More than forty years ago, developers began ‘common-interest housing’ as a way to cut costs and taxes and built more units on less land. Instead of providing each house with it’s own conveniences, they began the movement of “shared amenities”. Because these communities were private developments, local laws and authority didn’t oversee or have to maintain them.
The responsibilities to govern these communities fell to volunteer committees. Thus the Homeowner’s Associations (HOA’s) were born. In the beginning the rules were simple, a homeowner couldn’t paint their home bright purple or junk up their yard. But over time, the volunteers gave way to a governing Board of Directors. Far too many times the board was made up of empowered homeowners. The simple governing rules grew to hundreds of regulations and HOAs from hell were born.
Today, one out of every five Americans lives under the rules and regulations of an HOA. That’s a little over fifty-five million people living under the threat of a board of directors. That board has the power to change rules, take away a homeowner’s freedom, remove their right to privacy and literally make a homeowner’s life pure hell.
The rules are spelled out in the community’s Covenants, Conditions and Restrictions (CC&R’s). The CC&Rs are the community’s own form of government and can produce the most horrific disputes and obstacles for the homeowner. The homeowner has to sign a binding contract to obey the CC&Rs when buying their home. You may have bought your own home, but you can’t do what you want with it.
Boards have been known to meet quietly, even secretly to quickly vote to change a rule. That board can arbitrarily impose huge fines sometimes beyond reasoning. Boards have been well documented going after a ‘rogue’ homeowner, or a homeowner who isn’t popular. The people who sit on the boards are often petty, vindictive and irrational. Homeowners have been heavily fined for planting an unauthorized flower, and as shown here in Colorado - fined for flying the American flag. Homeowners have been fined for parking their vehicle in their own driveway, another fined for having a Marine sticker on the back window of his car. Joseph Prudente, a senior citizen on limited income, was sent to jail for not sodding his front lawn because he couldn’t afford it. These are extreme stories, but they happen all too frequently.
If you don’t pay the fine, the HOA can, and will, place a lien on your home. The HOA has the legal right to collect money owed by selling your home. Many homeowners had no idea they owed anything until their home was foreclosed on and placed for sale in an auction. A $300 fine can quickly turn into a $15,000 fine. We take calls and have cases every week from homeowners who had no idea their home was being foreclosed on.
Gantenbein Law Firm has many defenses we frequently raise with success against the HOA. If you disagree or are having a dispute with your HOA, or the Board is limiting your rights, or something you want to do with your property, you do have rights. Call us today to schedule a consultation to discuss how we can help resolve your dispute.
If you have a IRS or tax, business, real estate or foreclosure defense issues, our Denver attorneys can help. Call our lawyers at 303-618-2122 or visit our website for more information: www.gantenbeinlaw.com.