Student renters lead to HOA dispute

Article Courtesy of The Orlando Sentinel

By Beth Kassab

Published January 25, 2015

Why student renters and suburban neighborhoods can be a bad combination.

A few years ago I felt like an old geezer yelling at kids to get off my lawn.

I lived next to a house rented to UCF students, who turned our cul-de-sac into a parking lot with what seemed like a fleet of cars and hung a Rockstar Energy Drink poster in a front window.
One night a pizza-delivery guy rang my doorbell at 3 a.m. He had the wrong house.
So when I heard about Dan Burns' story, I could relate.

He lives in unincorporated Seminole County near Oviedo.

For years, he says he's lived next to house that is more like a frat house than the typical suburban home in his gated community, Cypress Head at the Enclave in the Aloma Woods subdivision.

He has pictures.

One shows six cars parked in front of the home with what appear to be UCF decals in the rear windows.
Six cars can't fit in the driveway, and the neighborhood prohibits overnight street parking. So two housemates took the liberty of parking on the front lawn, straddling the sidewalk.
Good luck to anybody who might actually want to walk on the sidewalk.

The problems go beyond parking on the grass, which he says has led him to replace his sod several times. He says some parties have been so big, he's seen taxi vans drop loads of people off in front of the house. He installed security cameras and even captured some people urinating on his driveway.
"You would not believe what I've gone through," Burns said.

I'll take a lost pizza guy any day.

Burns complained to his homeowners association. He complained to Seminole County code enforcement.

But no one helps.

HOAs typically get a bad rap about being too aggressive with enforcing their covenants.

But here's an HOA where a laissez-faire attitude is most unwelcome. 

"The biggest problem that homeowners bring to me is usually HOAs abusing the power they have to enforce rules," said Barbara Stage, Burns' attorney who specializes in HOA disputes. "This one is the exact opposite."

She says the HOA has occasionally cited the home after Burns complained, but won't do anything about the larger problem.

I wanted to know what the HOA had to say about all of this, but Pinnacle Property Management, the company hired by the HOA to oversee the neighborhood, would not comment.

Stage says HOA disputes are often more complicated and expensive to resolve than they should be.

"I call it Jerry Springer law," she said. "There's a lot of drama that goes on in these associations."
She hasn't filed a lawsuit but is attempting to go to mediation with the HOA to work something out.
Seminole County, though, could do more to help homeowners in Burns' situation.

The city of Oviedo prohibits more than three unrelated people from living in a single-family home.
But the county doesn't have such a rule, said Seminole County Commissioner Bob Dallari, who represents the area.

"I never heard it was a problem," he said.

Oviedo's ordinance was born more than 15 years ago out of what Mayor Dominic Persampiere called "two fraternity houses" that popped up in one subdivision.

"We love having UCF right down the road from us, and we love what it brings to the community, but we need to have that boundary for our neighborhoods," Persampiere said. "That's why families are moving here."

The limit on three unrelated people in a house doesn't mean students can't rent in Oviedo. It just means the city is able to do something about houses with too many students.

For now, Burns is left to fend for himself.

The current group of renters in the house is better, he said, adding, "I think they might be graduate students."

At least lately he hasn't had to ask anyone to move a car off his lawn so he could mow.

But he doesn't know what's in store next semester. Or the one after that.