I will admit, from the very early days the concept of an HOA has always concerned me. Not because they are inherently bad, but because their boards tend to attract people who want to control their neighbors lives. To dictate what people can and cannot do with their own homes. For the first 10 years we were in the house, the HOA was, for the most part, not acting unreasonably. Their main focus was on improving the landscaping to make it more economical to maintain, especially in light of water shortages and the rapidly increasing cost of water. Then came the parking disputes and the more militant board members.
Bayport covers a relatively large area (it is almost 500 homes). In some parts of the development, parking can be scarce. Everybody has at least two spaces in their garages, but they are not generous. If you have a larger vehicle, it might be difficult to get two in the garage and actually be able to get in and out of them. Others have more than two vehicles. Whatever the reason some people choose to park one or more cars on the street.
Additionally, those nearer the apartment complexes that neighbor the development often find, or at least suspect, apartment residents are parking overnight on their streets.
A committee was convened and made little progress for a number of years. Then the board changed and suddenly there was a proposal for new parking rules. The proposal had a number of significant issues, in particular it tried to make residents pay for permits to park on the street, and furthermore limit the number they could have. Feedback was provided and the board went away to try again.
Permission to have Visitors
Version two removed the payment and limit, but added license plate registration and some new rules for visitors. In particular, if residents have a visitor who needs to park their car for more than four nights in a month, they need to ask permission from the board. Permission to have a visitor. Doesn’t even need to be an overnight visitor since the patrol starts in the early evening.
Have somebody stay for a week with rental car, or just come by for a weekly event in the evening, they might need permission. Babysitters working in the neighborhood with their own cars may be even worse off: they may not sit for the same person more than four nights in a month, but could easily be in the neighborhood more times than that in aggregate, for different families.
It wasn’t that residents need to notify the management company either. It was that they need to ask for permission from the board.
Feedback about the various issues with the new plan was submitted, but the new board simply ignored it all and passed their new rules unchanged by the feedback.
Didn’t take long for the new board to find another use for the parking regulations that were claimed to be about stopping people from outside the neighborhood parking overnight on the streets either.
Just this month we receive a notice that the board wishes to make changes to the penalties they can impose when residents do not comply with their demands for architectural or landscaping related changes (more on this later). The first change on that list (and, based on the way the new board ignored the feedback on their parking proposal there is no chance they won’t just make these changes) was to remove the “privilege” to park on the streets from those who don’t do as they are asked or pay their fines. Yes, they plan to stop residents parking at their own homes to force compliance with their whims.
They also want to increase the amount for fines, which the management company backs since it gets them to the magical $1,800 threshold where they can start foreclosure proceedings.
These changes were introduced as being necessary to “protect property values.” This argument is often pitched by realtors as a positive feature of an aggressive HOA. Of course, that only works if the people buying houses don’t discover how petty the HOA is, and that they could be banned from parking in front of their house, or even having visitors stay with them, if they let their grass grow too long. Of course, it should come as no surprise that realtors care more about property values than about the quality of life: their income is directly related to transaction prices.
Security Out, Parking Patrol In
Another indication of just where the current board sees its priorities is the canceling of the security patrol to pay for a parking enforcement patrol. Instead of there being somebody patrolling the neighborhood, keeping an eye on things like packages left on doorsteps or kids causing trouble, we have a parking enforcement patrol the only purpose of which is to stick warning notices on cars that haven’t been registered with the HOA, and call the towing service whenever they can.
The HOA is now spending our dues to prey on us instead of providing a security patrol to protect us.
I have always had my suspicions that the parking rules were not just about the nearby apartment residents parking on a few of the streets overnight. For a start, that affects so few of our streets. Then one of the board members confirmed as much in a private message to me on Nextdoor. A message where she misquoted me, and then proceeded to berate me for have a different opinion on the importance of the parking issue to hers, even suggesting I should move if I didn’t like the rules. In this message she makes it clear that her real complaint is that one of her neighbors parks his cars on the street and not in the garage, which she feels is unfair on her:
Not that it affects you, and not that I think you even care, but my neighbor and I park in our garages. Unfortunately we have neighbors near us with multiple cars who do not park in their garages. When we have company or workmen it can be problematic. Is that fair and equal?
Landscaping & Painting
Another recent notice, this one in a newsletter, stated that the board is also going to start being more aggressive about pursuing landscaping complaints against residents. We have also seen them being more aggressive about house painting, even demanding minor changes in color shades based on advice from a paid colorist. Subjective changes based on the personal taste of the head of the committee.
Militant HOA = Bad HOA
The pattern of recent behavior is very clear:
- Ignoring resident feedback (not even responding to it).
- Ramping up complaints about landscaping and painting issues.
- Imposing stricter parking rules with required registration.
- Increasing penalties, and using the new parking regulations to impose further penalties on residents at will.
I would argue that having an HOA which chooses to attack its members so aggressively is actually more damaging to property values. Personally, I value having a safe and friendly place to live far more than one where all the lawns are perfect and the houses are all uniform color schemes. The number of reported package thefts and car break-ins, which can be easily found online as public records, will impact property values far more than having a neighbor with an overgrown lawn, or one who parks their cars on the street. Yet the current board dropped the security patrol in favor of a parking patrol.
Conflict of Interest?
Remember that claimed reason for the changes to the penalties for non-compliance? To protect property values. Two of the current board are in an interesting position with respect to that. It can be argued that protecting our property values helps us all, but it helps two of the current board in a more significant way: they are realtors actively working with houses in Bayport. That means that changes in house values affect their income.
The standard for recusal for a board member from a decision is when a board member has an interest, especially a pecuniary one, in a decision that is not shared by all other members of the board. I believe that means the realtors should recuse themselves from any decision relating to “protection” of property values.