By Deborah Goonan, Independent American Communities
To Andy Lipka, the worn painted surface of his classic 1965 Ford F250 pickup truck is a desirable “patina.” But to his Chesterfield neighborhood HOA, it’s rusty and unsightly.
The HOA wants Lipka to stop parking the truck in his driveway. They say HOA rules don’t allow residents to park vehicles with body damage. And they’re absolutely serious about enforcing the HOA rule.
So far, according to a KMOV report, Lipka’s HOA has fined him almost $3,000. They’re now taking the homeowner to court, and threatening to foreclose on his home, if he refuses to pay the fines.
Even if he pays up, if Lipka won’t keep his truck hidden in his garage, and continues to park it in plain sight, the Woodfield Homes Association will very likely fine him again.
Voice of the public
If you check out Chris Nagus’ (KMOV) Facebook page, you can read dozens of comments about Lipka and his HOA. The vast majority of those comments are anti-HOA, although a few people think Spencer should just park his truck in his garage, and leave one of his other vehicles in the driveway.
Perhaps Lipka could have avoided this legal battle if he had only parked his classic Ford pickup in his garage. But, then again, that’s what HOAs hope most residents will do — take the path of least resistance.
Today Woodfield Homes Association objects to the patina of a classic car. Tomorrow the HOA might object to your 3-year-old SUV with a small dent on the rear fender.
But that’s really not the point.
The threat of HOA foreclosure
The point is, how does a rule violation justify the homes association’s right to take away your home? The punishment certainly doesn’t fit the “crime,” if you can call it that.
After all, your HOA doesn’t own your home. They didn’t pay for it. They don’t even hold the mortgage. So why does the HOA consider your home collateral, holding your home hostage if you don’t follow their rules?
It doesn’t make sense.
Unfortunately, the HOA-industry has managed to trap 70 million people in the U.S., insisting that you “agree” to a long list of petty covenants, restrictions, rules and regulations (CC&Rs) when you buy (or lease) in an HOA-governed community.
Break one of their vague or silly rules at your own risk. Your HOA can fine you and put a lien on your home, then demand you pay them, or else they’ll sell your home at their foreclosure auction.
Sounds like extortion. Shockingly, it’s perfectly legal.
HOAs use the threat of foreclosure, not really for the money, but to make an example out of the renegade homeowner who dares to challenge the Rule Enforcers.
Community Associations Institute founder Linc Cummings admitted as much to Judy L. Thomas, Kansas City Star, when she interviewed him for her “HOAs from hell” series.
Many homeowners will fork over thousands of dollars to their HOA, if they can, to avoid losing their home. But others cannot scrape up enough money to avoid losing their homes.
Avoiding the HOA trap
Every time I read the comment section on an HOA nightmare report, there are several comments telling the homeowner that they should have avoided buying into an HOA.
The truth is, it’s not that easy to avoid HOAs these days. Most homes built in the last 20-30 years come with onerous CC&Rs, shared ownership, and a private homeowners’ association to govern the community.
If you don’t believe me, check out the newer communities in your hometown or county. I challenge you to see how many you can find that are not condominiums, housing cooperatives, or planned communities with homeowners associations.
You’ll probably have to look at older homes, built before the rise of HOA-ville in the 1970s and 1980s. If you’re not inclined to fix up an old home, your choices may be slim.
I guess that’s why real estate agents now feature “no HOA” as a selling point in the listing description.
State Rep tried to enact a homeowners “bill of rights”
Missouri State Representative Bryan Spencer (R) tells KMOV that he has tried to introduce legislation to protect the rights of homeowners to use their property as they see fit. But the HOA industry lobbyists kill those bills every time.
Spencer also says he attends 60-80 HOA meetings every year. HOAs have a major presence in his district. He opines that HOAs have too much power, and some turn into “fiefdoms.”
Of course, this is no surprise to housing consumer advocates across the U.S.
But, apparently, most folks in America still don’t know that an HOA can foreclose on your home over something as petty as parking a classic truck in your own driveway.
And most Americans cannot fully comprehend the corrosive political power of HOA-industry lobbyists —mainly real estate developers and community association management trade groups.
Bravo for Rep. Spencer, because few elected official have the nerve to publicly proclaim that the HOA-industry regularly fights against property rights for its residents.
Strip the power of HOAs
Next time Rep. Spencer or any of his like-minded colleagues works on legislation to rein in HOAs, here’s a suggestion.
Don’t attempt to list the rights of homeowners. For one thing, a Bill of Rights already exists in the U.S. Constitution. That should be the starting point!
Besides, HOA industry lobbyists will just use their political influence to limit any “HOA bill of rights” by adding exceptions and conditions for those rights. That inevitably preserves the HOA’s right to make homeowners ask for permission to exercise their own property rights.
Instead, keep it simple, and focus on removing excessive powers of HOAs.
If housing associations are businesses, as the HOA-industry contends, then they have no business exercising powers equal to or greater than local, state, or federal government.
Start by eliminating the HOA’s power to impose monetary fines. Then take away the HOA’s power to foreclose.
These two powers are the root of most HOA abuse. ♦
Battle between homeowner and HOA over truck could lead to foreclosure
Chris Nagus, KMOV
Updated May 7, 2019 | Posted on May 6, 2019