Sorry for the length, but I didn't have time to write a short blog.

Friday, February 7, 2014

Puzzled by Covenants...


As I was running my snow blower the other day, it suddenly stuck me that there is a certain amount of irony in the whole idea of homeowner associations or covenants as they were once called. You know, those places where you live, pay a fee, and agree to live by rules that tell you how you must maintain your home in very specific ways.

I will be honest, I have never paid such dues.  I would not live in an HOA controlled subdivision. I cannot imagine someone telling me what kind of grass seed I can use or trees I can plant or what color my house trim should be.

What interests me more is that people put up with it. Don't get me wrong, I understand the need to protect neighborhoods from becoming trashy.  I have seen more than a few unregulated areas that would easily meet Jeff Foxworthy's joke, "You might be a redneck if you cut your grass and find a car." Some HOAs seem to be a bit extreme though and in a few places a bit pricey.  I know a few associations make sure the grass is cut, and the snow shoveled and the trim painted but I also have heard of a few that want to tell the residents how many leaves must be on each tree and the color of the rocks in the landscape.  Honestly, I would not be surprised if one hasn't tried to tell members how to store stuff in the garage or arrange the furniture in their houses. Okay, okay, I know the number of leaves on the tree isn't true, but it seems a few have gone to extremes to make their community conform.

Years back I saw a report of an HOA that demanded a particular kind of grass in every yard.  The problem was that the grass was not water efficient, and the subdivision was not only in an a dry climate but in the middle of a drought.  When a few people could not afford to water the expensive lawn, the HOA began to fine them.  Another HOA told the residents that all Christmas lights must be blue or white, no multicolor.  I even built hand railing for my sister's new home for handicap purposes, and the HOA not only told her that even though the railing was sealed in top quality tinted stain, that it was the wrong color of white. They would've objected to the rail had it not been installed for physical needs of one of the residents.  Later I found out she had to wait for permission to remove dead trees in her backyard.  I know I would not survive.

This brings me to another point.   There is a certain amount of irony.  Do those folks who yell and scream about that dictatorial government who interferes in their free lives find HOA's the same? I know of one of these folks.  He would be the first to put up his "freedom from government control" banner.  He is also the first person to report when someone violates the rules of the HOA. I know it sounds like a stereotype, but the irony is not lost on me.  There have been some moves to limit the power of the HOA by some states, but something like 80% of all new builds has an HOA. (The link also gives a host of HOA horror stories if you're interested.)

Now if you will excuse me I have to go shovel my walk before the town gets mad at me.