Corsicana Daily Sun, Corsicana, Texas

Opinion

July 7, 2014

The 'H-O-A' and You

If you live in Florida, homeowner associations (HOAs) are pretty much a fact of life. An HOA is a corporation formed, usually by a real estate developer, for the purpose of marketing, managing, and selling homes, condominiums, and apartments within a new residential development. Once a predetermined number of units/lots have been sold, the developer transfers ownership of the association to the homeowners.

Membership in these HOAs becomes a condition of purchase and the home buyer has no option to reject it. Most HOAs are incorporated, non-profit, entities that are subject to state statutes. However, state oversight varies from state to state and some states have virtually no HOA laws. Here is a scary statistic: in 2010, it was estimated the HOAs governed 24.8 million American homes and 62 million residents.

It was a real eye-opener for us to find that our HOA fees here in the Isles of Sarasota were as much per quarter as our annual assessment was back in Grandview Estates there on Golden Pond. Our enclave probably has about the same area as Grandview but the houses are much more dense. Where Grandview Estates was zoned for ranchettes and half-acre building lots, we have about 800 homes crammed in amongst the palms, ponds, berms, and marshlands. A large wall surrounds the entire enclave but it is not gated like most of our neighboring developments.

The fees are expensive but we get a lot of bang for our bucks: a large community center with meeting rooms, a large fitness center, a large heated pool, tennis, basketball, and bocci courts, and our very own post office; all outside landscaping and maintenance is contracted out to an excellent contractor; and trash service, basic cable service, and a security alarm system are also provided. All this is run by our resident Board of Directors as well as a huge property management company.

I just saw a financial statement from our HOA which showed a net worth of the corporation that was approaching two million bucks. This is big business! In contrast, I can remember when we used to have homeowner volunteers in Grandview marshaled out to fix the potholes in our roads within the development.

I have read where some HOAs have nitpicking covenants and deed restrictions that border on the ridiculous. I have a list of our rules somewhere here in my piles of real estate documents, but only a couple of them come to mind. All pets must be on a leash and the “pick up poop” rules are strictly enforced. All window coverings that face the streets must be white; garage doors must be closed except when the garage is in use; and trash goes to the street (in barrels only) after five p.m. on Tuesday for a Wednesday morning pickup. Oh yes, and we have bins to recycle glass, plastic, and paper.

I just read an article about a fellow in Jacksonville, Florida, who has run afoul of his HOA because he put a small 17-by12-inch American Flag in a flower pot on his porch. This violates the community’s “flower pot ordinance” which states that, “...contents of planters are limited to maintained foliage.” Homeowners are permitted to display flags according to specific rules which require flags to be in brackets and hung so they are even with the home’s address plate.

The article refers to the offender as “an Air Force veteran” and he kind of has that retired colonel look about him. Anyway, he has taken a stand about his little flag and says, “They want everything just so...They’ve got to be stopped, and I’m going to stop them. I’ve just dug in my heels.” So far, his stand has resulted in suits and counter-suits and now he has a lien filed on his home by the HOA for unpaid dues — the HOA applied the money he sent in for dues to his flag fines and legal fees.

In fairness, it must be noted that this guy has had other run-ins with his HOA. Apparently, he was allowing guests to park their cars in violation of the rules — he got a cease-and-desist notice and he fixed that. Then, around the holidays, he put up Christmas lights that violated policy. When the HOA Gestapo cited him for that, he hung them around the inside of his garage.

Well, where am I going with this rant? I really don’t know. Ironically I have just placed a half dozen of those same little flags abound my shrubs out front in commemoration of the 4th of July holiday weekend. I would hope that I would not be in violation of our HOA commandments. But if so, like good old Larry over there in Jacksonville I would cite the “Freedom to Display the American Flag Act” which prohibits real estate management organizations from restricting homeowners displaying the flag of the United States and their property.

From Grouch’s Guano Dump: Did you know that they have a 4th of July in England. Of course they do — that’s how they get from the 3rd to the 5th! The trouble with life is there’s no background music. Did you ever notice that the people that keep telling you to calm down are the same clowns who got you mad in the first place? What do you get if you cross George Washington with cattle feed? “The Fodder of Our Country.” (boo! hiss!)

See ya...

—————

Dick Platt is a Daily Sun columnist. His column appears on Tuesdays.

 

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