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"Give 'em an inch...
Homeowners' associations were first used as a means of easing the financial burden on local municipalities

unable to provide the much needed infrastructure and other amenities homeowners were accustomed to having.  Why deed restrictions came as part of the package is beyond me.  But they were, apparently, the quid pro quo and by accepting them, housing consumers "gave 'em an inch.....'.

  And, paraphrasing the rest of the saying; "... they have taken a mile.
 
Recorded deed restrictions have gone from as few as one page to hundreds of pages long, controlling everything from the weight of a dog to the exact shade of white of the interior window treatments.  Along the way, some associations have even taken it upon themselves to approve reading material and clothing articles kept on the premises.  As completely ridiculous as this may seem, newspaper archives and court records are full of such stories and cases. 
 
And state legislators, at the insistence of the homeowner association industry, amend state statutes increasing the powers associations already enjoy.  The most heinous of these laws are the statutory power to fine and then to foreclose, in some states, to foreclose non-judicially.  THIS MUST STOP!
 
In the absence of any adult supervision and oversight, these powers are being misused and abused on a daily basis
 
The whole world has heard about Wenonah Blevins, the 82 year old Texas widow, whose mortgage free $150,000 house was sold on the courthouse steps for $5,000 to satisfy an $814 assessment.  What would be so incredible about this case, had it involved anything other than a homeowners' association, is that Mrs. Blevins had remitted a check for the full amount shown on her bill from the association but the associations refused to accept her payment, preferring to foreclose instead. 
 
I guess you could say this story has a happy ending.  Fortunately for Wenonah, Marian Rosen who, by all accounts, is an incredible attorney, stepped forward to represent her.  After a year, Wenonah not only got her house back but a $300,000 settlement as well.  However, she and her cat were "homeless" for a year and this hardship, abuse and humiliation was caused by her neighbors who were given powers and authority they never should have been trusted with. 
 
More recently Marie "Penny" Brown from Peoria, Arizona has grabbed the headlines.  From everything I have read, Penny's board, dissatisfied with the way her shrubs and trees were maintained, entered her property, pruned her plants according to their own aesthetic sensibilities and billed her for the work.  She refused to pay the bill.  Upset with the way she was being treated by her neighbors, she also refused to pay her assessments. 
 
BIG MISTAKE!  
 
Her house was also sold on the court house steps for $52,000 to satisfy not only the landscaping costs the board incurred and her unpaid assessments but also legal and other junk fees that multiplied like rabbits, bringing the total allegedly owed to $27,000.  That left $25,000 that she should get for a house that I believe she paid $85,000 for 17 years ago.
 
So much for associations protecting property values! 
 
In a recent L.A. Times Op-Ed ,  a "steal of a deal" is mentioned when an association sold a $300,000 house for $2,403 to satisfy a debt of $567.  Later on, the author continued with another account of a late $31 payment that ended up costing the homeowner $598.72.  Because the payment was late, late fees were tacked on, attorneys were hired and threatening lettered were fired off .  Someone has to cover the costs of collecting a late fee, even if it means foreclosing on a home!
 
Enough is enough!
 
It is time to rein in homeowners' associations and return a sense of sanity to our neighborhoods.  
 
For a big picture snap shot of foreclosures in just one county,  check out www.hoadata.org
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