Due to an overwhelming number of comments from readers who say their homeowner's associations do more harm than good, prompted by our feature "Bad Fences Make Bad Neighbors for the Cherry Creek Farm HOA and Its Residents," Westword is periodically publishing readers' HOA horror stories. This week's HOA tale comes all the way from Washington state.
Angela Quinn says her HOA told her she couldn't use a new window air conditioning unit in the peak of summer -- while she had a kid on the way. That's when things got heated, she says.
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I have been living in this rental home for almost four years now. My landlord (a rental company) is a part of the HOA here. Last summer was the first summer I was able to afford a window A/C, and I needed it because the summers here, though they don't last long, get pretty brutal. We don't have the shade of trees on our house to help much. I was due to have my baby in August, and the summer was a scorcher. We put up the window A/C and have seen other neighbors that have them.
It's pretty hot and dry in the summer here lately (I live in Western Washington State). Imagine my surprise at the end of summer when I get a letter with a picture of the front of my house (which is not toward the main road) with the A/C in the window, and they tell me I am not allowed to have it because it says so in their regulations. The landlord backed them up. I was in my third trimester of pregnancy that summer and I can't have an A/C?
Add to that there are trees that are about 50 feet high in an area next to our neighbor's house. In the winter sometimes we get cold snaps and very strong winds, yet the HOA won't cut the trees down. Also, there is a drainage pond across the street from us, and the mosquito population is insane. They won't do anything about that either. We've had pictures taken of our house because our lawn is yellow (most of the common grass areas which they are responsible for get the same way in the summer), [The HOA says] we shouldn't have the lawn like that. Also, [the HOA took] a picture of our trash cans peeking out the side of our house in front of our car, and we've gotten warned about that, too.
At this point, I feel harassed and angry. I have four children (my youngest will be one this summer) and I am NOT about to stop using an A/C because they tell me I can't.
Thank you so much for your time,
Angela, you might try contacting your local Community Association's Chapter to see if your state has procedures in place to mediate these issues with your HOA. Here's a link to the Washington State chapter. If that doesn't work, and you continue to have issues, you might consider contacting an attorney familiar with HOA law. Here's a list. Unfortunately, this is probably your last resort, and an expensive option some homeowners have to take.
Good luck. In the mean time, try not to have any more children. An HOA is no place to raise a child.
Have a similar or even crazier HOA horror story? Send it to us at firstname.lastname@example.org. If your story makes the cut, we'll publish it. Your submissions must include your first and last name and a valid e-mail address, although your e-mail addresses will not be published. Write "My HOA Story" in the subject line.