Do We Live in a Library?

…or “Why I hate HOAs.”

(And, yes, before anyone has any smart remarks, I realize that based on the number of books in our house, one might mistake it for a library. But, if you’ve been here, the sheer volume of our house will make you realize that books or not, this is no library!)

We got our summer “newsletter” from our HOA this weekend. It was filled with the usual nonsense, but the last section really got me:

“Are you a quite neighbor? Voices carry, and so does dog barking, loud music, home theater systems, loud TV’s, loud parties, etc. A reminder to residents that we live in close proximity to one another and voices/noises carry. Keep in mind that the city does have a noise ordinance and violations can be issued at an officer’s discretion. Horns honking and car alarms sounding early in the morning and late at night are an obvious noise nuisance and quite disturbing to the quiet enjoyment of our residents. In addition, please keep your car stereo volume turned down when driving through our community.”

There are so many things wrong with this excerpt that I don’t even know where to start. First, it really annoys me that the whole thing is vaguely threatening. The casual mention of an officer, instead of simply mentioning the ubiquitous HOA fine, is meant to intimidate. But, then again, that’s what HOAs do best–rule by intimidation.

And, sure, I get the sentiment of the newsletter–no one wants constant noise in their neighborhood–but voices carry? Seriously? I should be able to talk as loud as I want in my own house/yard, and I’ve never heard anything from any our neighbors in the area of loud voices that should warrant such a warning. Loud music? Sure…our next door neighbor is a prime offender, and yes, it’s annoying. But voices? Give me a break.

The other thing that bothers me about HOAs is that they read like an apartment complex covenant, or dorm rules. Surely responsible adults must not be the ones buying these homes, if all of these rules are necessary. You’d think that there were shared walls within our community when “close proximity” is mentioned. Before you know it, they’ll be instituting specific “quiet hours”–oh, wait–isn’t that what they’re already doing?

When you live in a neighborhood with an HOA, you’re basically giving up your rights. Want to build a deck? Have to ask the HOA.  Change the color of your front door? Ask the HOA. Personal freedom? Not so much, if your community has an HOA.  Again, I get the purpose behind them, but in my experience most HOAs have way too much power, and are run by people who enjoy abusing that power.

I wish we had any other option. But when we were looking to buy our home, we discovered that every neighborhood in our metro area, (and I do mean every), had an HOA in place. Short of leaving this area altogether, we had no choice but to live in an HOA community. And even if we had looked to move elsewhere, I fear that HOAs are becoming increasingly common, and we likely would have run into the same problem in other areas, as well. It’s too bad that we no longer trust people to act like respectable citizens without policing their homes. And it’s also too bad that a minority of people who can’t act like respectable citizens have caused others to feel that this kind of policing is necessary.

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