Contrariwise: HOAs Have Gone Too Far

Yes, there's such a thing as taking pride in your home. But is that pride achieved by bullying and harassment?


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As Americans, we like to think of ourselves as fiercely independent. We’re drawn to iconoclasts in our books and stories. We have an entire day devoted to commemorating the ousting of England that sees us literally setting fire to the sky in celebration of how we won’t be told what to do.

However, there’s one area of subjugation that Americans willingly sign on for over and over again, and the Powers That Be in that region have gone too far. What we’re talking about, of course, are Homeowners Associations, commonly called HOAs. They, like the bushes you’ve probably gotten official complaints about, are in need of some serious pruning.

It’s not like we haven’t known that this was a problem; The X-Files tried to warn us about HOAs in 1999. In the season 6 episode “Arcadia,” a community conjures a monster to eliminate neighbors who commit heinous crimes, such as … having a basketball hoop or a burned-out porchlight. The writer of that episode, Daniel Arkin, was inspired after he was fined in 1991 for accidentally moving into his community outside of approved move-in hours. Seriously.

Late last year, my own son parked his Jeep on the street so we could play basketball. He meant to pull it back in the driveway but forgot, and it was parked on the street overnight. Later that week, we got a letter from property management complaining about the ostensible transgression, but the irony is that the neighborhood had given control of the streets back to the town a couple of years earlier, so it wasn’t really even their jurisdiction anymore. So the point was … what, exactly?

To us, it was just an annoyance. But how much time and money went into the execution of that letter? It took staff time to generate the letter, and it took postage to mail it. In isolation, that’s a pittance. But all told, when you add up all the notifications for things like grass height or leaning mailboxes or Christmas lights left up a day too long, how much are homeowners paying just for someone to bother them? How much of that money could go into actual community improvements that instead wither and die on the vine of extremely petty infractions?

When I brought up the notion of HOA overreach to friends, it definitely struck a nerve. I instantly had dozens of stories regarding letters from HOAs about fence repairs, grass height, and painting approval. One friend related that her neighborhood used to have a rule that garage doors had to be down unless you were “actively loading and unloading.” That would be the height of absurdity if it weren’t for other stories I received of HOAs that tried to prohibit Jewish residents from the very common faith practice of hanging mezuzahs (tiny decorative cases that include scripture) on their doorposts, or other groups that still have decades-old bylaws on the books that try to clandestinely define the ethnic makeup of the neighborhood.

Yes, there’s such a thing as taking pride in your home. But is that pride achieved by bullying and harassment? Does lying on the ground with a ruler to see if your neighbor’s grass is too tall that week make anyone’s life better? HOAs should exist for common purposes like snow removal, upkeep of common areas, and general safety, not for telling your neighbor what color their shutters get to be.

This article is featured in the July/August 2023 issue of The Saturday Evening Post. Subscribe to the magazine for more art, inspiring stories, fiction, humor, and features from our archives.

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  1. A well run HOA will maintain and even increase the value of a property property over a non-HOA property. HOAs assure a minimum standard of housing desirability. No HOA, your neighbor can build race cars in his garage and test them at all hours of the day. Happened to me and it hurt the value of my property.

    I was on the board of an HOA and I would say that most of the people who have complaint with an HOA are a big reason HOAs become crazy.


  2. HOA’s are the reason I will never live in a condo… Most people I know do not like their pettiness and their illusions of grandeur…
    I do agree however that it is smart to get involved if you live in a condo because these little fiefdoms have a great deal of power over the lives that they “govern”, and you need to have input to protect your investment…
    Otherwise some of these little Hitlers become drunk with power and overreach!

  3. Anyone who has any beef with HOAs should join the association and make a difference. Board members are unpaid, unappreciated homeowners whose job is to enforce the HOA bylaws & covenants equally. If the rules are petty then work to change them. The problem is that homeowners just complain without offering any solution. I do agree that some rules are just ridiculous, so then do something to change them. With freedom comes responsibility.

  4. My daughter and son-in-law live in a subdivision where they are required to subscribe to as members and be governed by a HOA. They do not like it.
    I live is a rural area with 2.5 acres and would never condone to being a part of or having a HOA poking their noses into my business. They don’t pay my home insurance or property taxes. I would greet them with a loaded twelve gauge shotgun, six shooter, and tell them to kiss my @$$ and go to hell. I don’t and won’t put up with that kind of $hit.

  5. You do not have to live in an HOA environment to be harrassed. Cities do a very good job of harrassing. When I moved to my town there were no problems. A few years later someone was hired to drive around and check on peoples’ properties. We have a 7 inch grass height limit. All it takes is one property owner who thinks that everyone should adhere to his/her expectations and one person on the city hall board to enact these expectations.

  6. I hate my HOA soooo much, you have no idea. It’s setting fire to $400 every month. And no, the fact our money’s nearly worthless isn’t of much consolation. If it was counterfeit though, then maybe… a little bit.


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