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December 19, 2009 | | Comments 18

7 Ridiculous Homeowners Association (HOA) Rules

The astonishingly restrictive ways of homeowners associations (HOAs) came under scrutiny this month when a Sussex Square, Virginia, HOA demanded that a 90-year-old World War II vet remove an unapproved flag pole from his front yard. After receiving support from members of Congress, and even the Obama administration, Medal of Honor recipient Van T. Barfoot, who once singlehandedly took on three Nazi tanks, triumphed in his quest to fly Old Glory. Other homeowners haven’t been as lucky in their battles against their own HOAs’ “fascist” rules.

Republished from The Week, here are seven of the most controversial commandments:

1. Do Not Plant Too Many Roses
A Rancho Santa Fe, California, homeowners’ association targeted Jeffery DeMarco for exceeding the prescribed number of rose bushes allowed on his four-acre property. When DeMarco balked, the HOA levied monthly fines, threatened foreclosure, and ultimately defeated DeMarco in court. After a judge ruled that the willful rose enthusiast had violated the community’s architecture design rules, DeMarco was forced to pay the HOA’s $70,000 legal bill — and lost his home to the bank.

2. Do Not Use “Inconsistent” Shingles — Even After a Plane Destroys Your House
After a plane crashed into the Sanford, Florida, home of Joe Woodard, killing his wife, Janise, and their infant son, he decided to rebuild a new home on the same lot. But his reconstruction came to a screeching halt when his HOA informed him that he’d positioned the new structure unacceptably and failed to achieve a perfect shingle match with his neighbors’ homes. Threatened with a lawsuit, the grieving widower told a local reporter that he’d hoped to change things up to avoid “reliving” painful memories — but eventually capitulated to the unsympathetic HOA.

3. You Must Carry Your Dog at All Times

Pamela McMahan, a geriatric who walks with a cane, was fined $25 every time she failed to carry her cocker spaniel through the lobby of her Long Beach, California condominium, which stipulates that pets’ feet must never touch the floor of common areas. “There are just too many things going on in the lobby,” said Stormy Jech, the building’s assistant property manager. “The dog might jump on someone or go to the bathroom.” After racking up hundreds of dollars in fines, McMahan was forced to move.

4. Do Not Post a “For Sale” sign
When Denise Hicks placed a “For Sale” sign in front of her Lebanon, Tennessee, residence, the Spence Creek homeowners association quickly reprimanded her for a breach of contract, citing a rule prohibiting signs, banners or billboards. Ultimately, Hicks was forced to display her realtor’s signs in her home’s windows, hidden from view.

5. Do Not Offer Your Homeless Granddaughter Shelter
Assuming guardianship of their six-year-old granddaughter, Kimberly, after her drug-addict mother was ruled unfit, Jimmy and Judy Stuttler brought the child to live with them in their Clearwater, Florida, retirement village. Since Kimberly was not technically “over 55″ or arguably “retired,” the alarmed HOA tried to force the girl out. Attempting to move, the Stuttlers failed to sell their home even after slashing its price from $250,000 to $129,000 and were eventually sued by the HOA. Kimberley’s fate is now in the hands of the courts.

6. You Shall Maintain a Consistently Green Lawn
The Beacon Woods Civic Association in Bayonet Point, Florida, took 66-year old resident Joseph Prudente to court for failing to properly maintain his lawn after a $600-per-month increase to his adjustable rate mortgage threw him on hard times. Though Prudente was ultimately jailed for failing to resod his lawn, other members of the community took pity on the faulty landscaper, and paid for new sod, flowers, mulching, and functioning sprinklers. Their charity was enough to spring their elderly neighbor from the slammer, but Prudente still faces court and association fines.

7. No Smoking — Even in Your Own Bathroom
HOAs’ ban on smoking in all public areas — including balconies, patios, courtyards, and swimming pool areas — has recently been extended into residents’ homes. Citing the negative health effects of secondhand smoke, multiple court hearings have ruled in favor of HOAs. As Realty Times points out, “The Constitution does not guarantee Americans the right to smoke in their homes….”

What’s really quite pathetic about these ridiculous rules is that 2,3 & 7 would apply to my own HOA.

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About the Author: David Wallace is a search & social media marketer who lives in Anthem Arizona with his lovely wife. Interests & hobbies include all things Disney, roller coasters, musicianship and Christianity.

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  1. Amazing HOA Rules. A great distraction in the midst of the housing recession!

  2. There was a man who got in trouble with his HOA not too far from where I lived as a kid. He had a car for sale in his yard. Bear in mind that this was not a nice neighborhood, it just thought it was. He painted his house like a rainbow in protest of the courts ruling that he couldn’t sell his own car in his own yard…I saw the house, it was quite lovely. The HOA ended up paying to repaint the house after he deserted it and bought one in a decent neighborhood…

  3. This is what you get for not fully reading a contract before entering into it, and buying a house that is essentially under the control of a corporation (read: psychopathic entity).

  4. Fascists!!!!…These are the type of people who would help an old Jewish woman on a transport to Auschwitz.

  5. Blown way out of proportion in general:

    1) The guy planted over 10,000 roses (not like he planted a few more than the rules allowed). He lost the case primarily because he didn’t show up to court (thereby defaulting). http://www.ahrc.se/new/index.php/src/news/sub/article/action/ShowMedia/id/932

    2) Shingles were only *one* reason there was an issue. The homeowner built an entirely different house on a different area of the lot, and a different size (making it inconsistent for the neighborhood). http://www.wesh.com/news/17432965/detail.html

    3) She moved into the condo knowing the rules regarding pets and leashes around other elderly people. My elderly father-in-law broke his arm recently dealing with small dogs…this rule is actually more common sense than is being portrayed here.

    4) Devil is in the details. Looks like she is trying to turn around the house in a quick sale…the community was still be being built at the time. http://thatismessedup.com/2009/06/12/hoa-rules-ban-for-sale-sign/

    5) The HOA was patient for about 4 years. What more are you looking for?

    6) The guy had an ARM and was too lazy to refinance (this was in 2008, plenty of opportunities to refinance)…and likely too lazy to deal with his lawn. His sprinkler system broke, and he was apparently too lazy to put out manual sprinklers. He could have easily avoided all of this.

    7) Of course you can smoke in your private home…you just need to control that smoke so it doesn’t go into other people’s homes. If you have an issue with that, are you okay with your neighbor playing extremely loud music at 2:00 in the morning? Didn’t think so…

  6. Unbound

    I don’t think that you are completely grasping the concept of the article. These rules are idiotic, and as with anything there needs to be exceptions.
    5)you are a douche… what more are you looking for… ha maybe sympathy or compassion…. I’m sure that the little girl was playing too much….

    6)you sound like you are head of one of these HOAs yourself. there are numerous reasons as to why a ARM cannot be refinanced at a lower rate

    7) Get off your high horse… Did said neighbor come over and state that s/he was having a party? Don’t assume just because you are a prick that everyone else is.

  7. Screw ALL HOA’s. They rarely represent the home owners and usually represent the power trip of the very few. FU HOA’s!!!

  8. At Unbound:

    I really don’t think you can justiy the HOA’s decisions. The fact of the matter is, some of these people actually OWN their homes, yet they are still penalized by some totally arbitrary organization that somehow has control of how their property should look. Seriously, what the fuck? In the other cases, it’s clearly a power play, such as the old lady that is fined for not carrying her dog.

    I’m glad I live in a place where HOAs are virtually non-existant.

  9. Seth wrote: “yet they are still penalized by some totally arbitrary organization that somehow has control of how their property should look”

    Somehow has control?!? The fact is, every one of these people signed a contact with their HOA, and agreed to the stipulations in the contract. Everybody has a hard-luck story, but in the real-world those don’t trump signed contracts. There’s a pretty simple solution to not having to agree to some of these rules: DON’T SIGN THE CONTRACT! Move somewhere else.

  10. People buy into the HOA thing because they want to live somewhere that keeps out “undesirables.” Then they find out that, to their neighbors, THEY are the undesirables. Things look a bit different from that point of view.

  11. It seems that people are more willing to give up more and more freedoms. Either letting the government dictate by law or if beyond the scope of governments, letting local groups dictate policy. Why did we even bother to break away from England over 200 years ago? It seems there’s a lot of people who don’t care about there freedoms.
    When I bought my house I wouldn’t even look at a house if it had an HOA. I guess eventually there will be an association that will tell you what you can and can’t purchase when looking at houses. Maybe they won’t like your age or the type of car you drive and you won’t be able to buy your dream home. I think it just may end up being the HOA’s that drive the price of your house down due to there strict rules and threats to the homeowners who aren’t complying.

  12. When I was home shopping the first question I asked was if it was part of HOA. Any house that was I refused to look at. Mine is where I can plant as many roses, have as many dogs as I can care for and paint purple if I want to. That, my friends, is the freedom so many have died for.

  13. to BUK

    Exactly….

    Why do we even have discrimination laws. Senior communities are nice but should they be allowed to discriminate based on age. I could go into a big spiel here but alas not style. Think on it people……….

  14. If I can ever afford to buy a house, it will NOT be in any neighborhood with an HOA. If I’m paying over $200k for something, I damn well have the right to do as I please with it.

  15. I recently developed a HOA with collaboration from a small group of investors. However the rules we set in place are fairly common sense, and most people should have no problems with a few of the restrictions we have placed.

    1) No vehicles more than 5 years old unless the vehicle is worth more than 80,000.
    2) No visitors, ever.
    3) You may only open your front door if your home is on fire, then you must close it before exiting the home.
    4) your lawn must have exactly 37 tulips (violation of this rule is a 1,000 dollar fine per tulip above or below 37.)
    5) You must post political campaign ads for the candidate chosen by the HOA prominently on your property, as well as on any vehicle you own.
    6) You may not sell your home without written approval from the HOA.
    7) Your doorbell must ring at exactly 42 decibels, (fine schedule for non compliance is on track the rule 4)
    8) You must decorate for Halloween and fourth of July, but are prohibited from placing decorations for any other holiday (both inside and outside of any structures on the lot)
    9) You may not at any time play any music on your property.
    10) You must provide a 30 day notice to the HOA before entering or leaving your property for more than 10 minutes

    There are a few more, but these are the ones that stand out in my mind as common sense and easy to follow.

    This simple set of common sense rules helps us define ourselves as a community and at the same time increases the value of our property.

    Failure to abide by any of these rules will obligate you to forfeiture of your home and 35 years of indentured servitude to the HOA or 250,000,000. Oh, and your first born child.

  16. Laaand of the Freeee Laaaaaaaaaaaand of the FReeeeeee

  17. This is truly ridiculous. It is not only HOA rules, but also city bylaws that are absolutely ridiculous. What America needs is a strong counter-culture, perhaps like in the 60′s, to prevent it from becoming a total police state. I personally find it frightening to see more and more rules controlling people’s lives; it is already a joke to call America “land of the free”. Very scary.

  18. I live in a HOA and let me tell you the HOA of today are a joke, I just got a letter stating I had to repaint my door another color since the 2 old fart ladies on the architectual committee decided they no longer like the color..I went up to tell them were to go . Instead I got all paper work from my orginal house purchase and it clearly states all home must be kept to the original color scheme of when the house was built.. Whola.. I then Had the realtor agent for the HOA give me a copy of the paper work those ladies put in my file ..Well they buried themselves on that one.. No architectual committee can change the color of the exterior with out a vote with in the community.
    Gee After I left I got a call and amazingly they dropped the issue with my front door color..My next house will not be in a HOA .. they are ridiculous now …

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