He won in court, but apprently his neighbors are unhappy about that
By Deborah Goonan, Independent American Communities
Keith Strong of Maryland recently discovered that when you sue your homeowners association, the controversy continues even after the lawsuit is over.
Man who fought HOA over $500 mailbox and won says his mailbox was vandalized
By Lynh Bui March 14 at 5:21 PM The Washington Post
Was someone trying to deliver Keith Strong a message?
The Prince George’s County man who waged a seven-year battle against his homeowner’s association over a $500 mailbox mandate recently discovered that the $35 mailbox he installed to celebrate his victory was destroyed.
Strong returned home from running an errand Monday morning to find his cedar mailbox toppled and surrounded by chunks of its wooden stand that appears to have been hacked or bashed to pieces.
“We were completely shocked by this,” Strong said. “The actual mailbox itself wasn’t damaged, but they reduced the post to matchwood.”
Although Strong doesn’t know who wrecked his mailbox, the solar physicist who lives with his wife in a Maryland golf-course community of million-dollar homes said he believes the destruction was an act of vandalism in response to his fight against the local HOA.
Two popular comments below the article echo the growing disdain for HOAs:
One Old Writer
Those who have been subjected to the whims and tyrannies of some HOA boards can understand his anger. He had the money to fight whereas many others do not.
Not amused by your ignorance
From the article: “In January, a Prince George’s County judge determined the Pleasant Prospect Home Owners’ Association had improperly forced residents to purchase and install mailboxes that cost approximately $500. Strong, fearing the loss of his property rights, had spent $33,000 in legal fees to fight the mailbox rules.”
Now that’s a man who believes in taking a principled stand. I wouldn’t have that kind of scratch to spend on this, but I applaud him. My last neighborhood had an out of control HOA and most of the time I just felt that I had to take it up the pooper when an edict came down.
Yes, I know that most people would rather pay for the $500 mandated mailbox than spend $33,000 on a lawsuit to stand up for their rights.
But quite often HOA boards count on the fact that most people will just go along to get along. That’s why overzealous HOAs – sometimes with help from the manager or HOA attorney – will sometimes test the limit of what homeowners will tolerate.
And some HOA restrictions and mandates are just plain arbitrary and nonsensical.
Face it. Even if you have the money to own a home worth at least a million dollars, what mailbox is worth $500? Looking at the photo provided to the Washington Post, the drab gray mailbox required by the HOA is certainly nothing exceptional to warrant its high price.
Makes me wonder: who supplied these mailboxes, and who shared in the profit from that HOA contract? Or was this merely a case of thoughtless micromanagement of homeowners? How in the world will uniform, overpriced mailboxes significantly boost property values?
Whatever the reason for the $500 mailbox mandate, it irked Keith Strong. And after reading his governing documents, Strong concluded that his HOA overstepped its authority. So he took them to court to prove his point.
But when he won his case, the HOA had to pay legal fees and damages from the association’s HOA membership assessment fund. So Strong made some enemies because, in their minds, he wasted every homeowner’s money by making a stink about a mailbox.
In the end, it does not surprise me that someone apparently singled out Strong and obliterated his mailbox post. Petty, irrational behavior seems to thrive in association-governed communities.
Ironically, as a result of Strong’s legal action, all Association members benefit. The $500 mailbox mandate no longer stands. And, hopefully, the HOA board will think twice before they issue new mandates and restrictions in the future.
In this example, the dispute involved a curbside mailbox. Some would call this a “first world problem” or “rich people fighting” over unimportant matters.
But Strong maintains his fight has always been about private property rights. Why should your HOA have the right to demand that you needlessly spend your hard-earned money to serve their whims?
And, looking beyond the $500 mailbox, HOAs have an alarmingly frequent tendency to violate private property rights and civil liberties.
Does your HOA value your rights?
Does your HOA dictate placement of signs, even political campaign signs? Do they prohibit solicitation to the point where members cannot go door-to-door to talk to their neighbors about controversial HOA political issues? Does your HOA restrict display of the American flag, military flags, religious symbols, or holiday decorations – perhaps all of the above?
Does your HOA dictate that you maintain a thirsty, weed-free lawn, and prohibit use of native plants and planting of vegetable gardens, which they regard as “weeds?” That amounts to a mandate that costs you a fortune to maintain (water, mowing) with potential adverse impact to your health and the environment (fertilizers, pesticides).
Maybe your HOA restricts the type of vehicle you can park in your driveway or on the street in front of your home. Or there are crazy rules regarding trash can placement or leaving your garage door open for more than 15 minutes at a time.
Most HOAs insist that homeowners engage in an adult version of the game “Mother, may I” before they can make even small improvements such as painting their front door. Some require the use of specific paint colors, roof shingles, fence materials, house numbers, and even the type of windows and window treatments for your home. And quite often, HOA required materials and suppliers cost at least 10% more than average.
Some HOAs are so obsessive about maintaining a ready-to-show-for-sale appearance that they balk at making accommodations for disabilities, in defiance of Fair Housing laws.
That’s why every year, many thousands of homeowners find themselves in court fighting for basic rights such as freedom of speech, expression of religious liberty and patriotism, the right to grow vegetable gardens, and even the right to provide access ramps to their homes for a disabled household member, just to cite a few examples.
Every small legal victory for one homeowner sends an important message to the HOA industry:
Value My Rights.
In my opinion, Strong’s neighbors ought to thank him for investing his own money to assert private property rights on behalf of all Association members. But most neighbors are happy to remain free riders.
Some choose to join an overzealous board in demonizing and harassing the homeowner that dares to stand up for his rights.