By Deborah Goonan, Independent American Communities
Just in time for the holiday season. The holiday decorating HOA police are at it again.
Gables on the Green Condominium Association, near Grand Rapids, Michigan, has enacted what some neighbors are calling an “idiotic” new decorating rule. Starting this year, only white lights are allowed at the condo association, and you must use the Association’s approved contractor to install those lights.
Condo owner, Kelly Ballor, has vowed to put up colorful lights, despite the condo board’s threat that they intend to remove all non-white lights at the owner’s expense. Hats off to this holiday decorating renegade!
If you think I am making this up, check out this TV video.
Woman vows to buck Christmas light rules
Be sure to check out and vote in the Wood TV poll. The poll asks: “Is the condo association board out of line with the new rules?” At the time I wrote this blog, 88% of people agreed that the condo association is overstepping its bounds. (2304 votes)
Time to point out a couple of flaws in Association-Governed Residential Communities. This is stuff no one ever tells you before you decide to buy or even lease a property subject to the whims of an owners’ association board.
Too easy to make rules, too difficult to repeal them
First, your homeowner, condo, or cooperative board has a considerable amount of power to enact rules governing the appearance and use of the common areas, as well as publicly visible portions of your private property.
Most restrictive covenants – part of the governing documents – specifically authorize the board to adopt and amend rules governing aesthetic appearance, so long as they are “reasonable,” do not violate state or federal law (such as fair housing), and are not beyond the scope of the Association’s authority. In a condominium association, since the exterior of dwellings are generally common property, the board has even greater authority to prevent residents from altering those areas in any way.
Unfortunately, the board often makes rules in a vacuum, without input from owners or residents. Your vote is not required unless the board proposes an amendment to the CC&Rs (Covenants, Conditions, & Restrictions).
Yet, according to the attorney consulted by Wood TV, if owners disagree with a rule enacted by the board, a majority or two-thirds vote is needed to repeal that rule.
This is insane, if you think about it.
If your city, town, or county enacts an unpopular ordinance, and there is a public outcry, constituents do not have to gather a petition of signatures equivalent to 60% or 67% of voters just to repeal that ordinance. And the matter certainly doesn’t have to be put on the ballot for the next local election. A sensible and prudent city council or county commission will simply repeal the offensive ordinance.
Why should an Association Owners’ board have more power than City Hall?
Show me the contract for the professional decorator
Did you notice that the condo association insists on having an “approved vendor” install white lights?
The justification for this will probably be that the Association owns the exterior of homes, and therefore they don’t want homeowners and residents attaching lights to exterior surfaces. Putting up lights and other decorations might damage those surfaces. I can hear it now.
While it seems reasonable to have rules about the types of fasteners that may be used, in order to prevent damage to siding and door frames, it seems over the line to suggest that owners are incapable of stringing lights.
Ditto for the arbitrary rule that all the lights must be white. Bah humbug.
Don’t you wonder, who is/are the approved vendor(s), and how much do they charge for light installation and removal service? Hmmm.