No one does petty like an HOA. Their actions in these stories sink to a whole new low. Seriously, be sure to look outside, in case any HOA members are spying on your house. That came up a whole lot in these stories!. Content has been edited for clarity.
Tilted Number Terrifies Neighbors
“I got a notice that the number ‘5’ on my mailbox was slightly out of kilter and needed to be fixed immediately. I thought it had to be a joke. It was about 12 years ago, and apparently some retired person in my neighborhood thought it so egregious, they sent me a formal letter reprimanding me for it and threatening action if I didn’t fix my ‘5’ immediately. I checked it and found it had slipped a little. I didn’t give it any additional thought until I got a second letter with ‘WARNING’ in red caps at the top. Someone was losing sleep as a result of my mailbox ‘5’. I went out and fixed it with superglue, but after a few rainy days, I found it had slipped again. That lead to yet another warning stating this was my ‘FINAL NOTICE’. This prick was now threatening to fine me for a tilted number for God’s sake. I went out and got some heavy-duty white paste, enough to hold about fifty pounds. I slathered that junk all over my ‘5’ and pasted it in place using a ruler. It looked pretty terrible, but there was no rule about the adhesive you could use, or how ugly it might be, as long as it was in line with the other numbers. I can’t know for sure, but I’m guessing the person who was in charge was fuming over how bad this looked, because it was far worse now than it had been out of alignment. But I didn’t care. No reasonable human being did. Eventually this pest must have moved away, as neighbors were soon doing far worse stuff and seeming to get away with it. My girlfriend and I would walk and look at their houses and yards and say, ‘And they got upset over my stinking number?!'”
“When I lived with my grandma for a very short period of time, she was involved in with the HOA and she would do everything she could to create petty HOA rules. You were not allowed to park on the street. If your vehicle was leaking anything, even water, it could not be on the driveway or in the streets. You were not allowed to have any type of trailer on your property, and if you did, the fine starts off at $1000 a day. No carports were allowed. Everything on your property had to be a specific color. For instance, if your neighbor’s flag is an American flag, your flag can’t be a floral pattern. The HOA was so bad at the time, that my grandma and other members of the HOA started looking over people’s fences literally measuring the height of the grass. No vegetable or fruit gardens, even if they weren’t seen, even if they were behind a fence. You could not have them. No above ground pools. No chain link fencing. Basically, it was a LOT more really unnecessary rules that totally prevent you from living your own life or having any form of privacy. How could my grandma enforce such things?!”
Everything Is Wrong With This Place!
“A friend in Florida once had his mailbox hit by a vehicle and knocked over. He righted it to the best of his ability, until a few days later a notice showed up about needing to fix his mailbox. He complained that he had fixed it. A subsequent letter indicated that an inspector had taken a level and found that it was too far out of plumb and would need to be repaired. The same friend got another notice that his house was not an approved color. He was confused, as his house had always been the same color and there had never been an issue before. He contacted the association to challenge the complaint. They responded that a routine check, using paint swatches as comparisons, had determined that weathering and sunlight had caused the shade to go out of compliance.
One time while out of town, I got a notification about vehicles being parked on front of my home overnight. I explained that we had been out of town and asked for a vehicle description. Turns out it was my brother-in-law, who was stopping by to feed the cats while we were away. In the ten minutes he had been parked there, an enforcement officer determined the car had been parked there overnight in violation of the rules.
Lastly, the same association once sent me multiple letters about putting up foil or reflective insulation in the windows visible from the street, which I continually challenged, as I had never done such a thing. When I demanded photographic evidence, it turned out it was because the enforcement guy, who lived down the street, was getting irritated at reflections of the sun during a particular season. Off the glass. Needless to say, I now refuse to buy in an area with an HOA.”
“I had purchased my home and the yard was a mess! I figured it was late October, so it would green up in the spring. It didn’t. What did spring up was a third notice and a summons to the HOA meeting to discuss my yard. It bothered me a lot and I contacted a few friends, one of which not only had helped me move in just a few months prior, but worked for a professional landscaper. He agreed to come to the meeting with me. We got there early and heard all about how the HOA was not updating things like SALES of homes to new owners for months, or in one case a year after the sale.
So, the meeting starts, and my friend and I sit there while person after person are called to account for stupid minor things. The grass is an inch too high. My friend spoke up and said that the mandated height was wrong for the season. The residents sitting near us asked him what he did and why was he there. Then the HOA asked why he was there. He stood up and LOUDLY proclaimed he was there to support his friend (me) that had just purchased a house and he had helped move in, yet the HOA was harassing me over the yard. This was a yard that over the winter I could do nothing about, and the third notice was a joke, as I had not gotten even a first notice.
The HOA then claimed I was the person living in the home previously and to whom they had sent the notices. I stood up and said how I purchased the home on on a certain date, and here is my paperwork to prove it. Then to top it all off, I quoted back to them the statements from the business meeting prior to calling the residents to task that their records are not current! If they were, then they would have known that it was a totally NEW owner who had never been ‘warned’ about the yard previously. I then turned to the other residents and asked who among them also had issues that dealt with the prior owner, that they are now being called on to fix or threatened with a lien on the property. Most of the residents stood up, including those who didn’t actually qualify. The HOA shut up. The retiree who was going around sending out the threats was asked to resign. But they still were awful about stuff.”
Worst Response To A Disaster
We have encountered so many issues in the five and a half years we have lived in our house that I don’t know where to start. Every spring there is an ‘inspection’. Every year, my wife and I receive a long list of repairs that are required, and every year the list includes things that are nothing to do with our property. These have included:
-Missing Fence Post Caps: I pointed out we had none missing. A re-inspection was done, the lady pointed out the missing caps, and I pointed out that that was my neighbor’s fence!
-Damaged back door light. That was interesting, as we didn’t have a back door light. Again, this was on a neighbor’s house.
-Bare patch on front lawn. A tree had been removed the week before. We were advised to wait for the area to settle, and who does grass seed in June?
-Warned not to let our dog defecate on HOA property. We don’t have a dog. I’m allergic to a lot of pet fur, and my wife was attacked by a dog as a child and is quite scared by them.
-Hose pipe left in a visible place overnight. Someone had to be wearing night vision goggles to see that one!
-Damaged window screen. This was at the rear of the house, on a first floor window. We have a six-foot fence, so to see it you would have to come in our backyard. I queried this and never got a reply. The back gate is now bolted.
-Missing fence panels. Nope. I asked for a re-inspection, and it was done without me being there. Missing panels were confirmed. I photographed my fence and sent it to the HOA and asked them to point out the missing panels. You guessed it, my neighbor has several missing. No reply.
A couple of years ago, Storm Reilly tore up our house. We lost half the siding on the end. Insurance company was informed. Our neighbor’s son worked for a home improvement company and was a great help. He got a tarpaulin fitted over the damaged area the next day. The insurance company came by and approved everything. I spent a whole day walking the area behind our house picking up the debris and stacking it in our backyard. Now the storm did a lot of damage to Virginia and a lot of other Eastern states. Labor and materials were in short supply. The neighbor’s son’s company took on the repair project. Two weeks after the storm, the HOA write and ask whether I was aware that my house was missing some siding. Really?! Half the side was missing and there was a massive tarpaulin covering it that flapped in the wind. We were given fourteen days to make the repairs. The company doing the repairs (who were great throughout) laughed and wrote to the HOA, explained how bad the situation was on a countrywide scale, and the HOA granted us a seven-day extension.
We missed the deadline, so the HOA told us to find a different contractor. I phoned five. First of all, the costs doubled. Second, they were all busy. I sent the letters/quotes to the HOA and insurance company, who confirmed that the storm was one of the worst in recorded history and that contractors and materials were in short supply and in high demand. HOA didn’t care, and I was now told we had until April 31st (although there is no such date) to get the work done, or they would get it done for me and bill me for the work. In early May, HOA sent a contractor round, he looked at the damage, looked at my quotes, and confirmed that I have done everything possible to get the work done and that he can’t do it until late July!
I thanked him for his time. My contractor got a cancellation and commenced work on July 5. By using my neighbor’s son’s company I even made a couple of thousand dollars back on the deal. Were the HOA pleased? Nope! I received a letter that building materials had been left on my driveway. A few days ago, a truck turned up with all the materials needed for the repair. VA State law says that you can’t just replace siding on one side of a house, you have to do it all. A three-sided townhouse has a lot of siding and guttering and all the other stuff. There had been contractor’s vehicles parked outside my house. Well duh! I couldn’t afford self-fitting siding. Scaffolding had been left up overnight. The pettiness went on.
Then, a couple of weeks later I got a letter telling me my house needs painting. I pointed out that the siding is two weeks old and is the approved color for our house, so why does it need painting? No reply. If I ever buy another house, NO HOA!”
Let’s Play The Petty Game
“Before I took over the HOA at my last neighborhood, the developer was in charge and was using a management company to actually manage it. The management company was a guy who got the job because he lived next door to the lady who was the management company before him. He took over when she got tired of it. The background is that the house was new when we bought it in 2005. The builder was having an issue with the landscaping company using really low grade fill dirt in the yards. It was a great scam, since we all had ‘new’ yards covered with hay when we moved in. Six months later when grass wouldn’t grow and the hay was gone, we realized what had happened. I also went around the yard and dug up the rocks in the examination process. I stacked them between trees at the back of the property near the common area. There were maybe four other houses that could even see them. One day the developer noticed them and told the HOA management guy. The HOA management guy emailed me saying, ‘I was in your backyard yesterday and noticed a bunch of rocks stacked up. Those need to be removed.’
The email was bizarre because of him claiming he had been there. The guy lived in the next town and definitely hadn’t come by. I asked him why he was in my backyard, and he responded with, ‘Okay, not me, it was the developer.’ I told him he could contact the builder about having them removed, as I had already done enough work digging them out of the yard. He never said anything else. I showed him what ‘petty’ looked like a few months later, though. I can play that game like a pro. I uncovered the HOA covenant, which states that the financial information surrounding the HOA was required to be viewable by any homeowner during normal business hours each day. Because I was self-employed, my business hours were all the time. I told the manager that if he didn’t get off my back, I would be coming to his house daily to inspect the financial records at various times unannounced, which was my right per the covenant. Needless to say, that manager got a clue. It was beyond satisfying once I eventually took over from him.”
Surprise Horrifying Payments
“My mother lived in her home from 1995 to 2013. When she purchased the house, there was no HOA. Around 1999, she received an invitation to a neighbor ‘meeting’ the next day, at a time she could not possibly attend because of her work hours. Skip forward to 2009: she received a bill for ten years of HOA dues. This was the first and only contact referencing HOA since the 1999 invite. The letter claimed she had one month to pay in full or her house would be seized and sold to cover both the dues and all associated legal fees. Turns out every home and family that did not attend that meeting got the same letter. This amounted to approximately fifty families. My mother and her neighbor both chose to fight it and spoke to a lawyer. He requested documentation of previous notices, invoices, and bylaws. Some people paid the back dues scared by the letter, but many did not. No one’s houses were sold. Turns out the HOA never notified anyone (other than those at the meeting) that they existed, what the dues were, and what the fees covered. The lawyer essentially got them to ‘reset’ everything. In January 2010, all homeowners started paying HOA dues, knew the restrictions of the neighborhood, and the HOA started keeping better records than just who was paid in full.
The only other notice my mother ever received from them was due to the ‘crazy cat lady’ that lived across the street. The letter claimed a fine was due and stated that my mother needed to stop leaving plates of cat food on her sidewalk. My mother fortunately had filed complaints both with the city and the HOA about this behavior, because it had been going on for at least a year. She ended up not paying a fine. This crazy cat lady would place plates of cat food on the sidewalks of other people’s houses, so stray cats wouldn’t have to cross the road to get to her house to be fed. I was home on vacation, so I took a copy of the letter and the plates of food to the neighbor’s house. I explained the problem and told her she needed to stop. The lady never stopped, she would put out cat food just after sunset, but started retrieving them around five in the morning.”
They Played Themselves
“We lived from 1990 to 2000 in the private community of Spring Valley Lake, next to Victorville, California. The community was adjacent to the Mojave River which, draining from the Lake Arrowhead area, has a surprising amount of water, just all underneath the sand. The community was not gated, but was private, meaning we had to pay for our own road repair, the pumps that continually filled the lake which then drained back into the riverbed, the upkeep on community property, stocking of the lake with fish, local community parks, a community center, as well as security guards. When someone asks why you would have an HOA, that’s why.
But, as much as we got for so little, the homeowner’s association also had their drawbacks. My boys were in middle school at the time and wanted a basketball hoop. Next to me was a vacant, undeveloped lot. If I put a basketball backboard where the boys could use the driveway and shoot, then the missed shots would merely go into a vacant lot. I found a basketball pole and backstop, and then came up with a steel sleeve that was just slightly larger. I cut the concrete, put in the sleeve, and I slipped the pole down into the sleeve. It was in for about a year, when I got the ‘violation’ notice from the HOA. They wanted to fine me something like $500 for putting in something that wasn’t allowed. They said if I wanted, with their permission, I could put a pole in front of the garage. They said that I could apply for a variance, that perhaps they would allow it temporarily, and when I asked how I could find out, they said I had to file a $100 ‘architectural fee’ and get a hearing.
I paid the fee, they scheduled me for a hearing, and I went to talk to them. I toured the community and took approximately 100 photos of others who had done the same thing. They weren’t interested in what ‘others’ were doing, just that they were enforcing it against me. They said there was no way that they would allow a permanent installation, that it had to be portable, and I told them that it WAS portable. They said no, it was permanent as it was in concrete, and I again told them that it was NOT permanent, hence the sleeves. Once I told them this, they then said that it wasn’t covered by any regulation, and asked why I had brought this to the architectural committee. I told them that I hadn’t, THEY had brought me to them. They said that was wrong, that they were wrong, since it was removable it didn’t come under the rules. So, I asked for my $100 fee back. Their attitude was that ANY fee was non-refundable, whether filed in error or not, and refused. It wasn’t worth fighting, they kept my $100.”
The Secret Shaming
“My brother, his girlfriend, and I were renting an apartment in 2011 in Sparks, Nevada. I’ve had a few problems with my brother’s girlfriend doing not nice things to me. My brother supported her. They asked me to move in with them, saying they could help me sort out some personal things. But that is not what this story is about. The apartment complex forbid me from using the pool and exercise area. Their reasoning is that I have physical disabilities, and they did not have the proper support and amenities for me. There is no lifeguard, and no one with appropriate training in the exercise rooms. One of the reasons I chose to rent an apartment there was that they had two swimming pools, and a decent exercise area. They did not mention that my disabilities would be a hindrance when we were looking for a place to move to. After a couple months, they would not let me have the code or keys to the pools or exercise rooms. If the management saw me anywhere they thought I shouldn’t belong, I would be fined $20 and asked to leave. Between them and my brother’s girlfriend, I started staying with my sister in Phoenix, Arizona, until a safe place was provided for me to move to in Reno, Nevada.
Later on, I contacted disability services, and they were the ones that helped me get housing and counseling. They addressed the apartment complex, who didn’t keep very good documentation to back up their terrible behavior. Disability services made it so I didn’t have to pay any of those fines that I accumulated! I think there was a hidden reason behind trying to keep me away from the gym and pool area. I’m an elderly disabled long-haired hippie type, and I didn’t really fit into their demographic. Too bad for them!”
“They Have Spies Everywhere”
“I lived in an HOA in a rented house for a while. I wouldn’t even visit someone in an HOA after that experience. That’s not hyperbole. The level of commitment that an HOA can bring to the daily exercise of a grinding, unremitting pettiness, the oppressive nature of which cannot possibly be communicated through words, is as unexpected as it is spirit crushing for anyone who tries to fight back. Should you attempt something as simple as having a dead tree removed after three years of begging them to do it because it is their contractual responsibility, they will mount a lawsuit to attach a rider to your HOA membership, which refuses all contractual community maintenance to anyone who buys your home or owns it in the future. This makes resale impossible. You will still pay the full membership fees, which are considerable. But you will be responsible for maintaining your property yourself, to their ever-changing standards, which will cause untold costs. You’d better have an attorney on retainer prepared to respond to the stream of impossible-to-ever-satisfy notices about the violations you’ll be racking up. If someone you’ve hired to do it doesn’t prune the trees exactly the way they like, or drives a heavy truck that leaves any mark or imprint on the road, the board never sleeps. They have spies everywhere. Their members have no jobs. They have nothing but time on their hands, and once you cross them even once, they focus their full, unrelenting attention on you. They literally have nothing else to do.
They are retired, well off, and insane. You can see it in their eyes when a group of them comes to your door while you are eating dinner, demanding to make one of their impromptu inspections of the interior of your garage, because some crazy neighbor stationed at her window with binoculars and a telescope forwarded the video to the entire board of some unapproved item, like a water heater not on their list, or a refrigerator that might be plugged into an unapproved outlet. Thousands and thousands and thousands of dollars, even though the refrigerator or the water heater has been fine for seven-plus years. It never stops. The association collects tribute from its victims and delights in using it to make constant legal threats, which its truly evil board gleefully follows through on. And why not? The on-retainer attorney, selected for his complete absence of any professional ethics, is called in at every opportunity where legal action is considered. Once you step away from the herd and refuse to back down, you can expect blistering storms of legal actions paid for with community money that is effectively unlimited. They will sue on the slightest pretext, and they mount as many lawsuits against you as they can, all at once. When they occasionally lost to my neighbor, they papered the entire community with printed material listing him by name as the cause of the increase in fees. They didn’t just list him. They engaged in a level of character assassination that boggled my mind. Included a picture and his address. But what are the damages of such a campaign to him? What is his financial loss? In those cases, there was nothing to sue for.
This is a life-and-death mission for the HOA members. My acquaintance ran successfully and was elected to the board at least three times, and that’s not counting the staggering election fraud the members engaged in four other times. He had witnesses and the physical documents to prove it. He served only briefly each time he was elected. Once his first victory occurred, the then-members held an emergency meeting that very night and voted themselves the right to remove him from the board. Which they have done in short order every time he has been elected. It has taken all of my friend’s energy to contend with them. He spends up to hundreds of hours researching every possible ramification and implication of every document they send him. They have a team of lawyers. He has himself. Were he an attorney, he would by now be one of the nationally-recognized authorities on HOA law. He is not an attorney. So he is simply the most knowledgeable guy in the land. They can’t ever beat him. But he can’t ever really win.
They gradually reduced the frequency of the larger-scale legal actions against him after the largest one of all finally failed. But he had spent so much money on it by then. At that point, they tried to drop the case with no adjudication, which would have left him with no way to recover his legal fees. So he flipped it around on them and the hunters became the hunted. But the costs mounted. The cost of madness. They switched their campaign to constant small skirmishes to try to wear him down. They invade his property at will, removing his favorite rare trees when they catch him out. They dig up his lawn. He has called the police and had workmen arrested who refused to stop digging; new ones followed. But he does not wear down. He wakes up each day perversely invigorated by his obsession. And their hatred grows. Recently they committed violence against him at a board meeting, forgetting his multiple cameras stationed around the room and on his person. The police were called. They lied, then their attorney lied, then his video was produced. They were charged, but not booked, only cited and given a court date. Had it been the other way around, he would have been put in cuffs and jailed. Because he is one and they are many. They would have lied. They have done it countless times as they did that night. With better planning, they’d have had him put away that night. He walks around with a GoPro at all times.
Some of the board members have a net worth in excess of fifty million dollars. Some substantially more. They are as committed and obsessed as he is, having long ago lost their minds, just as he has. I tell him he should move, but it is too late for him. This has become his life. He is completely lost in a shared madness. And I’m not kidding about any of this.”