By Deborah Goonan, Independent American Communities
What’s up with the South Shore Villas Condominium Association? What do they have against a 4-year-old child who loves to play outdoors in his community?
WPIX11 reports that the condo association in West Babylon, Long Island, is threatening to fine Liam’s parents, Robert and Angelica Parker, for allowing him to play on the common areas.
Liam is an energetic child who enjoys riding his scooter and tricycle on the sidewalk near his home.
Last May, Marie Dellafranca, Vice President of the condo association, sent the Parkers a warning letter, informing them that they must not allow their 4-year-old son to play on the common areas.
Dellafranca’s letter claims that condo bylaws don’t allow children to play on common areas and green spaces at the condominium complex.
Dellafranca also threatened a $150 fine if the Parkers did not comply.
Naturally, the Parkers were flabbergasted. They think the rule is unfair. So Liam’s parents still allow him to play outdoors with other children in South Shore Villas.
If you read the full transcript of the WPIX report, you’ll learn that Marie’s husband, Vincent Dellafranca owns Dellafranca Development Corporation (DDC),a family company that built South Shore Villas.
That means this Long Island condominium complex is developer-owned and controlled. And, according to public records, the Dellafrancas own and manage many residential condo and apartment developments on Long Island.
As is typical of developer-controlled housing, you won’t find any publicly accessible condominium association website for South Shore Villas, just a DDC sales and marketing website.
The enforcement of a ‘no playing’ rule at South Shore Villas Condominium complex is another real life example of the negative social impact of common interest housing.
And, sad to say, it’s not the first time a condo or co-op association has enforced rules and restrictions against children playing outdoors.
But these kinds of anti-child rules aren’t limited to multifamily residential communities.
HOAs in planned communities have also been known to disapprove of back yard playgrounds and play houses.
Why? Usually, it’s because a few owners or residents don’t like the sound of children playing. Or they don’t like to look at children’s toys and outdoor play equipment.
Believe it or not, typical HOA complaints against children truly are that shallow.
Meanwhile, developers like Dellafranca benefit from perpetual revenue generated by HOA self-management, including condo fees, rent payments, and even fines.
When an HOA threatens a fine for allowing their children to play, most parents respond with “Show me the rule.”
Naturally, the Parkers asked the Dellafrancas to show them where their condo declarations and bylaws forbid playing on the common areas.
But, as reported by WPIX11, the condo board hasn’t been able to point to any specific restriction.
Perhaps that’s because the rule doesn’t exist. Even if it did exist, the rule would probably violate Fair Housing laws.
That begs the question: what’s the motivation for picking on a 4-year-old boy and his parents?
The Parkers think Dellafranca’s condo association is discriminating against Liam because of his Latino heritage. You see, Angelica Parker, Liam’s mother, is from the Dominican Republic, and Liam is the only Latino child at South Shore Villas.
The Parkers say they can prove that the HOA isn’t threatening to fine families of other children who play with Liam on the common area. That’s why they have filed a discrimination complaint with New York State Human Rights Division against South Shore Villas.
It certainly appears that South Shore Villas is yet another outrageous condo HOA selectively enforcing non-existent, discriminatory rules. We’ll see if the NY Human Rights Commission agrees.
No AG oversight of HOAs
When Vincent and Marie Dellafranca couldn’t point to a specific restriction or rule against children playing, they tried to convince the Parkers and WPIX that New York’s Attorney General makes up condo rules. The condo association just enforces them.
The sad truth is, the AG plays absolutely no role in writing or reviewing condo, co-op, or HOA governing documents. That’s not just true in New York. It’s also true across the U.S.
Vincent Dellafranca should be intimately familiar with the condo declarations for South Shore Villas, because these legal documents were most likely written by an attorney, for his benefit, when the development was approved for construction in 2007.
The HOA-industry doesn’t want consumers to know the shocking truth. No government agency or organization ever reviews covenants, restrictions, or bylaws of association-governed communities before these official legal documents are filed as County records.
Land owners and developers are more or less free to write outrageously one-sided, vague, and possibly illegal restrictions and bylaws, because there’s no legal authority to stop them.
Homeowners, residents have no voice
HOA-industry trade groups insist that housing consumers can avoid conflict by reading the governing documents, before they choose to buy or rent in an HOA-governed community.
But, even if a consumer doesn’t like some of the covenants, restrictions, and rules, there’s not much they can do about it. A home buyer or tenant cannot negotiate the terms of HOA governing documents. In other words, they are take-ot-or-leave-it contracts.
To make matters worse, as long as the developer controls the HOA, he or she can change the restrictions and rules without a vote of property owners.
That’s right. Even though they pay HOA fees and assessments, homeowners have no voice in a developer-controlled association.
Again, no government agency is obligated to review or approve these unilateral developer changes to covenants, restrictions, or rules.
Nevertheless, owners and residents are expected to abide by them. And there can be serious consequences if they don’t.
Quite often, property owners and residents don’t find out about harmful, potentially illegal rules and restrictions until after they have received a warning letter or fine from their HOA.
This is precisely why HOAs are such highly litigious environments.
As documented on this website, ridiculous and corrosive HOA disputes happen all the time.
And that’s a shame.
Most HOA disputes could be prevented. If only there were strictly enforced legal standards against non-existent, unconstitutional, discriminatory, or just plain mean-spirited rules and restrictions. ♦
4-year-old boy, his family unhappy over $150 fine for playing outside LI condominium
POSTED 10:45 PM, NOVEMBER 19, 2019, BY ARNOLD DIAZ, WPIX