Despite the immaculate lawns and reassuring uniformity, suburbia is anything but comforting. The people who try so hard to maintain a shimmering facade soon reveal a horrifying malevolence, waiting to strike their next victim at the worst possible time. You will typically find these scumbags organizing a Homeowner's Association, leeching off of participants in increasingly frightening ways. That's where Seth comes in.
Seth and his wife just wanted to start their lives together in a modest yet welcoming home. Seth's father-in-law rehabbed foreclosed house to sell for a profit, and he fixed up the perfect first home for the happy couple. It only took 90 days to renovate the house and for the unassuming couple to move in. Over the next few months, Seth and his wife would uncover layers and layers of deceit and treachery in this crooked HOA.
Two weeks. That's all Seth and Michelle had to enjoy thew new possibilities of their local community. Two weeks of believing in a promising future in a wholesome community. Two weeks before the conspiracy seeped into every facet of their lives. This is where our paranoid tale begins. One fateful day, a sharp knock at the front door removed the couple from their home-owning bliss.
Seth opened the door to see what he was told to be the Homeowners Association president, a short man with tiny glasses that hung on his round face, not unlike that of a turtle. He glanced up at Seth as he briskly demanded the contact information of Seth's landlord. Seth explained that they owned the home, but the president seemed to frown as a response. Seth reiterated, what could this stubborn man possibly want with the couple?
The president said that Seth would have to sign up for the neighborhood HOA, and that he had to pay the customary $90 for membership dues. With a haughty smirk, the president noted how Seth had up to 30 days to make the payment, as a courtesy to the couple. The small man shoved a clipboard and pen at Seth's face, demanding that Seth sign on the agreements at once.
Seth detested this forwardness, and he brushed the clipboard aside, saying that, "My wife and I really should review this paper first before we sign anything."
The president huffed and kept pushing the clipboard back to Seth, who steadfastly refused, and the president exasperatedly explained that the couple had 7 days to sign the papers and that the HOA would fine them if they refused to sign. With that, the president spun around and briskly walked away. Seth stood there, in awe of the tiny man with the large, uncomfortable personality. He had no idea where to begin with this stuff, but what else could he do?
Seth and Michelle looked over the pages of dense text. As Seth later recalled, "I agreed anyway because from my understanding at the time, I really didn't have any choice." If Seth only knew of what this vile group was planning to do to him, Seth would have been much more afraid.
In signing the papers, Seth and Michelle had no idea that they had completely doomed themselves. Another seemingly ordinary month passed by until the first incident happened. The couple hosted a small yet cheerful house-warming party. The group of eight was on the back deck, roasting s'mores and occasionally bursting with laughter. None of them knew they were being watched. None of them expected the violent series of knocks on the front door. The group heard it from all the way behind the house. Seth tentatively got up to check out the commotion.
There he was, the turtle man himself. The HOA president parked his car in front of the house, with an eerie yellow police light affixed to the car's roof, flooding the whole scene with a sickening amber light.
"H-how can I help you?" Seth asked, squinting against the bright light.
"This 'party' of yours is being held outside the approved curfew of 10pm. You can either take your friends inside or send them on their merry way," the president huffed.
Seth examined his watch. The screen read 10:05pm. They apparently had taken it way over the line at only five minutes past the curfew. Without any other solutions, Seth agreed and spent the rest of the party inside with his friends.
The very next day, Seth and Michelle awoke to find an HOA letter. The small yet nasty print was an official warning, for Seth and Michelle had violated HOA rules by throwing a "wild bonfire," which was apparently a safety hazard while under the influence (even though Seth had been stone-cold sober the previous night). "I'll brush it off," Seth later thought, "and I figured it was no big deal."
Except this was a huge deal. This was the start of a tempestuous agonizing process that would only become more puzzling and painful as time went on.
The odyssey that the young couple had gotten themselves into only worsened. A short while later, they hosted a group of teens from the local church's youth group at their house. The group was playing a quaint football game in the street. It was an empty street, with only two houses facing each other and little (if any) car traffic. The open space only made it creepier when the HOA president came screeching towards the group with panic. The sickly yellow light pulsated from the car as the president got out and stormed over to Seth.
"Break this rabble-rousing immediately! This is a safety hazard, one of these children could get run over!" the president shouted.
Seth sighed as he looked down at the determined elderly man. "These kids are fine, we've been watching for cars the whole time they've been over. Yours was the first car we've seen on this street today!"
"W-w-well what would happen if an-an ambulance or police car needed to come down this street to save a man's life?!"
Seth saw the fiery anger in the man's eyes, and he knew there was no getting through to him. Seth reluctantly lead the group back inside, while the president smiled triumphantly their way. As if it was another omen, another sinister HOA letter arrived immediately the next morning. Seth and Michelle were being fined $60 this time, and if they wanted to protest it, they would have to attend the next HOA meeting. The only problem was that the money was due in 30 days. The meeting would occur in 35 days.
Seth and Michelle were at a loss for what to do. It took a day of thinking, but they both came to the conclusion that they just wouldn't pay the fine until the meeting. It was absurd how strict they seemed to be. They notified the president and hadn't heard anything until the night of the meeting. When they arrived, their jaws both dropped. The only people in attendance were the HOA president, the HOA secretary (the president's wife), the HOA vice-president (the president's neighbor), and the HOA Treasurer (the vice-president's wife). They all four unanimously agreed to overrule Seth and Michelle's protest. The couple was also charged an extra $30 late fee for not paying on time, despite them clearly messaging the president to let him know. The president ruled over all of these decisions with a wicked glimmer, as if he knew exactly what he had in store for the couple, and it would be perilous.
Seth and Michelle felt like puppets, totally under control of this devious HOA. They had to put their feelings behind them, as the birth of the first child was fast approaching. Several days after Michelle gave birth to a healthy baby girl, Seth received a 'congratulations' call from a dear friend. Seth was driving home when his phone rang. It was one of his closest buddies, who was currently deployed in the Middle East, and who Seth hadn't heard from for quite some time. Seth stopped the car in his driveway (so he wouldn't wake his new child) and listened to the heartfelt voicemail. That was all it took for the president to pounce on him.
In came the obnoxious yellow lights and the malicious grin of the president. The president saw Seth's apparent wrongdoing and would swiftly bring him to justice. The flashing light hit the first story window, right where his daughter had been sleeping up to that point. Seth got out and demanded the small man turn off the light and drive away, so he wouldn't upset Seth's daughter (who was very much awake at this point).
"But you look suspicious, sitting there in your vehicle in the dead of night!" the president exclaimed. "What with your history of trouble-making, there won't be any leniency for you!"
"You know where you can shove your leniency?" Seth asked, before being violently interrupted by the tiny man. For the next 15 minutes he droned on about the necessity of compliance and rules, at one point grabbing Seth's arm aggressively.
"If you touch me again, I will take that as a sign of aggression and defend myself," Seth boldly stated, puffing his chest out in the process. The president needed to be the one in control, he wouldn't stand for this insolence. He glowered at Seth as he got back into his annoying car and drove off, but not before circling the block several times while on "patrol."
Right on cue, the next morning brought with it a hateful HOA letter, this time delivered by the vice-president himself. The eerie man announced himself at Seth's door, demanding that Seth step outside to discuss "last night's incident." The vice-president was an intimidating man with a booming voice. He glowered at Seth, telling him, "I'm going to be nice to you by not calling the authorities after you threatened our president." Seth gulped and look up at the evil man with the hateful eyes. Seth boldly stated, "Nope, you need to get off of my property before I call 'the authorities' on YOU for trespassing."
The evil vice-president gave him a deadly look, swiftly turned his back, and walked away. When Seth opened the ominous letter, he saw that he was being fined $360 for two "offenses": violating curfew and disobeying the night watchman (who must have been the ugly turtle president).
Seth had officially reached a breaking point. That was the exact moment Seth will always remember as he thought, "This is where the revenge comes in."
Seth and Michelle were clearly abused by this HOA. The logical place to start was researching HOA laws. Seth uncovered this key fact: the couple must be served with HOA rules within 45 days of PURCHASING the house, otherwise you didn't have to participate. They hadn't received any rules until 90 days of purchasing their house. Seth and Michelle, armed with a tiny shred of hope, called up their real estate agent to explain this travesty. She did a little digging, but she uncovered an absolute bombshell.
Their neighborhood has no official HOA. Nothing at all was registered. In a panic, Seth called the county office to ask about this. They said that the neighborhood was originally one city under an HOA, but the city lines changed and split the neighborhood. The HOA moved to the other neighborhood, while the turtle man president was supposed to register his HOA with the state, but didn't want to "jump through all the hoops." Without these steps, the HOA wasn't allowed to collect any money or exert any authority.
Seth and Michelle sat there staring at each other, jaws dropped. This HOA was a sham. The president was running an illegal operation, extorting money out of good people who didn't deserve all of this. They had to fight back. The entire rebellion was up to them.
Seth was ready to storm to the "president's" house and clock him right across the face, but Michelle held him back. They had to be smart about this. To actually get rid of this parasitic HOA, they had to be decisive and quick. They needed to grow their numbers. Seth and Michelle split up and went door to door, talking to all of their neighbors about that they had just discovered. Naturally, people were outraged, and word quickly spread within the small community. They decided to meet as one group and confront this crooked administration directly.
The night of the HOA meeting, the entire group gathered at the library, flooding the small meeting room with rage. Seth designated himself the voice of the group, and he moved to the front of the crowd as he began his verbal tirade. He had contacted his attorney (who was a family friend, but Seth didn't acknowledge that), who had drafted a lawsuit. Specifically, this was a lawsuit describing how this evil group impersonated an HOA to fraudulently collect money from these defenseless neighbors.
"The president, squinting his eyes in a malicious glare, tried to dismiss Seth. "I have absolutely no idea what you're talking about! This is blasphemy! I have had enough of your antics!"
With the pound of a cheap plastic gavel, he ended the meeting immediately. The "staff" of the "HOA" vacated the room, wanting to avoid the glares and snarls of the crowd. Seth turned to Michelle. Both of them felt utterly defeated. Seth was prepared to announce his foolproof plan and defeat this heinous organization, but he was never expecting to be so quickly dismissed. How could they ever defeat these people if these people slipped away so quickly and easily?
The group decided to stay and brainstorm. There had to be a solution to this whole mess, right? Well readers, it turned out they thought of a new idea, one that would absolutely annihilate this shameful HOA once and for all.
It took a whole month of careful reorganizing and planning, but Seth, Michelle, and the 20 other homeowners in the area sued this sham HOA for all the "dues" and "fines" each person had to pay over the years. It ended up totaling to $50,000. The president and vice-president had gotten their own attorney, a slimy man who tried to make their HOA real during the court hearing. Apparently, doing so required signatures from 90% of their homeowners. This HOA only got three signatures, so their efforts clearly failed.
Their next tactic? Abolish the HOA entirely. But this wasn't exactly what the outraged homeowners wanted. They still wanted to remove the snow regularly, to keep the park clean and friendly, and they enjoyed all the bonding that came through this shared experience. Throughout this tumultuous case, the fact came out at the actual cost of maintenance was much cheaper than the "president" and "vice-president" had collected money for. Turns out the "maintenance" man was just the vice-president's son, and they paid him far more than any groundskeeper would normally charge.
The judge took all of this scandalous information into account. He didn't charge these frauds quite as much as the homeowners had hoped. The judge charged the president and vice-president $1,000 per homeowner, which totaled to $23,000 in total damages. But that wasn't the only outcome of this monumental court case.
The entire city decided to sue these frauds for their crimes. The president and vice-president had an even higher amount to pay up. What was the total amount? Unknown.
Seth and Michelle ended up selling their house and moving away the following year. They needed a change of scenery. That house only reminded them of the exploitation and creepy men they had to put up with. Seth kept in touch with the many friends he had accumulated in his time at that house. They told Seth how, "The President and Vice-President both sold their houses and moved away, because they were pretty much hated by everyone in the neighborhood."
The rest of the community formed a proper, much more wholesome HOA in the wake of all the expensive evil. In was informal, with people donating what they could out of the goodness of their hearts to keep up the park and continue to clean the area.
And so concludes the demise of one of the most evil Homeowners Associations to ever roam the earth. If it wasn't for Seth, Michelle, and their resourceful real estate agent, who knows how long this parasite would continue to suck money and instill fear into the hearts of its residents. This neighborhood appeared wholesome, but it hid the seedy viciousness behind its matching doors and bright coats of house paint. You never know what you'll expect when settling down in a new community, and that includes the corrupt men who populate it. I hope that your neighbors are supportive and charming, and that none of them harbor dangerous and costly secrets that could tear apart an entire community.