By Deborah Goonan, Independent American Communities
Some people buy into a homeowners’ association with the expectation that their new neighborhood will be well-cared for, clean and safe, and that it will look wonderful at all times. In fact, some homeownes are absolutely obsessed with the idea of the perfect neighborhood image.
You know the type. It seems every HOA has at least one owner who feels it is his or her duty to report each and every violation, no matter how small or petty.
For example, David Oakley of Wilson County, Tennessee, was willing to spend more than $10,000 to sue Seven Springs Estates HOA. Why? He wanted to make sure that the HOA would enforce restrictions against his neighbors who park RVs, boats and commercial vehicles on their properties.
Mt. Juliet area man spends near $11,000 in dispute with HOA
Andy Humbles, The Tennessean
David Oakley was fed up with neighbors in his Wilson County community parking their boats, RVs and commercial vehicles in their yards.
So he took his homeowners association to court. To the tune of almost $11,000 in his own legal fees.
Oakley, 69, alleged the Seven Springs Estates Homeowners Association did not enforce parking restrictions according to neighborhood bylaws for the 66-lot subdivision off Central Pike that he and his wife moved to in 2007 as a retirement home.
“If I wanted to live in the Kampgrounds of America, I would have moved to the Kampgrounds of America,” Oakley said. “It’s called property rights.”
Homeowner proud to protect property values
Now, it does not seem to matter to Oakley that most of his neighbors were okay with the HOA ignoring the rule. Quite a few of his neighbors enjoy outdoor activities and own the type of vehicles that are restricted according to the official CC&Rs (Covenants, Conditions, & Restrictions).
According to the report, the sole reason Oakley wants this restriction enforced is because he does not like the looks of large outdoor vehicles parked in driveways in his neighborhood. There’s no mention of RVs blocking safe passage on the road – no bonafide health and safety hazard.
Somehow, it has never occurred to Oakley that real people live in neighborhoods – people with lives and hobbies. And neighborhood preferences change over time as children grow up, adults grow older, and homes turn over to a new batch of residents.
No, Oakley decided his property rights were more important than the rights of his neighbors, and, because the documents written long ago by the developer say so, he decided to make a stink about it.
A Judge agreed with Oakley and decided that the HOA must enforce parking restrictions, like it or not. So now Seven Springs is going to charge a fine of $25 to $75 per month for keeping RVs and boats in plain view.
But, the irony is, considering storage space is more expensive, many homeowners are likely to just begrudgingly pay the fine! Oakley may still have to deal with his personal “Kampground” eyesore.
Nevertheless, Oakley is apparently proud of himself for protecting property values for everyone in the HOA.
But how has this legal conflict protected property values?
The existence of parking restrictions that few homeowners seem to want has ultimately caused unnecesary expense for indiviudal members and for the Association. That’s the tangible damage to the HOA.
The intangible damage is that now neighbors don’t like or trust Oakley and his wife, and some are showing their displeasure and behaving quite unneighborly.
And notice that there was no democracy in action here. The HOA had to answer to a lawsuit brought by one homeowner. How many other homeowners wanted to pay for this lawsuit?
If the HOA wants to avoid a lawsuit in the future, the Association must go through the expense and trouble of amending its CC&Rs. Why? Because after Oakley sells and moves out, another homeowner or Board member with an agenda is sure to take his place.
The best way to reduce future potential for conflict is to eliminate as many unnecessary restrictions and rules as possible. But that’s no easy task as long as a significant minority of Association members buy into the Urban Myth that forced compliance with CC&Rs somehow protects property values.