HOA states fence not in compliance

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I was just told my fence is not in compliance with HOA requirements.

The house and fence were built in 2006.

The rules were adopted in 2009.

We bought the house in 2011.

The wood is fence. The rules state fence must be stone, metal, or vinyl, but not chain link and not solid.

We have 500 feet of fence, so metal starts at $25,000 and up, vinyl maybe $10,000, stone simply unaffordable.

Question: what do I need to know, where do I research, who do I talk to to first ascertain my rights and responsibilities, then my options?

This is in WA state.

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Is yours the only house not in compliance ?

You need to ask the board for a waiver or grandfathering since your fence was in existence prior to the rules change .


If they don't agree, then you either need to round up a bunch of homeowners to petition to change the rules or better yet, run for the board yourself .

I can ask but my gut is the board will not acquiesce. I don't have that legal right, do I?

There is probably a lot to look into here.

Why was the HOA not enforcing the non-compliant fence from 2009-2011 when it was owned by someone else?
Why did they allow the purchase of the unit without disclosing such a major violation?
Why did it take them 1-2 years to come to you with the issue?


Unless you were planning to replace otherwise, I would consult an attorney to at least figure out if they can enforce it or not. Will probably be cheaper than the vinyl fence.

Has there been a turnover in HOA administration? Something had to prompt this to happen now, rather than sometime in the past 6+ years.

It could be as simple as "reminding" a new manager that the fence was grandfathered when the rule first went into effect, and you didn't just install the fence last week.

OP --- you only said that the fence is not in compliance

you never said who told you this and what they are asking you to do

Chair of the architectural committee informed me.

Although legally in existence since approximately 2005/06, there were no bylaws/etc written until 2009. The first HOA homeowners' meeting occurred December 2011. The second was this month. One member of the HOA complained about my fence, stating it was not in compliance. Rules were not enforced because there was no functioning HOA other than on paper, from what I am told. Remember I just moved in last year.

They are giving me some time but requesting replacement. He also mentioned there has been discussion about disallowing vinyl. If that were to be done after I replace, can they make me replace that, too? It is essentially the same situation I am in now, only 10 large poorer.

You could always take the fence down entirely, then start a new habit of naked sunbathing... Maybe invite the local nursing home residents to join you...

I'd formally, politely but firmly, write the HOA and request a variance on the obvious grounds that the existing fence should clearly be exempt from the new rule - as if its an administrative oversight rather than you asking for a variance. Atleast get that response prior to going down the threats/lawyer route.

I would look into disputing the whole of the HOA if they haven't had any meetings for the first 5-6 years of their existence.

Some type of statute of limitation would hopefully exist.

You may also be able to go back to the realtors/inspectors/original sellers. I'm not sure what recourse you might have here, but there may be some laws broken prior to this by them not disclosing that part of the sale was in violation of the HOA.

Consult an attorney will be the least expensive and least stressful option.

I'm wondering whether there was a vote of the homeowners to approve such an extensive and expensive change to the rules. Can an HOA board proclaim all fences must be made from solid gold then expect everyone to pay for it?

To clarify, the rule is not new but in place since 2009. What is new is enforcement.

Man you have so many options. With the HOA being nonfunctional for so long you can dispute their authority entirely. What recourse do they have against you?

As others mentioned should be grandfathered, should have been disclosed by seller. See if there was a prior notification given to the previous owner that it was out if compliance.

The prior suggestion is probably your best easy option, participate on the board and disallow vinyl while approving the use of wood. Dont do anything stupid in the meantime like halting payment of dues.

It is strange how regional HOA rules can be. Many neighborhoods near me require 6 foot wood privacy fencing and prohibit any non-solid options. Also, how do you build a non-solid stone fence? Does anyone else have a privacy fence, if so what did they use and when?

Start going to quarterly HOA meetings. You can make them do whatever you like if you attend.

Retired old farts are on the board and they really appreciate if a normal person shows up there.

also, you might want to park a huge truck in the driveway

My wife is a member of the HOA and I've tended to from an opinion on things like this.

When buying the house, you should have been privvy to the HOA regulations; in fact, we have ours publicly posted. I guess I would say, while the HOA regs are a pain to read it's up to you in many respects to make yourself aware of them when buying the house.

I absolutely agree that 99% of buyers may have bought the house without recognizing the fence was against passed HOA regulations. I do think many HOA regs make sense; you didn't really go into detail as to how aesthetically pleasing the fence is. Sometimes HOAs pay pass regs to try to fix problems they don't want replicated. Is the wooden fence beautiful or crappy looking? If it's the former, I wager you can get a grandfathered waiver.

In the end, I've seen neighbors of mine totally neglect their yards as well as have one neighbor from China turn their backyard into a jungle for agriculture purposes. Like it or not HOAs are right for some people and wrong for others. When one buys into an HOA, they need to be aware that standards will be imposed upon them - like it or not. Totally appreciate that it may not seem fair but in the end if you buy into an HOA you get the good and (from what I have seen as general FW sentiment) the bad as well.

When i bought my house, the contract specified that no HOA violations should exist and HOA must approve that house was in compliance. It was one of the contingencies and i could walk from buying the house. I got the HOA approval letter from seller. However, when i moved in, HOA mentioned that there were a lot of things that were in violation. Well, i mentioned the approval during my purchase and i was grandfathered.

No way was i going to make changes that would have affected my purchase of the house or required seller to rectify.

ciscovpn said:   When i bought my house, the contract specified that no HOA violations should exist and HOA must approve that house in compliance. It was one of the contingencies and i could walk from the sale. I got the HOA approval letter from seller. However, when i moved in, HOA mentioned that there were a lot of things that were in violation. Well, i mentioned the approval during my purchase and i was grandfathered.

No way was i going to make changes that would have affected my purchase of the house or required seller to rectify.



Same with my most recent HOA purchase, unfortunately probably no letter issued since they weren't even holding meetings until December 2011 and the OP purchased in 2011, presumably before meetings started. Were you provided the HOA regs prior to signing? If not did you pay an HOA transfer fee (ie. were they informed of the property transfer and therefore had opportunity to notify of any violations)?

I would follow some of the suggestions above about following up with
1) are the HOA regs enforceable after not being enforced at all for 5-6 years?
2) are you grandfathered due to the lack of enforcement and/or lack of notice upon transfer?

and in addition to andri's list, find out what the penalty is. might be no penalty, just a wag of the finger if you fail to comply, but a tip of the hat if you do comply.

As to my original post above regarding the validity of the HOA in general, please see:

http://apps.leg.wa.gov/rcw/default.aspx?cite=64.38&full=true#64....

So, one could argue that since they failed to host annual meetings and/or deliver you meeting notifications that they have defaulted in their duties and cannot enforce the bylaws since the association itself is invalid.

I would read through the WA HOA laws from the link here and request from the HOA everything that they are supposed to be keeping (meeting minutes, yearly financials, dates of yearly meetings, records of notifications, etc.). You are entitled to copies of these. My guess is that they won't be able to deliver these since they don't exist.

If they won't grant you (in writing) amnesty/grandfathering then I would make it known to them (should it turn out to be the case) that they have given up their authority by not adhering to their requisites as an HOA. Let them know you will have your attorney contact them and you will plan on suing (for any of the valid reasons that all posters have been mentioning). It sounds like they are an unorganized set of buffoons and probably don't want to spend their money on a lawsuit.

Of course, as I recommended, you probably should consult an attorney from the get-go - but if not, this is the track I would take.

talk to a lawyer who will then tell them to pound sand based on what you have said but you will need some legal backing to make it official!!

delete

skagen said:   When buying the house, you should have been privvy to the HOA regulations; in fact, we have ours publicly posted. I guess I would say, while the HOA regs are a pain to read it's up to you in many respects to make yourself aware of them when buying the house.

HOA regs are nearly impossible to obtain until you are in escrow. Once you are in escrow, you can pay to get them, hopefully before you can cancel. We've gone into escrow many many times and not once been able to acquire the HOA rules and regs.

When you purchased the property, you should have received an estoppel letter from the HOA stating that the previous owner was current with their HOA fees, and that after an inspection the property has no current violations and any alterations are in compliance with HOA bylaws. This allows the sale to go through and "stops" any action by the HOA against the new owner for previously undiscovered violations. This language is standard in nearly all associations docs and mandated by most states. The letter should be with your purchase papers and association disclosure forms. The association is responsible for a thorough inspection and then has the liability if new violations are discovered. Contact your real estate attorney or closing agent who handled the sale to notify the HOA that you are not liable...

ciscovpn said:   When i bought my house, the contract specified that no HOA violations should exist and HOA must approve that house was in compliance. It was one of the contingencies and i could walk from buying the house. I got the HOA approval letter from seller. However, when i moved in, HOA mentioned that there were a lot of things that were in violation. Well, i mentioned the approval during my purchase and i was grandfathered.

No way was i going to make changes that would have affected my purchase of the house or required seller to rectify.


i had a similar experience. Recieved a notice about some "unauthorized pavers" in my front yard. I let them know the pavers were put in by the previous owners and very bluntly mentioned my certificate of compliance and they immediately backed off

What am I looking for in my papers? Is the 'estoppel letter" its own document, or part of the Title Commitment releases?

An amendment to the Covenants does not become effective until the date it is recorded by the County Clerk and Recorder's office. No court would find for the HOA if they tried to legally enforce a restriction which was acceptable at the time the action occured.

HOA=Communism. I LOVE it when my HOA sends me complaints. They always get a free gift from me. I LOVE using my industrial copier.

My HOA has this thing where they choose what laws (both bylaws, state laws, and federal laws) they want to follow/enforce, and every one of the hoa board members has refused to follow at least three of the bylaws themselves.

psychtobe said:   What am I looking for in my papers? Is the 'estoppel letter" its own document, or part of the Title Commitment releases?It's not part of the title, it should be part of the purchase docs or mortgage docs if a mortgage was taken, where the HOA gives a release for the previous owner to sell and you to buy. Many docs get stapled together at the descretion of the closing agent or lawyer to form a signature package...

Hi Robby, I don't know anything about the topic at hand, but I wanted to ask, is it possible OP is subject to binding arbitration and could that change your response at all?

HOAs are good for you, remember?

I believe that HOA tries to do good and they do, for the most part.

I have two problems with my HOA:

1. My block captain (on the board) thinks that he owns the community.

2. Bylaws do not apply to everyone equally, especially the members of the board.

Seriously, there may be a defect in the title according to the contract, in that there was this undisclosed liability and seller said everything fine per HOA, at least put in a claim with title insurance company for any damages and/or threaten the seller if you cannot reach an accord with the small-scale dictators. Unfortunately they usually prevail in lawsuits--can think of several where more was spent resisting them than by bending to untreasonable dictates, and the owner had to comply anyhow. HOAs should be illegal, they assume governmental powers.

LAwoodtiger said:   

2. Bylaws do not apply to everyone equally, especially the members of the board.

Simple solution - get yourself elected to the board.

Yeah it's funny how all my problems seem to get resolved now that I'm on the board - likely holding the position of president this year

SUCKISSTAPLES said:   Yeah it's funny how all my problems seem to get resolved now that I'm on the board - likely holding the position of president this yearWant to start a roofing business together? GFE Roofing, Inc.

Crazytree said:   SUCKISSTAPLES said:   Yeah it's funny how all my problems seem to get resolved now that I'm on the board - likely holding the position of president this yearWant to start a roofing business together? GFE Roofing, Inc.

Sounds dangerous. That kind of stuff shouldn't happen on the roof.

The rules were not "adopted" until 2009? Was it something the builder had set up though? We honestly just glossed over the HOA stuff when we were signing all the papers when we built our current house. Seriously it was like 30 sec and I did not even think to ask about it. It was a good 3 or 4 years before I ever heard anything again. Over half the fences in our subdivision are not in compliance and I'm just waiting for the day someone has a issue.

At the end of the day HOAs are always in control. You have four options:

1) Bring fence into compliance
2) Sue
3) Run for an officer position
4) Plead, beg, kiss but, etc.

The easiest option is number 4. In my experience the people on these boards just want a little love from you and want to be important. Establish a relationship with them, make them feel important, compliment their wisdom, etc. You will get them off your back.

Otherwise, you are screwed without a good, expensive attorney. HOAs have the ultimate power including placing a lien on your home in some cases.

Skipping 69 Messages...
Cities and local agencies got zapped by the US Supreme Court in City of Arlington vs FCC City of San Antonio joined the case. FCC regs require municipalities to issue zoning permits for cell towers within a period set by FCC regulations. Anyone who processes permits must grant them or be held in contempt. http://www.law.cornell.edu/supct/cert/11-1545 As a practical matter the criteria under the regulations for local denial of a zoning permit is almost impossible to meet. The only one I can think of is that the cell impinges on a preexisitng state or local park or a locality in the National Register of Historic Places. There is no comparable section preserving any zoning authority for local jurisdictions under PURPA only rate authority for the state PUC. The decision was 6-3 and since it takes 4 votes for Cert, the Supreme Court took the case to hammer home the point that when Congress preempts the field, states and local jurisdictions only have what residual authority Congress left them. Never enough votes to consider overturning the 5th Circuit opinion. This case is hitting the mule between the eyes with a 4x4 to get his attention.

Same rules will apply to HOAs. Most of those didn't exist on November 8, 1978 so they never had permitting authority to start with. Congress had already occupied the field and taken it away.



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