There's something about a home owner's association board that seems to give people a power trip. Residents share the most outlandish and ridiculous run-ins they've had with their neighborhood HOAs, and in some cases, the things they did to get to get revenge.
Kill Them With Kindness
“My apartment association recently gave me the run around on a malfunctioning water heater. They had replaced my old one and the new one immediately started messing up and blowing the circuit assigned to it. Their logic? “It’s brand new! It can’t be broken! Must be a wiring problem from the installation”. Fair enough. After a week of cold showers and the Maintenance people messing with it on a daily basis, I begin to lose my patience. The maintenance guy confesses to me that he doesn’t think it’s a wiring problem since “I’ve tried everything I can think of that might be the problem and a few things more than once”. I am perplexed by this. I ask him what he thinks may be the problem then. He says “I think one of the heating rods is malfunctioning and that’s what’s blowing the circuit. I ask him, suspecting the answer, why then we’re still messing with the wiring when he doesn’t think that’s the problem. Are we just killing time until we get the part in (I ask with some desperate hope). No, the apartment management won’t let him even order the part because “it simply can’t be broken, it’s brand new!”. So, at this I absolutely redline. I am furious. I did not yell at the Maintenance guy, he was a super good guy, in fact I did not even yell at management. I don’t like yelling at people. Instead, I threw some toiletries in a bag and headed down to the office building. Like a lot of apartment complexes, this building is also a kind of clubhouse, with a gym, pool, game room, hot tub. The whole shebang. But more importantly, it had public showers. Now since this happened during the COVID summer of this year, all of this had been shuddered. Which meant there were perfectly good showers not being used in the office. So I walk up to the door and knock. Person cracks the door:
Person: how can I help you?
Me (with my best customer service smile): yes, I live in [apartment number] and my water heater has been broken for about a week n-
Person: yes, we’re working on that. We’re trying to figure out what’s wrong with it and will get it fixed as soon as possible -tries to close door-
Me, sticking my foot in the door, still smiling like a saint and not batting an eye: yes yes, of course. I was I was just thinking, in the interim, until you can get it fixed, I’ll just use the ones down here. After all, this looks like it’s gonna take awhile and it’d be unreasonable to expect me to take ice cold showers indefinitely, right?
Person, clearly unhappy about this: well you’d have to wear a mas-
Me, cheery as all get out: absolutely! Wouldn’t want anyone getting sick!
Person: well… if you want to go and get your stuff you can come back dow-
Me: no need! I brought it with me, I won’t be a minute!
-runs back to car, grabs stuff, comes back in and proceeds to take a 45 glorious minute shower-
-as I’m walking back out-
Person: well, just let us know if you need anything else
Me: oh absolutely. Y’all are opening up at 9am now, right?
Me: cool! I’ll see y’all tomorrow at 9:15am.
I had Maintenance people back in my apartment that night and my water fixed by noon the next day. It was beautiful. The heating rod had exploded and was bent at a 90 degree angle. And the best part? I was never anything less than the picture of polite and pleasant. Kill them with all the kindness.
If You Can’t Beat ‘Em, Join ‘Em
“My parents were having trouble with the HOA when they first moved in. It was a very strict by the book place with yearly inspections to make sure everyone was following the rules. Basically anything outside the walls of your house were subject to HOA scrutiny even if it was in your fenced private backyard.
My dad would get creative to try and fight them. Like one time he wanted a hot tub but it was against the rules so he requested permission and got denied. So instead he waited til the day after the inspection got the hot tub installed. Built a fence out of wood and planted ivy at the base. By the time the inspection came the next year you couldn’t see the hot tub from where the inspectors stood to take their pictures and it didn’t look like a wall it just looked like a big bush grew up.
After years of fighting them my parents decided to join them. They really hated it at first but after a few years they got all of their friends on the board and it really became a nice place to live. The HOA now cares more about improving the community and less about what rules people are secretly breaking. The only time they investigate something is if it’s dangerous or someone else complains about it. They still do yearly inspections but it’s mostly for liability and seeing what maintenance needs to be done and less about fines and compliance.
It’s definitely not for everyone but it’s something that can change your community for the better.”
The War Of The Rats
About 6 years ago, when I was 20 years old or so and still living with my mom, she told me that she had seen a rat in the (town)house. I really didn’t think much of it at all. This was toward the end of May, and in a week or so she was going to spend 6 weeks in Massachusetts since she is a teacher and summer vacation was about to start.
A few nights later, I go to a party and get very very inebriated. I get home (safely) and decide “now would be a great time for some fruity pebbles!”. As I open my pantry a fat monster rat jumps out of the box of fruity pebbles I had planned on eating. I freaked out and tried to chase it but it ran away.
I spent the rest of the night throwing away boxes of food that had been opened. We had most of our cereal in those plastic containers but the fruity pebbles had been bought that morning and we still had other cereals in the other containers. I stay up all night and go to the Home Depot in the morning and buy some traps. I’m thinking I’ll catch this rat and it will be all over soon.
Nope. I set the 5 traps out, put peanut butter in them and go to work. When I come back to work, all five of the traps have caught rats. The house smelled rancid when I came home. I realized we had a huge issue.
The handyman that the HOA has hired came by the house the next morning and covered up a pipe we had on our roof with metallic mesh. I bought more traps, poison and glue traps. I set them in our attic, behind the stove, and threw out more food. Our house was clean but I cleaned it again, since I told my coworker at my night job about it and he said from his experience that rats hate clean houses. He said he learned this in prison.
My mom and younger brother leave for the summer vacation and I spend the weekend at my girlfriends house. At some point we made our way back to my part of town for a party and decided it would be wiser to sleep at my place since she was inebriated and i was sleepy. When we get home the house smells like death. It is the worst smell I ever smelled in my life at that point. It sobers my girlfriend up. I tell her to wait outside. What do I find? All ten of the giant spring traps I set out have rats in them. The glue trap has two rats in it struggling for life. The poison has been eaten. My girlfriend refuses to sleep over and I end up taking her back home.
The next morning I take off from my day job at the office and call an exterminator. I clean up the house so it doesn’t smell like feces anymore. He immediately says he can smell rat droppings/fur in the house. His first question when he gets there is “who lives in the townhouse next door?”.
The townhouse next door had been vacant for a few months. I told him I did not know who owned it. We go up the steps and as we peak into the window we can see some rats scurrying about. He says there’s not point in handling my home if he can’t get next door and see what’s going on.
I go to work. I worked at an office that did some work for real estate and used my knowledge to checks out the property appraisers and see who owned the house now. I find out who the owners are. To my surprise they live in the community next to ours. Out of anger I decide to pay them a visit. I have a bunch of photos of dead rats I killed. When I get there and knock on the door she answers and to my surprise she recognizes me. She asks what’s going on and I explain to her the situation and show her the photos. She gags when she sees them and apologizes profusely but says she lost the house in court to, you guessed it, the HOA. I thank her and apologize to her and head back to work. I check the clerk of courts and see the HOA has owned the property for roughly 5 months now. Cool. Let me call the HOA, tell them the situation, and then everything will go back to normal. Should only be a couple phone calls right?
2 weeks later I’ve killed 30 more rats and have not gotten a call back from the HOA’s management company. I contacted the cities code enforcement department to see what they could do. I’ve spoken to multiple members of the HOA who assured me their support and had my mother call. None of us got a response. I call every single day at my lunch break and leave voicemails. I send emails. It’s like these people don’t exist. I finally get real fed up and start collecting the dead rats in a trash bag over the course of a day. At this point I was staying at a cousins house and literally going home to clean up dead rats and leave. I look up the management company’s address and to my surprise, it is only a fifteen minute drive away from both my house and my day job. I tell my boss I’m going to show up to the office with the trash bag of dead rats to the office, and if I get arrested that I’ll call her so I can get bailed out. My boss was one of my cousins so they understood the mental anguish and frustration I had during the last month.
I begin driving home and tell myself to give them another chance, call back maybe they answer this time. They don’t. I leave a voicemail that basically sounded like this “LISTEN UP PUNKS! PICK UP THE PHONE OR THIS IS ABOUT TO BE YOUR RAT PROBLEM”. I call back again “YOUR ADDRESS IS _ IM ON MY WAY WITH A TRASH BAG OF DEAD RATS AND SOME TOOLS SO I CAN GIVE YOU THE RATS AND RIP OUT ALL YOUR PHONES AND COMPUTERS SINCE YOU GUYS CLEARLY DON’T USE THEM”. Within two minutes I get a call back. That afternoon the exterminator calls me and tells me to meet him at my house. I get there and he allows me to go into the townhouse next door.
So when the HOA took ownership of the property they stopped paying for water, which led to the city cutting water off the property and allowing the rats to come into the home through the pipes and then into my house. I had literal sewer rats taking over my house. Well my moms house. You get the point.
Now I understand that things happen. But it took two weeks and threats to get these people to pick up the phone. I contacted them, my mother contacted them, members of the HOA who were my neighbors and saw first hand what I was going through contacted them. Multiple times. I spent a month surfing couches and cleaning up rat feces and guts because the management company just spent all day at the office messing around. They heard the voicemails before, read the emails before, and thought “this could wait”. I later spoke to the president of the management company who said that the manager who was supposed to take care of this issue was demoted and then quit because she ignored our calls for two weeks. The managers reasoning for putting this on the back burner was 1) I am not the homeowner so I can’t contact them (which is nuts, since my mom also called) and 2) this was not an Immediate emergency so it could wait.
To this day I can identify the smell of rodent fur and droppings. Every time I’ve had to deal with the HOA’s management company after that I have not been kind at all. I’m not proud of it, but I have said the phrase “listen you terrible human, if you dont__” more than I care to since I have had other times I’ve been given the run around on other issues. I no longer live at home since I joined the military. We have not had issues with rats since those 6 weeks over 6 years ago.
Pay 3x What You Owe!!
“I may have one of the most useless HOAs that exists. They don’t really do much. There isn’t any community amenities (they used to mow the driveways behind the houses but stopped because they felt it was too expensive). And the dues, they’re laughable. They’re $120/yr.
So, how did I possibly get into nonsense here? I received a demand letter from a lawyer asking for several years of dues, some collection fees, interest, a lien fee, and the lawyers fees. Looking at the letter, I thought back and couldn’t remember the last time I had received a bill from the HOA (as part of the uselessness, they didn’t have an online portal). As such, I trusted they were probably right that the amount hadn’t been paid. As required with debt collection nonsense, I sent back a letter disputing the total and included a check for all of the dues. After all, you can’t charge late fees/etc for a bill never sent. You also can’t charge third-party fees (lawyers included) without first sending a registered letter demanding payment. At this point, the HOA was in violation of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA). Not surprisingly, the lawyer sent back a letter thirty days later saying “We asked the HOA. They say the values are right. You owe all of that.” I replied back reminding them part of their duty as a lawyer is to advise their client on the legal merit of their claim. Given they had failed to meet their obligations, they couldn’t charge the extra fees. Radio silence. Two months later, I get my check back with a letter telling me they refuse to accept partial payment without a payment plan in place.
At this point, friends that knew me best rolled their eyes. They knew I was about to be a hassle. I sent back a letter including three potential payment plans: The exact value of the dues split into the legal minimum 3 monthly payments with an apology from the HOA as a requirement for this settlement, the amount the HOA would owe me if we subtracted my debt from the damages for the FDCPA, or $0 to avoid the apology while also crediting me for the wasted time. In this letter, I detailed a variety of violations of law by the lawyer and the HOA:
- By refusing to accept partial payment, they violated the Texas Homeowners protection laws requiring them to apply payments to the debt in a specific order. It’s a law designed to prevent the HOA from being able to seek foreclosure over trivial things by allowing homeowners to pay the part of the debt that could lead to foreclosure so the two parties must settle in court
- In the demand letter from the lawyer, they told me I was required to send all communication to them (in violation of Texas Homeowners protection laws that ban the HOA from entering into an agreement that prevents me from working directly with them to keep costs down)
- They failed to give me the registered letter and 30 days to settle the debt.
Not surprisingly, the lawyer came back and told me they had sent a letter. They ignored the last bullet but told me the second wasn’t true because ‘[I was] free to talk to the HOA. They’d just immediately redirect me to the lawyer.’ Apparently, he wasn’t aware of what an agreement preventing me from working directly with the HOA meant. But hey, he wasn’t a very good lawyer. I demanded a copy of the registered letter and found the root cause of this whole mess. Several years prior, the HOA decided to stop using the address they’d been successfully using for years after I moved in. They went to the county tax database and found a different, incorrect, address for me and started sending everything there. They sent the bills there. They sent the registered letter there. Then, suddenly stopped sending things to that address and sent the lawyer demand letter to my house.
I managed to find an old letter in one of my boxes from the HOA addressed to my home and sent back a picture of the letter with ‘as you can see, here’s the last known good address’ along with a reminder that if he felt the other address was the correct address, he had acted unethically to send the demand letter to my address instead of that one. Flipping between the two is either an unethical act by intentionally avoiding sending me the demand before taking it to court to increase the cost or an admission the previous address was incorrect. In either event, it’s to my favor.
This went on for months until I grew bored. At that point, I reminded the lawyer his role in this interaction was defined by Texas law as a third-party debt collector and that federal law makes him individually liable for his own actions with respect to debt collection. Not only could I seek damages from the HOA, I could go after him as well. If he doubted my success, I pointed out he waited long enough to take things to court that he could no longer seek the oldest year of dues as they were too old of a debt. That’s a pretty clear indication he had no intent to take the legal actions he was threatening (violation of FDCPA). I also cited the Texas Frivolous Lawsuit legislation that essentially said the HOA couldn’t charge his fees if they took me to court and received less than or equal to the settlement I had offered. At this point, my patience was pretty shot so I gave them 30 days to accept my settlement or I’d pull it.
25 days later, they send me a response saying they were declining it but they’d offer a settlement for 3x what I actually owed that I could pay in two monthly installments. I reminded them Texas law requires no fewer than 3 payments and cited the Bar Association’s Professional Conduct rules where I could also seek punishment for him there for a variety of infractions he had made throughout the interaction.
He came back the next day with ‘in the interest of compromise, how about you pay twice what you owe?’ I reminded him my original debt’s value. I reminded him the damages I’d get if I sued him and his client. I pointed out they’d owe me more than the settlement they’re currently asking for as a compromise. The fact I was willing to pay the debt rather than seek what I was owed was the only compromise I was willing to make. I reminded them of the 30 day deadline and informed them at that point, my offer dropped to $0 for the time it took me to file a lawsuit in small claims court against both him and his client. Once I filed that paperwork, all settlements were off the table. He came back the next day accepting the terms and promising to get me a copy of the settlement agreement. I required a clause explicitly stating the HOA would send all communication to my house (to clear up any confusion for the future) and they’d release the lien (they never actually filed one, they just billed me for it. But, I wanted this in writing so I could fight it if I ever needed.)
It took another two months to get this contract fixed, signed, and then another month for the lawyer to send me a copy from the HOA.
I still haven’t decided if I’ll file a formal complaint against the lawyer for a combination of incompetence, illegal acts, and intentionally drawing out the settlement without merit to increase costs and further pressure me to take their pisspoor settlement.”
HOA Towed Everyone
“Our HOA was doing some useless stuff like replacing asphalt with bricks, which was loud and took weeks and probably will cost a lot to repair, so they told us we could move our cars to the small plaza next to our homes. They assured us we had permission.
Every car parked in the designated plaza got towed, and the HOA had no choice but to pay roughly 300$ for every car towed. After that, my mom joined the HOA using this against them, and they didn’t bother us again.
The stores on the plaza were alright, they even gave us parking permits for the week.
HOA lost a ton of money for this mess up. The plaza loses customer parking space for a week or so. I lose a day worth of convenience. The only winners are the towing company. All for a few bricks instead of asphalt.”