“Sex, drugs, and money: Why HOAs don’t work.” – Senator Schneider

I’m seeing a growing trend among my buyers to purchase homes that aren’t in HOA communities. They are willing to purchase older homes (because the builders set up HOAs in all the new ones) and live in neighborhoods with funky colored houses to avoid these mini governments.

“The reason why men enter into society is the preservation of their property.” – John Locke. This is one of my favorite quotes of all time and I find it very fitting when talking about HOAs.  After all, they were created because homeowners/builders wanted to preserve the neighborhoods. Yet, when referring to HOAs, another quote comes to mind. “Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Great men are almost always bad men.” – John Emerich Edward Dalberg Acton.

That isn’t to say that they are all bad. I know quite a few HOAs that all they do is make sure no one has a car up on cinder blocks in the front yard while for the most part leaving the homeowners alone. Tragically, these are few and far between.

I’ll use my HOA as an example. While I understand why we can’t park in the street (they are too narrow) and why we must keep our porch lights on (no street lights), I have a difficult time justifying some of our other “choices”. Like why do we have a security camera that looks into our swimming pool (creepy) and why do we pay for private security to ride their bike around the subdivision (not a gated community)? We need keys to get into and OUT of our pool areas and our public bathrooms are always locked, yet we pay for a cleaning service to keep them sparking. The craziest thing of all? My HOA would rather have vacant, abandoned homes (and collect the fines from the bank) than allow homeowners to rent out their properties (I really must congratulation the genius who thought of that particular rule).

There are many other examples of HOA insanity. One friend pays over $400 in HOA dues and assessments because they can’t control their spending, another had her car towed because she parked it in front of her garage (perfectly legal), yet another’s 24 hour security did nothing while their home was being invaded (even after numerous phone calls). I wish I could say that these are only the extremes, sadly they are actually middle of the road normal.

Yet I can’t place all the blame on the HOAs. We (homeowners) created this mess. We gave them the money and the power and then for most of us, we didn’t get involved and didn’t hold that money and those people accountable. What’s the solution? Well that’s the $10,000 question. The government does what it can to control them, but success in this area is limited. The best thing to do? Get involved. Run for your board, attend the meetings, get educated, and hold your community management company accountable to its spending. Change doesn’t happen overnight, you have to work for it.

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