The Tyranny of America's Homeowners Associations

In the last three decades HOAs have grown six-fold in the U.S. They now cover 20 percent of American homes, and stifle sustainability and expression through “one of the most significant privatizations of local government functions in history.”

Kaid Benfield unleashes his wrath on America's 323,600 homeowner associations, which "preside over the homes and neighborhoods of an astounding 63.4 million Americans." He details the ways in which such "governing associations" use their powers to stifle expression and sustainable practices, such as planting produce gardens, air-drying clothes, and installing solar panels.

"I use the word “governing” deliberately, because that is very much what HOAs do (and what my condo board did, when I lived in Adams-Morgan)," writes Benfield. "For example, they have taxing power, setting mandatory dues that if not paid can result in the placement of a lien on your property or even foreclosure; they have regulatory authority, setting rules for everything from when you can take out the trash to what color and materials you use in your window treatments to what you can and cannot grow in your yard.  They have enforcement power, too, including the right to issue cease and desist orders and to impose financial penalties in the form of fines.  One legal observer has called the exercise of quasi-political powers by HOAs 'one of the most significant privatizations of local government functions in history,' pointing out how quickly some of them move to foreclose on private homes because of dues underpayment."

"In a lot of places – probably in most – it’s a sort of government-among-friends, where rules are applied and interpreted with good faith and generosity, where neighbors cooperate on upkeep, and where buildings and communities look better and function better because of it."

"But, in others, homeowners’ associations appear to have more in common with the Soviets than just a communal process."

Full Story: Coercion by contract: how homeowners associations stifle expression, sustainability

Comments

Comments

HOAs - Plague Upon America

Home owner associations are a plague against America, seriously. I have been astounded at their disregard for the law, especially fair housing. They consistently try to exclude community residences for people with disabilities under their restrictive covenants despite the clarity of the Fair Housing Amendments Act of 1988 and the case law before and after it. I've just spent close to a year getting one to wise up, which it finally did.

But more frightening is the Illinois Supreme Court decision that allows an HOA's private security force to issue traffic tickets and act like actual police. It's like setting loose a whole army of George Zimmermans out there to act like police -- police wantabees who could never get into the police academy. Be afraid, be very afraid.

I can't recycle in my own community because of the HOA!

I could not agree more with this article!
For more than two years I have been trying to make the HOA set up recycling for a couple of apartment units in the community where I live and it has been impossible.
They come up with million excuses, have a horrible attitude as if you were bothering them, and simply look like they JUST DON'T WANT TO DO IT.
I am just appalled that in this day and age I am not able to recycle in my own residential community!
If we could just get rid of them and put people that really care in charge!

Condo Commandos

One of the tragedies of modern life is lack of understanding of the importance of governance. In a democracy we govern ourselves, but developing the skills and understanding to do so have to start in the family, the neighborhood, the schools, and villages, and work their way up. People who abdicate these responsibilities get what they get.

The same is true of our Homeowner Associations as of our government. The Board only has as much power as we give them. The people on the Board are the ones we elect, people with the same skills and deficiencies that each of us has.

Voting is not enough. Voting is actually nothing. It's the day to day understanding of what decisions are being made, how they are made, and evaluation of their results that is important. It's a daily process, not a voting booth process -- though even attention to that would be a start for the vast majority.

Having served on a Boards, one understands completely why board members become Condo Commandos. The behavior of homeowners. They don't participate, don't educate themselves, and don't pay attention even to the financial health of their communities. It takes lot of work to make the decisions board members have to make. To do all the research and study that each decision takes is overwhelming and to have gently coax homeowners (or jerk them up by their collars) to make them pay attention. Being a board member means giving up many evenings and weekends to do the work required. Homeowners have to do the same if they want good communities.

I have two websites on the topic of governing ourselves:

http://www.adeeperdemocracy.org
Making Freedom and Equality a Reality

Sociocracy.info
http://www.sociocracy.info

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