Taking a moment to rant about homeowners associations

Article Courtesy of The Florida Weekly

By Lindsey Nesmith   

Published May 18, 2015


Homeowners associations are curious organizations. Most sane people I know — the ones who work, bring up children and have lives — would rather eat glass than install themselves in these petty dictatorships. It takes a special type of person to involve himself (or herself) in strangers’ lives, usually someone who enjoys passive-aggressive assault tactics to spy on his neighbors or who employs one-strike-you’re-out policies so he doesn’t have to use grown-up words to discuss problems.

Inevitably, the residents who get caught in the crosshairs are those who are too busy managing their own lives. They are never on the board (ain’t nobody got time for that), never around at 10 a.m. on a weekday to make a show of hosing off the community sidewalk and typically are happy with the landscaping that has been chosen for them. While they’re busy toiling away at their teaching or sales jobs, the condo commandoes are eyeballing their driveway and figuring out how long the toddler’s bike has been sitting near the doorway.

And God forbid they entertain. Suddenly, the condo commandoes start furiously washing their cars and doing (unnecessary) yard work so they can keep tabs on how many vehicles are in the driveway, where overflow is parking and whether anyone has left a car bumper encroaching on the sidewalk after 9 p.m.

Should a resident actually address a real dilemma with the condo board, its members often invoke the notion that perfect and enthusiastic compliance with all rules and bylaws — 100 percent of the time, in perpetuity — is required for negotiation. If a resident ever received a letter because his dues were two days late (despite the fact that the manager waited four weeks to cash it), he has relinquished all credibility and expectation of leniency.

It’s very important to remember that you only live there. This is not a democracy.

Let me say it again.


Despite the fact that you pay the mortgage, the property taxes, the fees and much of maintenance and repairs on that home you foolishly liked, you are there to indulge the whims and caprices of a group of busybodies.

The only way to win the war is to become one of them, which itself is a hellscape beyond imagination.

Why should I care that my neighbor hides her dog’s walkie bags behind the bushes until trash day? Why would I want to insert myself? Maybe her garage clicker doesn’t work and she doesn’t want them in the house. Since we’re required to keep trash bins in the garage (often considered an unhygienic fire hazard), what she does makes sense to me.

The kicker, of course, is that associations are usually so busy picking on the trees that the forest runs amok. It’s totally OK to tow residents’ cars from their driveways without warning after midnight, but it’s unthinkable to send that same tow truck down the residential roads in broad daylight pick off cars blocking the right of way. People would know what they were doing! They might have to explain themselves!

Standards are nice. So are privacy, transparency and adult conversations — because homeowners associations are unavoidable in most parts of Naples.

I often wonder how neighborhoods were allowed to naturally evolve in parts of the country that have a firmer grasp on reality. What possibly motivates people to live in a compound where your guests are interrogated upon entry, but the gate guard gives a tow truck driver free access to the community at 2 a.m.?

And unfortunately, reason never prevails. Wellintentioned neighbors join boards thinking they’re going to change things for the better; inevitably, they drink the Kool-aid instead. I cannot even conceive of an instance where I would be moved to join a board.

Run for public office? It would be an extraordinary circumstance, but I could see it.

Fill my head with speculation and hearsay about 300 strangers? Never.