By Deborah Goonan, Independent American Communities
Here’s another report of a homeowners’ association that seems to value property more than people.
Imagine how you would feel if you or a loved one were in need of a kidney transplant. You’d probably make every effort to find a donor, right?
Gabi Morales and her mother, Tammi Morales, had an advertising sign made for their car, directing possible donors to Gabi’s Facebook page and email. The sign travels all around the Tampa Bay area with the car, increasing exposure for its message, and, hopefully, the chances that someone with a matching kidney will be able to help Gabi.
But Glen Oaks HOA, a sub association of Countryway Master HOA, says that the magnetic sign on the car must be removed. They say that HOA rules prohibit signs visible on HOA property, including signs on personal vehicles.
According to Countryway HOA’s website, Management & Associates manages the master HOA, but not Glen Oaks HOA. There is no public internet access to information about Glen Oaks HOA. So much for transparency.
HOA asks 23-year-old woman to take down kidney donor car magnet
Gabi Morales says she won’t take it down
5:05 PM, Aug 31, 2017
6:50 PM, Aug 31, 2017
TAMPA, Fla. – A young woman in Florida has a sign that could save her life on her car, but her homeowner’s association is warning her to take it down.
“‘Are you freaking kidding me?!’ I think is what I actually said,” said the 23-year-old’s mother Tammi Morales.
Deed-restricted communities exist in large numbers in the Tampa Bay area.
“This is something that’s important. It’s not something where we’re just trying to break the rules,” said Tammi.
Tammi and her daughter, Gabi, live in Glen Oaks inside the Countryway neighborhood in Tampa.
“She goes, that sign has to come down– because it’s against the rules,” said Tammi.
“I would just like a kidney,” said Gabi.
The HOA rules seem pretty darn silly when you’re a 23-year-old on dialysis.
Read more (Video):
Readers may not be aware that it is common for HOAs to prohibit vehicles displaying any kind of company logo or advertising, even if the vehicle happens to be used for the resident’s business or gainful employment. Critics would say the restriction is stupid and unnecessary.
Nevertheless, some savvy printing companies saw a business opportunity, and began selling magnetic signs that allow the user to easily remove the sign where it is not allowed by deed restrictions.
But in this case, Gabi’s sign is more a matter of life and death. And since Gabi is on dialysis, I wonder if allowing her to display the sign on her vehicle could be considered a reasonable accommodation under the Fair Housing Act.
The matter touches on First Amendment rights as well, although industry trade groups will continue to argue that, since association-governed communities are “private organizations” and not government entities, The Bill of Rights Need Not Apply.
Public opinion, by and large, sways heavily in the direction of protecting free speech in the community, despite deed restrictions.
And the truth is, not all deed restrictions are legal, including decades-old deed restrictions limiting sale of real estate to people of color. Plenty of other common deed restrictions ought to be illegal, too, and it is only a matter of time before public outcry and legal challenges remedy that situation.
But aside from the legal basis for denying Gabi the right to keep her sign visible at all times, what about basic human compassion and decency?
This report should serve as a cautionary tale for prospective buyers and tenants of any association-governed, deed restricted community. Some of your neighbors can be heartless, even though they are too ashamed to show their faces in public.
Not one of these neighbors would have the nerve to speak to Gabi directly, and insist that she take down the sign from her car. But the HOA governance structure empowers people to anonymously report violations of silly rules, so they don’t have to experience any sense of remorse or guilt about their questionable attitudes and behaviors.
Who wants to live among that kind busybody neighbor with no human compassion?