Homeowners associations are legal protection rackets
By John David Powell 
Courtesy of The Morrock News Digest

Homeowners associations are legal protection rackets

Homeowners BEWARE! You may have lost control of your homes to bands of heartless scoundrels who run the nation’s largest protection racket, one that makes the Mafia (if there is such a thing, which I am not saying there is) and the Internal Revenue Service look like blushing school boys at a sixth-grade dance.

I am referring to your neighborhood or homeowners associations, vile beasts that prey upon the elderly, the unsuspecting, and anyone wishing to live in a neighborhood without broken-down cars, unsightly lawn jockeys, pink flamingos, or someone’s drunken Uncle Harry who likes to sit in a chair at the curb and curse at passing Japanese cars.

These associations have modeled themselves after street thugs who extort money from local shopkeepers under the pretext of protecting the merchants from mischief carried out by outside hoodlums or against accidents, fires, and thefts committed by the local goons. 

You are not allowed to buy your home unless you agree to pay tribute and abide by the rules set forth by the nameless and faceless association. If you are late in your annual payment, your association will remove you from your house, seize your property, and sell it for pennies on the dollar. And, you will have to pay the association’s lawyer for drawing up the paperwork that had you kicked out onto the streets.

Just ask Wenonah Blevins of Houston, Texas. The 82-year-old widow answered a knock on her door on April 10 and saw a constable with an eviction notice and a moving truck to haul her away from the $150,000 home she owned free and clear. Her crime was failure to pay her dues to the neighborhood racketeers. They claimed she was two years behind. She agreed, but said she paid the $814.50 with a check the association failed to cash. The association did not disagree.

“Yeah, we saw da check, but we was already makin’ plans to take da house,” said an association mouthpiece. “So, you gotta problem wit dat? Da old lady knew da rules. She tried to stiff us, and now we gotta make an example of her. Besides, dees tings cost money, ya know. Da old broad owes us more dan just $800. Wit penalties and interest, she’s into us for close to five grand. Hey, I’d break my own saintly mudder’s legs for five grand. By da way, your mudder owe you any money?”

Blevins admits she may have received notices in the mail, but she thought they were junk mail because they were addressed to her dead husband. And, she doesn’t answer the door at night because she’s an elderly woman who lives alone in Houston. Duh! I don’t even answer the door during the day. I make my wife do it.

So there she was, a widow with no children and no family except for a cat, forced by a gun-totting constable who was only following orders to condemn her to a life of homelessness.

And this tale gets more absurd. When the house was put on the auction block, the association put in a bid of $4,200. The final bid was $5,000, which was made by a tax-dodging cretin who owes about $140,000 in back property taxes to the county and the school district, and whose initial bid was the $499 minimum.

The Blevins outrage is one of thousands in Harris County, and probably tens of thousands across the Land of the (formerly) Free. In fact, association hooligans in the Houston area have filed more than 4,400 foreclosures since about 1996.

Not every property owner loses the house. Those who get to keep their homes have to pay astronomical attorney fees tacked onto any fines imposed by the associations. That’s what happened to a woman who paid her annual dues, but lost a picket in her fence and lacked a net on her son’s basketball hoop. She fixed the fence and netted the hoop, but she got a lawyer’s bill anyway. She kept her home after dipping into her retirement account for several thousand dollars to pay off the shark.

Another woman was told by her association to close her home day care. Even though the law was on her side, the courts stood with the association. She, too, kept her home, but she had to file for bankruptcy when the association’s lawyer charged her $19,000. 

And heaven help you if you decide to change the color of your front door. A Texas Court of Appeals found that an association has the right to create an architectural control committee, also known as the Stepford Nazis, and to require all homeowners to get committee approval before changing a home’s exterior paint color.

Several months ago, I got a notice that someone had inspected my property and found a spot of mold on my carport’s trim. A voice on the phone the other night warned me the tire by the curb, which was to be hauled away by our landscaper, might be a deed violation. A neighbor took pictures of my trees that had been wrapped with toilet paper over the weekend by some of my daughter’s classmates.

Be afraid. I am!