Mandatory, Voluntary Or NOT AT ALL?
An Investigative Report
|By Jan Bergemann
Posted Wednesday, 09 - 04 - 2003
Even if the deed restrictions don't call for a mandatory homeowners' association, some busybody neighbors just can't leave it alone. More and more lawsuits are being filed all over Florida, trying to force neighbors to join these associations.
One of the most used ways to force neighbors to do something they don't like?
Start as a “voluntary” association. Convince neighbors that it would be in everybody's best interest to form a neighborhood group to maintain the community and to keep everything nice and neat. After collecting sufficient funds, it's time to show the true colors: Turn around, hire a willing attorney and sue the neighbors who are unwilling to dance when some busybodies are whistling! After being threatened with liens, legal fees and other means of intimidation, quite a few of these neighbors are convinced that it might be easier to give in, instead of fighting these bullies!
Some just don't want to be governed by their eager neighbors. Even if they bought into a neighborhood with no mandatory homeowners' association, they are suddenly forced to defend themselves at great expense against neighbors who want to turn a peaceful neighborhood into a dictatorship.
The latest example was in Lakeland, Florida in Polk County. The Christina Homeowners Association tried to force their will on some of their neighbors by filing suit. But the judge decided: Final Judgment is for Defendants.
Quote: "Plaintiff has failed to substantiate that it is, indeed clothed in the power to assess fees from the homeowners of the subdivision of Christina. As such, the court is unable to find that the claims for assessment of fees in Plaintiff’s petition are enforceable."
But it seems that even a very clear judgment doesn't deter this kind of people from harassing their neighbors. The board decided to file an appeal!
Quite a lot of case law is already available, quoting Florida appeals court decisions, telling ambitious neighbors that property titles can't be altered without the consent of the owner. In various decisions of Florida appeals courts judges decided in favor of beleaguered homeowners.
Why is it so difficult to understand that there are many homeowners who are not in favor of being ruled by association boards? Not everybody blindly believes the advertising by industry partisans. "Carefree living," "Protection of property values" and many other unproven claims are being used to lure unsuspecting homebuyers into these mandated properties.
And if it didn't work in the first place, then let's try to force them through legal warfare to join! It seems like these people are determined to force neighbors into unwanted mandatory associations.
Many of the most outspoken proponents for association living might reconsider, if they knew this fact: That the foremost advocates for this lifestyle -- HOA attorneys and leading members of the Community Association Institute -- actually avoid living in these associations themselves. They sure like to earn their money by promoting these associations and preaching their advantages, yet they keep themselves and their families away from this.
Isn't that comparable to stock traders, who advertise “the best bonds”? They claim great profits and earnings, but don't buy them with their own money, because they know that these are actually junk bonds? And the only ones making a profit are just these stock traders?
Isn't that even called “insider trading” and illegal? In fact, isn't that why Martha Stewart is in so much hot water right about now? She allegedly used information not readily available to the general public to make a decision about her stocks.
Compare this illegal “Insider trading” to those who advocate HOA living because they have a financial interest in the "controlling" end of the biz. Those advocates are the very ones who know enough NOT to buy a home located in a homeowners’ association!
Have they ever considered that these people still believe that "their home is their castle" and listened to the statements of an outspoken homeowners' activist?
Living the HOA life is a risky, unpredictable lifestyle and you are always only...
ONE election away from disaster
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