September 15, 2011

The Neighborhood Improvement Committee

Some trials you can't control. Others are self-inflicted. The Neighborhood Improvement Committee falls into the latter.

Like most Floridians, we live in a master-planned community that is governed by a homeowner's association committee with too much free time on their hands. We had heard stories about the HOA before we bought the house, but never gave it much thought because we never figured that we would never be on their hit list.

I'm sure you know what's coming.

A few days ago, we got a letter from the HOA outlining a few suggested home improvement projects that we take up over the coming weeks. The Neighborhood Improvement Committee thinks our front yard would look better if we added a "curved flower bed underneath our living room window" as well as a "row or two of evergreen boxwoods or shrubs of similar species" on either side of our front walkway.

Of course, these are only suggestions. If we choose not to follow them, the only thing that will happen is that the HOA will put a lien against our property.

As I mentioned before, we did this to ourselves.

The last line of the letter is my favorite. It points out the fact that everyone on our street has plantation shutters on their living room windows, except for us.

No pressure, of course.

My husband, who is far more obedient and compliant with such matters than I ever will be, ordered the shutters the next day.

Fortunately, the window coverings won't arrive for four weeks. This gives me plenty of time to stand naked in the middle of my living room window, at night, with all the lights on.

63 comments

Dovie said...

Argh! We bought a house specifically in a non HOA neighborhood because it would drive me completely insane. I feel for you and am going to fetch my mail in my p.j.'s in solidarity, maybe some yard work as well.

StrawberryBlond said...

PLEASE do stand naked in your window! Or better, tape black garbage bags up! I HATE HOA nazis and their mindless conformity. It's one thing if your house has peeling paint and the yard hasn't been mowed in two months, but suggesting you spend $$$$$ on shutters and flower beds when your house is otherwise in great shape is beyond unreasonable. Especially in this economy. I think your yard needs a pink flamingo and a couple of gnomes, hee hee.

michelle said...

Sorry for being ignorant but i have no idea what a HOA is. Is it like a gated community?? If they want your house to look like the others why dont they pay for it?? Unfortunately i would rebel and not get shutters or do the garden how they want it. Thank heavens i dont have to do any of that and our houses can be individuals!!
Love your posts so funny

Beth said...

That is so Desperate Housewives of them. So glad we had forgone the sweet little condo with the HOA for a little ranch far away from that lot. You should send a letter back saying you prefer yours without shutters and that should all comply with your taste and take down all theirs.

Yvette said...

What did they do with the last squatter owners? Aren't they just happy they have someone in there that wants to take care of their house?

Emily Heizer Photography said...

Can I have your mailing address Jana? I would like to sponsor you in the "tacky lawn ornament of the month" club. I will pay for your flamingo out of my own pocket. I feel it's important for the good of the community. Diversity is good for everyone!

I saw your sissy on Pinterest the other day! Her weddings pics are still making waves!

Tiffany said...

LOL! Standing naked in the living room is a punishment for all and sundry! :)

Christy Marshall said...

i've never heard of uniform landscaping? sounds like your HOA group of idiots haven't a clue. i'd do research, as i'm sure you already have. however, standing naked sounds like the best idea ever. i just LOL'd...hard!!!

Smart Helm said...

I know exactly what you mean. I took the Christmas lights down from the house I was renting one day in January and the next day got a letter from the HOA requesting that I do just that. I almost went out and put the lights back up but my roommates stopped me.

Anonymous said...

I live in a condo and our HOA has recently gotten very concerned about our doormats. First they told us to get rid of our doormat because we live on the second floor and therefore don't need one. According to the HOA there will be no dirt on anyone's shoes once they walk up the stairs. I kept the mat and got a letter this week warning us that our doormat was "wandering" from our door. Why does anyone care about my doormat?? I think you're right, these people have too much time on their hands.

Liz said...

Ba ha ha ha ha ha!!! Love it!!!!! That last line is perfect!

BeckyB.West said...

I choked on my tootsie roll when I read the last line, I was laughing so hard.

Sara Bell said...

This is exactly why I'm excited for the zombie apocalypse... no zombies are going to go around telling people they can't have trampolines or park their travel trailers in their side yards or have to have their garage painted a certain color. Zombies will be more understanding and willing to allow the person who pays $12,000 a year to do whatever the heck they want to that $12,000 item.

Meggan said...

LOL. That is all.

Mona Baker said...

i'm glad MOST floridians do not live in planned comminities with HOAs, they should be outlawed, that's what local codes are for, hooray for very few HOAs in the panhandle of fl

Kathie1213 said...

I would pay good money to see your neighbors reaction to your 'dancing' in front of the living room windows. Do it!

Mom of 12 said...

I take it there are no rules against standing naked in your window as long as your shutters match everyone else's?
Sandy
www.twelvemakesadozen.blogspot.com

Mum on the Run said...

As an Aussie - who at first read didn't have clue what you were even discussing - I find this appalling and hilarious all at the same time.
It there a uniform or dress code too?!
:-)

Rocket Ma'am said...

Our last letter from the HOA told me I needed to mow my lawn. Nevermind that when I caught the lady snapping an incriminating picture of my yard, it had been raining for 8 days straight, we had stomach flu, and I was alone with 5 kids under 8. And never mind that by the time they had gotten around to mailing me the urgent, threatening letter, I had mowed my lawn no fewer than 3 times.
Our HOA isn't that bad, though, overall. Just that that was my initial impression.

Ruby said...

Heee! We were looking to move, then the HOA started getting nasty about things that aren't under their control, so we've decided to stay another year so we can keep aggravating them. I planted a row of vegetables in the front yard, with a line of flowers in front of them. I don't know how those veggies got into my flower bed.

Becca said...

This calls for a car up on blocks in your front yard and a few Bumpass-type bloodhounds.

christine said...

I will never ever ever live in a neighborhood that has a HOA. What is this Russia? Because they sound totally Communist to me.
If I want to paint my house black I'm going to do it. If I want my lawn to be a meadow, it's going to happen. Seriously people, get a hobby. Or a life.

Nancy said...

I had an HOA committee member come into our back yard and snap a picture of a small garden shed we had in our backyard that couldn't be seen from the front. They didn't contact us, just came into our backyard. Thankfully our little dog didn't escape when they opened the gate to do this. CRAZY PEOPLE!!

debbie said...

I'm having some drama with my son's school, and this post made me feel better! Why do people have to harass other people for such ridiculous reasons??

Sandy said...

OK, I'll stop bitching about my HOA now... yours is much, much worse!!

Jennifer @ Also Known As...the Wife said...

We live in an HOA too and I wish they were a little more stringent. We've had disabled cars used as storage units sitting on the street for months. Your HOA would certain gasp is horror if they saw that our front window is missing a shutter (for 2 years) and my husband has yet to find a matching replacement. I'm all for dancing naked in your front windows.

Kathi said...

we bought into our neighborhood when the economy collapsed 3 years ago and all the new builders in this upscale neighborhood went bankrupt. We happen to *luck* into the model home for this community of course, with the offices still occupying the garage and no driveway. We recieved a welcome letter two days after moving in, which also had a paragraph that told us we were in violation of the HOA code since we didn't have a driveway. They could have at least spent the 44 cents to send two letters.....smiling...

Cindy said...

That is unreal! I guess I should stop fussing about our HOA, since when we moved into the house 10 years ago we took down half of the plantation shutters and then have allowed the other half to fall to pieces. We would also drive yours crazy because we're missing about half of our cute little window inserts! (What can I say, cute little pieces of wood in the window are like magnets for triplets...)

Seriously... said...

that is crazy. i don't think i could live with an HOA, they would get too many nasty letters from me.

Beth said...

Rules! Rules! Rules! Bleh!

Beth @ Sand To Pearl said...

We live in a town house so the association "takes care" of the outside, which is crap, looks horrible, but our association president HATES us because we "made" them spend thousands of dollars to fix our roof (which took them 6 months, we had to move out toward the end because of mold issues caused by the leaky roof) and then we "made" them pay to clean up the mold and get our house properly inspected. So, even though we've tried to clean up the yard ourselves, she tells us we're not allowed. So, yeah, our house looks like crap. We always call her a "dementor" and whine that we feel like we'll never be happy whenever she come around. Cranky evil woman. I feel your pain.

Ruth Covington said...

My HOA sent me a letter telling me to remove the "dead" bushes from my front yard. I wrote back and pointed out that they were dormant (in early spring here in Colorado plants tend to be in that state) and that unless they had a full-fledged horticulturist on staff then perhaps they might want to reconsider sending out letters telling people to remove perfectly healthy plants. Surprisingly enough, I never heard back from them. Maybe I should stand naked in my front yard then they won't notice my "dead" plants.

Anonymous said...

I live in a townhouse HOA where the president is a bully and his wife needs to have the smirk smacked off her face. I call him Hall Monitor.

Mal said...

I didn't know what HOA was until about four years ago when I met my husband's family (realtors who live in an HOA community in AZ). You get that kind of freedom and peace when you grow up in Maine. :) Anyway, I have vowed never to live in one, and thus far we have not. Honestly, I think I'd rather live with family (or in-laws) before I moved into an HOA comm. Yuck.

dani jane said...

That is amazing! My HOA only sends me letters when I leave my basketball hoop out front doe too many days in a row! Shocking! Be naked. Dig up the yard or make a dirt castle out front! This has me reeling!

Kerrie said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Kerrie said...

Cripes my typing is appalling. It must be 2:00. What I was TRYING to say was:

That is why we live in the country. If someone told my husband to put up plantation shutters, he would make some out of sticks and scrap wood while I walked around the neighborhood begging people to ignore him and pay attention to how nice I am.

Seattle Appraiser said...

Ha! Yep, welcome to the world of the dreaded HOA. Applauding your nakedness in the window for all those do-gooder HOA followers to see!

Amy M. said...

We had an Army wife put up a flag pole in her yard so she could hang her American flag and the HOA sent her a letter saying she wasn't allowed to do that and she needed to take it down. We live near a large Army base, wanna guess if that pole stayed or not?

Anonymous said...

I'd suggest checking the home owners association contract that was included with your purchase papers before making any of the changes that were requested.

If it's in the contract and the HOA is rabid, go ahead and do it. Otherwise, they might be making demands that are not in the contract, and you have no legal responsibility to follow random, non-contractual demands.

Good luck!

Cat said...

HOAs are new to my area, but sprouting up rapidly. I will never live in one after hearing about my husband's grandparents' HOA at their last house. Not only did they have a long list of rules and a gate house where their guests had to check in, but if one of their GUESTS broke a rule in the community, his grandparents would be written about in the newsletter.

Don't people have better things to do with their time? Go find a place to volunteer, for heaven's sake.

taradon said...

I HATE HOAs. When we were house-hunting, we passed on some very lovely houses because I could not bear to live in a neighborhood with an HOA. Now I have a school-bus orange house next door, a fire-engine red house on the other side, and a bright, bright lavendar house two doors down. I'm not a fan of the colors, but I love the fact that we have the freedom to do stuff like that in our neighborhood. I refuse to ever give it up by moving to an HOA neighborhood, not matter how colorful my street becomes. :)

HeatherS said...

I detest HOA's as well, however, the only way to build a house in a neighborhood around here means to belong to an HOA. It's frustrating because I find myself looking at my neighbors going "he needs to stone that mailbox in" because it's an HOA rule and WE complied to the tune of $2K. Grrrr...it's really all just evil. If I didn't have to follow the rules I wouldn't care if he didn't, KWIM? It's just a way to pit us against one another!

Mak said...

I love your blog. I used to work for an HOA management community in AZ. Definately check your HOA agreements/documents. Some have requirements for the #s of plants and whatnot you need to have in your front yard, but I worked with about 13 different communities and I don't remember one being so specific about landscaping design and whatnot. If it isn't in the rules, you don't have to do it and they can't put a lien on your home. Sorry you are in a crappy HOA. Find out if there is a management company and property manager. They are a third party who works with the HOA board and goes to the meetings and can *sometimes* help prevent the crazy.

Megan B ♥ said...

I have lived in different HOA's for the past 10 years. It is always an adventure. And not the nice kind.

Robyn :) said...

Um, I thought HOA's were supposed to tell you what NOT to do like don't hang laundry in the yard or paint polka dots on your house, not tell you what do with your house. That is incredibly controlling.

vanilla said...

Reading your story and the stories of your readers, I am both amused and appalled. The "hall monitor" moniker is so, so very appropriate. Some people will never grow up, will never find it more important to mind their own business than to mind that of others.

What's your address again?

Deborah J said...

Like Mum on the Run I'm from Australia too and find this really strange.
...or I would do if I didn't have a sister who lives on a canal estate at the coast. They have covenants on their property which are supposed to protect property values.
She did find it odd however when the neighbor across the canal rang to tell her that her one sad string of christmas lighting was an embarrasment! Suggested which stores she should shop at to find better decorations.
She may have said a very bad word.

...and umm Robyn:)?
Can they really tell you not to hang laundry in the yard?
Where else would you hang it?

Anonymous said...

You should write a response to the HOA about how you (or one or more of your children) are allergic to shutters, boxwoods, and/or curved flowerbeds, and it would be life-threatening for you to comply with the HOA's requests/suggestions. A better version of this response would be about the same content but written by your lawyer or dr friend for you.

j-chin said...

Haha, you are very funny, you never fail to crack me up with your posts.

Julie said...

I recently was introduce to your blog. I love to read until I am laughing so hard that I cry. I think it's therapeutic. Thanks for sharing!!!

Anna said...

I don't like shutters; they are a pain to dust. I will never have shutters (or blinds) and will stick with curtains. HOAs may kiss my toe.

P.S. When you do have your nekkid dance party, be sure to blast "I'm Too Sexy" by Right Said Fred. I can't think of a better musical accompaniment.

Wendie said...

Ahhh. HOAs. Gotta love them! I've had my share of run-ins and I think I'm a pretty darn good neighbor. My favorite story comes from when I lived in a town home community with a crrrrazy HOA. I was single but dating my later-to-be husband. He worked and lived far away so usually made it to my house by 8 or 9pm and left around 1 or 2am. We were always quiet and there was nothing inappropriate going on (if you get my drift) but my nazi neighbor apparently didn't like that he parked in the designated visitor parking. They actually proposed and passed a new bylaw that stated that "intimate" partners were not official visitors and therefore needed to park in the resident garage (which wasn't big enough for 2 cars) or a block down the street on a public street. Nothing like being publicly accused of fornication and being asked to park accordingly. HOAs are the devil's tool!

Nelson's Mama said...

I live in a neighborhood that has a HOA. Our by-laws aren't very strict, we all read them and agreed to them when we signed our deeds - it was part of the deal when each of of moved into the neighborhood. I'm currently having to serve my term on the HOA committee (we rotate), it amazes me at the people that don't want to comply with the by-laws and covenants that they agreed to, and are in place to protect the value of their biggest asset - their home - and MY HOME.

We don't go around and make suggestions to homeowners; that to me is unacceptable.

Angie said...

Oh my gosh! I'm so relieved that our HOA is not like that. The worse we have gotten is a note on the front door to please replace our light - which I thought was ridiculous in and of itself! Argh!

Katie said...

We are currently in a show-down of sorts with our HOA. I thought it would be good to live in an HOA neighborhood but since we've lived here (4 years) I am having serious doubts of that wisdom.

Samantha said...

Oh my goodness! It's so funny that your HOA is doing this. My husband and I live in a subdivision that has a nazi running the association. We got a letter that said our trash can was spotted on the curb of our house, and they "politely" informed us that it belongs "out of sight" and a week later another letter telling us our driveway needed to be re-sealed. You know, because if it's not, the driveway isn't in "safe and working order". I'm considering tearing the driveway out in favor of gravel. That way when the HOA guy that has too much time on his hands, drives past my house, my four children can throw rocks at him. We pay all this money every year to their dues, and we get NOTHING in return. Not even snow removal. I'm just curious what they do with the money.

Samantha said...

For the record. My driveway looks perfectly fine. It just doesn't match the HOA board member's driveway that lives across the street....

Rebecca said...

I feel so much better after reading your post and all the comments. We just moved onto a Navy base and the privatized housing here sounds a lot like the HOA's. (Marine bases were not like this!) In the 6 weeks we've been here, we've been in violation due to a hose, a scooter and a mini-trampoline on the porch. And one of the neighbors sent the military police over because my 4 year old was playing outside without me (but with her 3 older siblings, and half the kinds in the neighborhood). Now that you've put it in perspective, I don't feel quite so bad! Thanks.

magsthemom said...

We live in a neighborhood with an HOA and I hate the HOA. I'm a board member by choice so that I can stay in the loop to some of the crazy stuff that the President and her croonies try to get passed. I wish we had a by-law that said all homeowners had to take a rotating turn on the Board. Then it wouldn't feel so much like a dictatorship.

Renny said...

HOA = socialism.

Write a response letter. Tell them this isn't 1984 but if they want you to do that stuff they'll have to let you put rabid rats on their faces. (Artistic license my friend.)

All8 said...

My SIL lived in a neighborhood with an HOA in Indiana. They weren't allowed a clothesline, vegetable garden and the HOA had to approve the backyard fence before it could be put in. It took a year before they got approved. Crazy, power hungry, little people. I pray that I don't ever have to live in such a place. It may not go very well.

Definitely check your contract.

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