“I got in here and I was so rah-rah. I volunteered for the board. I ran against no one and I got on the board.”
That’s when the problems of close-living started.
NOISEGATE: “I heard a scream in the middle of the night. [A neighbor] was watching a horror movie. [After I complained] the woman who made the noise started yelling at me. And I just said, ‘Hey, wait. I’m a volunteer [board member]. Don’t treat me like that.’ She comes down [to the board] and tells them that I was using my position on the board to tell her to be quiet.
“And they said to me, ‘No, you’re not allowed to do that.’ It was nothing like me [throwing my weight around], telling her I’m on the board. But there were three people who just didn’t want to hear from me or anyone else on the board.
“We had a woman with a 50 lb. dog that would jump off her bed every morning at 4:00. Thump! We had another lady who left her dog at home crying until 2:00 in the morning. We had people putting their dogs outside and [the dogs] barking all night. Also, parties late at night. There has been one quiet year since I have moved in. Now they’re saying we can’t talk to our neighbors? We’re supposed to go straight to the police? Come on. The police tell us, ‘Work it out. With the board or whatever.’ Right.”
DOORGATE: “My screen door was that very dark brown-black metallic that it comes in. They were supposed to be black or green. The [HOA] told me to paint it. I painted it black. It was one of the colors that was allowed. But they told me to paint it again. And then as soon as I finished painting it green, they told me to remove it. Remove the door. They can do that. They were saying that it was too old. Except, if I wanted a view, I had to look out the screen door. Now I have no view. I don’t think anybody else in the complex ever got asked to take their door off. I felt that that was a certain amount of harassment. They can do things like that, so people are afraid. The atmosphere is just terrible.”
TREEGATE: “They don’t ask, they don’t tell you that they’re going to take down this tree that you’ve been living with for ten years. You wake up one morning to see people outside your door just cutting down your tree. I called up neighbors and said, ‘If you don’t want the tree removed, call up the president or someone on the board.’ And someone did and must have yelled at them. So they got very mad at me. It’s ‘You’re not allowed to contact the board, except [for] that three minutes you’re allowed at the [monthly] meeting. I said, ‘Why did you remove this tree, when that [other] tree is the one overhanging the cars?’ And they removed that one too. It’s just awful. Nobody voted on this. Nobody votes for anything.
“Then they wanted to save water, so they cut all the bushes back to the bone. So now we don’t have bushes, we have sticks…with little leaves growing out of the trunks. The hedge was here for ten years. All of a sudden it’s dead. And now we have a little hedge here and there, and it’s totally barren.”
PETGATE: “I had an incident with a cat [pooping] on my porch for six months. And every time you bring it up to them they say that a cat is a feral animal and they can’t regulate it. People told me exactly who it was: it was somebody who had two cats, and one would stay on the property, and the other would have to go [poop] somewhere else. Until I finally took the droppings and brought it to whom I thought it was, and then, magically, it stopped.”
PIPEGATE: “They gave us notice on a Monday. They were going to put locks on our door on Friday, start[ing] on Monday. We got one week’s notice. And some people weren’t even home. They were [doing repairs, including] putting epoxy [lining] in our pipes, which we know is more toxic, but also only ten years’ warranty, and we know that it can’t be fixed. If anything rips again, we don’t know what we’re going to do. You can’t replace epoxy-lined pipe.”
Again, no consultation, she says.
“I mean, it’s our property! We couldn’t even get 30 days’ notice. People had pets that they had to get rid of for two weeks, three weeks. We got one extra week’s notice. The whole attitude in the letter was ‘Remove your stuff or we will remove it for you.’ Just this attitude like a landlord. Very harsh. I was much happier as a renter. My worst landlord was a dream compared to these people.”
BOARDGATE: “I found out that we [the homeowners] are supposed to vote for any contracts with vendors, like the landscapers. It’s more than a year [since] I found that law, and they somehow have got around it. They go into secret session for contracts. I even asked them, ‘Why is it secret?’ ‘Oh, it’s the law.’ Whenever you ask anything, they just tell you, ‘It’s the law.’ For me, you’re only secretive when you’re fining somebody or when you’re talking about an individual homeowner. I asked them to give notice [of meetings, for example], but they don’t respond to things like that. Here it is 2010, and they don’t communicate with us by email yet. They post things on a bulletin board that they’re having a meeting, and that’s it. We never get any minutes. We have to pay for minutes. Yeah. Real bad.”
But can’t an active majority of the homeowners sway the board? “They’re not active! Not too many people come down to the meetings. We have a lot of apathy and a lot of younger people moving in who don’t quite know what’s up yet. And we have a lot of absentee landlords because we’re probably 50 percent rental, so we have a lot of trouble with those owners, who don’t even show up or take care of their tenants. There are some owners that I’m friendly with, but people are afraid to make any waves. They just give up. I’m almost always there alone.”