 1940s. There were no common areas, no neighborhood pool, park, or trails—NOTHING. I refused to pay or be any part of the little HOA club. So, she called me as I was "past due" on my HOA fees.
I politely told her that there was no HOA in our area, and that was why we bought the home. She asked if we used the roads, and I said, “Yes, of course.” Her response was, “ Well, you need to pay to use my roads." I told her, “I do. It's called property tax,” and I asked her NEVER to contact me again.
Until a recent coup, our HOA was run by some of the pettiest people alive. First, they sent us a nasty letter telling us that we breached their covenants due to bare places on our lawn. We were in the midst of totally replacing the sod in our yard as part of a landscaping plan the HOA approved. Then, we received a letter because the trash can had not been moved back inside until 10 minutes after the 6 PM deadline.
Apparently, no one has a commute, an emergency, or works different hours than the HOA board members. This was sent with a timestamped photo of the trash can. However, my personal favorite was when they sent us a letter stating that we needed to replace our mailbox because it was damaged, and we would be fined $25 a day until we did so.
The mailbox was fairly new, so I went out to look at it. It was absolutely covered with bird poop. I cleaned it off and noticed that there was no damage. I shrugged it off and emailed the HOA that the problem was rectified. They came out to verify that it was, and I got another letter. There was more bird poop. A few hours of observation revealed that a hawk was perching on the mailbox.
It was stalking a chipmunk that was near our mailbox. So, I went to the garden store and got a bottle of predator pee stuff that scares away small animals. I sprinkled it around the mailbox, causing the chipmunk to relocate. The problem was solved. Sadly, I did not send the HOA an envelope full of the stuff.
Our board was a bunch of old women who had too much time on their hands. I was written up for having my hose on the ground while I was in the process of installing the mount to hang the hose on. They literally came by when I had stepped inside for a moment. My neighbor was also written up for having a box on his porch. It was an Amazon package that had been delivered while he was at work.
The very first place in college that I didn’t rent was a townhouse condo. It was a typical cookie-cutter, three-storied, little cut out of suburbia for beginners. I lived near the back of the development. This meant driving by the front units every day to get to and from work and school. Our HOA board president lived across the street from our HOA treasurer.
The president was in her 30s and ran an unlicensed daycare out of her home. I hated driving by her house after 3 PM or on weekends because her two elementary-aged kids would hide behind parked cars and run in front of vehicles screaming, “SLOW DOWN!” I got really scared after this happened a few times and only drove five mph through there, and the little monsters kept doing it.
I spoke with her about how unsafe jumping in front of cars was. She said her kids were neighborhood monitors, and I should be thankful for their diligence. A week later, at 7 PM, after most of the residents were home, I pulled in. I was not prepared for what I was about to witness. I noticed a tow truck. Then two. Then three. They were towing everyone in the neighborhood. I parked in my garage and ran upstairs. I told my roommates to move their cars from the street parking.
They ran out, and sure enough, everyone who parked on the street was getting towed. There were two of my neighbors fighting with the tow drivers that they had always parked there. It was a parking area, and it was in our homeowner's booklet. We whipped it out, and the tow truck drivers said they were just following the board president’s orders. They left when the authorities showed up.
The president had put up home-printed paper signs and signed a contract with the tow company in the middle of the day without telling anyone. The authorities advised all residents that it would be effective the next day but that the homemade signs were not legitimate and there were no posted “no parking” signs. But her insanity was just beginning. That night she was out in the street with a red bucket of paint, painting the curb red.
She had the tow company post their tow signs and no parking signs the following afternoon. There went our street parking. Now, anyone who didn’t fit in the garage had to park outside the condo units three blocks away. The next straw was when one day, four large evergreen trees were cut down from a communal park in the development. The treasurer found out the president had paid her “sideman,” who was also an arborist, over $8,000 of HOA money to cut the trees down.
She did it without any discussion or approval from the HOA board. The treasurer flipped. At the next HOA meeting, she let everyone know how the president had squandered away the HOA money that was meant for a community co-op garden. After the meeting, someone must have called the president to let her know she would be removed due to the unapproved expenses because I suddenly heard blood-curdling screams.
It was the treasurer. The president had come over and punched her in the face, pulled her out of her own home, locked her out, and threatened to harm her disabled and bedridden elderly husband, who was upstairs. I, along with several neighbors, was on the phone with the authorities. The HOA president was taken into custody that night. I only lived there for 14 months and moved due to the escalating issues with the HOA.
The HOA sent a letter saying no Christmas decorations until December 1st, and they all had to come down before January 3rd. They also sent a whole list of forbidden ornaments, including anything inflated or "not in keeping with the spirit of the season." So, basically, all the lighthearted, funny ornaments were not allowed.
We had beautiful weather on Black Friday but had to wait until things got cold again before we could get out there and put up lights. Then, after New Year's Day, we had exactly one day to take down all our lights. The wind chill was -25. Naturally, we decided, "Forget that. There's no way they bill anybody for this," and opted to leave the lights unplugged. We got a bill before 10 AM on the 3rd.
My friend’s mom lived inside a circular complex full of townhouses. It had a roundabout in the center that used to have a lot of trees and looked really nice, almost like a minipark. The HOA decided to cut down all of the trees without giving notice. She went to complain about it, and they basically said, "Sorry, too late." In protest, she decided to buy this big inflatable palm tree that she stuck on her balcony for all to see.
One of the neighbors in the HOA decided to file a complaint because it looked gaudy. She knew exactly who it was, and it upset her more that this person did that instead of coming to talk to her after years of living near each other. She was able to keep her tree, and when Christmas came around, she even decorated it. She decided she would wage revenge against the HOA and this neighbor by having annoying inflatable decorations on her balcony.
When I was little, my parents owned a house in Florida that was part of an HOA. Behind the house was a lagoon and the backyard went right up to it. The backyard ended at a little slope that went right down into the water. One day, my parents got a notification from the HOA that the grass in the back was unkempt, which was an offense.
It stated there would be a fine if we didn't cut it. They meant that the grass on the slope into the pond needed to be cut. Even though that wasn't part of our property, my dad said whatever, broke out the lawnmower, and got to work. Just as he was finishing up, a colossal ALLIGATOR came rushing up out of the water. My dad did the only logical thing—he let go of the mower and ran.
The mower rolled down the slope, hit the alligator, and sank halfway into the water. My dad left it there because he wasn’t going to mess with any scaly death machine. A week or so later, another notice arrived. This time about yard tools being left out, referring to the mower in the pond surrounded by agitated miniature water dragons. There was a fine.
My dad refused to pay the fine or any HOA dues ever again. They added monthly fines for non-payment. He made a point of specifically never paying the HOA every month when he gave the mortgage to the bank. The bank didn't care since they got their money. About a year later, when my parents sold the house, the HOA came to collect. He told them to shove it.
The president of our HOA was the typical retired service guy who loved to order people around. He would walk the neighborhood with a video camera and harass people who would be too scared of the video to defend themselves. Every possible offense, no matter how small, was a huge personal insult to him. They took UPS to court over the trucks being over the line of the designated parking space for guest vehicles.
And the crazy part? The HOA WON! Our condo had a ridiculously small driveway—about three feet. The rules said you could not wash your car in the street. If I angled my vehicle just right, I could have some of it outside to keep the water off the stuff in the garage. The bumper was 1/2" over the curb. The lady across the street ratted me out to the president, who promptly showed up, camera in hand, to scold me for this egregious act and ordered me to pull my car further into the garage.
I was a college student, so I stayed on campus most of the year and went home in the summers. I got pretty bored at home, so I set up a basketball hoop in my driveway. I played daily throughout the summer, and when classes started again, I went back to campus. In the fall, my dad got a letter from the HOA stating that if he didn’t take down the hoop, he would get fined daily.
My dad didn't feel like arguing, so he took the hoop down. When I came back home for winter break, I went to a meeting and asked them for answers. They told me a basketball hoop is not the image they want our neighborhood to represent. When I threatened them with legal action, they relented and allowed me to put the hoop back up.
When my break ended, I moved back to campus, and my dad received another letter from the HOA. This time the letter said a basketball hoop would only be allowed as long as someone used it at least once a week. I obviously couldn’t drive home every week just to play on my driveway, so once again, my dad was forced to take down the hoop. So now, whenever I go back home, I have to rebuild my hoop all over again.
I was an immigrant. A few months after we moved into our first real suburban home, this total stranger came knocking on the door to talk with me about our HOA responsibilities. It seemed weird to me. I've rented apartments my whole life long; all I know about HOAs is they probably fine you if you don't paint your fence.
To the best of my knowledge, our street had no HOA, and our house had no fence. This guy wanted us to pay our back dues. Of course, I told him that we weren’t members and to send us some literature. He refused and wanted the dues. It sounded like a shakedown from a movie script. He told me, “I'm from Chicago. This is small-town tourist Arkansas, okay. But I'm from Chicago, and we do things, right, we get stuff done.”
I was trying not to laugh openly because he was pretending to be a Chicago thug. Like something out of The Untouchables. I told him that this wasn’t even our house. It was corporately owned, and I was honestly not certain that corporate had signed on for this and to send some literature. I also mentioned that perhaps he would like his lawyer to speak with the corporate's so that everyone's clear on what was happening here.
I had a good laugh about it with my boss about it later. Some literature actually showed up—hand-typed and full of spelling mistakes. We never joined an HOA, our home's contract actually included language prohibiting us from joining an HOA, and the sorry little numnuts never did come back again looking for money.
When I was about 16 or 17, my friends and I used to hang around the neighborhood. We weren't the bad kids, but for whatever reason, the head of the HOA hated us, or maybe all teens. One time, I got home from school. As soon as I walked in the door, my mom said, "So the Deputy Fire Chief called me this morning." Some kids had thrown Molotov cocktails all over the neighborhood.
Miss high and mighty HOA lady had called the authorities and reported my friends and me as the culprits. That was impossible because I was playing Xbox all night that night. My friends and I got called into the fire chief's office one by one to explain our whereabouts that night. He would just not let up. We all had proof of where we were and what we did, but it wasn't good enough.
We were just dumb teenagers, so it had to be our fault. He even had a satellite image of the scene with a red line leading back to my house, saying he had police dogs sniff out our trail. Eventually, it ended, and no one was charged. However, a couple of years later, guess who got caught selling overpriced pool passes to out-of-neighborhood guests to use our pool? Miss high and mighty herself. She had to pay back thousands of dollars she swindled.
My neighborhood was so strict about EVERYTHING. My garage door was broken and wouldn't close all the way. It was probably about an inch off the ground and was barely noticeable. I contacted someone right away to get it repaired, and they were coming in three days. I got threats and fines every day from my HOA about my garage "not being closed all the way," even though they knew it was broken.
We also had a security guard who would single me out in the pool every single time. You had to have a fingerprint to get into the pool area. Whenever I was in the spa with other people, I was the only one he would single out and ask to get out of the spa and verify that I had access. I was like, "Do you think I chopped someone's thumb off to get in here? Or do you just like perving on me and watching me walk in the bathing suit?"
You had to scan your thumb to get in. He singled me out multiple times. He would sometimes ask for my address to verify that I lived there, and I refused. Not only that but If our holiday decorations were out the day after a holiday had passed, we got harassed. If our trash cans were left out for more than 24 hours, including putting them out the night before trash day, we would get fines. They would also warn families if their kids were splashing too loud in the pool. I don't live there anymore.
When I was about 20 and still living at home, I had this crazy-smart cat that I had rescued as a teeny kitten. He was the only pet I ever had that was solely my responsibility, and I connected with him more than any other animal prior to or since. When he went missing, I quickly made posters and taped them to a few stop signs in my vast neighborhood.
The HOA called the number and asked, “Are you the one with the missing cat?” My heart soared for a moment—but what they said next made my blood run cold. They were actually calling to tell me they were taking the posters down because they were violating certain rules. I was told to view their website for proper procedure. The site told me my posters must be on a stake and a certain amount of feet from the stop sign.
It also said that I could put up no more than FOUR of them in this sprawling wooded neighborhood, only at four-way stops and only for a few days. So, I followed their rules. A day later, I got another call that they were taking my posters down again. I was almost in tears with the woman explaining that I did everything that was asked and I just wanted to find my cat.
Her response was, “I think he (the man taking my posters down) just finds those posters ugly and makes the neighborhood look bad.” I still plastered them on notice boards by the pool and corner store and went door to door. I never did find my cat. It was awful to know that their procedures—which they didn’t even honor—were more important to them than the grief of a neighbor or the well-being of a lost pet.
A homeowner painted her house a non-approved color, and the HOA went crazy. They told her houses could only be painted “beige, white, blue, etc., etc.” So the homeowner got mad and painted her house in stripes with all the approved colors. The HOA took her to court, and she won because the bylaws didn’t say it needed to be one color.
We had a shared driveway that was about 350 feet long and looked like a Y. One day, we were having Comcast install some cable. According to the easement, they were supposed to go along the driveway and around the neighbor's house. The neighbor's wife came running out yelling at the Comcast guy and told him he couldn’t go through her yard.
For some reason, the Comcast guy listened and decided to go UNDER THE DRIVEWAY! This caused part of the driveway to collapse. It was nothing major, but there was a noticeable dip in the driveway. My parents were furious and demanded that the neighbors pay to repair the driveway. Then the HOA came out and told us they would fine US for each day it went unrepaired.
We told them the story, and the most they could do was to split the cost with the neighbors even though it was 100% their fault. We got by for nine years, telling the HOA that the neighbors refused to pay so we wouldn’t get fined for nine years. Finally, we got to have the collapsed part of the driveway fixed. Then the HOA was crying that part of our driveway didn’t look like the rest.
My dad was briefly renting in an area with an HOA, and he was miserable to the point he left as soon as the terms allowed. He was constantly getting cited for weeds on the front lawn. However, a gardener was part of his rental agreement, and no matter how many times he talked to the gardener and notified the landlord, she would still point to the clause that said he had to pay HOA penalties. He also got cited for an oil stain on the driveway that was there before he even moved in.
I wanted to build a small playset for my son's birthday. It was going to be a four-foot cube with a slide—nothing huge. I bought the lumber and then decided I better check what the HOA says about this. First, they told me I had to get my playset plans approved for safety. I'm an engineer, so I was pretty sure I could build a small playset that wouldn’t collapse.
I thought, ok, fine. I'll make up some plans. Before I could submit those plans, I had to submit plans for a fence that would block it completely from the view of the neighbors. I was backed up to a conservation area, so no one would care. There were also two humongous playsets along the main road through the neighborhood sticking out about six feet above their fences.
Regardless, I figured I would go ahead and submit the plans. When I asked when the plans could be reviewed, the HOA told me, "Oh, the review board is taking the next three months off for the holidays." On top of that, we kept getting stupid complaint letters saying there was grass in some of the cracks in my driveway, algae growing on my mailbox, and our Christmas lights were still up on Jan 1.
Meanwhile, my neighbor, whose house was literally eight feet from mine, hadn’t mowed his lawn in six months. It's not so much the rules that were painful but the very selective enforcement of minuscule garbage while allowing or not rectifying outrageous offenses by others. Breaches that definitely affected my property value. I finally moved to a place without an HOA.
We were getting rid of two trees in our yard as the roots were out of control and damaging our foundation. Per HOA bylaws, you had to replace the trees, which was fine. We needed approval but kept being denied. Weird, we thought. I asked for clarification, and they stated that I needed two trees, and they had to be hardwood.
Nowhere in the HOA agreement did it say that you were required to have ANY trees at all. It only stated that one single tree is recommended. I wrote back again saying we are replacing it with a Texas rebud, which is classified as a hardwood tree, but was again denied. In order to protest their decision, I had to go to one of their monthly meetings at the nearby clubhouse.
I presented my case, and the argument came up about hardwood trees. We had pines previously, which are classified as softwood. Then, we argued about the number of trees and brought to their attention that nowhere did it say that two trees, or any trees for that matter, were required. They countered, saying trees were required. So, I presented them with photos of houses in the neighborhood that had ZERO trees. They stopped me after the first photo and granted our request.
I lived in a new development in which the developers were trying like mad not to let the actual homeowners take over the HOA. One day, the developers called the authorities because my dog was pooping on a two-acre empty lot across the street from my house. I was cleaning up after her. An officer knocked on my door. I answered, and his first words were, "Yes! You're the person and the dog from the pictures your neighbor sent me!"
So I asked him what he was talking about, and he told me it was a serious health breach, and if he had to come back, he would take my dog. I told him to show me the picture, and he refused. So I told him to go ahead and write a citation so I could meet him in court, and he would have to present his pictures. He told me to watch my tone. I slammed the door in his face and called the department to tell them what had happened. It turned out he was buddies with the developers. I didn’t see him again.
The HOA had a very short and restrictive list of plants you were allowed to use in your landscaping. Most of them weren't appropriate for our climate and would not survive the heat of summer where we were. You were also not allowed to deviate from the approved plant list at all, not even behind your wooden backyard privacy fence. It was a stupid, wasteful ordinance, and we didn’t purchase the house because of it.
My wife and I lived in a small condo complex with unusually high HOA dues. We bought the place cheap, so we just paid it even though there were no amenities. But when the HOA sent us a notice of a dues increase, I was a little annoyed. They included a budget and a letter describing future upgrades and maintenance to justify it.
Naturally, I started crunching the numbers. Not only did the budget numbers not add up, but the HOA could LOWER the current dues and still hit the budget goals for the future. There was literally no reason to raise the rates. So I attended my first and last HOA meeting. The people had no idea how to make a budget and blamed each other for inaccuracies.
It turned out that board members had been paying for personal home repairs from the HOA account and wanted to pay for some other 'improvements' not mentioned in the budget. They seemed insulted that someone would do math. We sold the place and got the heck out of there.
My parents bought a house in a new development with nice-sized lots and lakefront ones that had no public access to the lake for the subdivision. It was no big deal as the lake wasn’t anything to be amazed by. Ten years later, the levy for the lake started to fail, and some of the houses were at risk. The HOA met to discuss raising fees for all residents to fix the levy.
So, the lake that no one else gets to use was suddenly now the entire neighborhood’s problem. Unfortunately, most of the HOA board lived on the lake, so my parents had to pay 50% more to fix something that didn’t affect them. It just goes to show how the bylaws are flexible and not in your favor. A seemingly quiet and relaxed HOA can quickly turn into an uptight and unpredictable one.
One of my neighbors was expecting their first baby. The wife had passed out and went unresponsive at home while an elderly relative was visiting. The baby was born at the hospital, and the wife's condition rapidly deteriorated. Only the baby came home. The husband was understandably overwhelmed when all this happened. The poor guy didn’t leave the hospital until his wife passed a few days later.
Their townhome only had two parking spots. Our HOA had recently changed the rules for our overflow parking. Residents had been allowed to park no more than four days a month in those spaces. Then it went to 90 minutes a month which became effective two days after the wife went to the hospital. The wife's car was in the overflow parking lot when the elderly relative was there visiting.
The wife's mom came to care for the baby and help with funeral arrangements. She flew in, took a taxi to her daughter's home, and got the extra car keys from the house. She went to the overflow parking, and her daughter's car was gone. The HOA towed it. The husband came home with the baby and got all the mail that had accumulated in his absence. What he found was truly awful.
There were multiple fines from the HOA, from the towed car to trash cans being out past 4:30 PM and on non-trash days, to some weeds that had sprouted in the driveway. There was also a bill from the HOA president, who "impounded" the trash cans and recycling bins with a $30/day "storage fee" per item. The HOA president lived on their street.
He was aware that an ambulance had come and that no one had been at the house for days. He would not dismiss the fines because the husband was still physically capable of going back to the house. The situation ended up on the news, but, unfortunately, you just can't shame some people. But it wasn't all bad. One of our other neighbors realized there was nothing in the HOA rulebook about needing HOA permits for rummage sales.
So, they organized a giant neighborhood rummage sale to raise money for the fines. The look on the HOA president's face was priceless when he tried to shut it down, and multiple people came out with our 300-page by-laws book to show it was within the rules. The rummage sale was also reported as an update on the news.
We were able to raise a few thousand to help our neighbor out. I eventually moved away and will never buy another property with an HOA because of the petty nonsense HOAs bring out. The husband ended up moving back to where their families were from, partly due to not wanting to deal with the HOA.
My friend and her husband moved into a gated community. She gardened a lot and loved having a birdbath in her backyard. Her HOA figured out that she had said birdbath in her backyard. Apparently, a birdbath was considered a lawn ornament, which was forbidden. She told them she would remove it. A week later, she got another message saying that it hadn’t been removed—it wasn't.
She and her husband put two and two together and figured out that the HOA was snooping in her backyard. So she decided to set a trap to catch them. For a week, she spent her time outside sunbathing in the buff. Sure enough, an HOA member opened the gate to their backyard and saw her without any clothes. She called the authorities for privacy breaches. The HOA gave up and let her have a birdbath.
My mother had passed. My disabled father went into the hospital and then to long-term rehab. The house was in my mom’s name, and their neighbor across the street was the treasurer of the HOA. He knew my mom lost her life to cancer within a year of her diagnosis and that my dad was in the hospital. He billed my deceased mother for a year, which we obviously didn't pay.
He then took the matter to court to begin foreclosure proceedings. When I went to the HOA to pay the fees, they told me I could only contact their attorneys. At that point, I received a certified letter and contacted a lawyer to help. It was originally $1,700 but increased to $4,200 with late fees and attorney fees.
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