Real World Homeowner Association Stories

In the world of community association management, there is never an end to the crazy and sometimes idiotic things folks will do.  Sometimes a board of directors will loose all sight of reasonableness and other times the homeowners loose a grip on reality.

Below are a few situations that have made news in our industry on a national level and a couple that are closer to home.

1.  Stop and smell the roses.

A California homeowners’ association set its sights on a homeowner for exceeding the prescribed number of rose bushes he was allowed to grow on his property.  When the homeowner was provided notice of the community violation, he did nothing. 

The association levied monthly fines, threatened to foreclose on the property and ultimately won their case against the homeowner in court.  A judge ruled that the homeowner had willingly violated the community rules and was forced to pay the association’s attorney bill of $70,000.  He eventually lost his home to the bank.

2.  Shingles must be the same, even if your house is hit by a plane.

A Florida man went through a devastating event.  A plane crashed into his home, killing his wife and infant son.  When he went to rebuild, he received no sympathy from his homeowners’ association.  During reconstruction he was fined because the shingles on the roof did not match.  The rules of the community required shingles to match.

3.  Service dog not allowed.

A Colorado hearing-impaired resident was fined by her HOA for having a Pomeranian service dog living with her.  This was a “No Dog” community.  Apparently the board of directors was not versed on the Americans with Disability Act or the Fair Housing Act. 

The law requires condo and homeowner associations to make reasonable accommodations to allow a person with a disability to reside in their home.  This includes permitting service animals.  Fido was allowed to stay!  Fido wins, HOA looses. 

4.  Obama for President results in bankruptcy.

A Virginia homeowners association fights a homeowner over 4 inches, spanning a period of 4 years and costing more than $400,000.00.  A resident of a community in WashingtonD.C. placed an Obama for President sign in their yard in 2008.  According to the rules of the association, the sign was 4 inches taller than permitted. 

One of the HOA board members was unrelenting against the resident.  He wrote a threatening letter to the board demanding the HOA place a lien on the property until the sign complied with community rules.  The homeowner did not remove the sign and argued that the sign was protected by the First Amendment of the Constitution. 

The board fined the homeowner hundreds of dollars and the homeowner sued.  Fast forward four years and a court ruling later…the HOA lost the case and was forced to pay the homeowner’s legal fees as well as their own.  The total was $400,000.00 and the HOA is bankrupt.  Oh, and Obama won!

5.  This is not my “Stuff”.

Some stories are impossible to make up.  A friend of mine who manages a high-rise building relayed a situation that involved a toilet backing up on one of the higher floors in her building.  A homeowner would complain that the toilet was backing up and it had to be a building problem.  This homeowner expected management to “fix it”. 

The problem continued and it was discovered that none of the other units connected to the common drain were experiencing any problems.  Now, if you live on the 12th floor of a high-rise and a common sewer pipe is blocked…lots of residents would be calling, not just one. 

This one homeowner was so positive that, well…she took photos of the toilet “matter”, emailed the photo to the manager and informed her that the “stuff” photographed was not that of the homeowner.  It had to belong to someone else. 

6.  Parallel Parking

What do you do when a board member does not like the helter-skelter parking ability of the neighbors?  You create a parking rule, of course!  I was told of a high-rise community that established a rule requiring each resident to park their vehicle parallel to the white parking stripes painted on the garage floor. 

A vehicle must park centered and straight forward in the assigned parking space.  The vehicle is not to be parked too close to one side nor should it touch a white line.  After all, vehicle parking is unsightly when it lacks uniformity and structure.


Do you have a community association rules experience to share?  If so, please do.



About midtowntim

I'm a licensed community manager, community volunteer and I live in a multi-family high-rise condo.
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