In theory, Home Owners Associations (HOA) can help keep a neighborhood neat and orderly so all residents can enjoy their property. Unfortunately, this isn't always what happens. The HOA board members get a little too power hungry and start dishing out some insane rules that can make owning a home a living nightmare.
People who've had bad experiences took to to Reddit to warn others to stay far away from HOAs. Content has been edited for clarity.
"I often had to travel for my work, sometimes several weeks at a time. I bought a home in a nice gated community thinking it would provide a little more security when I was out of town, but mainly because the HOA maintained the yards and home exteriors. These were chores that I often didn’t have time to do.
I worked for a company that provided me with a car, an Oldsmobile '98 with no company name, stickers, decals, or numbers anywhere on it to indicate it was a commercial vehicle. The only thing that identified it as a company vehicle were the state issued commercial license plates. However, it did have a couple of antennas mounted on the trunk because it was equipped with a mobile phone (the old kind before cell phones) and a business band radio. But those antennas looked similar to the scanner and CB antennas that were common at that time.
I always immediately pulled into the garage when I arrived home and then closed the garage door because we were required to keep them closed. I soon learned an older lady living nearby was the president of our HOA, and she took her responsibilities very seriously. Not long after I moved there, she walked over and told me the covenants prohibit commercial vehicles from entering the subdivision between 8 PM and 7 AM, or to park there overnight. Then she said that I had to park my car someplace else.
I explained to her that my employer required me to always drive a company vehicle, so they can contact me when necessary, therefore I didn’t own a personal vehicle. It was my only means of transportation and, other than having commercial license plates, it looked like an ordinary privately owned vehicle. Besides, it would always be parked in my closed garage when I’m home. She said that didn’t matter because the residents had previously decided they don’t want commercial vehicles driving around their subdivision at night or parking overnight.
I continued parking that vehicle in my garage while at home. The following week she had a lawyer on retainer with the HOA (and a resident of the subdivision) send me a large certified envelope containing a copy of the HOA covenants with relevant parts of it highlighted and a letter ordering me to immediately cease and desist parking commercial vehicles in the subdivision overnight in violation of the covenants. He also included an itemized bill showing the amount of money he was demanding I pay for his legal services, as permitted by the covenants.
I mentioned this problem to my boss, so he had me go talk with the company attorney (his daughter) and show her everything they had sent. She listened to my story and looked at everything in the envelope. She then sent the HOA and their attorney certified letters notifying them she was my attorney and demanded all future communications by either HOA officers or their legal representatives involving or concerning the vehicles I drive must be submitted in writing to her at her office. Also, she demanded all HOA officers and their legal representatives to immediately cease all contact and communication with me until this matter has been satisfactorily resolved. Then she wrote that her opinion of their covenant restrictions regarding commercial vehicles appear to be unfairly biased, unjustified, unwarranted, unlawful, and unenforceable when the vehicle is a popular unmarked sedan appearing to be an ordinary privately owned vehicle. Should you pursue this case in court, it will be easy to prove my client’s vehicle is newer and more visually appealing than many vehicles being driven by other residents that are not being subjected to these restrictions. Then she included an itemized bill showing the much higher amount of money she was demanding the HOA pay for her legal services, but included a copy of the bill from the HOA lawyer and deducted that amount from her invoice as a credit.
Their lawyer called her a few days later and said the HOA officers have decided they will agree to exempt unmarked cars from the commercial vehicle restrictions in their covenant if we were willing to agree to a truce and neither side pursue the collection of legal fees. She agreed."
"I got a ticket for my garbage can being left out too long. One trash day my family was out of town and I ended up working late. I got home about 9pm and brought the empty can in and found a ticket on my front door. $50.
Another day: We lived in a cul-de-sac and I went out the garage door to play kickball with my kids and some of the neighborhood kids (I just did the pitching) and since I was planning to be outside for a little while, I left the garage door open. We played about an hour and then went in the house for lunch and I closed the garage door behind us. Later I went outside and found another ticket on my front door. This time the ticket was for leaving my garage door open for longer than 30 minutes. It had the actual time I opened the garage door and the actual time I closed it on the ticket. It was a total of 56 minutes. Somebody had to have been watching when I opened the door AND when I shut it and reported it right away. Then someone had to process it at the office and get it posted on my door within an hour. $50. That is some enthusiastic HOA’ing.
Another time, there was no street parking allowed for tenants (tenants are only allowed to park in their garage or outside the complex). Near my townhouse there were, however, four visitor spaces. I don’t think people in my cul-de-sac got many visitors because I never saw cars parked in these four spots. One Friday night, I was having a poker game and had invited four friends over to play. Of course, they parked in the visitor spaces. Next morning, I had two tickets for $50 each on my door. Turns out, that tenants can only have their guests use a maximum of two visitor parking spots at a time.
I get that HOAs try to keep the neighborhood neat, clean, and standardized. It was a good-looking property. However, these petty rules (and snitching neighbors) were more than I could take so we sold our townhouse and moved to an even nicer neighborhood of single family homes WITH NO HOA. Expensive, but worth it."
"This one is ongoing.
I rent. I don't like buying a home because it means I have to hold still, and unless I've got a committed relationship going, I prefer the flexibility. I happened to rent a property in a neighborhood with an HOA for the first time.
It has been nice not to mow, and they have built a gate around the community, but I'll happily do all that to be rid of this HOA. So would my landlords.
Three aging southern women who have been the board of this HOA for 13 years sit on unopposed thrones, and run the community like it's their little fiefdom. They hate renters and it so happens my neighbor is another renter. They apparently ran off people who sold their homes to landlords and now the HOA is discovering the FHA applies to them, and they aren't happy about it.
After towing my car and my neighbor's because I once parked on the curb and her car was nosed just over the edge of her driveway, my landlords started looking into it. The HOA had been operating illegally for over a decade. The Triumvirate (as I call them) had exempted themselves from over $8000 in fees each along with multiple other violations of the HOA charter. They had been calling meetings in secret and excluding the four landlords that owned structures there, doing all they could legally do to make things hostile to renters.
What finally broke the camel's back was a gate. Rather than a normal gate that uses a keypad and is contiguous with the fencing, they installed a tollgate. To obtain a barcode to put on your vehicle to enter this gate, you must pay 75 bucks per code to the Triumvirate. People who live there and own their home get two for free. Renters get none, and their landlords have to buy one for themselves and one for the renter, to try to make renting more expensive. Alongside the gate installation, policy changes nobody but them voted on included that all renters required a thumbs-up from the HOA on every individual renter. They want (illegally) the personally identifiable information and credit checks of every potential tenant. Finally, they 'reserve the right' to revoke bar code validity at any time for any reason, basically saying 'do what we say or we will lock you out of your own home. If it gets revoked, you have to buy another. The person running the gate and its cameras happens to be the boyfriend of one of the Triumvirate (he gets paid 20 bucks an hour).
Lawsuits went into the air immediately from every single landlord. The Q&A meeting to 'clarify' the details turned into the Triumvirate getting angry, telling the landlords they weren't allowed to ask questions because of their lawsuits (so we tenants did it for them and man that ticked 'em off) and a series of complaints and holes poked into the whole plan.
It's now to the point that the gate is installed and with arms stuck upward because the whole thing has been put on hold by the courts pending litigation and people are selling their homes…to the landlords.
What sparked all this? Someone got shot near the entrance in a crime of passion, and the rumor mongers mutated it into an illegal substance deal and an interracial couple where the black one shot the white one. It was two white people and no substances were involved."
"I was living with my sister and her husband in their townhouse. One of the board members 'walked the property' every day to look for infractions. She walked along the street but she also walked behind every townhouse.
The board was aware I was living there. When I bought a new car, I parked my old car (1978 Datsun 280Z) in the ‘extra’ parking spaces, which were out of the way; not near the town homes. Plus, there were spaces for 15 to 20 other cars that went unused.
My brother-in-law received a letter that my car was unregistered. My car was still registered out of state and it still had a valid registration. The license plate was under a car cover so Miss Walk-The-Property was touching my car too. My brother-in-law went to the next meeting to let them know he was going to file a police report in case whoever lifted the car cover might have also vandalized my car (it wasn’t vandalized and he wasn’t going to file a report).
A week or so later, the board came up with a rule that all vehicles in ‘community’ parking spaces (not in garages) must be moved every 24 hours. Several homeowners complained but the board ignored them. My brother-in-law was the only person to receive a warning letter and fine from the board.
He went to the next meeting to explain I did move my old car every day but parked it back in the same spot. He then said he would happily pay any fee when the board produced the 24-hour video that proved my vehicle had not been moved. When they said there was no video, he smiled and then offered to pay the fine if they could produce the log and people who watched the vehicle 24 hours.
Of course, they couldn’t. They insisted the rule was valid and I was guilty of not moving my vehicle. I started reversing the car when I moved it… in the same spot. Head in one day. Backed in the next. Still not good enough for them. So I moved it between two spaces; left, right, left, right. Still not good enough.
Now, my brother-in-law was angry since this was clearly targeting one person. The board lawyer was also not happy with the board by this point. He didn’t say anything, but his tone was not pleased.
So, every evening my brother-in-law would drive my car to the house of each board member, beep the horn several times, then move on to the next one. He did this for a week before he received a letter to stop. No fine. Just stop.
He had his lawyer reply indicating he was on a public road and making sure the board members were aware the vehicle had been moved since they had not designated anyone to monitor the vehicles or have video covering all parking spaces. He continued making the board members aware my car had been moved every day.
A week later, he got a letter saying they would waive the fine if he would stop. He replied that he would continue as long as the 'unfair and targeted' rule could ever be used again. So, he continued.
Another few days went by before the board announced the rule had been repealed. They never bothered us again."
"First, several years ago there was a giant ice storm in Dallas overnight. A large tree fell in my backyard around 3am under the weight of the ice and knocked my fence down leading into the alley.
At 6am, I had a notice on my door:
HOA rule 102.4 requires all owners to have a fence in their backyards between the yard and the alley. You are in violation of the rule and are required to attend a violation hearing at the next HOA meeting to discuss penalties and potential resolutions.'
Me: 'What the heck?! It fell over last night!'
I called the HOA to figure out what was going on. Evidently there was no leeway. No fence was no fence. So I sued the HOA, the president of the HOA individually, and the chief enforcement officer individually for violating several state laws. They tried to back down. I refused until the entire HOA board agreed to resign and sign a permanent injunction against ever being on our HOA again.
Second, our HOA requires us to keep our lawns trimmed. Most HOAs do. Mine takes it to a new level, or used to anyway.
There was a little old lady with a golf cart the HOA had provided. EVERY SINGLE MORNING she drove around the neighborhood, stopping at every house to measure the grass. She wrote the heights in a little notebook. We weren't allowed to have more than a 200 percent variance from low to high or we got an automatic citation. Everyone hated this woman.
Then she died from old age, about two years ago. To date, no one has agreed to become the next grass enforcement officer."
"In my very first condo building, one of the other residents didn’t like me. Most people also didn’t like her, but she was a lawyer (she told everyone, I knew she was just starting law school), so they deferred to her. She somehow convinced them that they didn’t need to do the two things required for association meetings per the laws in my area––send a notice of the meeting date, time, and location to all owners at the address the association has for them by mail and post a notice of the same in public areas of the building that all owners can access, both at least 21 days in advance (they held an association meeting that specifically excluded me and two other owners using this tactic). Keep in mind this was an 8-unit building, so excluding three units from representation meant that they didn’t have a 2/3 (67%) vote, which is required for many things.
During that association meeting, they passed three rules (two of which were completely bunk because they were amendments to the bylaws which required a paper ballot, mailed, which at least 2/3 of owners agreed to).
1) Any owner who did not park their car in their designated parking spot at least three nights a week forfeited the use of that parking space to the association to assign or use as they saw fit. Parking spots were limited common elements, and any amendment to their use constituted a change to the bylaws. I and one other owner did not own cars, but occasionally let friends park in our spaces. The car owners wanted our spaces for guests of their own. To best accomplish this, 'resident use' spaces could only be used by a car the owner notified the association they possessed, with the license plate and VIN and proof of ownership by a resident, at least two weeks prior to that car parking in the space. Guests could not use 'resident' spaces, nor could owners for rental cars. Yeah.
2) No one could consume adult beverages 'on the premises' within 'plain view' of other residents. This was precipitated by an uber-religious owner who kept us 'heathens' out of the association meeting. Everyone thought this meant in just the common spaces, but they were WRONG. Banning having a cold one in our big yard was bad enough, but this owner meant if she could see you at all. So, I ended up being the first one 'rung up' about it. Since I didn’t even know the rule had passed (minutes and vote results were also not mailed as required by law), she had our management company blowing up my phone on a Friday evening about HAVING A DRINK ON MY PRIVATE BALCONY. She could see me from the parking lot, that was 'in plain view of other residents' and I needed to stop.
BUT WAIT, there's more. A neighbor on the first floor was sitting on her couch having a glass of vino when Ms. Perfect walked up to the main door of the building. Her blinds were open, which violates the rules. She either has to close her blinds or stop drinking inside her own home!
(3) The building was sold as pet-friendly, with no restrictions. The lawyer neighbor moved in a big, poorly mannered dog just before said association meeting where they excluded several of us. She then proposed to ban all pets, even down to a goldfish in a bowl, except those already in the building. The allowance of pets was actually written into the bylaws (unusual, but it does happen), so, again violating the bylaws except for her own benefit. I was in the process to adopt a dog at that time (appropriate to a small condo and less than 1/3 the size of hers), and I only found out about the bylaw change when I asked the management company for a letter stating dogs were allowed to present to the rescue.
Thankfully, all this was resolved pretty quickly when the three of us who were excluded from the meeting and a fourth who objected to most of the rule changes paid a lawyer friend of mine to write a simple letter asking for proof the meeting and bylaw changes had been properly conducted. The 'lawyer' girl sent a letter back saying, without proof, they had, but upon further insistence. The management company stepped in and said that the proof was not there. The begged us to not sue (since they would be on the hook for not conducting the meeting properly) and asked for permission to re-do the association meeting, with proper notice, in a proper place, and with proper balloting for bylaw changes. We agreed. All measures failed when properly voted upon, and the 'lawyer' could only get revenge on us through disapproving stares and putting their units up for rent as soon as they could afford something else."
"God I hate HOAs. Packs of first-world, spoiled muppets who don’t know what a real problem is. They all need to go do some mission work in war zones.
I used to have these three condos in a complex here in Scottsdale. Super-cool old building. Lots of snowbirds, who are retired folks that come down here for the winter and clog the roads with large cars moving slowly and erratically.
I was perpetually 'in trouble' with the HOA most months over some tenant bull, so I made it a point to go to the meetings to face the 'disciplinary committee' and talk my way out of a fine. So silly.
And if we’re being honest, I made it a point to hit happy hour first, just to be able to put up with these clowns.
So, true story: I’m at a meeting, and this crusty old fart from Minnesota stands up, and yells at the president of our HOA (who was actually a good dude and tried hard) at the top of his lungs, 'CAN YOU PLEASE TELL THE BROWN FELLA NOT TO CUT THE GRASS SO SHORT NEXT TO MY PATIO?' Ver-freaking-batim quote.
I mean, seriously? That just came out of your mouth, in front of 200 people, and is now digitally recorded in the minutes of the meeting? Never mind the 'brown fella' is some poor Latino landscaper, busting his butt in the Arizona sunshine for probably $12/hour and you shuffle your butt up front, and yell at the top of your voice for THAT?
For the record, I totally lost it and laughed my tail off. I mean, what else can you do? I’m guessing the upright citizens brigade there wasn’t pleased, but seriously who cares?
I talked my way out of the fine for that month and sold those places soon after.
No more HOAs for me. Ever. I hope they all cannibalize each other."
"Living under an HOA in Arizona. I had just arrived home from work, dropped off a few things in the house, then went outside to collect the weekly bundle of flyers. It was late evening, maybe 7pm, but still light outside. I was standing in my driveway while a slow-moving car drove by with a person in the passenger seat taking photos or videos with their cell phone. We had an HOA, but not a gated community, so this could be anyone. I took my own cell phone out and took a photo of the car, occupants, and license plate. They came around again, slowly, and the woman taking the photos said, 'Don’t take my picture,' which ensured that I definitely took her picture.
The car stopped and I took a few steps back into the garage. I left my weapon inside the house when I dropped off my laptop bag, but I was fully prepared that this was the next step. I continued recording as this woman got out from the near side of the street, phone in hand, telling me that she was from the HOA and she had the right to take my picture. Seeing that she wasn’t armed, I stepped forward to tell her that while that is true, she’s on a public street so I can take her picture. Since I don’t recognize either her or her car, I took their picture to ensure that this wasn’t someone 'casing' the neighborhood for potential targets for burglary. She rattled on about this while I closed the garage door and went inside. Had the man in the driver’s seat gotten up, I would have likely retreated to get my weapon. This is Arizona, you can’t be too careful.
A few days later, I got a letter from the HOA, indicating that I was not to take pictures of HOA employees doing their job and warning me not to do so again. It wasn’t worth the paper it was printed on, so I ignored it.
Yes, I was reprimanded for taking photos of a slow-moving car in my neighborhood, on a public street.
The following month, we get a letter that traffic is too fast and there will be a traffic study. The HOA puts up a sign with a radar collecting information. The speed limit is 25mph. The sign with the radar, however, is at ground level. Anyone can walk up to it. Not all radars are well shielded, and there have been cases of police officers getting testicular cancer because they sat in their patrol car, with their radar in their lap, radiating high-frequency radio waves. I work in the defense industry and I know a thing or two about radar. I sent a letter of complaint to the HOA. It is ignored.
The traffic study finishes and the HOA says that they will be putting up 'traffic-calming measures.' The HOA declares that they don’t need approval and that the study was 'disturbing.' They have a contractor to install speed bumps on the asphalt road in several places, but they are too tall. There are standards for speed bumps based on speed. We had these massive 10mph bumps, with poor lighting, and no pass-through for bicycles. I write a letter of complaint, and it’s ignored. Then I post on the HOA forum about calling a meeting for this. I get the required 10 signatures and the meeting is on. Just mention the word 'cancer' and 'kids can walk up to this' and people jump. Maybe there was some fear-mongering there, but those radar signs are not cheap to rent and the data collection also costs money.
The HOA quickly sends out letters apologizing for the inconvenience. The speed bumps will be removed and the HOA pleasantly introduces its new manager to us. The old manager is gone.
Here is what happened…
The new admin and the HOA were actually very easy to deal with. All emails were answered in 3 days and there was no issue with any permits."