What First Amendment?

I had an odd phone call from a friend late last year, a few weeks before my book came out. I won’t share too many personal details, but this gentleman is retired, a wonderfully decent man who is well-loved in the community.

But he was next to tears as he said, “Do you know anything about Homeowners Associations?” With what I’ve been through over the past few years, I almost had to laugh. But I asked him to continue.

He told me that he’s lived in his suburban home for the past thirty years and it has never had an HOA. There’s nothing in his original real estate documents and he’s never paid dues to anyone. But he was stunned when someone knocked on the door and said the neighborhood was now represented by a Homeowners Association. The visitor noted a couple of things in my friend’s back yard that were not approved by the new board. One was a back fence that was six or so inches taller than nearby ones. The second was a little white gazebo in the back yard. It was unapproved and had to be removed.

“What do I do?” my friend asked.

For many years this gentleman has conducted weekly Bible studies in his home, not many people, probably just as many as you could fit into a small backyard gazebo. But apparently someone had complained and had called a meeting where a majority of those who showed up voted to reinstitute an HOA that’s been absolutely inactive for the past three decades.

I happen to know this neighborhood. It’s very clean, well-groomed with several dozen tidy one-story, mid-to-upper scale homes. But I also learned that this newly formed HOA is now represented by one of the most powerful, most aggressive HOA law firms in the country. At 70 years old, my friend doesn’t have the resources to go to court.

I do know something else. This gentleman’s Bible studies are going to have to come to a close.

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2 Comments

Filed under embezzle, foreclose, HOA, Homeowners Association, Uncategorized

2 responses to “What First Amendment?

  1. Seriously

    I swear you make some of this stuff up! There isn’t a lawyer in the country who wouldn’t win that lawsuit. Considering he had lived with ‘those items’ in his yard for 30 years, there is no way any judge is going to force him to remove it now. The fact he had no idea a HOA was even being formed or he had no idea there had even been an election to appoint officers also gives him the upper hand since it’s illegal to form a HOA as you stated it happened (without notifying the entire neighborhood). 5 people in a neighborhood cannot ‘form’ a HOA out of the blue, make up CC&Rs willy nilly,never even tell the other residents they are doing it and then force them to abide by them. Even if they tried, they would be stopped in a nano second in court. Something is not right with the story. But it makes for good fiction reading.

    • ddlinki, sadly this story is not made up, and I’m sorry you think so. Yes, you’re right, he might win in court, although even that is highly doubtful. And although I don’t know what state you’re from, here in Colorado another friend ended up in an almost identical situation. In his case the HOA was also formed in a neighborhood that never had one before. He was sued by two homeowners, angry at his participation in the installation of an HOA and it cost him two years of his life and $40,000 in legal costs. The two angry homeowners moved out of the neighborhood, but the bottom line is that after the court case, the HOA is still standing. In my minister friend’s case (last night’s blog), he just doesn’t have the money to bring a lawsuit even if there was a slight chance he’d win.

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