How media exposure keeps your HOA in line – sometimes

By Deborah Goonan, Independent American Communities



Thanks to Shu Bartholomew (Producer of On The Commons weekly radio broadcast on Fairfax Radio) for passing along this report from Chandler, Arizona, along with the following comment:

Here we go again. An HOA approves a gate but then 2 years later says, “Ooops, we goofed you have to take the gate down”. If you have to get approval for every little change one makes on their PRIVATE property, shouldn’t the HOA/management company be held to that? Homeowners in HOAs are at the mercy of every petty person in a position of power. Time to say STOP IT!


The problem

Janelle Smith and her husband own a home currently for sale in Redwood Estates HOA, Chandler, Arizona. Back in 2014, the HOA gave the family written approval to upgrade their courtyard gate with a custom, handmade design. But two years later, a new HOA board decided it had made a mistake approving the new gate, and that it wanted the Smiths to take it down and put the old one back up before they sold their home. And they wanted the Smiths to do so at their own expense.

Smith decided to take her problem to the local television station.

You can see the KPHO/KTVK report here:

Chandler family says HOA wants them to remove gate it approved 2 years earlier

By Lindsey Reiser

Now some readers are probably thinking that the custom designed gate is much more attractive than the old, boring one that matches every other gate in Redwood Estates. But, hey, who needs individuality anyway? It’s so overrated.

And, as homeowner Janelle Smith says, sometimes it seems like your HOA just likes to “feel the power.”

If you scroll down from the video and transcript, you can read about a dozen comments, not one of them favorable to the HOA or HOAs in general. Of course, the story was shared all over social media, too.

Some would say that this report makes the HOA look foolish.


The resolution

Well, sometimes exposing silly rules and unreasonable approval reversals in your HOA prompts the board to reconsider. In this case, within two days, Redwood Estates HOA agreed to pay the $1,000 cost to remove the newer gate and replace it with the old one. Of course, it probably helps that Janelle Smith and her family are moving out soon.

To me, it still seems silly to take down a gate with beautiful wrought iron details and replace it with the old ho-hum gate. But that’s the nature of many HOAs committed to uniformity.

At least the Smiths are not going to have to pay out of their own pockets, and, best of all, they can move onto their next home relatively unscathed by HOA madness.


Chandler family and HOA come to agreement over approved gate

By David Baker CHANDLER, AZ (KPHO/KTVK) via


Another HOA takes the hard line

However, Robert and Brenda Stubbs of Los Lunas, New Mexico are not as fortunate. Seven years ago, when the couple purchased their home in Huning Ranch HOA and brought along their beloved cabana based on HOA approval, they never dreamed that, years later, the HOA would decide that their cabana did not meet community standards, and it would have to be torn down.

At the time of purchase, the couple agreed to modify their cabana to meet size requirements of the HOA.

Despite meeting those requirements and having written approval, since 2015, there has been a back and forth battle over the cabana between the Stubbs and the developer-controlled HOA.

The homeowners tried to work things out, but no matter what they did, it just wasn’t good enough. The HOA still insisted the cabana had to go. They even began issuing fines.

That’s when KOB Eyewitness News 4 got involved. In fact, the news station has done several investigative reports in an effort to expose the folly of Huning Ranch HOA and get some relief for the Stubbs.

But, in this case, even negative media attention did not bring the HOA to its senses. Oh, they stopped issuing fines for now, but they still have not approved the cabana. The HOA keeps dragging out the approval process.

Now the HOA is requiring a new survey to be submitted. They keep moving the goalpost, so to speak. The Stubbs say that it seems as if Mary Strickland of Huning Ranch has singled out the homeowners, despite the fact that the Village has approved their cabana, and in spite of the fact that nearly 100 other homes in Huning Ranch also have cabanas with similar characteristics.

So the Stubbs have now been forced to file a lawsuit against their HOA, seeking resolution so that they can enjoy the cabana that was already approved and in their backyard on the day they closed on the sale of the house.


Fed up homeowner to sue HOA over backyard cabana nightmare

Ryan Luby, KOB Eyewitness News 4


Stubbs reiterated how he never would have purchased his home in 2009 had he not been allowed to bring his cabana with him.

He’s shown KOB records which prove how he customized the cabana at the time to meet the HOA’s requirements, including a shingle roof, smaller footprint and concrete pad foundation.

He produced an email which appears to show Strickman writing “looks fine” to the homebuilder about the cabana plans in 2009.

Stubbs is frustrated even more by what Strickman said to the village council in December 2015 in response to questions about the roughly 100 other properties that may have issues similar to his.

“As far as those people that are out of compliance, our covenants do allow for variances in cases of hardships,” Strickman is heard saying in the village’s recording of the meeting obtained by KOB Wednesday.  “So, just because our covenants say you’re limited to 10 by 10, and 8 feet high, which is now 10 feet high, if you have a structure that is, say, 10 by 12, it’s already in place, we will certainly consider that a hardship.”

The Stubbs wonder: what about their hardship right now?

Read more and see video here:


You win some, and you lose some. And with virtually unregulated, unchecked HOA boards, management companies, and attorneys involved, homeowners are way too often on the losing end.

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