Frustrated Homeowners Share Their HOA Horror Stories
Home owners' associations (HOAs) are organizations created by real estate developers "for the purpose of developing and managing a community of homes, town homes and/or condominium units," meaning that your home is subject to a neighborhood's vote at any time. It makes the community easier to manage for the developer, but sometimes it really leeches on its members.
weeping_pegasus asked Reddit:
Here are some of the horror stories.
My Dad owned a house in an HOA about 15 years ago. Overall it was nothing noteworthy, until the vice president moved and sold her home. HOA required all front yards to have one tree, hers didn't the entire time she lived there. Sold the house and the new owner was fined for not having the required tree. She was a single mom who had just gotten divorced so it's not like she had money for a full grown tree. When my dad moved he said that killed HOAs for him.
A friend of mine lived in an HOA neighborhood, but because this house had been in the family for generations, before the neighborhood was even there really, they weren't part of the HOA, they never had to join. The HOA only formed a few years ago, but apparently didn't realize that my friend, let's call him bob, hadn't even been told about the HOA. Bob is single and travels a lot, but he comes home one day to find a total of $13,000 in fines for his house being the wrong color, his deck being unapproved, and a bunch of other bs. So Bob outright refuses to even acknowledge the fines, just has the post office return to sender. A few months later he comes home to see that his deck has been demolished and his house repainted. Apparently the HOA had granted itself the right to correct any violations of exterior appearance upon failure to pay the relevant fines. Unlucky for the HOA, Bob happens to be a former lawyer, he quit the practice a few years prior to help the family business, but Bob still knows how to lawyer. Bob sues the HOA, and the HOA smugly thinks it's a clear cut case in their favor. Bob only had to say a few words in his statement, most of which was "I'm not f*cking part of the HOA!" The HOA ended up admiring liability and had to pay a bunch of fees, and ended up disbanding.
My house flooded 2 months after I bought it. HOA got involved and blamed my kids putting toys down the toilet (they are too old for that). I spoke to neighbors, found out 5 houses in a row had flooded.
We all got together and demanded an investigation by an independent plumber. Long story short, our HOA owns the sewage and water lines under all the houses that connect to city water. They had not been repaired for years or flushed out, and were made of a material that eroded underground, it backflowed raw sewage into the 5 houses affected and flooded the grassy areas with sewage also.
All my neighbors are senior citizens. The HOA admitted responsibility and held an emergency meeting to repair damage. My house was done last and I agreed with that because the other ladies are 70+ and wheelchair bound or disabled, I'm under 40.
By time my house was done, the sewage had been wiped up from tile floor and treated with fungal chemicals, but mold was growing in master shower and carpet was destroyed. They had to replace brand new carpet in bedrooms, drywall, paint new drywall a color I chose, and re-tile my whole shower. When old shower tile was torn out, plumbing wasn't to code, so that was done too. They spent about $15k on my house alone. I also told the HOA never to accuse my kids again.
Day we moved in we got a 40 dollar fine for leaving trash cans in plain sight.
Bothering The Cops
My grandfather lived in a small community of one-story townhouses. There was a lady that we called the 'traffic Nazi'. There was literally one street that ran a block down the community and she was outside every time that we came to visit grandpa. She would run you down, yell at you and threaten to call the cops if you went one mile over the speed limit. Walked around everyday trying to find little infractions to fine everyone with. Never saw her have visitors, probably just a coincidence.
For real though, she was SUPER impressive at judging your speed. 21mph? You're getting yelled at. 20mph? You're getting a sneer, but no yelling. 15mph or less? Wouldn't call it a smile, but the nicest expression I ever saw her make. 25mph? Calling the cops which would have to come out, but couldn't give a ticket because there's no proof.
I had a tiny tree in my yard that was showing signs of dying (hard to get stuff growing here in the Vegas heat..especially if you don't water it lol). HOA told me to pull up the dead tree or I would be fined. It was so flimsy I was able to cut it down with a handsaw. Got rid of the tree and the HOA sends me a letter to replace it or I would be fined??!! It was my decision to plant a tree there in the first place. How are they going to force me to keep a tree there now??
Not a homeowner but work for a company that manages them.
Apparently, in southern states that is not mine, trees are valuable. Okay, sure, I get it. However, one homeowner claims that two trees and their roots in her front yard (each lot has two trees) are growing into her plumbing pipes and breaking them. She has spent like thousands of dollars fixing her foundation alone.
I acquired the Association during the process. Both of us came to an agreement that she could remove the trees and just plant them somewhere else. They would still be in the front yard but just not on some water lines.
I let the Association know. It was reasonable and I had been through this with dozens of Associations before. Your property is more important than some aesthetics.
The Association straight up told me no. She can remove one tree but she has to pay to replant (that's actually really typical) but she will not remove the other one. I tried to explain this woman cannot keep fixing her pipes but they straight told me that moving into the place meant she accepted the plumbing issues.
That is not disclosed anywhere in any resale certificate or documents. I never heard of such a demand.
I had to call her back and tell her what the Association said. She's definitely gonna sue and it baffles me that there's no reason for it.
There's bad HOAs and then there's some with no common sense.
My long time neighbors were the first to move into the neighborhood where we live some 30-40 years ago. Their home was the first finished and sold. They had 8 kids at the time. The husband was out putting up an old school cable antenna on the chimney. While on his roof a man (the developer) came up and said, "Hey! you can't put that up there, it's against the homeowners rules!" He looked down at him confused and said "Are there any other members of the homeowners association?" "Well no.." " Then I hereby disband the association. The vote passes unanimously. Now get off my lawn." Saved us all a lot of trouble.
I'm in one that the was never turned over to the home owners. The declarant has elected his family as board members. Since he has a large number of lots that are not occupied, he maintains voting control.
We have never received a copy of the books (which is illegal). Our HOA fees are considerably higher than other HOAs in the area. We have no reasonable explanation where the money is going. My guess is that it's being embezzled.
My state has no oversight of HOAs - so this cluster continues with little recourse for the homeowners.
My parents bought a house in a now HOA neighborhood but they were one of the first residents in the neighborhood. When they first moved in there were no other houses around them. Now it is a full neighborhood. My dad built a really nice patio out back with a pergola a few summers ago and a week later one of the neighbors came over, whom my dad had never met, and told him that it violated the HOA. My dad basically told him to go pound sand. My dad is a carpenter and the patio/pergola looks great, not trashy or makeshift in any way. The neighbor was just being a nosy HOA d--che bag with nothing better to do. Nothing more came of it either. No fines, no letters, nothing.
No Real Reason
HOA president/vice president ( husband and wife) knowingly violated the rule of voting approval and and allowed someone to build a huge house on a tiny lot. The guy building the house show them a picture of a cute cape - get's approval without a vote - then put up something completely different. When called out on it their excuse was - "we're sick and no longer want to do it and nobody cares about voting"
We don't have HOAs in the small towns here, but we do have one woman who made a Facebook page of "people of the town" and has apparently appointed herself as Queen. She'll walk around town and then make passive aggressive posts towards anything she doesn't like.
She has started a battle with her neighbor across the street. The neighbor owns my grandma's old house so I'm on fairly friendly terms with her. So N (for neighbor) owns a house with two extra lots next to it and she also has two dogs. Now sometimes some poo will get missed in the pickup process, it's a very large area, and Queen decides to tell N, multiple times, that she needs to keep it perfectly clean AT ALL TIMES because Queens kids like to play in that yard. Out of pure principal N is now purposely leaving a few (not enough to look bad or smell) poo piles around the empty part of her yard.
I have many many stories about the crazy queen lady so I am for sure on Neighbors side.
Not an HOA but a National Registry Historic District which is like HOA on steroids.
Our house was built in 1880's and had original windows on the second floor. We wanted to replace them so that our house could be more energy efficient ($700 heating bills in winter). We learned that you cannot replace with modern windows but with ones that are period specific. In our case that meant single pane, wood only. The windows were not standard size and each one was slight different in measurements so that would be even more expense. And in order to do all of that you had to get approval through a design review which involved meetings and architect plans. Nope.
A year later a door to our shed was busted open and instead of just buying a door at Home Depot the design review panel wanted to go through the whole process (6+ weeks). Nope. We hired a friend to replace it at night with a store bought door and paint it so it matched the last one.
Selfish Dog Owner
This is my uncle:
There's a broken board in the fence in his backyard. On the other side is a vicious dog that presents a major threat to my uncle's 2 yo kid.
The problem is that the fence technically belongs to the neighbor, not him, so he can't fix it in order to keep the dog from coming through. The neighbor refuses to fix it. He's not allowed to build a second layer of fencing or anything like that because of the HOA.
I recommended: * a log pile to put in front of it * a fake log pile * a gun. Just in case. It's his child over a dumb dog.
I don't know if the situation is solved yet.
I moved into a condo with an HOA about six months ago, and just had my first real encounter with the HOA. They mailed me a letter warning me that I needed to remove my lawn chair from my balcony because it was partially folded up. Apparently this meant I was using the balcony as a storage space which is not allowed. I guess it's correct, I was storing the chair I planned to use on the balcony when the weather got better... on the balcony. It was folded to keep the seat from getting dirty in the meantime.
I own a condominium, apartment style individually owned units for those that aren't familiar. I could regale you with so much craziness. The HOA itself is terrible, but even worse seems to be the management companies they hire. I'll recount my first interaction with them.
I first became engaged when they slapped us with a $10,000 special assessment fee soon after I moved in. Went to the meeting and it seriously felt like I was on Jerry Springer. To this day I'm still unclear on what are facts vs speculations, but at least some of it was very much real. The night before this meeting, some angry neighbor types had brought in the cops and a news organization to publicly arrest and shame the building manager and assistant (staff members for the management company hired by the board) over a large chunk of missing money. Now the manager seemed like she was maybe into some ***, but this poor assistant was a woman in her 60s that had always been very kind and helpful to me and didn't directly even do the budgets. She teared up afterwards telling me how it was the worst experience of her life, being strip searched and treated like a degenerate in jail. She quickly quit and moved to a new city.
Back to that night, there is a faction of homeowners out for even more blood. Reveling in the arrests and convinced that not just both the staff, but the board members themselves must be prosecuted as well. The claims made were mainly that the management company had been making unsavory deals with contractors, leading to overcharging for work that was often inadequate. The building was out of money and out of code. The books weren't kept well. Money was certainly mishandled, but the extent of the malice was unclear. In addition, some strange events happened such as a homeowner having new appliances swapped with old appliances immediately after purchase. Aka his property was stolen and something of lesser value put in its place. But this whole meeting was a crazy, off the walls screaming match full of many other accusations and personal attacks. The board, clearly overwhelmed about the whole situation, didn't have the adequate evidence to prove their innocence and they had to play the unfortunate role of being the bridge between the management company and the homeowners. I don't personally think they were in on it, but some did. They were accused of getting kick backs and personal favors, with one member having claims made against her that she wasn't having to pay for her parking spot. She spoke up, at this point very distressed, about how not only yes is she paying for her spot and has multiple times shown the accusers evidence of that, but that these nosy "do-gooder" aholes were verbally harassing her every chance they got. She shared stories of the awful things people said to her and broke down in front of everyone about not feeling safe or welcome in her own home, all while actively trying to fix it through her role on the board. In the end, the building manager's whole family was tied to sketchy themes and the charges stuck. Unfortunately, we were left footing the bill of getting our building into shape.
At our old neighborhood, there was a section of the road that made a 90 degree turn, went straight for 3 houses, then made another 90 degree turn. As you can imagine, it was quite dangerous if you were going above the speed limit.
One day, a stupid 16 year old went 40 when she should have been going at a 20, and ended up flipping her car at that spot. Her keys were promptly taken away from her.
A couple years after my family moved out, we heard through the grapevine that a woman had started advocating for speed bumps, as our neighborhood had a lot of kids. She used the above event as evidence. As it turned out, the head of the HOA was this girl's mom. Speed Bump Woman was told "Oh, we don't talk about that here," when she brought it up.
Don't know what happened after that. At least the HOA in our current neighborhood consists of a bunch of old people who could care less what goes on.
When I was still living with my mom, I bought a boat. I always kept it at my dad's unless I was going to take it out the next day. Well one day I left it in the over flow parking and came out to a note saying I could not park it there. So my mom did some digging and found out that I could. It just couldn't stay for more then 72hrs. Which it never did. So we printed the part of the HOA rules that states that on pink paper and put it on my boat. As we are putting said paper on the boat one of the HOA people walked by and mentioned that it could not be parked there. Well needless to say we proved her wrong right then and there. Was so glad when we moved out of there.
My old townhouse I rented was in historical Old Town Alexandria, so any repairs to places like that was tricky b/c many of the homes there are historical or some sh-t. HOAs are b-tchier than usual.
Raw sewage backed up in the bottom floor bathroom and flooded the hallway and one bedroom. It didn't come out of the toilet, it came out of a drain in the floor of the laundry room. He thought it was just dirty water until we saw actual s***.
HOA tried to blame me and my roommates. Turned out tree roots had grown into the ancient sewer line and when a very heavy rain storm soaked the ground that weekend...well sh-t piled up, literally. HOA was irate when they found out this was something they had to pay for.
When it came time for us renew our rental agreement with the townhouse owner, who lived out of state, the HOA has kicked up such a fuss, mis-representing how it happened and basically causing such a stink trying to act like the damage was our fault, the owner wouldn't renew our lease even though we'd been renting from her for years. We were the one who had to coordinate with the plumbers and contracts fixing the townhouse, we did all the work to get the townhouse back in shape and sterilized b/c the owner couldn't.
B-tches on the HOA's say-so with 3 weeks notice and it's hard as f-ck to find housing in that area, especially on short notice. So I just moved away entirely b/c by that point I loathed the DC area and everything in it.
I live in a huuuge association (1 mile by half a mile, thousands of houses and apartments) and generally things are great, but after Hurricane Irma f-cked up all our sh-t the association turned a field near my house into a holding area for storm debris. It soon became a dump. Local contractors/handymen found out and we had mattresses, barbecues, bicycles, toilets, and everything else you'd normally take to the faraway dump if you didn't have one suddenly 20 miles closer and free - you just had to do it at night when the security guards were patrolling elsewhere.
99% of the garbage is now gone and security is posted there 24/7, but the field is still bare and full of things too small to clean easily - broken glass, nails from all the fences that were there, etc.
I'm still pissed and the association still has its' head up its' -ss about what it's going to do.
When you're a kid most adults will tell you one thing or another is "cool" and "fun." Odds are you're too young to form any kind of opinion on the matter one way or another. You're a kid, right? You don't know what you're eating for breakfast. However, when you get older and form that larger worldview, you realize that yeah, maybe that one time when you were a kid actually wasn't fun.
These are those stories.