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Miserable HOA/fence issue
Old 11-15-2011, 06:23 PM   #1
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Miserable HOA/fence issue

Two years ago, the HOA for the community where we have our rental townhouse, picked up a couple of new members; since then, they have been on a continual rampage of snooping, nit-picking, and threats. I believe none of these people must have any sex life; they certainly act like it.

Among our latest wire-brushings: Our townhouse is second from the end unit. The HOA told us, in a letter, that there is no architectural request on file for a fence between our unit and the end unit. They are demanding that we submit a "post-construction" architectural request for their approval, or face fines and sanctions.

Being the fourth owners since the place was built in 1995, we have no idea who erected the fence, or when. The fence could as easily belong to the end unit. The lot plat in our closing papers does not indicate a fence, even though it was there when we bought the place in 2003. The plat shows the deck that was also there when we bought the TH.

We cannot communicate with the HOA except through the management company (who are overwhelmed and hard to reach) or via scheduled, 15-minute evening "hearings." When we get our hearing, we fully expect the HOA to demand that we pay for a survey to "disprove" our ownership of the fence. This would cost about $500.

Are there any other reasonable avenues we can take? We're really stressed about this, on top of all the other headaches this HOA has caused. We usually support HOAs and covenants, but these folks are...well, what I said at first.

Amethyst
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Old 11-15-2011, 06:25 PM   #2
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I forgot to mention that we are very leery of "claiming" the fence, via an architectural request, because then the HOA will find some kind of fault with it and make us tear it down.

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Old 11-15-2011, 06:27 PM   #3
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Can't help, but I can express sympathy. I've received some crazy HOA demands, but the cost of compliance has always been less than the cost of disputing.
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Old 11-15-2011, 06:36 PM   #4
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Sorry, no advice only sympathy.

I helped create a monster HOA in our subdivision, serving on the initial board and later becoming HOA president. After two years I could no longer stand it and ran for my life. Something about HOA's seems to attract control freaks and nut jobs who lack both reason and common sense.

If you get out for only $500 consider yourself very fortunate.
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Old 11-15-2011, 06:47 PM   #5
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Sorry to hear about your HOA problems, and I wish I had a helpful suggestion.

Or maybe I do. Would it cost less than $500 to have it torn down? Of course, then you would have no fence.
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Old 11-15-2011, 06:59 PM   #6
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Since nobody seems to have any documentation about who built the fence, it seems like the HOA could just as easily go after the end-unit owners. We have no way of knowing if they are picking only on us, or have approached the end-unit owners and are playing us against each other. Is there some way to approach this situation from the perspective that the Amethysts should not bear the whole burden of proof about the fence?

A.
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Old 11-15-2011, 07:15 PM   #7
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Off the cuff, I'd say drag it out.

I would send a letter saying there seemed to be what appears to be a fence present at the time of purchase. Have no idea when or by whom it was erected. If the HOA asserts it is yours they need to prove it. By the way, what is the definition of a fence? Does this thing meet that definition? What are the rules for a fence if any? Have them cite the rules governing.

A survey, by the way is always very good to have. Every real property I ever owned was surveyed prior to closing, and I wrote all sorts of "subject to"s relating to a satisfactory survey.

On our current house, had a survey done, IIRC $400.-, discovered the my ever perfectionist neighbor was only 5 years away from getting adverse possession of about 20' wide 180' foot strip of our property. By openly, visibly and continuously trimming hedge, mowing and storing some wood on it. Fortunately, having sold real estate in my youth, was very aware of such and other shenanigans.

Had the surveyor plant 3/4" diameter 6' Rebar at the corners and middle of the adjoining property lines and wrap bright orange surveyor's tape on them. There were previous records by the previous owners of having survey done about 25 years ago, and 1', 1/4 diameter rebar set to mark boundaries. Curiously only the perfectionist neighbor's line and corner markers were missing. Hmmmm. After installing the huge rebar markers the neighbor got supremely pissed. Then hired a different surveyor to do just the adjoining property line. Much to his chagrin the survey lines were within a 1/4 of an inch.


Bottom line, I'd go for the survey and deal with the aftermath later. Still send the aforementioned letter to slow them down a bit.

But then again I have no experience with HOA's as I have always avoided them like the plague.
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Old 11-15-2011, 07:38 PM   #8
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Off the cuff, I'd say drag it out.

I would send a letter saying there seemed to be what appears to be a fence present at the time of purchase. Have no idea when or by whom it was erected. If the HOA asserts it is yours they need to prove it. By the way, what is the definition of a fence? Does this thing meet that definition?...
I like that approach. You could ask if they mean 'fence' as a noun or a verb, and include things like:

Online Etymology Dictionary

Quote:
fence (n.)
early 14c., "action of defending," shortening of defens (see defense). Spelling alternated between -c- and -s- in M.E. Sense of "enclosure" is first recorded mid-15c. on notion of "that which serves as a defense." Sense of "dealer in stolen goods" is thieves' slang, first attested c.1700, from notion of such transactions taking place under defense of secrecy. To be figuratively on the fence "uncommitted" is from 1828, from the notion of spectators at a fight.
fence (v.)
mid-15c., "surround with a fence;" c.1500, "defend, screen, protect;" 1590s, "fight with swords;" the last from the noun in this sense (1530s); see fence (n.). Related: Fenced, fencing.
If they are accusing you of dealing in stolen goods, you could make it clear you will sue for slander.

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Old 11-15-2011, 08:12 PM   #9
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Read the Deed Restrictions/Covenants for your property. You should have received a copy when you closed. Normally all "improvements" in existence at time of purchase are "grandfathered in" when a property is bought whether previously approved or not. In our HOA the President has to give a statement to the closing company that all dues are paid and that there are no outstanding issues before a sale can be completed.
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Old 11-15-2011, 08:28 PM   #10
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Since nobody seems to have any documentation about who built the fence, it seems like the HOA could just as easily go after the end-unit owners. We have no way of knowing if they are picking only on us, or have approached the end-unit owners and are playing us against each other. Is there some way to approach this situation from the perspective that the Amethysts should not bear the whole burden of proof about the fence?

A.
Amethyst, it sounds like you and the end unit owner do not communicate because you don't know if they are playing you again them or have even approached the end unit owners. Why don't you talk to them and see what they know about the situation. Some good points have been made. Do you like the fence? Does the end unit owner like the fence? If not tear it down. Next thing you know they will accuse you of not maintaining it. There must be some verbage in the documents that disallow fences or if they are allowed, it is not on record as being approved by the board or the architectural committee.

I am on the architectural committee of our homeowners association. Believe me, we are only looking out for the interest of ALL the homeowners. We do not want home values to suffer because some people
just want to do their own thing. If that's what they want, they should have bought out in the boonies where your neighbors don't care what color you paint your house or if you let the vegetation grow up to the gutters.

Communications is the answer. Talk to the end unit owner and see what they know about the situation. Talk to the chairperson of the architectural committee and find out the purpose of the letter. What is their objective?

Keep us posted.
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Old 11-15-2011, 08:45 PM   #11
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They want you to disprove your ownership (which apparently you can't) so why not ask them to prove your ownership. Should be interesting. Assumptions don't count.
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Old 11-16-2011, 05:02 AM   #12
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You can't prove a negative. I often wonder about people who sit on boards of neighborhoods. We once owned a townhome with a deck that was there when we bought it and built by the builder. They would continually send us notices about it. Thankfully we were able to prove we bought the place with the deck done because they were on the verge of making us tear it down. We went away for a long weekend once and forgot to stop the newspaper and had letters taped on our door when we got home threatening us over the newspapers that had piled up on the front step.

We only lived there a short while and taught me to be very careful in the future about over aggressive hoa's.
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Old 11-16-2011, 05:36 AM   #13
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No advice. Maybe some insight.


You are probably caught up in a situation where someone else wants to do something that does not fit with the rules. Maybe something stupid. When they were challenged, they looked for every instance of other situations that do not conform and put the committee on the spot for it.

It could be a move to protect all of you against others who want to do things that are not in the interests of everyone or in anticipation of a law suit. Which might increase HOA expenses.

Do you know if the fence was built by the previous owners of your property?

You may have to figure that out to even pay for taking it down.

HOA issues can be frustrating. But (since it is an investment and not your home) you might consider that they are protecting the value of your property from things certain idiots might do that would lower your property value or make it less desirable to renters (stupid things).

Since the cost is probably not going to be a huge expense... look at the positive side (you may have little choice and it might result in less frustration on your part). Someone else is willing to keep things in line (and therefore you are not burdened with it).
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Old 11-16-2011, 07:29 AM   #14
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Note to self: Never live anywhere with a HOA.
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Old 11-16-2011, 07:49 AM   #15
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Note to self: Never live anywhere with a HOA.
If you like, but "some" are a real positive.
Prior to moving to the woods we lived with a HOA that was a major plus in keeping the hood on a reasonable path, as well as providing and managing a number of great amenities.
In fact, the presence of the HOA was alway used as a selling point in real estate listings.
When it comes to HOA's one size does not fit all.
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Old 11-16-2011, 08:07 AM   #16
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Why not write to them, indicate that your plat does not show a fence so it may not be yours. And that they would need to prove that it is yours before you would be willing to take any action. End of discussion. Then perhaps they will go bother the owner of the end unit.

Also, I would research whether it is grandfathered and if it would be you can pursue that argument.

Do you care to keep the fence?
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Old 11-16-2011, 08:11 AM   #17
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When it comes to HOA's one size does not fit all.
+1

Even with the nuts we have on our HOA board, I'd rather have the association than not. A nearby rural subdivision has no HOA and sprinkled in among the houses are some really sad dumps...
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Old 11-16-2011, 08:36 AM   #18
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HOA's are the tyranny of the insignificant. There are two kinds. Control freaks that impose standards on everyone and narrow minded obsessive frustrated know-it-alls that have opinions about everything. The tyrannical control types are a giant PITA but they often work hard, oversee maintenance and do the things needed to keep property value high.
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Old 11-16-2011, 08:55 AM   #19
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HOA's are the tyranny of the insignificant. There are two kinds. Control freaks that impose standards on everyone and narrow minded obsessive frustrated know-it-alls that have opinions about everything. The tyrannical control types are a giant PITA but they often work hard, oversee maintenance and do the things needed to keep property value high.
Quit beating around the bush and tell us what you really think.

Otherwise, agreed with pb4uski, in effect saying "Who, me? It's not my fence, do whatever you want with it."
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Old 11-16-2011, 09:13 AM   #20
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Note to self: Never live anywhere with a HOA.
There are some positives, as previous stated they do help to protect home values. I live in a development with a (so far) good HOA. The neighborhood right next to mine doesn't have one and a house identical to mine on the same size lot in that neighborhood is valued at least 25% less. In that neighborhood you'll see a nice custom built home on a 1 acre lot and the neighbor next to it has a double wide on it and uses their front yard as a junk yard. In my area it does seem like the HOA's in retirement communities (55+) are always creating drama, too many retirees with nothing to do and spend a lot of their time looking for or creating problems.
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