Everyone either has or knows someone with an absurd Homeowners Association story. On paper, Homeowners Associations perform the essential duty of establishing the line between order and absolute chaos in suburban communities across the country. However, these organizations have been weaponized by Brad's and Karen's to wreak havoc on unassuming residents just trying to go about their day-to-day lives.
Take a look at some of the pettiest highlights.
All posts have been edited for clarity.
Dallas Ice Storm
“Several years ago there was a giant ice storm in Dallas overnight. A large tree fell in my backyard around 3 a.m. under the weight of the ice and knocked my fence down leading into the alley.
At 6 a.m., 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.’
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.
That’s not the only story.
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.”
Garbage Bin Wars
“When I was splitting rent with three other people on a three-bedroom home in a neighborhood with an HOA, we got two HOA complaints in a month for ‘disrupting neighborhood cleanliness’ due to our next-door neighbor being able to notice the top lid of our garbage bin and the rock placed on top of it in our backyard from the sidewalk.
For a brief background, we ended up on a corner, with the only neighbor considered ‘next to us’ being an older retired lady who apparently spends all of her time gardening and working on her immaculate front and backyard so that it was the only green lawn on the block (this is in Arizona, so dirt and rocks was the most common form of landscaping in both yards, with bushes and cactus being the closest you would usually get to plants in most yards).
This was during a windy season where my roommates and I noticed that the garbage bin tended to tip over if it wasn’t completely full due to wind, so we opted to make a stand out of bricks and plywood, combined with a heavy rock laid on top of it when it wasn’t full to keep it from tipping over and spilling trash all over our backyard since we didn’t want local animals like the skunks and coyotes that usually traversed the neighborhood eating from our garbage.
Due to this arrangement, the trash bin was elevated just enough that the lid and rock could be seen over the fence, and apparently, this neighbor was so incensed over it that she submitted photos and complaints to the HOA to have the bin relocated or removed from sight. The way we could tell it was her was because the angle of the photos viewing the trash bin and rock would place the viewer halfway up her driveway, and we actually checked this to verify by standing on the edge of our property from the angle of the camera shots to verify it. Then we went down to the sidewalk and noted from that angle you couldn’t see either the bin or the rock if you were standing on the sidewalk at that angle due to the sidewalk being downhill from the yard itself.
It eventually led to all of us standing at an HOA board meeting having to listen to our neighbor call us an eyesore on the neighborhood to the board members while we had to inquire with the board members whether they would prefer us to relocate the garbage bins to the garage, which would require an amendment to the rules since for some reason they actually restricted garbage bins from being placed in the garage until then, or if they’d like to deal with potential wildlife riffing through our garbage because none of us were going to entertain the idea of paying a $250 fine per renter for a trash bin with a rock on top of it.
The old lady wasn’t very happy when the board agreed with us and decided to amend the rules to let us put the garbage bins in the garage going forward. And I don’t know which was worse, listening to our neighbor talking ill of us when we only formally met her twice during our two-year stay at that home or having a half dozen homeowners thanking us after the meeting was over for finally letting them get away with putting garbage bins in their garages.”
I AM the Law
“Our HOA is usually great. They usually leave everyone alone unless it’s something truly egregious. However, there was a point when the HOA president started going off the rails and majorly overstepped his authority. He was forcibly removed because he was on a power trip (made up arbitrary and unenforceable bylaws on a whim as well as arbitrarily deciding which bylaws to uphold depending on his mood) and broke the law in several ways (including, but not limited to, trespassing, stalking, interfering with public workers doing their duties (he put up roadblocks to keep emergency vehicles and snowplows from going through ‘too early in the morning’)). In his words, ‘I’m president of the HOA. I AM the law from the front to the back of our neighborhood!’ Here is just one of the many from his reign of terror.
I’m answering anonymously to protect my neighbor who has a lawsuit against the HOA as a whole for harassment (allowed the president to carry on for way too long) and the HOA president personally for trespassing and stalking.
My neighbor and I get along splendidly and are constantly helping each other. His story: We were watching his house because he was gone for the week. Over the weekend, we had 4? of rain within 24 hours and high winds. Between his fence (a cedar privacy fence) and the neighbor’s fence behind him, he owns about 20? of space, which has several bushes, including a rose bush, and a 3? white pine. The next morning the storm was over and as I was cleaning the debris in my yard I looked over just in time to see the tree gently tip over onto (it appeared) his fence. I go over and look to make sure there’s no major damage to the fence and that the tree posed no immediate danger. I texted him pictures of the tree from up close showing it was about 1/4? from touching the fence to see if he wanted me to cut it down or leave it. While waiting for his response, I grabbed my winch to keep the tree off the fence to prevent any possible damage. After a couple of hours of waiting, he replied that he wanted it cut down.
That afternoon, I went back there to cut down the tree and noticed that my winch was on the inside of the fence and the tree was leaning against the fence and broken off at the top. It was obvious someone had tampered with it. I took more pictures and texted them to the neighbor to let him know what happened then proceeded to cutting down and removing the tree. It was super easy and only took about 30 minutes. I checked the fence and it was fine other than where the tree had rubbed against it. Elapsed time from tree leaning to cleanup: 5 hours.
On Monday mornings, we have yard waste pickup from the city, and as I was bundling the limbs after cutting them to be picked up when I noticed that there was a letter from the HOA taped to the front door. It was a warning that the tree leaning on the fence and the ‘damaged’ fence was a violation. It included close-up pictures of the tree on the fence and broken at the top. Cleanup had to be done within 48 hours. Hmmm. Okay. The only way to get those pictures without climbing fences would be to go through the front gate to get to the rear gate.
On Tuesday morning, there was another notice on his front door, this time with a $200 fine and pictures of the cleaned-up site and a closeup of where the tree had rubbed up against the fence. This fine was for using an unauthorized tree removal service (nothing in the covenant says anything about removal requirements). Two hours later, there was another fine for the fence still being damaged. Bylaws require 3 warnings signed by 3 members of the board to be delivered via mail or in-person with 48 hours between each warning before a resident can be fined. This wasn’t even 48 hours after the tree started leaning.
By the time my neighbor got home Friday, there were 6 fines levied against him for various infractions, none of them valid because of only 1 signature on 3 fines plus an additional 3 fines signed by 3 members but for items not even in the covenant. The 1 that could have been valid was because of a rut in the front yard (from where the lawn waste truck hopped the curb getting the tree trimming). However, he had only gotten 1 warning regarding that, after the rut was already filled and re-sodded.”
“This lady that I caught using her car to try to run over a couple of kids because they were drawing on the sidewalk in chalk was a real piece of work. I confronted her and promised to have her arrested and jailed if she ever did that again. I did report her to the police and she got some very stern warnings. I made an enemy for life and she did her best to try and get back at me, never having a clue that I was a prior HOA president and ran the police organization she kept calling to report my misbehaviors. The police finally cited her and said if she filed another bad complaint against me she was going to be charged and put in jail. No longer able to intimidate us with the police she tried to use our HOA.
Meanwhile, I had the questionable honor and record for most complaints in a single year. All 84 complaints against me were from this same lady who lived three homes away on the other side of our large court.
At first, they took her complaints seriously, particularly her complaints about my making noise with my tools as another neighbor had complained previously. The only problem with that is that I destroyed my left ankle and no longer could do any of that kind of work, so I had not turned on my power tools in years. Regardless, anytime anyone near her fired up a mower, blower, or power tool she formally complained. At first, they ignored me when I told them I did not even own a mower or gas blower. The HOA grew really tired of her mower complaints and finally realized this was nothing but harassment. My small electric leaf blower did not sound like a jet engine on steroids to wake her up at all hours of the day and night. What finally ended her credibility was complaining that my dog barking kept waking her up at night. I explained that we had no doggie door and only had an inside dog except when we walked him, but since he had died before her complaints started her credibility was shot. Clearly, he arose from the dead, went through the walls or doors, then woke her up repeatedly by barking at night? Yes, it is kind of hard to charge someone for dog barking when their dog is dead. The HOA also grew tired of her and said no more complaints and they were going to ask her to be taken in for a psych evaluation.”
“My friend rents an HOA condo community. Beyond the HOA neighborhood is an undeveloped area favored by a homeless community because it’s hidden away.
They get high and rowdy at times and her windows overlook their encampment. Most of the time, they keep to themselves and are no trouble. One night the partying got ugly and she called 911. Dispatch sent police and paramedics.
The police had to drive through the HOA to get to the camp.
HOA fined HER $250 for ‘causing a disturbance within the community’ and threatened to force her out. Their reasoning was because she called 911, multiple police cars and ambulances drove through their serene neighborhood with lights and sirens.
She appealed with PD affidavits that stated she SAVED LIVES.”
“Not to me, but a co-worker:
He and his family moved into their new home in July when it was 102 degrees outside. Their 2 kids were ages 2 and 3 were miserable. So he went to Walmart and picked up one of those 3? plastic splash pools for kids, put on the front lawn where he could watch, filled it with water, and let the kids play as he continued to unload the boxes into the house.
1 hour later – police arrive with the president of the HOA. They gave him a $100 fine for an ‘unapproved pool’. Not kidding — the VERY FIRST day in the neighborhood. He fought the fine in court – and lost. From what he tells me, this level of pettiness isn’t uncommon.
I will never EVER purchase a home that has an HOA.”
“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, 4 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. The next morning I had 2 tickets for $50 each on my door. Turns out that tenants can only have their guests use a maximum of 2 visitor parking spots at a time.
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 for about an hour and then went into 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.
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 9 pm and brought the empty can in and found a ticket on my front door. $50.
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.
“I often had to travel for my work, sometimes several weeks at a time. So 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, a 1998 Oldsmobile 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 was the state-issued commercial license plates.
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 parking 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. So 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 office. Also, she demanded all HOA officers and their legal representatives 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.”
“The HOA has a rule about where bikes can be “stored”. I read this rule and make sure that all our bikes are stored according to the rule. Note that things – packages, etc – can be left in front of apartments as long as they do not block common walkways and are removed – The package is NOT being “stored” and therefore the temporary presence violates no rules.
My teenage daughter had friends who ride their bikes here – and stay for an hour or two. We do not bother to “store” their bikes as they are not staying with us. I always make sure the bikes do NOT block common walkways and are only on either concrete or tanbark ground cover in front of our place. The rules actually say that bikes can be stored ‘under stairways’ – all the tanbark is under a stairway.
We received a series of escalating complaints that we were not ‘correctly storing’ bikes. After the first compliant I re-read the rules and made sure we complied with the written rules. We still got more complaints. Obviously whoever was complaining applies their own criteria.
Ridiculous that I ever had to deal with that nonsense.”
Surprise Speed Bumps
“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 7 pm – 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. So 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 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. 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 detector, collecting information. The speed limit is 25mph. The sign with the radar detector, however, is at ground level. Anyone can walk up to it. Not all radar detectors are well shielded, and there have been cases of police officers getting testicular cancer, because they sat in their patrol car, with their radar detector 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 install speed bumps on the asphalt road – in several places – but they are too tall. There are standards for speed bumps based on speed, and 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.
Cue the next step – the HOA 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.”