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Al3xK said:   
Can you explain this? If an HOA goes into bankruptcy, don't they just increase dues? Therefor doesn't that make the homeowners on the hook for its debts? Parquedematthew said that's what happened below.

Can't an idiot HOA member just run up a bunch of bad debts and then cause the homeowners to have to pay?


Typically HOAs can increase dues and incur a special assessment - or both. Dues increase in cases where the HOA might take out a loan to replace the roof (condo situation) if the members lacked cash.
A well managed HOA should have enough reserves on hand so that this sort of thing doesn't happen... However, suing an HOA IS suing yourself. And yea, a bad board - or board member can really bungle things up without recourse (at least in my state).

In the case of bankruptcy, I imagine that the HOAs debts are discharged after the sale of any property. They don't just let you off the hook - the judge could decide that the HOA could pay debts via assessments, dues, or both.

Note, a bankrupt HOA would not remove the restrictions from the homes and probably wouldn't remove the HOA completely.


I live in a neighborhood where the HOA didn't pay it's taxes. The common property was sold at tax sale to a private party. It's still deed restricted and access is granted to the community... So it's a mess. The buyer didn't do his due diligence and already got shut down when he tried to build on it. The deed restrictions run with the land. And the association still exists, but simply allows us to privately enforce deed restrictions.

As it is with nearly every legal dispute, it looks like the real winners in this story are the lawyers.

I just read this to my wife, and reminded her why I insist we be involved with our HOA board. I don't want some moron who will bankrupt the community over a sign to get in there. Of course, this is just the latest horror story from an HOA.

With the right people, HOAs can be "invisible" and effective at keeping a general "order" in the community.

In the wrong hands, they can become unbearable. Fines for grass that is 2 inches longer than spec. A brown spot in the lawn. Never mind the stories of HOA presidents who "pay" themselves consulting fees for who knows what, or that won't submit insurance claims for damage due to common utilities (both examples from another Fairfax County, VA HOA). Here is that story by the way. It also dealt with an association that levied fines without the ability to: http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/the-state-of-nova/post/resto...

Unreasonable residents aren't innocent here either, but in this case, it seems like the HOA took it way too far. I don't blame the homeowner for suing, and if the denial was legitimate, then there should have been a path to settling on a design that would meet the design guidelines. I'm not sure if that was the case here, since the court seemed to focus on the "secret meeting" element.

I'd prefer a non-HOA property, but living in this area, it is difficult to find one unless the neighborhood is old or out in the middle of nowhere.

Even though I complain my Napoleon Complexed HOA board memeber neighbor, I think that I am happy with 80% of what the HOA does.

For one thing, it keeps me from living next to the Jumanji house.

wordgirl said:   mungbai said:   

You're forgetting that the board itself was threatening litigation: "He wrote that he was prepared to make a motion to put a lien on the Farransí house if they didnít comply." With his references to Saddam Hussein, Mr. Hughes certainly should understand the doctrine of preemptive war.


Nope. Not forgetting that at all. I never said they should not avail themselves of their legal rights. In fact, I'm a big fan of civil justice (especially as opposed to hitting each other over the heads with baseball bats.)

I'm just saying that the Farrans don't come out of this smelling like roses, or looking like cool rebels. Instead of making allies of their neighbors, they made enemies (there's not a single voice in the story that implies otherwise.) Instead of the neighborhood being better off, it's WAY worse off. There was an opportunity here to unseat a petty dictator and everyone was so caught up in their own little pissing match that the opportunity came and went. There is no winner. There could have been.

It's kind of like Romeo and Juliet, in a twisted sort of way. "All are punished."


So, all the neighbors are pissed off at the guys whose rights were violated, not against their representative who tried to screw the poor neighbors who put the OBA MA signs, and then screwed the entire neighborhood? Why are they not angry at the board? And if they are angry at the board, why didn't they stop the board? Or maybe the neighbors aren't really mad about trampling on Oobama supporters, but just that their representatives lost 100k in their name?

Barking dogs. Super Soaker works every time

There's enough blame to go on both sides of this silly circus show. Both went overboard with the "I'll show you!" mentality, going overboard with their reaction. People who don't live in NoVA doesn't understand, but the area has tons of these small tightly knit and often well off communities where they have strict rules on exterior appearance. If you don't like living in such a place, don't buy into it. Buying in and then pretending that you are shocked at the rules is not what a rational person would do.

Other than the lawyers, who won? The Farran's? The HOA? The Farrans now live in a neighborhood where everyone hates them. They will have no choice but to move - that's what a rational person would do, but doing so would incur transaction and moving expenses. Not to mention whether they'd be able to find another location that they like as much as this one. If we can blame the HOA for going too far with their issue regarding the sign, then we can also blame Farran for pushing the lawsuit so far that they ruined their own neighborhood and reputation.

By the way, here's the parcel:

http://franklymls.com/FX7936836

Based on county records, it's a non-buildable lot. So whoever buys it will have very limited options on what they can do with it. Getting the county to change the zoning will require a public hearing, and I doubt the neighbors will let the county change the zoning for this lot.

This is just sad. I stay away from HOAs like the one in Olde Belhaven, but I also stay away from neighbors like the Farrans.

I suspect the Farrans dues also increased. If the settlement is just to pay legal fees, then the Farrans were also out money.

riznick said:   I suspect the Farrans dues also increased. If the settlement is just to pay legal fees, then the Farrans were also out money.
If you win, you aren't on the hook for the legal fee assessments. Everyone else paid for the legal fees.

VicVinegar said:   In the wrong hands, they can become unbearable. Fines for grass that is 2 inches longer than spec. A brown spot in the lawn. Never mind the stories of HOA presidents who "pay" themselves consulting fees for who knows what, or that won't submit insurance claims for damage due to common utilities (both examples from another Fairfax County, VA HOA). Here is that story by the way. It also dealt with an association that levied fines without the ability to: http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/the-state-of-nova/post/resto...

Thanks for such an awesome article...you may want to consider having the link pop out a little more.

As a recent purchaser of a home in an HOA in VA, this article gives me much hope. I did a ton of due diligence on the HOA prior to purchase (I made it a contingency) and was very pleased with the original rules. The current leadership is fine, and now it seems straying from those original rules, even if someone tyrannical is elected, will be very, very hard.

Crazytree said:   geo123 said:   cherry3m said:   EradicateSpam said:   ...here's why I dislike HOAs. People don't read the rules and then get ticked off when the HOA goes to enforce them. How would your outlook change if the HOA had come over and said "hey buddy, nice wall that's almost done, BUT WE DON'T ALLOW WALLS. Rip it down".

My point is that most don't read the rules. You didn't. You built a wall that your HOA rules likely said must be approved IN ADVANCE.

<snip>

Too many people are idiots - and HOAs have to deal with them. This is our 2nd home that has an HOA, and I tried to avoid having one. Given a choice, I would never have one again - but would also check local zoning laws and enforcement.


Why hate the HOA?

People also don't read their credit card (loan/mortgage/insert any agreement here) agreements and get ticked off when the bank goes to enforce them. When this happens, FWF usually responds with "You should have read the rules! PYBDB!". The response is the same for any consumer agreement (cell phone/utility/medical).

I don't get all the HOA hate. The deed restrictions are known (or should have been known) at time of purchase. If you get special treatment from your HOA (for your paint color, or fence, or political sign), every homeowner will expect special treatment. Pretty soon, the rules cannot be enforced because of all the exceptions.

If you don't want to deal with an HOA, move. It can't be said any clearer!

I would never buy in a community without one, unless I'm buying 500 acres and have enough room to build my house away from every neighbor. But then, that's not a community, is it?
I am pretty sympathetic to both sides of this debate. I totally get the fact that people are concerned about their geriatric neighbors with nothing better to do walking around looking for hyper technical and highly subjective violations. I also totally get the concern over power hungry board members with no common sense doing completely arbitrary things. These things make my blood boil, as I can't stand things that fail the common sense test (although I certainly recognize that reasonable people can disagree over some of these things).

As I've previously posted, there are certainly plenty of fairly easy to implement solutions to this (as I've mentioned, for instance, because of this exact concern our HOA does not have the power to impose fines for covenant violations; they can whine about it but can't fine you. They can only take enforcement action with respect to people failing to pay their annual dues, which are something like $600/year and which are used to maintain a gorgeous private pool with a lifeguard, a childredn's playground, tennis courts, common areas with walking trails, etc...) but implementing them can be time consuming and I certainly get the concern.

By the way, I also get the concern over moronic neighbors in non-HOA neighborhoods doing things that work for them without any concern for their neighbors and, in the process, potentially driving down home values. I do often find that the same people who say that they can't stand HOA's are often the most vocal ones where their neighbors do something that they find to be objectionable. So, I don't think that there is a perfect solution out there.

I do know that the vast majority of people out there tend to really enjoy and specifically focus on their subdivision amenities, just as I know that the availability of those sought-after amenities can very much increase home values. You generally can't have those without an HOA and, given the choice between sought-after subdivision amenities with a HOA vs. no subdivision amenities and no HOA, most people opt for the former.
Have you ever served on a HOA board?
Nope, never.

I've seen good and bad things from HOA's and have gotten into a number of disputes with HOA's over the years in which I was very close to suing. I've also seen a lot of good things done by HOA's (namely, maintaining great amenities while staying out of the way). Hence, the reason that I am pretty sympathetic to both sides of this debate.

DoctorDeals said:   VicVinegar said:   In the wrong hands, they can become unbearable. Fines for grass that is 2 inches longer than spec. A brown spot in the lawn. Never mind the stories of HOA presidents who "pay" themselves consulting fees for who knows what, or that won't submit insurance claims for damage due to common utilities (both examples from another Fairfax County, VA HOA). Here is that story by the way. It also dealt with an association that levied fines without the ability to: http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/the-state-of-nova/post/resto...

Thanks for such an awesome article...you may want to consider having the link pop out a little more.

As a recent purchaser of a home in an HOA in VA, this article gives me much hope. I did a ton of due diligence on the HOA prior to purchase (I made it a contingency) and was very pleased with the original rules. The current leadership is fine, and now it seems straying from those original rules, even if someone tyrannical is elected, will be very, very hard.


The problem is most people don't care until there is a problem. My neighborhood just got control from the developer. There were about 6 people at the turnover meeting. 3 of whom volunteered for the board. Other homeowners show up only to complain about something in particular and then disappear. That is how guys like the Reston example get so out of hand. No one cares to keep tabs on what is going on.

Crazytree said:   geo123 said:   Have you ever served on a HOA board?7 years, Treasurer.

You?

Wow, quite a Hot Topic. I am on a board and we all work together to make it a better place to live. I think most of the neighborhood agrees. It is all volenteer. We don't want to be the police. No price increase for many years. Like some have said here, most are OK, it takes a few to give HOA's a bad name.

riznick said:   I suspect the Farrans dues also increased. If the settlement is just to pay legal fees, then the Farrans were also out money.

So what? I'll pay an extra $100 per month to get a $70,000 settlement any day.

In a way, you're correct - they're "cutting off their nose to spite their face". But in this case it's more like "trimming your fingernails to get a massive windfall of money".

VicVinegar said:   The problem is most people don't care until there is a problem. My neighborhood just got control from the developer. There were about 6 people at the turnover meeting. 3 of whom volunteered for the board. Other homeowners show up only to complain about something in particular and then disappear. That is how guys like the Reston example get so out of hand. No one cares to keep tabs on what is going on.

This is endemic with all levels of governance. HOAs, county, state, federal, city, it doesn't matter. People simply don't care, as long as they THINK they can do what they want. But over time, your liberties and freedoms diminish. Every time a new rule is made by a government, your liberties diminish.

Take a look at income taxes, which were implemented about 100 years ago, at a max rate of 1%, which only a handful of wealthy people were supposed to pay, and only on a "temporary" basis. People get used to things being the way they are over time, and the small few who make the rules get away with all sorts of schemes.

wizwor said:   This is pretty funny. People buy/rent/lease properties bound to a HOA then complain about the HOA enforcing rules it was created to enforce. A HOA is a democratically elected representative government. In this specific case, why couldn't the homeowner simply express support with a compliant sign? For the most part, people should understand and agree to the rules of a community before they choose to join that community. If you do not like the rules, live somewhere else -- don't hire a lawyer to get the rest of the community to change to suit you.

COEXIST, baby, coexist!
You sound like one of those people that wrongly believes a Constitutional Republic is a Democracy. Two wolves and a sheep voting on dinner while free of a defining rule set is worse than having no rule set at all (a.k.a. anarchy). BTW, the term of "coexisting" as you are using it is simply a control mechanism better known as political correctness. I'm sorry your idealism is in such conflict with reality. When you are older and more experience, you might find understand. While trying to get along is a respectable effort, we cannot just run to the next foxhole every time tyrants flex their muscles.

HawkeyeNFO said:   VicVinegar said:   The problem is most people don't care until there is a problem. My neighborhood just got control from the developer. There were about 6 people at the turnover meeting. 3 of whom volunteered for the board. Other homeowners show up only to complain about something in particular and then disappear. That is how guys like the Reston example get so out of hand. No one cares to keep tabs on what is going on.

This is endemic with all levels of governance. HOAs, county, state, federal, city, it doesn't matter. People simply don't care, as long as they THINK they can do what they want. But over time, your liberties and freedoms diminish. Every time a new rule is made by a government, your liberties diminish.

Take a look at income taxes, which were implemented about 100 years ago, at a max rate of 1%, which only a handful of wealthy people were supposed to pay, and only on a "temporary" basis. People get used to things being the way they are over time, and the small few who make the rules get away with all sorts of schemes.
It's nice to see that others recognize the creeping death that is government. Let's just face the fact that government is a honey pot for control freaks and criminals. When one understands that, then one understands the danger of the necessity. George Washington said: Government is not reason, it is not eloquence, it is force. Like fire, it is a dangerous servant and a fearful masterÖ

I owed a condo and we were not allowed to have Gas grills, so I bought an outdoor electric grill. I had it for years and when I was on vacation in Mexico, I get an email warning me that I had to remove my Gas grill or I will be fined if it was not removed within 5 days. I checked the by-laws online and realized, the management company was not following the rules. I'm supposed to 1st receive a written warning, which I have minimum 15 days to respond. After that I may receive a fine of $50 for the 1st offence.

So instead of just responding that it was not Gas, I asked when they mailed out the written notice and then quoted the by-laws. The lady backtracked and responded that this was just a courtesy email before they mailed out an official warning. When I got home from vacation, I had a written notice in the mail. I waited until the 14th day to respond, and sent an email along with a picture of the Grill and the electric cord. The only response I got back, "We consider this issue closed"

If you plan on enforcing the rules, you should at least know the rules. You can't pick and choose the rules and laws you want to follow.

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 HOAs are there to keep everything in check and keep the property values. If there were no laws people would start doing dumb things like parking their RVs in the front lawn, etc. Not to mention strange house colors, gawky renovations, etc. They do have a use in our society but it is a pity when the people that run them go amuck like in this case.

breaux124 said:   I owed a condo and we were not allowed to have Gas grills, so I bought an outdoor electric grill. I had it for years and when I was on vacation in Mexico, I get an email warning me that I had to remove my Gas grill or I will be fined if it was not removed within 5 days. I checked the by-laws online and realized, the management company was not following the rules. I'm supposed to 1st receive a written warning, which I have minimum 15 days to respond. After that I may receive a fine of $50 for the 1st offence.

So instead of just responding that it was not Gas, I asked when they mailed out the written notice and then quoted the by-laws. The lady backtracked and responded that this was just a courtesy email before they mailed out an official warning. When I got home from vacation, I had a written notice in the mail. I waited until the 14th day to respond, and sent an email along with a picture of the Grill and the electric cord. The only response I got back, "We consider this issue closed"

If you plan on enforcing the rules, you should at least know the rules. You can't pick and choose the rules and laws you want to follow.


I'd have just ignored the email.

No, the lot is zoned R-8.

See link to FFX Co Website -- http://icare.fairfaxcounty.gov/datalets/datalet.aspx?mode=profil...

The DESCRIPTION is non-buildable. Two different things.
Unfortunately for the homeowners, it can be purchased and built on without rezoning.

I blame the HOA. Whoever kept electing that Hughes guy is also complicit. He was a walking disaster. I feel sorry for everyone that lives there. Must be hell on earth.

cherry3m said:   EradicateSpam said:   ...here's why I dislike HOAs. People don't read the rules and then get ticked off when the HOA goes to enforce them. How would your outlook change if the HOA had come over and said "hey buddy, nice wall that's almost done, BUT WE DON'T ALLOW WALLS. Rip it down".

My point is that most don't read the rules. You didn't. You built a wall that your HOA rules likely said must be approved IN ADVANCE.

<snip>

Too many people are idiots - and HOAs have to deal with them. This is our 2nd home that has an HOA, and I tried to avoid having one. Given a choice, I would never have one again - but would also check local zoning laws and enforcement.


Why hate the HOA?

People also don't read their credit card (loan/mortgage/insert any agreement here) agreements and get ticked off when the bank goes to enforce them. When this happens, FWF usually responds with "You should have read the rules! PYBDB!". The response is the same for any consumer agreement (cell phone/utility/medical).

I don't get all the HOA hate. The deed restrictions are known (or should have been known) at time of purchase. If you get special treatment from your HOA (for your paint color, or fence, or political sign), every homeowner will expect special treatment. Pretty soon, the rules cannot be enforced because of all the exceptions.

If you don't want to deal with an HOA, move. It can't be said any clearer!

I would never buy in a community without one, unless I'm buying 500 acres and have enough room to build my house away from every neighbor. But then, that's not a community, is it?


I didn't say I hated my HOA, I dislike the concept.

You hit the nail on the head. The guy who built the fence got to keep it. But it violates the rules, so now everyone can build a fence and say "too bad, you let him do it". They enforce what they want to enforce, and once it's built you can't reasonably go back years later and tell them to remove it.

This is why I want buy any investment property that has an active HOA!!!

geo123 said:   EradicateSpam said:   Too many people are idiots - and HOAs have to deal with them. This is our 2nd home that has an HOA, and I tried to avoid having one. Given a choice, I would never have one again - but would also check local zoning laws and enforcement.I think that this is a perfectly reasonable concern. Having said that, I would hazard a guess that very few people buy properties in HOA communities because they feel very strongly about having a covenant enforcement mechanism.

The primary reasons that HOA's are so popular and widespread is the fact that most people really want to live in a subdivision with certain amenities (pools, tennis courts, community areas, gates, snow removal, yard maintenance, etc...). You can't have subdivision amenities without an HOA and subdivision amenities frequently enhance property appeal, as they can offer highly desirable and sought-after amenities, while saving homeowners money in the process (it's a lot cheaper to have community tennis courts than a private tennis court; it can be a lot more convenient to walk to your very nice private subdivision pool than to drive to your city's public pool; an HOA can establish bulk accounts with service providers, which will be much cheaper than having owners obtain the same things on their own).

Personally, I look at HOA's the way that I look at taxes: we all hate paying taxes but still want military and police protection, etc... Likewise, people dislike HOA's but still tend to want the amenities that they provide. It's true, however, that in some locales and some situations you may not want or need HOA-provided amenities, as public ones are already sufficient, in which case the need for HOA certainly becomes a lot weaker or disappears altogether... this just tends to be pretty unusual, especially once you have kids.


I have to disagree with your perspective with some facts. I've lived in two different states, with two different HOAs. NEITHER HOA existed because of "amenities". Both existed because the local governments were too freakin' lazy to take on there responsibilities, so they made developers put in HOAs.

In PA we had to mow "open space", nothing more, so our dues were really low. But we had to deal with all the BS neighbor issues that the local government would normally get, including homeowners not mowing their lawns, not pulling weeds, etc. I served as president for three years.

In MI we have open space, we have private roads too. Several miles of roads. Our repaving costs will be about $1 million over 10 years. In most places, there would be no HOA because we have no amenities, and the roads would be redone by the city or county and spread across all taxpayers. So I pay for road repair on public roads like everyone else, including neighborhoods, but they don't pay for my roads to be repaired. And we have to pay to plow the roads.

There are no gates, pools, or other "amenities" at either place. The new "norm" seems to be local governments passing their responsibilities to maintain infrastructure on to the HOAs.

HOA: taking money, doing nothing, leaving trouble.

harruin said:   dcwilbur said:   LordKronos said:   dcwilbur said:   "They (The Farrans) acknowledged that the sign broke the rules..."

This is why a lot of people don't like HOA's. They want to live in a neighborhood where all their neighbors follow the rules. They just don't think they should have to follow them themselves.
I think you are focusing on the smallest part of this story. Who cares that he was in violation. Everyone messes up. However, after breaking the rules, he immediately adjusted to comply. I presume the new separate signs were each within the size limit, and that there were no restrictions on having multiple signs. Maybe it's a technically, but he complied. If the people in the HOA don't like it, then adjust the rules accordingly.
It might be the smallest part of the story, but it is the most relevant. His next step wasn't compliance; his next step was to act like a smartass. Grown men acting like children.

Since when is complying with the rules acting like a smartass?
I agree with harruin and LordKronos. What if the Farrans originally knew that their sign was too big and split the sign from the very beginning, would the HOA have warned them and on what basis? If the HOA expects homeowners to comply with the rules, the HOA should too and not create new rules out of spite. I know it's hard to be on the HOA board because you are much-maligned and have to be thick-skinned. But if you use your HOA powers because your ego was bruised, then you're the smartass.

The worst part about this story is it started over a TEMPORARY sign that would have been gone post election day. If they had let it go from the beginning even though it was 4" too high, and NOT decided to make it a "teaching moment" like the homeowners were pets that needed training, or if they had not deicided to punish them for being a "smart ass" when they DID comply (as if being a smart ass is against HOA rules? I think not!)or granted themselves power in a secret meeting...well it's just too bad is all. People break HOA rules a lot, some knowingly and some unknowingly. My parents have been HOA board members off and on for over 30 years and walking over and talking to someone about a particular issue does wonders 90% of the time. And sometimes, when you can see an end in sight, not taking action is the best action to take.

burgerwars said:   He said "it lowers property values."

That's probably the most overused excuse within HOAs. Got a broom in the corner of your balcony? "It lowers property values." I tell those curmudgeons they should be thanking me for lowering their property taxes. They've lived at the complex for decades. It's not like they are trying to sell their property. And the housing bubble killed property values. Not paint cans sitting on a porch.

I have never seen a neighborhood saved by the HOA, if it's going down, HOA can do nothing about it. there are larger economic and demographic force that overcome anything a HOA can do. HOA can do nothing about the area's economy or school.

All these talk about property values are legacy from the 60s-80s and really refers to the "wrong type" of people moving into your neighborhood and was a real fear expressed by many back then. As recently as the 80s there has been enforcement of racist covenant around here. One of my relative's home were egged during that time for being the wrong skin tone when they first moved in.

GREEN! As green as a lawn 0.2 inches past HOA regulation! lol

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

YES, YES AND YES!

Where we live, we do not have a HOA.
But we do have a lady that goes around writing down on post it notes what's wrong with your property and leaving them in your mailbox.

m2go said:   
So, all the neighbors are pissed off at the guys whose rights were violated, not against their representative who tried to screw the poor neighbors who put the OBA MA signs, and then screwed the entire neighborhood? Why are they not angry at the board? And if they are angry at the board, why didn't they stop the board? Or maybe the neighbors aren't really mad about trampling on Oobama supporters, but just that their representatives lost 100k in their name?


First, if you're on the board of an HOA you should know that political signs are protected speech and that the HOA cannot enforce against them, especially around election time.
If the board didn't know, the management company should know.
If the management company didn't know, then the attorneys should know, as there is already existing caselaw.

In regard to stopping the board: How can you do that? They elected the wrong board member(s). They can't stop board decisions, that's the purpose of a board... In some communities, you can call a special meeting, but in many neighborhoods doing so is all but impossible... Even if possible, the board can ignore it. Remember, they're indemnified and have nothing at risk personally.


Note, I lived in an HOA. I got on the board after my HOA had me take down my fence due to a "set back" violation that never occurred. They had me remove a fence referencing the wrong set back. After I removed it and proved the set back, they said "sorry". The second thing that drove me mad was seeing 75% of our dues being spent on a management company and legal fees. Yes, 75% - it was out of control.

I moved about 2 years later. Where I moved there is a POA - the difference being that enforcement actions are the responsibility of the city/county, not the community. The POA exists to maintain community property and it's a great deal. They self-manage, but have paid staff.

As a board member, I can tell you that HOAs have massive power if they choose to wield it incorrectly and irresponsibly. And there isn't much you can do to stop them.

Richardito said:   
The HOAs are there to keep everything in check and keep the property values. If there were no laws people would start doing dumb things like parking their RVs in the front lawn, etc. Not to mention strange house colors, gawky renovations, etc. They do have a use in our society but it is a pity when the people that run them go amuck like in this case.


I don't buy it. And honestly, depending on who you ask, you can find data that supports either opinion (just watch out for who is sponsoring the study). Consider that in many circumstances - HOA vs non-HOA, the real cost of the HOA home is higher by the assessment amount, which can be significant. Not all of that money - and usually a fraction of the amount - goes to amenities / common property.

Certainly in some circumstances, such as a condo, an HOA is a necessary part of that type of property. There isn't a way around it.

I think the biggest influence in terms of how a neighborhood looks is the demographics of that neighborhood. You can regulate compliance 100% across any neighborhood, regardless of circumstances.. And in many cases, making a $40 grass fine a $1000 issue 4-months later is a disservice to the community (IMHO).

I might live in an HOA area again if I was after the amenities, but I'd watch that board like a hawk, be involved, and promote transparency.

mladyd said:   The worst part about this story is it started over a TEMPORARY sign that would have been gone post election day.

That may be because caselaw supports allowing political signs when elections are in play (as a first amendment right). You're not protected against HOA enforcement if you've got signs up 24/7/365.
Note, protected rights do not limit the size/design of the sign.. Apparently the HOA was trying to regulate that too.. They cannot.

AnAmericaninParis said:   No, the lot is zoned R-8.

See link to FFX Co Website -- http://icare.fairfaxcounty.gov/datalets/datalet.aspx?mode=profil...

The DESCRIPTION is non-buildable. Two different things.
Unfortunately for the homeowners, it can be purchased and built on without rezoning.

I blame the HOA. Whoever kept electing that Hughes guy is also complicit. He was a walking disaster. I feel sorry for everyone that lives there. Must be hell on earth.


There is more to it than that. You'd need to see the deed restrictions on that particular lot. The zoning is one thing, but the restrictions can run with the land. Most of the HOA/POA/community property that I've seen - the actual restrictions run as deed restrictions.

There are 6 acres behind my house that were foreclosed in the 1970s as no one wanted to pay the taxes. The lot was bought at tax auction by an individual who thought, just like you did above, that he could build on it. The deed grants me (and all the neighbors) access to the property and disallows building for non-community use. Be careful when buying this stuff! Here's the bad part: The county doesn't enforce deed restrictions. Someone has to sue for enforcement.

AnAmericaninParis said:   No, the lot is zoned R-8.

See link to FFX Co Website -- http://icare.fairfaxcounty.gov/datalets/datalet.aspx?mode=profil...

The DESCRIPTION is non-buildable. Two different things.
Unfortunately for the homeowners, it can be purchased and built on without rezoning.

I blame the HOA. Whoever kept electing that Hughes guy is also complicit. He was a walking disaster. I feel sorry for everyone that lives there. Must be hell on earth.


There could be a deed restriction on it. I used to work with developers in Northern VA, and anything that wasn't a lot was often restricted so that it couldn't be developed when they went to record. Often it was with the goal of protecting a forested area, wetland, or stream. Not sure if this site has any of that. I guess you'd have to go research the property.

"This summer they lost there too, enshrining Shadowood in Virginia law under the concept that you canít make up rules and impose fees if they are not in the developmentís original master deed. "


As a person looking to buy in the next few years in NoVa (w/ hopefully the sequester underway and dropping values and low interested until 2015 QE3) Thank you for the link.

Man anyone in the know care to speculate what this will do to the future of property values in VA?



VicVinegar said:   I just read this to my wife, and reminded her why I insist we be involved with our HOA board. I don't want some moron who will bankrupt the community over a sign to get in there. Of course, this is just the latest horror story from an HOA.

With the right people, HOAs can be "invisible" and effective at keeping a general "order" in the community.

In the wrong hands, they can become unbearable. Fines for grass that is 2 inches longer than spec. A brown spot in the lawn. Never mind the stories of HOA presidents who "pay" themselves consulting fees for who knows what, or that won't submit insurance claims for damage due to common utilities (both examples from another Fairfax County, VA HOA). Here is that story by the way. It also dealt with an association that levied fines without the ability to: http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/the-state-of-nova/post/resto...

Unreasonable residents aren't innocent here either, but in this case, it seems like the HOA took it way too far. I don't blame the homeowner for suing, and if the denial was legitimate, then there should have been a path to settling on a design that would meet the design guidelines. I'm not sure if that was the case here, since the court seemed to focus on the "secret meeting" element.

I'd prefer a non-HOA property, but living in this area, it is difficult to find one unless the neighborhood is old or out in the middle of nowhere.


This HOA president was a dumbass, nerve to take on the FFX county. Talk about biting the hand that feeds you not to mention the one also holding the leash. Very good read indeed. I highly suggest anyone looking to buy in NoVA read this article and pay attention.

nixmahn said:   "This summer they lost there too, enshrining Shadowood in Virginia law under the concept that you canít make up rules and impose fees if they are not in the developmentís original master deed. "


As a person looking to buy in the next few years in NoVa (w/ hopefully the sequester underway and dropping values and low interested until 2015 QE3) Thank you for the link.

Man anyone in the know care to speculate what this will do to the future of property values in VA?



VicVinegar said:   I just read this to my wife, and reminded her why I insist we be involved with our HOA board. I don't want some moron who will bankrupt the community over a sign to get in there. Of course, this is just the latest horror story from an HOA.

With the right people, HOAs can be "invisible" and effective at keeping a general "order" in the community.

In the wrong hands, they can become unbearable. Fines for grass that is 2 inches longer than spec. A brown spot in the lawn. Never mind the stories of HOA presidents who "pay" themselves consulting fees for who knows what, or that won't submit insurance claims for damage due to common utilities (both examples from another Fairfax County, VA HOA). Here is that story by the way. It also dealt with an association that levied fines without the ability to: http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/the-state-of-nova/post/resto...

Unreasonable residents aren't innocent here either, but in this case, it seems like the HOA took it way too far. I don't blame the homeowner for suing, and if the denial was legitimate, then there should have been a path to settling on a design that would meet the design guidelines. I'm not sure if that was the case here, since the court seemed to focus on the "secret meeting" element.

I'd prefer a non-HOA property, but living in this area, it is difficult to find one unless the neighborhood is old or out in the middle of nowhere.


This HOA president was a dumbass, nerve to take on the FFX county. Talk about biting the hand that feeds you not to mention the one also holding the leash. Very good read indeed. I highly suggest anyone looking to buy in NoVA read this article and pay attention.


Even more fun is the story of Van Metre homes and OpenBand communications in Loudoun County.

Van Metre built the planned communities of Broadlands and Lansdowne and as the HOA president in the beginning, gave OpenBand a 75 year contract to be the source for TV, phone and internet which get paid by a bulk payment from the HOA. Van Metre also gave OpenBand control of the utility easements, which ensures that even if Verizon or Comcast wanted to lay fiber, they can't.

Besides one retirement community near Landsdowne, OpenBand provides services nowhere else besides these communities where they have a monopoly. The service is expensive, and it pales in comparison to Fios or Comcast. Their tech support is awful. Since it is bulk billing, everyone in the community pays, whether you watch one minute of TV or not. The service is so bad, that some residents have purchased service from DirecTV or Dish so they have decent TV service, and just pay for two services.

They are currently in court for this one. The community HOAs are suing OpenBand, and Loudoun County denied OpenBand's most recent franchise agreement. OpenBand's only argument seems to be standing and ripeness, so the HOAs may have a win coming.

Not HOA, but just another Northern Virginia housing debacle. I believe those are the only two examples of that mess though. http://www.leesburgtoday.com/news/openband-faces-tough-questions...



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