Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Home Owners Associations - America's Hypocracy

I am an American. I value my freedom. And yet so many American's give it up to non-governmental organizations ever day when they purchase a home - a house, a town house - that is part of a Home Owners Association (HOA).  HOA's typically have fees that range any where from a few 10's of dollars to hundreds or thousands of dollars a year.  The cost is one thing; but the freedom that is given up is in the rules.

The rules are set by your neighbors. By those who were part of the HOA, it's politics, etc prior to you buying the home. You may or may not be able to change those rules; and they're not typically subject to the courts. That is, unless you want to refuse to pay the fines they issue against you, accrue some bad credit, have a lein placed against the property (so you can't sell it), and then try to fight it in the courts if you can even get it there. All-in-all you're at the mercy of the HOA.

So why are there HOA's?

Well, some will argue that you have to have them to protect your property value. Huh?  Oh, they want to make sure the neighborhood continues to look nice. So they want to exert control over their neighbors to try to make the whole neighborhood look like what they think it should be.

So what's the problem if it's all about property value?

Well, it's not. It's about control, and control over other people whether they admit it or not.

How's that?

Well, suppose you own a boat. You are legally allowed to keep it on your property. But your neighbor thinks it is unsightly. They won't want to see a boat. So they get the HOA to pass a rule saying that boats have to be in the garage, behind a fence, behind the house, etc. Just so they don't have to see it. They've now impeded your rights in order to satisfy their power thirst.

But it doesn't stop there.

Some places go so far as to control how many plants you can have in your front yard. Or how many cars you can have in the driveway.

One HOA I ran across had some vandalism of the pool that was tracked to some underage kids. They then passed an HOA rule that any minor (e.g under 18) out on common property of the HOA (e.g walking on the sidewalk) after 10PM would be arrested for trespassing. Absolutely the wrong response, but one allowed under HOA rules, and enforced by contract law.

Now don't get me wrong - HOAs can have a purpose - taking care of common property that doesn't belong to any single home owner. But that should be all that HOAs are allowed to do. They should not be allowed to control what goes on on your property. That should only fall under the laws governed by the voters.

But aren't HOA's governed by "voters"?

Not like your county, municipal, or state lawmakers are. Nor are they governed by any politics beyond what little happens outside your small community. They're not answerable to the normal legislative processes, and chances are most of the community knows even less about what is going on in the HOA than they do about the municipality or county politics (which sadly is little enough as it is). Moreover, they're typically private meetings that are not open to journalists, only other HOA members, and therefore not open to the normal public scrutiny that every other legislative body has.

Moreover, you can't get out of them unless you sell your home.

Moreover since many towns don't want to take over the burden of extending their population, they won't allow contractors to have the newly built communities added to them. So then the contractor sets up an HOA; which can't be dissolved unless either a new town is set up or an existing town agrees to absorb the community (which, again they are reluctant to do).

All-in-all it's getting harder and harder to buy a home without an HOA unless you can buy a chunk of land and build it yourself; and even then you have to make sure that it's not part of a community being built out by a contractor that is sub-parceling the land you're buying. Even then, not every State has laws that you, as the buyer, has to be informed about the HOA prior to sale - which has landed many in the position of having an HOA rep knock on their door demanding dues and fines long after they purchased the home.

Still think they're a good thing?

Still think they're out to save your property values?

Sorry, but in my opinion an HOA only DEVALUES your home because it restricts your rights.

HOAs are NOT American. They're an Anti-American entity; existing only to steal your rights so that one of your neighbors can illegal exert control over you.

Time to take back America.
Time to dissolve HOAs.

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