HOA throttles American dream


Article Courtesy of The Arizona Republic

By Natalie Reilly

Published July 1, 2005


I am proud to say that I am a homeowner living the American dream in a beautiful neighborhood in Peoria. I thank my lucky stars every night.

However, if there were one burr in the saddle of my suburbia, it would be the homeowners association.

In theory I can understand why we have such an association. In principle I can't understand at all how we give a group of people the right to ding us for our so-called "sins" as homeowners. Worse, we pay them a monthly fee to do so.  

I have found in many conversations with other homeowners the same token of disdain. On one hand I am glad to know that there is a group to keep our neighborhoods beautiful, free of broken-down cars or a yard knee-deep in weeds. What I can't understand are all the violation notices and fines that are enforced for things that can be very personal to home ownership.

I have received violation notices for weeds that I do not have; for cars parked in the street overnight, many of which were friends visiting my neighbor's; and for having left my garbage can out on the sidewalk overnight. And when I say overnight I mean, literally, my garbage was left out on the sidewalk until the following early-morning hours of garbage day. I have therefore been fined for that unacceptable human behavior as well, and on more then one occasion.

It doesn't matter whether you're a single, working mother with a million other things on your mind or the pope. You are NOT to leave your garbage can out on the sidewalk for any reason whatsoever. I'm guessing it's somehow a threat to society that consequently incurs a $25 fine. To add insult to injury, if you don't pay these fines, they can take a lien out against your house, and all because my 12-year-old son forgot to put away the garbage can.

It's getting to the point where I am afraid to open my mail. I take good care of my house. It's not always easy on a single salary, but I do the best I can. What makes it harder is paying fines for human error. I think it'd be cheaper for me to pay for a room at a local resort for my garbage can to sleep overnight rather then just leave it on the sidewalk.

A couple of years ago I bought my youngest son, Alec, a basketball hoop for his birthday. I have never seen a boy more excited about a gift. But after three months of violation notices, 20 attempted phone calls and $100 in fines, I finally had to remove the hoop.

Alec was so disappointed, as was I. My disappointment stemmed from my heartbroken son. It made me angry. I'm living in a country where we have the freedom of speech, the right to bear arms and what not, but I can't for the life of me keep a basketball hoop in my driveway for my boy.

I was later told that had I just jumped through all the right hoops (pardon my pun) in the beginning, then it just might have been possible. A ll I know is that those violation notices gave me no choice. Since then I have had a bitter taste in my mouth each month that I write a check to the HOA.

I really am not confrontational. In fact, I am a very easy-going gal. I always try to find the bright side of things, and people have found it hard to do that in my dealings with the HOA.

I write this on the cusp of just having white-knuckled yet another violation notice, this time for my garage door that is "not quite in alignment with the other neighboring houses." I am finding that "keeping up with the Joneses" has never been more of an uphill and costly battle. And in a world as diverse as this, we are ultimately being fined for not all being in "perfect alignment" with what one association deems to be "perfect."

Natalie June Reilly is a freelance writer and communications specialist. She is a single mother of two boys and the author of the children's book "My Stick Family; Helping Children Cope with Divorce." She can be reached at girlwriter65@yahoo.com. The views expressed are those of the author.