Thursday, August 21, 2008

"HOA's Gone Wild," Part 357

Let me state my bias from the first paragraph here: I'm no fan of homeowners' associations, commonly known as HOA's. They may have started in a good place--keeping a set of standards in place so that a neighborhood looks good and keeps its property value high. But, like many things of this nature, they've morphed into something else altogether: Expensive, quasi-governmental entities whose officers become drunk with power, micromanaging their neighbors' lives down to what color they can stain their fence while, in the most extreme cases, turning old widows out into the street because they can't afford their association dues.

The latest example of an HOA running amok came this week in Frisco, where the association told a guy he can't park his truck in his own driveway. Why? Because it's not the "right" kind of truck:
im Greenwood is parking his 2007 Ford F-150 in the garage, but he’s not through battling the Frisco homeowners’ association. He says the association has declared the iconic Texas truck not upscale enough to leave in his driveway.

“I’m hoping that based on all the activity and noise that they might change their tune,” he said Monday. “These people [with the association] are in a position of leadership, ideally to serve their constituency.”

Earlier this year, the Concentra Inc. CEO began getting notices from the Stonebriar HOA threatening to fine him for parking his truck in his driveway. They say pickup trucks are not allowed in the driveway – although other luxury vehicles, including the Cadillac Escalade and Lincoln Mark LT, pass muster.

Bill Osborn, a board member with the association, had explained that those vehicles are “fancier,” “plush with amenities” and do not look like pickups. Most domestic pickups are banned.

Mr. Osborn said this rule has been in place for decades and the fine would be $50 per violation.
"Plush with amenities?" Sounds like someone's a little too full of himself. But that's not the key quote. This (from an earlier version of the DMN story) is:
Mr. Greenwood appealed, claiming his Ford F-150 isn't much different from the Lincoln Mark LT.

"The response was: 'It's our belief that Lincoln markets to a different class of people,' " he said.
Wow. Can this guy be any more snooty? Even for a gated community, that attitude is over the top.

(As an aside, I'm pretty sure that not only could I not live in a neighborhood with an HOA, but I don't think I could live in a gated community. Gated apartment complexes make sense to me; people don't often live there long enough for everyone to get to know their neighbors, and there are lots of people in a reasonably small space. But gated communities of homes? That just strikes me as the ultimate in snobbery; you're saying I can't even drive down your street? )

I have yet to read anything about an HOA that would convince me to move to a place like that. The boards are often cliquish, reluctant to yield authority (members have been known to stay on past their allotted terms of office), and, as noted earlier, often intoxicated with power. In many cases, they handle an awful lot of money, and I'll bet a lot of them have never had an impartial external audit. But I'm also sure that most homeowners don't have the time or resources to have them investigated, because there's sure to be more than a few incidents of corruption; shine the light, and the cockroaches will come scurrying out.

DMN columnist Steve Blow has more in his column from this morning. (And if you have a lot of time on your hands, feel free to slog through the 13 pages of comments on the original article linked above.) Read even more on the subject from Pegasus News and a Disney message board, of all things. Noted blogger Patterico (whose commenters are having fun with the subject), also weighs in.

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