One question each homebuyer should deliberate before buying a property in a homeowners association is, “Am I buying a home in Paradise, or will the HOA make my stay a living hell?”
Homeowners Associations offer promises, of course: security, clean streets, well maintained homes, nice amenities. Some new home buyers find it a positive experience. Others discover they have bought into a nightmare. Still others find their homes foreclosed upon, sometimes for the pettiest of reasons.
Here are some recent homeowner stories collected by Bankrate.com:
- When a couple in Lawrence, Georgia tried to sell their house, they discovered the HOA had quietly placed a $3,500 lien against their property because the couple had placed some pink flamingos on their lawn. HOAs have no sense of humor about such things as pink flamingos. The lien had to be paid before the house could be sold. Homeowners Associations often place such liens without informing the property owner. It’s not uncommon for homeowners to discover that these “secret liens” have been accumulating interest, attorney’s fees, and collection fees.
- Maryland: a homeowner who was continually harassed by a neighbor asked his HOA to give him permission to put up a six-foot privacy fence. The HOA refused. The homeowner went to court, spent more than 23,000 dollars in legal fees and still lost. He then put up a smaller fence which he thought conformed to neighborhood rules. But HOA officials armed with tape measures, discovered it was several inches too high. He was slapped with a lien, and spent thousands more to settle the case.
- A Homeowners Association in Donner Pass, California requires homeowners to make their properties ‘snowmobile friendly’. That means not driving cars over the snow or clearing it from around their homes. The intent is to leave areas open zones for snowmobiles. But a woman who had suffered a serious back injury ignored the rule. She drove her car up her half mile long driveway over the snow, saying her back injury made it impossible to walk the half mile to her home. But driving up her own driveway cost her $500 a day in HOA fines. The dispute eventually cost her more than $50,000 in fines and legal expenses.
- Tampa Florida, a homeowner committed the ultimate sin of being late on her HOA fees. She thought her attorney had arranged the payment of more than $4,000. But she was short $497. The HOA foreclosed on her property, and sold it in a courthouse auction for $4651. An investor bought it and promptly sold it for $88,000. The homeowner lost her home over the $497 shortfall.
There are literally thousands of such stories across America and there is rarely a happy ending for the homeowner.
Neighbors At War: The Creepy Case Against Your Homeowners Association