When your HOA cares more about property values than personal safety

By Deborah Goonan, Independent American Communities

There are many good reasons for installing a fence – to keep children and pets safely enclosed in the yard, to create privacy from adjacent neighbors, to keep your yard from becoming the neighborhood shortcut or a place to for idle teens to hang out.

And then there are safety fences, commonly installed around a swimming pool, to prevent accidental drowning.

You would think that, as an owner of a detached single family home, you would have the right to install the fence of your choice. But if you own property in an HOA, think again.

 

Fence disputes are common in HOAs

When I was growing up, many of our neighbors had back yards enclosed by fences. Our own back yard was surrounded by a combination of a wood privacy fence and a tall thorny hedge. I do not remember a single complaint from any of the neighbors, but, of course, there was no HOA.

Fast forward 4 decades.

These days, if you live in a planned community, some of your neighbors think they ought to have the right to prevent you from installing a fence in your yard if it blocks part of their view, or if they just do not like the way it looks. Or they might think that a fence is OK, but only if everyone it the neighborhood has the exact same fence.

Fence disputes are common in homeowners associations. Are fences allowed by Covenants, Conditions, and Restrictions (CC&Rs)? And if allowed, what type of fence is acceptable to the HOA? What is the process for getting approval to install a fence?

For some odd reason, many HOAs have very specific rules and restrictions that either prevent owners from installing a fence or require that any new fence in the community must meet certain arbitrary standards for attractiveness.

For example, several years ago, when I lived in gated community in another state, I was surprised to learn – about a week after closing sale on the house – that the HOA would not allow fences in most of the yards in the community, mine included.

I was taken aback, because, when driving around the subdivision prior to purchasing, I had noticed several back yard fences. Also, in the documents I had reviewed prior to purchase, I saw no mention of fence restrictions. (I checked again to be sure I had not overlooked this rule.) So, at the time of purchase, I assumed the HOA must allow fences.

But little did I know that during the 6 weeks between the agreement of sale and final closing date, the Association was in the process of amending the CC&Rs with a new set of fence restrictions.

The new policy allowed fences only in back yards that shared lot lines with another private residential lot. So if a homeowner’s lot backed up to a conservation forest or wetland, a “lake” (retention pond), or the golf course, no fence installations were permitted by the HOA. The way the community was designed, less than 10% of homes met the criteria necessary to allow a fence.

Good thing I did not want a fence. But what if I had purchased my home intending to install a fence after moving in? I would have been out of luck.

 

HOAs that allow fences are picky about appearances

For lots that meet the criteria for approval of a fence installation, the new HOA policy insisted upon only one type of fence – one of those rust-proof aluminum fences in black, but not white. That’s it. No exceptions.

Since then, I have come to learn that many HOAs forbid chain link fences, wood fence panels, 4 – ft. picket fences, wrought iron fences, and more.

So instead of installing a 6-foot wood privacy fence at with materials costs of $35-40 per panel, a homeowner will most likely have to shell out at least $60 per panel for a fancier fence, just for materials alone.

Don’t like the HOA’s policy? Too bad.  You must either pay the high cost of installing a fence made of the approved material, or drop the matter and live without a fence.

And if you think the HOA will make an exception for you, don’t count on it.

Because, as you will see below in the reports that follow, some HOAs even require a specific acceptable “look” for a pool safety fence.

 

Fences make good neighbors, but only if HOA allows one

Gina Frazier of Daytona Beach inherited her home from her mother. So she never got the chance to review a seller’s disclosure. After putting up with strangers and neighbors cutting through her yard for quite a long time, Frazier decided to put up a 4 foot wood picket fence, she says, after talking to the property manager, who informed Frazier that it was not necessary to obtain HOA permission to do so.

But the manager was wrong. Fountain Lake HOA now insists the homeowner stop building her fence, and go back and get approval from the Architectural Committee.

But here is where it becomes difficult and costly for the homeowner. To resolve dispute over fence installation, Fountain Lake HOA says Frazier must participate in mandatory pre-suit mediation at her own expense.

Read more about this dispute at WKMG News 6.

 

Family battles homeowners association over fence installation
Family tells News 6 fence is to protect property, family from trespassers

By Adrianna Iwasinski – Investigative Reporter
Posted: 11:18 PM, June 30, 2017
Updated: 11:27 PM, June 30, 2017

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – Homeowners associations have all sorts of rules and regulations in their covenants, many of which are backed up by Florida state law.

But one Daytona Beach couple tell News 6 all they want is install a small 4-foot wooden fence to protect their property and their family from strangers cutting through their lawn.

“Absolutely it’s become a safety issue,” Gina Frazier said, “and has been a safety issue since 2013.”

Frazier is beyond frustrated. She says her mom used to own the home and land in the Fountain Lake Subdivision, but she died before the 4-foot fence could be erected around her property.

Now Frazier, who has inherited the house and property, is trying to get permission to finish the fence, so she can keep people from cutting through their yard.

Several weeks and almost $200 later, Frazier says she was contacted by the Fountain Lake Home Owners Association, stating they hadn’t followed the proper protocol with the Architectural Review Committee.

Then this month, they received a letter from the attorney representing the HOA stating they were being asked to take part in a mandatory pre-suit mediation to try to resolve the dispute.

 

The letter noted the mediator has no authority to make any decisions determining who is right or wrong, and merely acts as a facilitator in the matter.

The letter goes on to say if the Fraziers fail or refuse to participate in the entire mediation process, they will not be entitled to recover attorneys’ fees, even if they prevail. Not only that, they were asked to split the cost of the mediator — which could cost anywhere from $250 to $575 per hour. The letter states an average mediation may require three to four hours of the mediator’s time, including prep time.

Read more (Video):

http://www.clickorlando.com/news/investigators/homeowners-battle-homeowners-association-over-installing-fence

 

What’s more important: aesthetic value or human life?

 

As reported by KPRC2 in Houston,  parents of two small children have been battling their Texas HOA for more than a year, in a dispute over the safety fence installed around their back yard swimming pool.

Bender’s Landing Property Owners Association insists that the Durgapersad family remove the safety fence, claiming it does not meet the HOA’s aesthetic requirements for corner lot properties. The HOA expects the homeowners to install a much more expensive iron fence instead.

As can be seen from KRPC2 video below, there are at least 7 other homes with a pool fence similar to the one in the Durgapersad’s back yard, and one of those homes is also on a corner lot. Selective enforcement at play here?

Maybe so.

And what makes this report particularly egregious is that the HOA is putting up unnecessary obstacles to child safety.

But the homeowners must weigh the tangible and intangible costs of suing their HOA vs. selling their home and moving to another home where they can install the pool and safety fence of their choice, without interference from an HOA.

 

Spring homeowner battles HOA over pool safety fence

By Amy Davis – Reporter/Consumer Expert
Posted: 6:33 AM, July 05, 2017
Updated: 12:13 PM, July 05, 2017

SPRING, Texas – A family in Montgomery County is at a standstill with their neighborhood homeowner’s association. The Bender’s Landing HOA Board doesn’t like the very thing Susan Durgapersad says is keeping her family safe.
She called consumer expert Amy Davis for help when her HOA told her she needed to remove the safety fence around her swimming pool.

The fence was installed the same year the home and pool were built in 2014. Their homeowner’s insurance company told Durgapersad they are required to have a fence around their pool. But in 2016, the HOA told the family to take it down, claiming the fence is “not compliant with association guidelines.”

“It provides safety for the entire community and our family,” Durgapersad told Davis. She lives on a corner lot in the subdivision with no perimeter fence around her big yard. Without the safety gate around her pool, anyone could wander into her yard and fall in.

Read more (Video):

http://www.click2houston.com/consumer/spring-homeowner-battles-hoa-over-pool-safety-fence

Why swimming pools need a safety fence

Tragically, just a few months ago, 2 small children died after they apparently wandered into a pool at their condo complex. The pool did not have a perimeter safety fence at the time. A former condo manager told News-Press.com that the condo association had removed the fence a few months earlier, and had failed to follow her advice to replace the old pool fence with a new one.

 

Cape condo where 2 children drowned had no pool fence

MICHAEL BRAUN , MBRAUN@NEWS-PRESS.COM Published 10:45 a.m. ET May 16, 2017 | Updated 1:48 p.m. ET May 17, 2017

A former homeowners association board member at a Cape Coral condo complex where two young children drowned Monday night said a pool perimeter fence was removed earlier this year.

The two children, ages 1 and 3, were found motionless by their father in the apartment complex pool. Both were later confirmed dead by drowning. The Florida Department of Children and Families has opened an investigation into the deaths.

Roxann Seroski, formerly a vice president of the Aurora Townhouse Condo Association, said the fence that used to rim the pool area was removed in January.

“If that fence would have been there, this never would have happened,” she said. Seroski, who said she no longer lives at the six-apartment unit, also said removal of the fence was not voted on by the Aurora homeowners association.

Read more (Video):

https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/2017/05/16/two-children-drown-pool-cape-coral-apartment-complex/101742972/


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