Okay, okay, okay. Confession time:
I am my condo’s HOA. That’s right, you’re talking to an actual Homeowners Association board member here. And boy, do we get a bad reputation, but I swear to you: I want to make residents’ lives easier. I don’t care what color your door is. I don’t care what you do inside your unit. As long as our residents are safe and comfortable in shared spaces, neat. Go with god.
Not all HOAs are like that, though. Let’s check out some horror stories.
1. Trying to find reasons to fine
“Every week, or multiple days per week, the HOA compliance lady would drive around and look for things to send letters about. This week’s mission was to find vehicles parked in the street — never mind that I had my truck in the street because I was cleaning the driveway per a prior violation. That tipped me over the edge. I started calling the cops on her. Every. Single. Time.
“‘Suspicious vehicle, driving very slow around the neighborhood, making notes at certain houses.’ It didn’t take long before she stopped being the HOA busybody. I saw her pulled over one day, so I knew the message got through.” —u/delorean623
2. No flags, but…
“Due to some neighbors flying BLM flags, thin blue line flags, and other opinion flags, our HOA decided that we’re only allowed to fly the US flag and nothing else. The day after the decision, we receive an email that someone reported our Pride flag that we’d had on our house since 2016, and that we needed to take it down. We complied and removed the flag. Looking through the new rules, we noticed that removable lights are permitted without restriction, so…we bought six colored flood lights, and we washed our house in pride colors. A little less subtle than our simple flag. A lot more fun for anyone complaining about the flag itself and what it represents.” —u/memon17
3. Fair’s fair
“There was an easement behind my house which was properly mowed when I moved in. By the second summer I lived there, it was an overgrown eyesore. One weekend, I borrowed my dad’s utility trailer, and I spent three days clearing it out. My arms were covered in cuts from briars, and apparently, I was also dealing with sumac, poison ivy, or some other stuff, because by Monday, I was having an allergic reaction so bad that I got a steroid shot.
“I was laid up in the house all day, and I get a knock at the door. It’s the neighbor woman. Apparently, there’s a rule that you cannot store a trailer in the driveway for more than three days, and this was day four. I needed to remove it by the end of the day or face a $500 fine. She handed me a paper listing the rule, and I considered just paying the fine, but instead, I angrily drove an hour each way to return my dad’s trailer. What struck me as odd was there was a list of things you couldn’t store in your driveway: personal watercraft, boats, trailers, etc. The odd part was that motorcycle was listed on there. I don’t ride one myself, but I thought it was a totally reasonable thing to keep in a driveway.
“A year or so later, the HOA lady had started dating an older gentleman, and he had moved in with her. Turns out he rode a Harley, which was always parked in her driveway. She was home, so I walked over there and politely informed her about the violation. The next day, the motorcycle was parked on her new back porch, the one she bragged about to everyone who would listen so she could tell them how much it cost. I laughed to myself, but then I remembered the part about it needing to be behind a fence. Another knock at the door, and within a few days, a fence company was building a six foot privacy fence, which completely hid her fancy new deck.” —u/swyts
4. Relax, lady
“I’m housesitting at the moment for my cousin. He and his boyfriend live in a pretty swanky neighborhood full of McMansions. Over the past few weeks, they’ve been having a new porch installed on the back of the house. The crew has a trailer parked out front so they can lock up their tools at night. No big deal right? Apparently, it is.
“This evening, I get a knock on the door. I look outside and see a woman walking away with two little dogs. One of the dogs stops and proceeds to shit on my cousin’s lawn.
“I wait until the dog is done and open the door. By this time, the woman is beginning to walk away, but she sees me and turns around. She introduces herself as a board member of the HOA. Without taking a breath, she launches into a lecture about the trailer parked out front, how she’s ‘lucky to have walked by and caught this egregious violation of the HOA rules,’ and how the trailer is an ‘eyesore on the neighborhood.’ She says she won’t report me to the board and suggest a fine if I remove it immediately.
“I calmly inform her about the patio construction and how the crew needs to store their tools and materials at night, but she’s absolutely foaming at the mouth about how ‘tacky’ it is to have a trailer in front of the house. I calmly inform her that I am not the homeowner, nor the owner of the trailer, and there isn’t much I can do about it (especially at 6:30 p.m. on a Friday night). Nevertheless, she’s adamant that I do SOMETHING.
“By this point, I’m fed up with this woman, who obviously has nothing better to do with her evening than bother her neighbors with bullshit. I look at her and casually ask, ‘Just out of curiosity, what’s the fine for not picking up after your dog if it shits in someone’s lawn?’ I tell ya, the look on her face at that point was classic. She stuttered for a minute before telling me she would ‘have to look into that…’ I told her I’d be grateful if she did because my cousin has been suspecting a neighbor of letting their dog poop in his lawn, so he set up a video camera in the window to catch the culprit. Upon hearing that, she got a little flustered and told me to tell the patio crew to hurry up, then she walked away with a huff.
“A small victory to be sure, but quite satisfying nevertheless.” —u/coulterpatton
“A few months after we moved in, we receive a letter from the HOA saying they’d received complaints and asking that we make sure we’re mowing, watering, and maintaining. I chalked it up to moving into a nicer neighborhood and made an effort to mow twice a week instead of my normal once, added a little time to the sprinklers, and figured all was good.
“Apparently it was not all good as we received another letter stating the complaints had continued. I should note, we had just moved in not that long ago, and hadn’t landscaped the back yet, so were letting our dogs pee on the front at night, which lead to the inevitable patches of bright green grass that grow stupid fast. It was in perfectly good shape outside some green spots in an otherwise average looking yard, and I do my best to keep things mowed and looking decent.
“Turns out our grumpy neighbor had taken real offense to this and started complaining to the HOA. While the HOA agreed this was not her business and definitely not theirs, I decided she was right and we should stop letting our dogs out in the front to pee. Now, I put them on the leash and let them do their business in her yard. And I’m clearly not the only one as her entire yard is now COVERED in pee spots. I’m pretty sure she’s complained about everyone with a dog, and now the entire neighborhood takes their dogs to her yard.
“The best part: She actually does a shit job taking care of her lawn — weeds and crab grass everywhere. So today, I got to report her to the HOA for her yard looking like total shit. If it were any other house (there are much worse), I wouldn’t care at all, but this lady wanted lawns without spots, so I’m just doing my part to enforce her rules.” —u/strongabbreviations5
6. FFS, this is the stuff of nightmares
“I hate my HOA. For the most part, I haven’t had a lot of complaints, but during the lockdown, I decided I wanted to give my yard some much needed TLC. It started with putting a gazebo in my backyard. I secured all the permissions I was told I needed and completed the work. Not two weeks after completion, I received a letter stating it was out of compliance.
“After weeks of arguing, I had to literally pick up my 3,000-pound redwood gazebo and move it three more feet from the wall.
“Next, I get letters complaining about the vegetation in my front yard. I decided that I’m going to remove my tree and replace it. I also want to remove five plants. One of them is clearly dead by now. Their paperwork specifically says that I have to submit ONE item per design change request. So I submitted seven different requests. One for each plant. One for tree removal. One for tree installation.
“Now they’re sending me generic copy-paste replies saying I can change the yard. None of them specify what design change was approved. I just keep replying to all of them asking for clarification. The last one I got said ‘it’ was for the tree removal and planting of a new tree…but it didn’t include the original letter or even a reference number. So I just replied back that I would like the specific letter included in the email so I can have an approval paper trail.
“They burned me bad with the gazebo incident. I won’t get burned again, and I’m having a grand time wasting as much of their time as possible. I smile every time I reply to an email asking for specific information.” —u/useless_skin
7. Orange house
“We’ll call my neighbors Liz and Dave. They were nice folks who ran afoul of the homeowner’s association when the busybody president, who lived next door to them (we’ll call her Joan), got it in her rotted turnip for a brain that Liz and Dave had taken in an illegal renter. In reality, Liz’s elderly mother had moved in with them after breaking her hip and being unable to live alone anymore.
“Joan sent them a very threatening letter about their ‘unlawful renter’ and how fines would accrue if the ‘unlawful renter’ didn’t vacate immediately. It was accompanied with a copy of that part of the bylaws and pictures of Liz’s elderly mother taken through windows of their house. Creep alert! They wrote back that there was no renter and explained the situation.
“Joan did not believe that ‘story’ and had the HOA lawyer start sending them certified letters about their continued violations with ever increasing fines. After many increasingly aggressive back and forths, it all culminated in an association meeting where Liz, Dave, and Liz’s mother came in with ID and birth certificates, and basically made Joan look like a pimple on the backside of humanity. They won, but Joan was furious, and swore she’d get them for something.
“Cut to the following fall. Liz and Dave needed to repaint the house after making some siding repairs. They carefully checked the bylaws for approved paint colors and picked out a fairly bland shade of something between brown and tan. They gave the painters the color info listed in the bylaws, and painting happened.
“Less than a week after their house was painted, they got another certified letter from the HOA lawyer stating their house was the wrong color. It turned out the approved color and the swatches on file with the board no longer matched because the manufacturer had changed the colors in their line slightly due to some kind of formula change. Joan was out for blood after the ‘unlawful renter’ and forced them to have to repaint.
“Liz and Dave were taking no chances on the second try. They got the swatch set from the HOA. For some reason, it made no distinction between approved accent colors (most houses in the neighborhood had brightly colored doors) or house colors. They decided that if they had to paint their house a second time, Joan, the dog that caught the car, could live next to the most garish option they had. It was pumpkin orange. The painters asked multiple times if they were sure. They were very sure. You couldn’t see the orange from inside, but you sure could from next door!
“Joan made many attempts to object to this, but it was within the letter of the HOA rules, and the house stayed orange until long after I moved away.” —u/sunnykl
9. Nice try, guys
“So a while back I was given a UGA Bulldogs flag and a flag pole to mount it on my porch. Our Homeowners association restrictions say that sports team flags can only be flown on a day in which the team is playing. My intention was to only fly it on Saturdays when the football team was playing. So I put the flag up on a Saturday, but forgot to take it down until Monday.
“On Friday, I get a letter from the HOA stating that I am in violation of the restriction and could be fined. Okay, fair enough, they are correct on this one. I then noticed that the date of observation was on Wednesday. I called and said that couldn’t be true because I took it down on Monday. Instead of admitting her mistake, she lied and said that she had seen it up on Wednesday. Now I was mad.
“I printed off a schedule of every sporting event the Bulldogs had in every sport, even club sports and then proceeded to fly the flag every single day there was any kind of game, match, regatta, etc., which was almost every single day.
“I then started getting letters stating I was in violation again. I would call on each one and explain that the water polo team had a match, or the rowing team had a regatta on those days. After about a month or two of this back and forth, they finally gave up.” —u/viking042900
9. Flippers suck
“Once a year, my mom always had us pull everything out of the garage so we could go through it, clean, and reorganize. This particular year, the flipper couple who owned the house across from us were in the process of selling their house. Unhappy with my mothers ‘unsightly’ driveway covered in boxes soiling their good image, they made a call to the HOA.
“By the time my mother received the letter, the mess had been put away, but they decided to get her on a few other complaints such as the bikes against the side of the house and the ‘patchy’ gravel. She had two weeks to have everything up to standards.
“Petty and easily frustrated, my mother knew immediately who called since the couple had come over and told her flat out with their renovations they were selling that house for ‘way more than any other house in this neighborhood’ and would appreciate if she respected that by keeping her property on par.
“For the next two weeks, every box from that garage was in our driveway. The couch and the living room TV came next. This was early summer, so it was perfect weather to sit in your yard in your short shorts and sports bra. My mom made sure to wave and smile every time they brought someone over for a showing.” —u/jumboface
10. WHO HAS THIS TIME
“My friend lives in a homeowner’s association, and they have a very strict rule on lawn ornaments and decorating. They have banned pink flamingos on their own, and for Christmas, they require the house to have a theme. My friend was looking for a way to screw with them.
“The theme he chose was Christmas in Paradise; he sold it to the association by saying it would be bright colors to off-set the dreary winter we were having. They enthusiastically approved it; they had no idea.
“He found some plastic palm trees, borrowed nine of a friend’s pink flamingos, and built a sled for Santa. The flamingos had reindeer antlers, and the one in front had a red nose stuck on. The reins for his flamingos were lights not bells. He also had lights on the house, fake palms, and a sign that said Christmas in Paradise. The HOA couldn’t do anything.” —u/naranghim
11. So many rules
“Yesterday, I received a letter from the homeowner’s association informing me that I’m not in compliance of the ‘strictly enforced by towing’ restriction stating that vehicles may not be parked on the street overnight. In the letter was a picture of my project car (an old BMW) parked beside our house on the street. I decided to look up the HOA’s restrictions (which I haven’t seen before, since I’m a renter) and discovered I’m living in HOA hell.
“The street parking rule is just the beginning of a long list of restrictions including one warranting a hefty fine for ‘leaving the garage door open when not in use.’
“This came as a huge surprise since several of my neighbors have parked their cars on the street without problems since I’ve lived here, so I assumed it was okay. I can only imagine that they’ve singled me out because my car is 30 years old; however, in my defense, it’s very presentable and by no means junky.
“Being singled out made me incredibly frustrated to the point where I started doing legal research. It turns out my HOA has every right to tow my project car since it’s parked on a private street in the neighborhood. The good news for me is that the street just outside of the neighborhood is public, and it’s 100% legal to park on it for any amount of time.
“Unfortunately for the HOA, the closest section of public street to my rental house is right in front of their nice gated entrance. Ironically, my old BMW has now become part of their image, and there’s nothing they can do about it until I move out in a few months.” —u/wrassehole
“Our board was tired of seeing people leave decorations up too long after holidays ended, so they passed a rule last July that we could only have decorations up 15 days prior and must be taken down 15 days after a holiday. Some people might think that rule is okay. But I like to decorate for halloween on October 1 to have the decorations up all of October.
“When they passed this rule, I was livid. I realized that they never mentioned which holidays we could decorate for, so the first thing I did was go out and buy red, white, and blue lights. I decorated for the 4th of July, and you better believe I left those annoying lights up until July 19.
“Problem is there really aren’t major holidays from July on until October. BUT the HOA did not say it had to be a major holiday. After July 19, I decorated for International Beer Day, which was on August 4, with the same red, white, and blue lights up for the 4th of July, but I removed the sign that said ‘Happy Independence Day’ and replaced it with a sign I made myself that read ‘Happy International Beer Day.’
“On August 19, I changed the sign to Happy National Aviation Day. I kept the same lights up though. Next was Labor Day. Yep. Just changed the sign again. On September 19, I started celebrating Rosh Hashanah. Because again, they never indicated which holidays we could decorate for.
“I kept this up over the holidays where I started with Veteran’s Day after Halloween, and then went to Thanksgiving and Hanukkah.
“The board met and tried to pass a rule saying which holidays we could decorate for, BUT they couldn’t get the vote when they tried to just include New Years, Valentine’s Day, 4th of July, Halloween, and Christmas. They didn’t include any Jewish Holidays or any other non-Christian holidays like Ramadan, and a lot of people voiced their displeasure with that.
“So they are going to meet again, and I think they are just going to change the rule to make decorations come down for the holidays in a reasonable time and not put restrictions on when we can start.” —u/jaxmagicman
“We all have trash cans, but the sight of them offends the delicate eyes of some, so I complied with the new rule of ‘no seeing bins from the street.’ I got a notice of my bins being out, which is surprising because I’m the only one who touches the cans, and I know I’m 100% compliant.
“I call in and ask why I got the notice. The full description says, ‘Bins in driveway with lids off.’ I asked if this happened to be a Tuesday, and sure enough, it was. Wednesday is pickup, and I was doing my weekly cleaning. I was fucking using them, I calmly explained through gritted teeth.
“‘Oh okay, I’ll remove the notice.’ Great, but how do I prevent this from happening again? ‘Oh, uh….I guess notify us.’
“‘Alright’, I said, ‘I’ll notify you every time I’m using my trash cans.’
“‘Oh that won’t be necessary….’ Clearly, it is.
“That was five Tuesdays ago. Today, I once again called promptly at 10 o’clock and let Alan know I was about to use my trash cans. ‘You know what? I’m just going to put a hold on any trash can notices for you.’ Hey, that would be swell, Alan.
“That would be swell.” —u/endoman13
14. Who CARES
“A friend of mine lived in a pretty big neighborhood with a pretty strict HOA. He was the first house at the bottom of the hill that you saw when you drive in. He was allowed to add a garage on to his house and did so, siding it with cedar planks. It looked great. His HOA disagreed and told him the bylaws state all exposed walls must be painted. He tried to appeal but was shot down unanimously.
“So he checked the bylaws further and found that while it was stated that all exposed walls must be painted, there was absolutely no mention of any color restrictions.
“By the time he was done, each plank was a different primary color, and there was nothing they could do about it. They were furious with him, and he laughed his ass off.” —u/procrastinator3000v2
15. RV madness
“I live in a neighborhood with an HOA, and they have a rule against having large vehicles in the driveway for more than 24 hours. My parents used to have an RV, and we would go on long trips several times a year. Before each, we would park it in the driveway for a few days to pack at a leisurely pace. The HOA hates this, and eventually fines us and tells us not to do it again.
“Here’s where the malicious compliance comes in. In our neighborhood, the roads are public, not private. We did a bit of research and found out that in our area, on public roads, a vehicle can be parked for one WEEK before it needs to move. So, we do the reasonable thing and park our huge RV in front of the house of the head of our HOA. For a week. And then we move it a few dozen feet, and leave it another week. And then go on our trip.
“We never heard about it from the HOA, presumably because they realized they have no control on public streets. After that, they stopped complaining when our RV was in the driveway for a few days every couple months.” —u/the-42nd-doctor