For those unfamiliar with the concept, many housing developments in the United States, particularly the newer ones, have Homeowners’ Associations (HOAs). The principal purpose of the HOA is to provide residents with a pleasant and safe living environment. The HOA charges fees to its residents in order to cover the costs associated with the maintenance and repair of shared areas and facilities, and also establishes rules to govern how its residents use and maintain their own properties.
Depending on the nature of the HOA – and how its appointed leaders were treated as a child – enforcement of the rules (often called, “Covenants, Conditions and Restrictions” (CCRs)) varies from the apathetic to the draconian.
The following is an actual letter I wrote to my HOA in response to a “Notice of Violation” we received in respect of two simultaneous and flagrant transgressions of our community’s CCRs. I have removed the name of the community covered by the HOA in a half-hearted attempt to be discreet, otherwise this is the letter they received from us in 2008. We have not heard from them since.
Dear Sir or Madam,
Response to Notice of Violation
We write in response to your Notice of Violation dated September 25, 2008. The alleged violations cited in the notice included a “plastic playhouse and net in the backyard”.
We are very pleased to be able to advise you that the badminton net, which was temporarily erected in our backyard for the enjoyment of our family, has now been taken down. While we regret the precipitous decline in community home values that must surely have accompanied such an egregious blot on the landscape, we are confident that our subsequent removal of the net has had the effect of correcting any temporary home value depression that may have been experienced.
We do, however, reserve the right to use our backyard in any manner we so choose. The choices we make regarding the use of our property will, at some future point, include re-erecting the badminton net. On occasions, the badminton net may well remain in the same place for more than 24 hours. In such cases, we shall offer no apology or response to any corresponding Notice of Violation that it may generate.
We would also like to draw your attention to the exact wording of the Covenant that we apparently violated and that you so helpfully included in the Notice.
Article III Section 18: Outdoor Structures: No outside clotheslines, tree houses, playhouses, swing sets, and other play equipment…shall be erected or allowed to remain on any lot unless concealed behind approved screening or integrated into the building design so as to be inconspicuous…”
We think you will agree that any “approved screening” big enough to conceal a badminton net would be more conspicuous than the net it is trying to obscure. But read that Covenant again. “No play equipment…shall be erected”. It doesn’t just state that the play equipment can’t stay; it states that it cannot be used at all. As we feel that such a draconian regulation cannot possibly apply to a family-friendly neighborhood, we shall continue to interpret this Covenant article in the manner in which we feel it was intended, rather than how it was written.
We hereby advise you that we will not remove the child’s playhouse from our rear, covered patio. The reasons for our refusal to remove the playhouse are as follows:
1. The playhouse has stood in the same location for more than three years;
2. The playhouse is on our rear patio and does not extend beyond the structure of the house; and
3. The playhouse is almost completely screened by evergreen shrubs so as not to be conspicuous from any public areas.
Moreover, only the least competent golfer or the most nosey neighbor could actually find themselves in a position to even realize the playhouse is there.
While we both appreciate and agree that our community does need to set certain standards in order to provide residents with a safe and pleasant family environment, the manner in which you are approaching your responsibilities as a Homeowners’ Association is wholly inappropriate.
Your focus on highlighting the petty and trivial “violations” that are simply a consequence of family life is, at best, inconsistent with the spirit in which the CCRs were written. At worst, your actions will ultimately have the effect of driving residents and potential residents away from the community.
Continuing your policy of using yard police or local informants to support your arbitrary and subjective application and enforcement of the CCRs will no doubt have the effect of depressing home values more than any child’s playhouse or badminton net ever could.
We hereby consider this matter closed.