For me, one classic example will forever symbolize the ridiculous and ineffective nature of a homeowners association. See, in our current neighborhood (Yes, we're subject to an HOA. We were young and foolish. Lesson learned. Now, housing market, kindly improve so that we may relocate.) all of the homes were built in a relatively short amount of time by a single company. They're all made out of ticky tacky and they all look just the same. Including, of course, the street-side mailboxes.
Naturally, that is to say being quite indicative of the nature of an HOA's inability to perform basic reasoning, a rule was established from the beginning that all mailboxes must be of this design. They must all look the same. Thus, nobody could replace their mailbox for any reason. This wasn't a big deal until several of the mailboxes began to fall into terrible disrepair. (Quite quickly given their age, mind you. I shudder to think what these houses will look like as the years tick by.) So, naturally, people wanted to replace them.
But there's that rule, you see. And we can't just go around breaking rules. What kind of a world would this be if people were allowed to just buy and install a mailbox from a hardware store all willy nilly and without proper committee oversight? Anarchy, I tell you! So, clearly, we have a problem. People need mailboxes which can actually hold mail and keep it relatively safe from the elements. But all of the mailboxes need to look the same. A conundrum, at least to an HOA.
I naively suggested at some point that we simply repeal the rule that was blocking progress. Allow people to install mailboxes. The conversation went nearly exactly like this:
- Me: Why don't we just get rid of that rule? We're the homeowners, we make these rules. We shouldn't be so bound by them that we can't un-make them.
- Them: No, that rule is in place because it ensures that all of the mailboxes look nice.
- Me: Clearly that rule has failed to do its job. It should be replaced.
- Them: [confusion and arguing resulting in no solution]
I've heard people in this neighborhood, amid complaints about the HOA, justify its existence by claiming that without it the entire neighborhood would fall into disrepair. Everything would look terrible. Apparently the HOA, and not common decency, is the only thing preventing everybody from replacing their driveways with gravel, their wheels with cinderblocks, and their front lawns with screen porches and rifles. Exactly what kind of a neighborhood do these people think they live in? These houses all cost roughly the same. We're all roughly peers on any perceivable social ladder. I really don't think the Beverly Hillbillies are going to come into some Texas Tea and buy the house next to mine. (Even though that would be awesome.)
Minh from King Of The Hill put it best when she was explaining to her husband that they had fought for certain rights as free people (I don't have the quote exact, and wasn't able to quickly find it on Google): "We escaped the Communist regime in Lao. And the homeowners association in Orange County."
Anyway, let's fast forward a bit to present day. I haven't kept up with the HOA nonsense in quite some time. If they leave me alone, I'll leave them alone. I consider the annual fee to be along the lines of mafia protection money. I shouldn't have to pay it, but fighting it would prove a more costly endeavor. But apparently this unwatched kettle is reaching a boil. There is a stir. A brouhaha, if you will. Oblivious to the petty bickering of these small people, we received in our mailbox (not the mail part, the newspaper part, since it's apparently illegal to put stuff in the mail part or something) the following letter yesterday:
[neighborhood name redacted] HOME OWNERS
I am writing this to inform you of a matter that is important to all. This election we will be voting for a president, vice-president and secretary. I was asked to step down as president because of lies by one of our homeowners ( whom by the way was quick to call me when she needed help repairing something in her home, which I was glad to do at the time, and quicker to spread lies when it suited her purpose ) , by the board and [management company name redacted]. I did even though the lies were false. If anyone wants to know the truth and who started the lies in the first place, just come and ask me.
[name redacted] is an interim Officer and the homeowners must vote by 51% to remove and elect new members. This community belongs to you and you have a big say. The board works for you and must respect your wishes. If there is something you think should change, submit it for a vote. Make sure you come to the Annual Meeting! The Board works for you and [management company name redacted] is your employee. You are their employer. The whole community has got to come together and get on track so it looks good and works well for all of us.
Does anyone besides me find the statement "After the election, the Board of Directors, not the members, will then appoint the "officers" of the Association."? Why are we even voting? My opinion, it is time for a clean sweep. Does anyone know who is on the Board and what they have done for us? It is time to ask! Just remember these are your homes and you have a say in everything concerning this community!
Isn't that lovely? First of all, this letter serves primarily to add to my disappointment in the average person's ability to write at a passable level. Yes, I noticed all of that. I transcribed it exactly, save for a few redactions in the name of professionalism, and it hurt. But more to the point, this letter conveys to me a struggle that one would expect to find on a school playground. It doesn't help that this was a single printed sheet of unfolded paper with no envelope, no addressing, nothing resembling a properly formatted letter in any way. I know you wrote this crap in MS Word, use the formatting tools it provides.
Of course, not to leave this as an isolated incident, a similar single sheet of unfolded paper with no proper trimmings was again left in our newspaper receptacle today:
To the Home Owners who resides in [neighborhood name redacted] Community in it is about time we take back our community by attending the meeting tonight at 6:00 PM at [location redacted]. On yesterday, a letter was placed in my mail box stating that the one of the board members were lies on by a lady in the community. This is just another distraction to take our minds off the facts at hands. This is one of the reasons we need to vote because this board member appears to be trying start confusion in our neighborhood. He needs to grow up and act like an adults and not a child. The board member that sent this letter is trouble and has stirred up the community in the past with lies. I know from personal experience and I know of others that can attest to this. We need to vote for what is right for our community and everybody should be part of this voting process. For those who cannot attend you can drop your voting ballot at [address redacted] who will make sure it gets to the right person.
We need to stick to the matter at hand which is what best for the community and not focus on petty things. If any one need to know what prompted the letter from the ex board member and the true facts on what's going on need to contact the board for further information.
We need to stop the confusion and get on one accord. We do not have to agree on everything but we need to get along.
Sweet Fancy Moses, that was some damn fine rebuttal. I'm counting the minutes until I return home from work tomorrow to find a crudely printed set of grunts and clicks in my newspaper receptacle. If my friend Stephen can acquire a copy of a certain notorious mass email he once artfully composed (I believe it was on the subject of an apple, though I may be confusing it with a different email), I would be remiss if I didn't crudely print out copies of it and placed it in everybody's newspaper receptacles. They may wish to sow discontent, but my goal is to sow confusion and disarray.