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Nice to see a homeowners association getting what they deserve.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/local/fairfax-homeowners-group-hum...

Short version - they claimed a fining authority not in their bylaws during the last election over some slightly oversized political campaign sign, and after the residents wouldn't budge, they held a secret meeting to deny them approval for the various architectural improvements they wanted. 5 years later the HOA loses both lawsuits, owes the residents over $100k for their legal fees, and goes bankrupt. They're trying to sell the common space property in BK to pay their debts. I imagine the other residents weren't wild about getting their assessments raised by 5x either.

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Hmm, do you also date Manti Te'o, but haven't seen him in person?

chibimike (Feb. 15, 2013 @ 11:08a) |

From what I see online you can always sue your HOA? And if its for "free" then why not? I know my coworkers HOA is terri... (more)

jaclyncchu (Mar. 22, 2013 @ 4:29p) |

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tjguitar85 (Mar. 22, 2013 @ 4:36p) |

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Glad to see HOA's getting pwned by themselves.

Nice? That is awful. This couple screwed over all of their neighbors, not just the board.

Interesting though that an HOA can go bankrupt. I would have thought that the owners would be on the hook for its debts.

tjguitar85 said:   Nice? That is awful. This couple screwed over all of their neighbors, not just the board.

Interesting though that an HOA can go bankrupt. I would have thought that the owners would be on the hook for its debts.


Really? From here it looks like the HOA screwed all their members, by going on an insane crusade over 4 inches of sign.

Coming from a rural area I just cannot fathom why anyone would live under an HOA, seems like you are paying someone to have power over you.

The couple didn't screw over the neighbors, the little tyrants the neighbors elected to the HOA board cost the neighbors $400,000 over 4 inches of lawn sign. There are many people who run HOA's that should never be given power.

wvtalbot said:   tjguitar85 said:   Nice? That is awful. This couple screwed over all of their neighbors, not just the board.

Interesting though that an HOA can go bankrupt. I would have thought that the owners would be on the hook for its debts.


Really? From here it looks like the HOA screwed all their members, by going on an insane crusade over 4 inches of sign.

Coming from a rural area I just cannot fathom why anyone would live under an HOA, seems like you are paying someone to have power over you.


The reason people live under an HOA is that every neighborhood other than very rural or very old ones have HOA's.

tjguitar85 said:   Nice? That is awful. This couple screwed over all of their neighbors, not just the board.

Interesting though that an HOA can go bankrupt. I would have thought that the owners would be on the hook for its debts.



This is what I meant when I said, HOA's will sit outside your house with pitchforks and torches when they see your lawn is 1 inch over regulation.

Bankruptcy over a 4 inch sign, well deserved consequence for the HOA.

chibimike said:   wvtalbot said:   tjguitar85 said:   Nice? That is awful. This couple screwed over all of their neighbors, not just the board.

Interesting though that an HOA can go bankrupt. I would have thought that the owners would be on the hook for its debts.


Really? From here it looks like the HOA screwed all their members, by going on an insane crusade over 4 inches of sign.

Coming from a rural area I just cannot fathom why anyone would live under an HOA, seems like you are paying someone to have power over you.


The reason people live under an HOA is that every neighborhood other than very rural or very old ones have HOA's.


Umm maybe where you are from but really seems to be a very rare thing in my region. Even in the mid sized towns and suburbs I would say 90% of the people have no HOA.

chibimike said:   wvtalbot said:   tjguitar85 said:   Nice? That is awful. This couple screwed over all of their neighbors, not just the board.

Interesting though that an HOA can go bankrupt. I would have thought that the owners would be on the hook for its debts.


Really? From here it looks like the HOA screwed all their members, by going on an insane crusade over 4 inches of sign.

Coming from a rural area I just cannot fathom why anyone would live under an HOA, seems like you are paying someone to have power over you.


The reason people live under an HOA is that every neighborhood other than very rural or very old ones have HOA's.
Not in the pricey neighborhoods of Southern California.

I once got a letter from my HOA saying I've been leaving my garage door open too long. I called one of the board members asking what difference does it make. He said "it lowers property values." I asked him to point to studies and statistics that proved that the amount of time garage doors are left open equates to some sort of percent decline in property values. His reply was to stop being a smart a$$. I figured since he made the statement he should have the statistics to back it up.

Anyway, if someone backs out of purchasing a house, or wants a lower purchase price, just because they saw a garage door open, I wouldn't want them living in the neighborhood. They're mentally ill.

burgerwars said:   I once got a letter from my HOA saying I've been leaving my garage door open too long. I called one of the board members asking what difference does it make. He said "it lowers property values." I asked him to point to studies and statistics that proved that the amount of time garage doors are left open equates to some sort of percent decline in property values. His reply was to stop being a smart a$$. I figured since he made the statement he should have the statistics to back it up.

Anyway, if someone backs out of purchasing a house, or wants a lower purchase price, just because they saw a garage door open, I wouldn't want them living in the neighborhood. They're mentally ill.


If the laws say to close the door, close the door. If the laws don't say to close the door, Tell him to jump in a lake.

For fun I wanted to see if I could find something about an open garage door lowering property value. I could not.

If there is some merit to having a neighborhood with all the houses looking exactly the same, then leaving a garage door open all day long would look out of place.

Anyway, I would have asked the HOA representative how long a garage door can remain open and why this important information is not in the handbook.

In my experience, HOAs are usually run by power-hungry tyrant wanna-be's. Glad to hear how this turd-ish HOA board ran itself to the ground. All the remaining home-owners should go after the former HOA board members.

They say HOA board members are petty tyrants but the guy on this board takes the cake:
In one case, board member Don Hughes compared some residents’ refusal to install window-pane dividers to the “cat and mouse game Saddam Hussein played with the USA,” e-mails show. Ultimately, Hussein “paid the price,” he said, concluding that the residents should comply.
Comparing your neighbors to Sadaanm Hussein -- seriously???

I loved the people's initial reaction to getting a letter with a first and final warning that their sign was 4 inches too big. They tore the sign in half so their were two signs in their yard saying "OBA" and "MA"

If anyone on this board had a sense of humor, none of this would have happened and it would never have gone bankrupt.

HOA's are a nightmare for so many people. A friend got hassled for "removing a tree without permission" - a storm caused it to fall on the house and he paid someone to chainsaw it to smaller pieces and removed it. Meanwhile, across the street from him, a neighbor had a very large, very broken down dumptruck in their driveway for more than a year. Small minds - I would not want to pay someone to be a busybody.

I was threatened with a $500 fine because I didn't take my garbage can away from sight by 10pm on the same day of garbage pickup. Turns out they couldn't understand somebody having to work a long day to meet a deadline for work. Their excuse, "It lowers property values."

I have since moved to a non-HOA community and it's dramatic how much more interaction I have with my neighbors.

wvtalbot said:   chibimike said:   wvtalbot said:   tjguitar85 said:   Nice? That is awful. This couple screwed over all of their neighbors, not just the board.

Interesting though that an HOA can go bankrupt. I would have thought that the owners would be on the hook for its debts.


Really? From here it looks like the HOA screwed all their members, by going on an insane crusade over 4 inches of sign.

Coming from a rural area I just cannot fathom why anyone would live under an HOA, seems like you are paying someone to have power over you.


The reason people live under an HOA is that every neighborhood other than very rural or very old ones have HOA's.


Umm maybe where you are from but really seems to be a very rare thing in my region. Even in the mid sized towns and suburbs I would say 90% of the people have no HOA.
Here are some stats I came across; take them for what they're worth, but I think it's safe to say that HOAs are a fairly common phenomenon:

The Community Associations Institute trade association estimated that HOAs governed 24.8 million American homes and 62 million residents in 2010.

According to hoa-usa.com, there are approximately 300,000 homeowner associations in the United States. Collectively, this represents over 40 million households or 53% of the owner occupied households in America.

I went to an HOA meeting this week where the board members were having difficulty explaining why they took legal action that cost so much that they now have to double our dues.

A guy down the street has a pretty big 4th of July party every year (the one in 2011 lasted ~4 days and involved jump houses, a stage with a live band in the evenings, port-o-potty rentals, and dozens of people camped in RVs and tents in his yard). Although this sounds like a kickin party, his direct neighbors didnt like it and complained. The HOA sent letters to him telling him he needed to scale it back and at least have bathroom facilities for everybody, but he didn't respond. July 2012 rolls around, and his solution was to put up black plastic around the whole yard so nobody could see in. His neighbors still complained. The HOA tried to contact him after that, but he didn't respond again.

So here is where the HOA board got all huffy. They decided that they needed to show residents that there were rules and consequences for breaking them, so they took the guy to court to get an injunction preventing him from holding the party. He fought back and lost, but the association had already spent $22k in legal fees wiping out almost all of our reserves. They considered going after him to recover legal fees, but that would have taken another $20k in legal fees and they were worried that he would have gone bankrupt so they wouldn't collect anything.

I spoke my mind at the meeting about how silly it was that we agonize and vote for months over a $7k HOA expense to improve a fence, but then the board can turn around an unilaterally spend $22k over something not everybody cares about. Unfortunately my voice was drowned out by a bunch of board members patting themselves on the back about how they had made the right call to preserve the authority and respect of the association.

So I am running for the HOA board in the next meeting so I can get on and actually do something to prevent this in the future.

Kanosh said:   They say HOA board members are petty tyrants but the guy on this board takes the cake:
In one case, board member Don Hughes compared some residents’ refusal to install window-pane dividers to the “cat and mouse game Saddam Hussein played with the USA,” e-mails show. Ultimately, Hussein “paid the price,” he said, concluding that the residents should comply.
Comparing your neighbors to Sadaanm Hussein -- seriously???

I loved the people's initial reaction to getting a letter with a first and final warning that their sign was 4 inches too big. They tore the sign in half so their were two signs in their yard saying "OBA" and "MA"

If anyone on this board had a sense of humor, none of this would have happened and it would never have gone bankrupt.

Yeah and that same guy who made the Saddam Hussein comparison was apparently responsible for the threatening letter about the signs:
E-mails show that Hughes pushed the board to act. He wrote that he was prepared to make a motion to put a lien on the Farrans’ house if they didn’t comply. He called sending a letter a “teaching moment.” Hughes declined to comment.
How'd that work out for you?

Well, at least the HOA in the OP didn't have masons on the board. As we all know, when that happens things get much worse.

If I were the Farran's, I would have bought the community square and plastered Obama signs everywhere.

rlaw said:   If I were the Farran's, I would have bought the community square and plastered Obama signs everywhere.
Put a bid in for whatever they got in the settlement ( if the community space is worth that much )

xerty said:   Nice to see a homeowners association getting what they deserve.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/local/fairfax-homeowners-group-hum...

Short version - they claimed a fining authority not in their bylaws during the last election over some slightly oversized political campaign sign, and after the residents wouldn't budge, they held a secret meeting to deny them approval for the various architectural improvements they wanted. 5 years later the HOA loses both lawsuits, owes the residents over $100k for their legal fees, and goes bankrupt. They're trying to sell the common space property in BK to pay their debts. I imagine the other residents weren't wild about getting their assessments raised by 5x either.


When you start violating the reasonable person principle, bad things happen. The HOA boards are populated by the following:

- chronically unemployables,

- power-seekers and sheriff wannabes,

- small-scale, small-town Sopranos who give maintenance jobs to their relatives and friends in exchange for kick-backs in the form of free or reduced repairs,

- double-standarders. I made that word up,

- irrational rationalizers. E.g., "I believe painting my door a different color will enhance the community value. Let's pass a by-law to allow me to do that". And then ,when so and so who is not on the board wants to install different windows which is legal under by-laws, I say, "Oh, no, that is a terrible idea. Let's pass by-law to disallow that".

- people who are extremely bad at taking legal gambles. If you don't know what this means, read the OP.

The only way to fix the HOA problem is to have a legal framework in which HOAs can operate:

- time limit on serving on HOA boards. E.g., 2 years MAX. If you want to come back to duty, then at least 70% of the units owners must have been on board before you can return,

- fiduciary duty to look after the HOA's best interest. Why? So that you don't start giving jobs to your relatives and getting kick-backs,

- disclosure of all conflicts of interest with criminal penalties for violating them,

What? You don't think that anybody would want to serve under such harsh conditions? I thought so. If you want to be sheriff, jury, judge, executioner, and Soprano's blood relative, you better know it is not going to come easy.

Who needs HOAs anyways? Just have municipalities have two versions of zoning laws and up-keep rules:

- associated,

- not-associated.

If you are associated, then the town has one set of rules, and EVERYONE follows the same set of rules. No sherif-wannabes in town. All the sheriff wannabes can go to Montana and become DMV driving test examiners.

tjguitar85 said:   Nice? That is awful. This couple screwed over all of their neighbors, not just the board.

Interesting though that an HOA can go bankrupt. I would have thought that the owners would be on the hook for its debts.


I hope that with that kind of logic, you are not a board member of HOA in Sometown, USA.

cheezedawg said:   I went to an HOA meeting this week where the board members were having difficulty explaining why they took legal action that cost so much that they now have to double our dues.

A guy down the street has a pretty big 4th of July party every year (the one in 2011 lasted ~4 days and involved jump houses, a stage with a live band in the evenings, port-o-potty rentals, and dozens of people camped in RVs and tents in his yard). Although this sounds like a kickin party, his direct neighbors didnt like it and complained. The HOA sent letters to him telling him he needed to scale it back and at least have bathroom facilities for everybody, but he didn't respond. July 2012 rolls around, and his solution was to put up black plastic around the whole yard so nobody could see in. His neighbors still complained. The HOA tried to contact him after that, but he didn't respond again.

So here is where the HOA board got all huffy. They decided that they needed to show residents that there were rules and consequences for breaking them, so they took the guy to court to get an injunction preventing him from holding the party. He fought back and lost, but the association had already spent $22k in legal fees wiping out almost all of our reserves. They considered going after him to recover legal fees, but that would have taken another $20k in legal fees and they were worried that he would have gone bankrupt so they wouldn't collect anything.

I spoke my mind at the meeting about how silly it was that we agonize and vote for months over a $7k HOA expense to improve a fence, but then the board can turn around an unilaterally spend $22k over something not everybody cares about. Unfortunately my voice was drowned out by a bunch of board members patting themselves on the back about how they had made the right call to preserve the authority and respect of the association.

So I am running for the HOA board in the next meeting so I can get on and actually do something to prevent this in the future.


This is situation when (a) fiduciary duty, and (b) personal responsibility would fix this.

If there is a legal framework in which HOA board can not make such a decision behind residents back, and even if they did, there would be criminal penalties, then your HOA management would think 10x before doing something like this.

cheezedawg, I am sympathetic to your situation, and sorry to hear this happened to you. Hopefully, in the future, your HOA will be managed better.

I lived for years about 10 minutes from this community. I take great solace in the outcome as my condo was in a COA whose board would have put these amateurs to shame with their level of Napoleon syndrome and ineptitude. I'll never again consider a HOA/COA.

In one case, board member Don Hughes compared some residents’ refusal to install window-pane dividers to the “cat and mouse game Saddam Hussein played with the USA,” e-mails show. Ultimately, Hussein “paid the price,” he said, concluding that the residents should comply.Comparing your neighbors to Sadaanm Hussein -- seriously???

Don apparently overlooked the US experience in Iraq and learned nothing from it. A slow, grinding quagmire of sectarian conflict that winds up bankrupting your country....It is quite ironic that he used that example. I wonder if there are civil liabilities for the HOA board members that make these stupid decisions.

I hope they all are getting along now. Banks generally will not loan on a property that has an underfunded hoa. Good luck selling any time soon.

The only people crazy enough to serve on these associations are crazy.

rblakenyc said:   The only people crazy enough to serve on these associations are crazy.
Call me crazy then. Reluctantly , I had to get on the Hoa at one of my rental bc the manager was corrupt and all the board members were her cronies

She raised her management fee from $1000/month to $2500/month without competitve bidding and got the old board to agree. Dues increased from a low $16/month to $33/month with no increase in services When I got on the board , I got 4 competitve bids for management between $1100-1500. One board member resigned on the spot, the two others simply didnt run again at the next election


Another Hoa on my primary home was just a mini $20 a year deal. But they denied a disabled person the right to build a wheelchair ramp to the door as they were operating a residential care home. Seems outrageous but This was a long time ago, before the Ada was widely enforced. The owner sued the Hoa, got a judgment the $20 yearly dues could not satisfy , so they issued a $200 special assessment and folded . No more Hoa here!!

I am quite tired of my HOA, too (I am sure that there are plenty of others). Here in Indiana, a new law was passed last year (maybe the year before) which required a unanimous vote by homeowners to dissolve an HOA. State and local governments love them because it is a way to pass the buck down another level in regards to taxes, essentially. Depending on the HOA, this could include roads, recreation, ordinance & law enforcement, sewage, and trash. I wouldn't surprised if some HOAs did more than even that.

I am actually quite tired of busybodies from HOAs, local, state, federal, to international levels... the use of force has become an epidemic.

Is a HOA/COA really that terrible ALL of the time? I'm in AZ and there are HOA's everywhere.

Sounds like some people decided to be jerks to these folks because they disagreed with them politically and they chose exactly the wrong people to do it with. A cautionary tale.

Al3xK said:   Is a HOA/COA really that terrible ALL of the time? I'm in AZ and there are HOA's everywhere.

They aren't all bad. In my parents' community in the suburbs, the HOA is really small - 1 guy running it essentially. The yearly fees are less than $200 a home and they go to planting and maintianing landscape at the front of the development. Dues have been raised by less than 10% in the 15 or so years they've lived there. Many people bend the rules slightly (installing aluminum soffits, etc.), and there are no consequences. Everyone is willing to be reasonable about it.

My last hoaexperience... In preparation to sell my house I had it repainted the exact colors that it was previously painted...same paint.. same painter.. Shortly thereafter received a notice of rules violation because I had not received permission for the painting... I wrote back.. apologized.. and said I had all the new paint removed.. and that the new refreshed appearance was due to an unfortunate cleaning effect from the new paint removal... Sold the house and closed a couple months later.. never looked back.

I'm on an HOA board. In more correct terms, we are a landscape maintenance organization. The group is made up of current and retired city employees, a pastor, and a physicist who just want their neighborhood to be pleasant. In the two years I've been on the board, not a single fine has been levied, nor suggested by any member of the board. The board members are more than content to just maintain common areas and send out newsletters.

I say this to offer contrast to the posts above. Not all HOA's are bad. Not all board members are irrational tyrants. However, I would bet most people who complain about their HOA didn't go to a board meeting before they purchased their property.

Sorry, RedCelicaGT. But this is a situation in which even a bad 1% would give a bad name to the other 99%.

HOAs -> guilty until proven innocent. Actually, I stand corrected. Guilty even if proven innocent.

wvtalbot said:   

Coming from a rural area I just cannot fathom why anyone would live under an HOA, seems like you are paying someone to have power over you.


The article claims that 20% of Americans are governed by an HOA. When you realize that apartment dwellers are part of that 80%, you realize that a LOT of homeowners live under HOAs.

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