Note: This column appears in the 4/9 issue of The Glendale Star and the 4/10 issue of the Peoria Times
Forgive me as I’ve had bad experiences with Home Owner’s Associations in the past.
Back east we lived in a development where our HOA fees were well over $230…a month. For this we got a) three tennis courts, including one without a net, b) an asphalt basketball court with potholes and c) a pool with questionable water quality which was supervised by a revolving door of aloof teenagers that I wouldn’t trust with my towel, much less my life. When the HOA attempted to raise our fees to over $300 monthly, a near riot ensued at the quarterly meeting, which ultimately resulted in the ousting of the entire board and the uncovering of suspect spending practices. (Side note: those in attendance eagerly nominated my father-in-law -– who didn’t even live in the development and only came on our behalf, but who gave an impromptu Mussolini-type decree to the board while angrily waving a piece of paper in the air as evidence but which was most likely nothing more than a printout of local golf courses -- to be the new board president. He respectfully declined.)
When we decided to live in yet another development -– the Valley didn’t leave us much choice -- we were comforted by the fact that the quarterly dues were less than our monthly dues back east, plus the development had infinitely much more to offer. Still, we were skeptical. Our skepticism was rewarded when one of the first letters we got in our new mailbox was from the HOA, urging us to pull several weeds from our front yard. We got a few letters after that, questioning the whereabouts of our garbage pail and the status of our backyard landscaping. As somebody who watches “24,” I started to fear that our HOA was something more. Something covert. Something evil. I began showering with my clothes on, just in case.
When my wife and I decided to have a patio cover professionally installed in our backyard, we knew the necessary steps to take with the HOA, and we knew not to risk not taking them. Unfortunately, one of those steps was “having your request for a patio cover denied by the HOA.” Apparently, it didn’t meet their specifications. Well, we had enough. This same faceless organization that gladly takes our money and demands we pull our weeds was not going to blindly deny us the opportunity to improve the value of our home. So I appealed.
Not only did I request attendance at the appeal hearing, but I brought along our representative Clark from Sun City Awning, the company we wanted to install our patio cover. My plan was for me to be Michael Corleone and for Clark to be Tom Hagan, and throughout the meeting he would whisper what to say in my ear and then I would deny all the charges against me. I think I watch too much television.
It wasn’t anything like I imagined. It was a friendly roundtable discussion between us and several members of the HOA. I realized that this faceless organization wasn’t faceless after all, and that they generally have the best interests of every homeowner at heart. Plus, they realized that all homeowners aren’t arrogant jerks who will go behind their backs in a second to install whatever the heck they want without any approval. A compromise was reached, and we got approval.
This column however? Not approved. So I continue to watch my back. Just in case.