It may come as no surprise, but Homeowners Associations have a bit of a bad reputation. While there are good HOAs out in the wild, you typically only read about the worst offenders, and it's usually for a good reason.
Just ask Alec, whose friend, Hal, inherited his grandparents' house in a neighborhood with a tenacious HOA helmed by a group of power hungry, greedy busy bodies who made it their mission in life to get the entire neighborhood under their control. When Hal first moved into the house his late grandparents' built and lived in for decades, the HOA assumed they could take advantage of a seemingly young and inexperienced first-time homeowner. But the group would soon find out that not only did Hal not have any intention of joining their association, he also wasn't going to go down without a fight.
So buckle up and prepare for one wild ride...
It didn't take long for the HOA board members to show up and start pestering Hal with lists of demands, rules, and random searches. Shortly after he moved in, Hal received a knock at the door, and when he opened it, he was greeted by a group of the HOA members shoving papers in his face, demanding he sign them right away.
If that wasn't bad enough, one of the board members demanded that he be allowed entry into Hal's garage to see "if everything there is in order." This essentially meant that the HOA had the "right to do this bi-weekly," and denying any of the members access would result in a fine.
Hall was appalled by the "audacity" of the HOA for thinking that they had any right forcefully entering people's homes to randomly dig through their property. Having enough of the HOA, Hal promptly kicked them out of his garage and off his property, refusing to sign the membership papers in the process.
It seemed like the HOA was banking on the idea that since Hal was young and naive, he would probably back down. Little did they know, Hal's grandfather had written his grandson a letter detailing the years of abuse by the HOA, preparing him for the fight that would be coming his way.
"It turns out they were wrong on both accounts, since his grandpa left him a letter pointing out what his rights exactly were, what they would possibly try, what else they might try, how hard it is to fight what, when he needs to react and how, so he prepared him really well for this," Alec wrote.
With the HOA gone, Hal looked through the HOAs list of guidelines, which sounded more like a list of demands from an occupying force than a neighborhood association.
"They had, for example, a right to visit your home bi-weekly to check things like that you do not use the garage for storage or don't have gasoline in containers in your garage," Alec wrote. "You had to mow your lawn every week, snow had to be shoveled every two hours when it snowed (starting at 5 o'clock in the morning). You could not park more than one car on your grounds (except inside the garage)."
Three days went by and Hal still hadn't signed the contract, so the group came back by like some geriatric mafia trying to get him to comply with their rules. When the group said they wanted to check Hal's garage again, he said no and kicked them off his property.
"To them, that meant war," Alec wrote.
Within a week of the confrontation, Hal received received fines upwards of $1,000 for simply not allowing them to enter his home. Hal was neither impressed nor intimidated and used the "stupid letters to help fire his grill."
But this only fanned the flames of discontent...
Hal went on with his life, but would you be shocked to hear that the HOA board wasn't so willing to forgive and forget? Because they did neither.
One day, Hal came home to find one of the HOA members had broken into his his garage, writing down things on a notepad. It didn't take long for Hal to realize the zealous HOA board was willing to take any step necessary to keep tabs on him, even if that meant using bolt cutters to bust up a lock on the garage door.
Hal quickly called out the intruder, but he soon realized that the intrusion was just part of the HOA's plan. As he was trying to figure out what the man was doing breaking into his home and prying through his personal belongings, he heard what sounded like demolition of some sort coming from his front yard.
In front of his house stood two oak trees that his grandparent's planted with seeds from their home country when they first built the home all those years ago, and now a tree removal company was in the process of tearing them down.
Those trees had stood there for decades, serving as a reminder of where they had come from, a reminder of their heritage, and a reminder of their love. Hal stood there in disbelief as something that had meant so much to his family was being ripped away.
"They had called a professional crew for this," Alec wrote. "One was already so damaged (basically all twigs were already down, it was just a stump that was left). The other one they had just started with."
It only got worse when Hal was informed that the HOA told the crew that Alec had given them permission to cut down the trees because they were in violation of HOA rules.
But what kind of rule would give an HOA member the right to walk onto someone's property and cut down decades-old trees?
Hal would find out that there was a rule (which he didn't sign off on) where if a garden produces more than a 40-liter sack of leaves within two weeks, the garden owner needs to take down the "offending trees" within two weeks of the violation.
Having had enough of the HOA, its members, and its rules, Hal decided it was time to get back at the people who had made his first weeks of being a homeowner a living nightmare.
He struck up a deal with the tree crew where he would overlook the trespassing if they would agree to be witnesses if he filed charges against the HOA. Having the crew's word that they would back him up, Hal did what he had to do.
"Then he called the cops on the board members for trespassing, breaking and entering (they actually had used a bolt cutter to get into the garage; he had it always closed with a big bike lock after they had tried to get in it twice before)," Alec wrote.
And believe it or not, this thing actually went to trial...
Alec didn't provide details on the ins and outs of the criminal trial, but he said it must have been "glorious," because not only did the HOA have to repay Hal for the broken lock and damage to the trees (which ended up being close to $50,000), they also fought the charges which cost them another $15,000 in legal fees.
"All in all, this trial must have cost them over $120,000," Alec recalled.
But it didn't end there. Not having enough of his revenge, Hal decided to take the HOA and its members to civil court where he sued them for "emotional damage."
You might be asking, "but what's this business about 'emotional damage?'"
Well, Hal laid it on as thick as he could when he was pleading his case.
"He told them how much these trees meant to him, since his grandparents had planted them, with seeds from the home country," Alec wrote. "Plus, he felt threatened by the HOA, and can hardly sleep because he always fears they try to get into his house."
Neither of which were lies, and so the court bought Hal's story and ordered the HOA to pay $500,000 plus the cost of a state of the art home alarm system so he could "feel safe again in his own home."
But that wasn't all...
The HOA's actions ended up costing the board around $750,000 before everything was said and done, but it would only get worse for some of the board members.
"They had to file for bankruptcy and get a person to check the books so my friend would get his money," Alec wrote. "But the best for last... The mediator found out that these three pricks had been defrauding the HOA for well over 10 years and were giving out as many fines as they possibly could so they could use it to bolster their income."
Through their research, the mediator discovered that the HOA methodically tried to get rid of the people that they did not want there, and then they would buy their houses on the cheap. The HOA would use the fines from their ridiculous rules to create enough money for the down payment on these homes. With that being said, everyone wanted a piece of these crooks.
And that's not even the best part...
Due to the astronomical settlement, the three board members who had been waging a private war on Hal were left with no choice but to sell their homes in order to pay Hal's settlement.
And with the three leaders of the HOA out of the neighborhood, Hal became somewhat of a local hero after freeing his neighbors from the abuse and extortion of the HOA board members.
"You see, most people never wanted the HOA in the first place, but the board member practically forced them to sign the contract, claiming it would not be optional, and if they did not sign before moving in it would be a $500 fine," Alec recalled. "Only six of the 50 members actually wanted this HOA (and people think they did get part of the action, as reward for spying on their neighbors to find violations)."
With his newfound fame, Hal found himself constantly being invited over to his neighbors' for parties and BBQ's while the former HOA board became nothing but a distant memory.
And so that concludes our story about the young homeowner who had enough of a tyrannical HOA and its board members and decided to get his own form of revenge. It wasn't pretty and it wasn't sweet, but Hal did what had to be done. He couldn't stand on the sidelines and watch as the group of extortionists and petty crooks continued to reign over a neighborhood who wanted no part in being subjected to the rules of a neighborhood association.
Hal did what so many before him had failed to do... he stood up, he made a stand, and he got his voice heard.
While the HOA's former leaders are selling their homes, draining their bank accounts, and looking for any possible way to pay back one of their victims, Hal and the rest of his neighbors are enjoying the sweet taste of freedom and some of that BBQ his new friends keep offering him.