By Deborah Goonan, Independent American Communities
This week brings two disturbing reports of violence among residents living in association governed communities.
The Las Vegas Review-Journal reports that 33-year old Eric Leroy shot and injured his HOA president, Timothy Rose. Although Leroy has been arrested in connection with the incident, the name of the condominium complex and details surrounding the dispute have not been reported.
Man arrested in shooting of northwest valley homeowners association president (NV)
By Bianca Cseke Las Vegas Review-Journal
June 19, 2017 – 8:30 pm
A man has been arrested on suspicion of shooting his homeowners association president at a northwest valley condominium complex.
Eric Leroy, 33, shot at Timothy Rose three times on June 14 in the complex on the 8400 block of Boseck Drive, grazing him on the right side of his face and hitting his left calf, an arrest report shows.
Leroy was upset that Rose had kept possession of his property because of a debt he owed, and had previously threatened to shoot him, the report said.
Meanwhile, in Boulder County, Colorado, the trial for Jon Barbour, 60, began this week. According to the Daily Camera, Barbour has been charged with attempted second-degree murder and first-degree assault, for admittedly shooting at his neighbor in May 2016.
A long-running dispute had been brewing over Barbour’s habit of feeding the squirrels. Several neighbors had complained to the condo association that squirrel feeding was causing a mess, not to mention potential health and safety hazards.
According to the Plaintiff”s Attorney, Barbour became very upset when the Association told him to stop feeding the squirrels, so he posted fliers around the condo complex, hoping to convince his neighbors to allow him to continue the practice.
But Browning took down Barbour’s fliers, according to the Plaintiff’s legal complaint, escalating the dispute.
Unfortunately, two days later, Barbour and Browning became involved in the violent altercation that ended with gunshot.
Barbour claims his firearm discharged during a physical altercation initiated by Browning, and that the shot was fired in self-defense. But his neighbor, Jeffrey Browning, claims Barbour deliberately attacked him in a fit of anger. The trial presents two very different versions of the events, and, unfortunately, no witnesses to the incident.
Trial opens in attempted-murder case stemming from Boulder County squirrel dispute
The trial for a Gunbarrel man accused of shooting his neighbor over a dispute about feeding the local squirrels began Monday as a Boulder County jury will be tasked with determining if the shooting was an attempted murder or an act of self-defense.
Jon Barbour, 60, is facing one count of attempted second-degree murder and one count of first-degree assault with a deadly weapon causing serious bodily injury.
Attorneys agreed that Barbour shot his neighbor, Jeffrey Browning, on May 12, 2016, in their condominium complex on Willowbrook Lane. But prosecutors and defense attorneys presented two very different accounts of what led to the shooting in their opening statements Monday.
What’s happening in association-governed communities?
While violence involving HOA residents will likely continue to garner media attention – especially when it involves use of a deadly weapon – much of the daily conflict that occurs in association-governed communities goes unreported.
Many of us who regularly communicate with frustrated homeowners and residents can tell you that, at this moment, many thousands of individuals are under an enormous amount of stress, due to social unrest and conflict in their so-called communities.
We hear regularly from residents and owners who are bullied by their board members or association managers, harassed by collection companies and HOA attorneys, or shunned by their neighbors, regarded as nothing more than selfish or disgruntled trouble makers.
We hear personal stories of boards that engage in discrimination – sometimes very blatant – in the name of following rules and restrictions. And, from what we hear, selective enforcement is very common.
We hear from homeowners expected to pay higher and higher assessments, or special assessments in the thousands or tens of thousands, far beyond a level that is comfortably affordable. Many fear being forced out of their homes, and rightfully so. The industry that profits from homeowners, condo and cooperative associations is often aggressive about collecting not only HOA fees, but also thousands in attorney fees and collection costs. State regulatory authorities and law enforcement agencies tend not to rein in abusive practices, and homeowners are left to fend for themselves, often unable to afford to hire their own attorney – assuming someone is willing to represent the homeowner with limited financial resources.
Sometimes, homeowners are trying to do the right thing by serving on their association boards. But, as minority members on the board, they find themselves faced with backlash from opposing board members. Cast as the renegade, the new board member may even become the scapegoat for angry and impatient homeowners.
I have personally talked to residents who are under a great deal of stress – often embroiled in expensive and time-consuming litigation, or facing threats of foreclosure that began with a dispute over a minor violation or a single missed HOA payment.
Inevitably, the residents tell me (and many of my colleagues) that they suffer from anxiety or depression. Some have admitted attempting suicide. Or they find themselves recently diagnosed with cancer, an autoimmune disorder, heart disease, or another chronic illness.
Their marriages have been strained, or perhaps upended altogether. Their children are acting out in school, or are being shunned by their peers.
In too many cases, the HOA dispute becomes so overwhelming, affected residents can no longer focus on their work, their families, and even their own self care.
Almost of this dysfunction is never publicly reported, because the residents involved do not want to face public scrutiny. They may feel ashamed, embarrassed, and fearful of retribution, should they come forward and talk about what really goes on inside what the industry calls “community associations.”
To the outside world, many communities seem benign, even enticing. So the resident often fears no one will believe their story.
Or, on the other hand, an outspoken homeowner would love to talk about his or her experience, but the HOA attorney or developer has offered a legal settlement contingent upon the homeowner’s agreement not to talk about the conflict or the terms of any resolution.
And so, the nature and frequency of social unrest and interpersonal conflict in association-governed communities escapes general public awareness. The industry works hard to perpetuate problems by operating in the shadows as much as possible. After all, bad press is not good for home sales or leases.
But, despite all the cover up, HOA conflict continues to simmer, sometimes to the point of boiling over.
By that time, it is often too late to repair damage to the human spirit, and restore peace to the community.
Reports of escalating violence should prompt careful consideration as to why HOA disputes become so intense. What is it about the nature of these conflicts and the living environment in association-governed communities that seems to bring out the worst behavior in people?
Perhaps the time has come for housing policymakers to fund research and study of the complex social ramifications of life in common interest communities, closely examining the adverse effects of governance by CC&Rs, and the mandatory corporate association that serves as enforcer.