the Americanus Busibodius or lose your house
By Gary Nelson, Tribune Columnist
Article Courtesy of The East Valley Tribune
February 11, 2003
Flags waved, bands played and the victors waxed poetic about their great triumph for the law. Yes, a fine and glorious day it was. It’s been almost two years already, but maybe you remember the clips on TV.
Maybe you remember seeing the white-haired old woman being wheeled into an ambulance on a beastly summer day. Maybe you saw her last glance at the home she would never see again.
Marie Brown lived in Westbrook Village in the northwest Valley, and her bushes had gotten a bit too large to suit the tastes of her homeowners association. Since she wouldn’t trim them, the friendly homeowners association did. They charged her for it, of course. More than 3,000 bucks to trim some bushes, and when she wouldn’t pay they came after her with their lawyers and, well, in the end they just took her house.
To my recollection, not one neighbor in Westbrook Village said publicly what a lousy, stinking crime it was.
That’s the thing with these homeowners associations. Many of them are run fair and square, and they keep neighborhoods nice and property values up, which is a worthy endeavor. Mine is run that way, and I like it. But some of them are the domain of an annoying and proliferating species called Americanus Busibodius, a brood that believes their God-ordained purpose in life is to tell everyone else how to live and to use whatever petty powers they have acquired to pursue their sacred mission.
That’s why state Rep. Eddie Farnsworth, R-Gilbert, wants to limit the power of homeowners associations when it comes to stealing people’s homes. He’s not trying to prevent them from keeping up the neighborhood, and he’s not saying they shouldn’t be able to collect fines.
He just thinks they shouldn’t be able to force 77-year-old women out into the cruel summer sun. Farnsworth gets a big “hear, hear!” from Mark Cavalli of Mesa, who says his homeowners association has been harassing him in the wake of an issue that arose with a neighbor family who happens to be close to an HOA board member.
“My association is fining me $20-$50 every few weeks for ‘miscellaneous items’ in front of my house,” Cavalli said in an e-mail to the Tribune. “There has been nothing by my house except holiday decorations that have never been out for more than a couple weeks for each corresponding holiday.”
Cavalli said he pays up because the power of HOAs and management companies over homeowners is all but absolute. And he’s not alone, judging from the recent buzz on the Valley’s talk radio stations.
Of course, some will say the simplest way to avoid problems is not to move into an HOA neighborhood in the first place. In Arizona, however, that’s getting harder and harder to do; there are 10,000 of them here, where the Western spirit used to roam wild and free.
Here, where on a glorious day an old woman can lose her home because her bushes got too big.