Will recent bizarre incidents in high profile HOAs get Congressional leaders interested in strengthening rights of homeowners?
By Deborah Goonan, Independent American Communities
Two high profile incidents in HOA-governed estate home neighborhoods are gaining a lot of attention in the media recently. In both cases, U.S. Senators take issue with violations to property rights of homeowners.
The first incident occurred in Bowling Green, Kentucky.
Violent attack on U.S. Senator Rand Paul by his neighbor, Rene Boucher
Last week, U.S. Senator Rand Paul was violently assaulted by his neighbor, Rene Boucher, while mowing his lawn. There are all sorts of theories swirling about the internet as to the motive for the brutal attack, an assault that resulted in serious injuries for Paul – six broken ribs and fluid around the lungs, according to latest reports.
Was the surprise attack motivated by political differences? Boucher is said to hold very liberal views, and Paul is a Republican with a notoriously controversial Libertarian agenda.
But the general consensus of multiple reports dismisses political differences as the reason behind the incident.
Several sources, including Jim Skaggs, developer of the gated Rivergreen community in Bowling Green, where both men live, say that Boucher had a history of neighbor disagreements with Paul over grass clippings and leaves. The Senator reportedly maintains a compost pile and grows pumpkins on his property, activities that are typically frowned upon in highly restricted neighborhoods such as Rivergreen.
In one conflicting report, several of the Senator’s neighbors say that Paul keeps his yard looking great, and that he even hosts an annual neighborhood get together at his house.
Of course, that does not necessarily exclude the possibility that one unreasonable neighbor, perhaps Boucher, might still take issue over trivial landscape issues that most people don’t even notice.
Bitter disputes over HOA rules and restrictions have been known to happen in many HOAs across the U.S., as is well documented on this website.
To be fair, given the secrecy and contradictory information being leaked to the press, and a pending FBI investigation, it’s premature to draw any conclusions as to why the attack happened. Perhaps the public will learn more about Boucher’s motivations in the future.
Regardless of the truth behind the violent attack that blindsided Sen. Paul, the important point of discussion, in my opinion, boils down to differing perspectives on property rights.
I find it interesting that Skaggs went out of his way to tell several members of the press that Senator Paul has a “strong belief in property rights,” citing disagreements with the developer over the original design and construction of his home 17 years ago.
Ironically, Skaggs claims his intent was to “build a place where everyone could get along.”
But U.S. housing policy enables developers to build residential neighborhoods subject to contractual covenants and restrictions that are intentionally written to protect the Declarant’s (developer’s or builder’s) interests.
That puts property rights of the HOA corporation above the property rights of individuals.
Under those conditions, friction between property owners and their HOA is inevitable. And in urban areas where nearly all new construction for the past several decades has required a mandatory HOA, it’s no surprise that bitter neighborhood disputes have become common.
US Sen. Rand Paul and his neighbor have a history of conflict, says gated community developer
Thomas Novelly, Louisville Courier Journal Published 2:47 p.m. ET Nov. 7, 2017 | Updated 3:26 p.m. ET Nov. 8, 20
The history between U.S. Sen. Rand Paul and his accused attacker is filled with years of angst and petty arguments over misplaced lawn trimmings and branches, the neighborhood’s developer said.
“I think this is something that has been festering,” said Jim Skaggs, the developer of the Rivergreen gated community in Bowling Green, where the two men live. “… I wanted to build a place where everyone could get along, but I guess that’s just impossible.”
While there’s no official word on what caused the fight, Skaggs suggested it might have stemmed from Paul allegedly blowing lawn trimmings into his neighbor’s yard.
There have been disagreements in the past, Skaggs said, over lawn clippings or who should cut down a tree branch when it stretched over a property line. The two men live on different streets but their lots join and their homes are 269 feet apart, according to Google Maps.
Skaggs, a longtime Republican activist and a member of the GOP’s state executive committee, described Boucher as a “near-perfect” neighbor, but he said the libertarian-leaning politician is a different story.
Paul “was probably the hardest person to encourage to follow the (home owner’s association regulations) of anyone out here because he has a strong belief in property rights,” said Skaggs, who is the former chairman of the Warren County Republican Party.
The second incident involves a tax sale in California.
U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein goes to bat for property rights of homeowners in Presidio Terrace
Several months ago at a tax sale, it was widely reported that a young couple purchased the private road in one of San Francisco’s most notable neighborhoods for about $90,000.
Of course, national publicity of the story was not because of outrageous circumstances surrounding the sale, but rather because of the neighborhood’s famous address – The Presidio Terrace.
Tax sales happen all the time to ordinary people and HOAs. Most go unnoticed, appearing in small print in local news journals, with the bare minimum required legal notification.
Needless to say, the important people who own homes in Presidio Terrace are appalled that San Francisco City Council would have the audacity to sell their private street to collect less than $1,000 in unpaid taxes. The HOA has already filed an appeal, claiming they had not been provided with required notice of the pending tax sale and their rights to redeem the property.
At one time, Former SF City Council member and current U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein lived in Presidio Terrace. So when the Senator learned of this surprising tax sale, she wrote a scathing letter to City Council, calling for the reversal of the sale.
Feinstein urges SF supervisors to undo tax sale of rich residents’ street
By Matier & Ross
November 1, 2017 Updated: November 2, 2017 12:45pm (San Francisco Chronicle)
Sen. Dianne Feinstein is coming down hard on the side of Presidio Terrace residents outraged that San Francisco sold their gated, private street to a South Bay couple.
Feinstein, who lived in Presidio Terrace for more than 20 years, wants the Board of Supervisors to take the unprecedented step of overturning a tax-default sale that delivered the neighborhood’s common areas to the young couple. It was bureaucratic bungling by the city’s treasurer-tax collector’s office, she said, that resulted in residents’ failure to pay property taxes on the street and sidewalks for three decades.
The last line of the article is the best part:
“In the United States, no one should lose property at the hands of the government without knowing it,” Feinstein wrote.
Aha! Sen. Feinstein firmly believes that Constitutional law should apply for very wealthy owners in Presidio Terrace, even though they happen to be governed by an HOA, which is a private entity.
And, of course, I agree with Sen. Feinstein.
But what about homeowners from Champaign, Illinois, who now have to deal with the recent tax sale of two small lakes to the owner of a corporation by the name of Nasty Joe’s LLC?
Those homeowners face a very similar situation, and have been pressured into creating a brand new HOA for their community, something that did not exist when owners purchased their homes.
What about the property rights of homeowners who bought their homes specifically because they did not want an HOA? Why isn’t a U.S. Senator speaking up for these middle class residents of Timberline Valley South?
Some of my colleagues have opined that these extraordinary incidents, especially the one involving Rand Paul, will shine a spotlight on HOA issues, and the erosion of property rights in the U.S.
I certainly hope that’s the case. But I’m not holding my breath.
Rand Paul’s neighbors rip media ‘landscaping dispute’ reports