Word association


That’s the word I most associate with my Homeowner’s Association.

For those of you who have never had the pleasure, live overseas or are visiting from a nearby solar system, Homeowner’s Associations are groups of people who are (sort of) elected to (sort of) govern large groups of homes all sharing the same builder and zoning (sometimes referred to as “developments”).  These people draft up bylaws, guidelines and other important stuff and then “police” the homeowners to ensure compliance.  It’s in the policing that most homeowners see their blood pressure increased.

What stirs my drink at this moment to post (waste) a blog today is a letter just received about “cleaning my roof to remove any dirt, etc., etc.”  These “warning” letters would not be annoying simply because of the request for the homeowner to look after the conditon of their home.  I actually appreciate that, since I don’t have an extended ladder and if I did, I doubt I would add “climb up shaky ladder to check roof” on my monthly list of things to do.

The annoying part of the reminder(s) is the verbage that follows the item the Association wants attended to.  The two paragraphs that follow immediately state that (1) this is a violation (a dirty roof is a “violation”?  Can’t we call it something less incendiary?) and that (2) I can be charged if they have to take care of it or if it goes to their attorney.

Really?  You can’t send me a notice asking me to clean my roof and assume I actually will do so?  You have to include a clause that threatens me a spanking if I don’t comply?  Nice.

Perhaps this seems like an overreaction to you, gentle readers.  After all, it’s just standard wording, probably directed at the bad people, not me.  Just ignore it.  Except, you don’t know my storied history with my beloved Association.

Way back when I first got this house (actually a villa, with a home “attached” to either side of me), I purchased it through a bank as a foreclosure.  My then-neighbors informed me     how bad the previous tenants were and indeed, the exterior of the home was ugly, without any landscaping to speak of in front of the home (designated as the homeowner’s responsibility).  The home was so bad, the bank actually put money into the interior to fix it up before putting it up for sale…how often does that happen.

My first decision was to landscape the front area.  My best friend’s husband was an excellent landscaper, having done some amazing work locally, so I commisioned him to come up with some ideas.  He showed up with an incredible design, three levels, a waterfall and a pond (we’re only talking about a 10 foot by 6 foot area, so keep your imaginations in check).  He donated me the waterfall as a housewarming gift and gave me a stupid price which I forced him to increase so he could make something on the deal.

The whole thing was a stunning success, with neighbors oohing and ahhing.  Within weeks, four other neighbors around me upgraded their front landscaping.  Not a bad impact on the neighborhood for the new homeowner, eh?

The front driveway (no garage) was bordered by two grassy areas, each having a medium tree about halfway up the drive.  On the northern side was a strange tree I was not familiar with.  Subsuquent research makes me believe this was a mulberry tree.  What I do know, however, was that this tree dropped large purplish-black berries onto my car, my driveway, my mailbox and even part of the road.  Not a few berries, not a lot of berries, an avalanche of berries!

I would go out and spend a long time washing the berries off the driveway (and car and mailbox) into the street.  By the next afternoon, they would be back.  Many, no doubt from the height, would burst upon impact, leaving large purple splotches (or just one extremely large splotch when multiplied by the dozens).

I sent a letter to the Association requesting a different tree.  Oh, did I point out my home was the only one with a mulberry tree?  Ayup.  I received no direct response from the Homeowner’s Association, but I did receive multiple deliveries of those annoying letters we discussed above.  The letters demanded I pressure clean my driveway because it was (wait for it) stained, which was unacceptable to the Association and my neighbors.  A quick survey of my neighbors uncovered they had not been asked their opinion.  I’m sure the Association’s vast experience allows them to assume that.

To shorten this post so you can finish today, I refused until the removed the tree.  They threatened.  I said fine, but I would deduct the cost from my homeowner’s fees.  They said fine, you can get a new tree but you have to pay for it.  I said no.  They said no.  I said as soon as someone sued me after slipping and falling on this dangerous tree of theirs I would sue them for never listening to me, as evidenced by all my documented correspondence.

That fall, everyone on the block got a new tree.  This is what associations do.  They don’t admit they’re wrong and pony up for a single tree, they call it an “architectural decision already in the budget” and spend a small fortune.  Of course, they got their chuckles by giving me a dead tree (which they then replaced with a less onerous but still fulsome berry tree).

We have had other “engagements” since then.  Mailboxes, fences, pressure cleaning (particularly ludicrous during hurricane season) and other “violations”.  All this despite a spotless record on paying all fees and special assessments and keeping my landscaping and exterior prettier and newer than most any other homeowner.

So, I am once again in violation (although how they can tell my roof is dirty without climbing up there is beyond me…I can’t see anything extraordinary from out back or front).

Sigh.  Annoying.

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