Harper Valley H.O.A.

Divorced, with an empty nest and a restless soul, in 2008 i bought a condominium in God’s Waiting Room*. A lovely home, two car garage with a deck and a lower patio, with landscaping, lawn mowing, and snow shoveling included. Use of a pool, tennis courts, shuffleboard, and clubhouse!

The price for this convenience is a monthly fee, paid to a Home Owners Association (H.O.A.) – led by residents serving on a board of directors.

Last August i rented the clubhouse to host the summer picnic for my former work colleagues and their families. Paid my $25, and wrote a check for another $25 as a security deposit, filled out paperwork, and set to organizing a party for about 50 people.

It was an absolutely gorgeous day, we hired a caterer and everyone in attendance had a chance to eat, relax, swim, and play outdoor games.

About a week later i received a letter in the mail from the H.O.A. “You have violated the occupancy of the clubhouse, and you let your guests use the pool, pool deck, lawn area, and tennis courts, which is not included in the clubhouse rental.”  The letter went on to state that as punishment, i would be fined $200, forbidden from using the clubhouse for 18 months, and that my security deposit would be withheld.

i. was. livid.

i requested a hearing. i had never seen anything limiting the number of guests at an event. i’d hosted my own 50th birthday party there, and easily had as many people there! A $200 fine for throwing a party? A party that lasted from 11:00 am to 4:00 pm on a Thursday afternoon?

Between my travel schedule, and that of the board, it took us a few months to get the hearing scheduled. i used the time to dig into rules, regulations, declarations, and as much information as i could. i prepared detailed notes, with a list of questions for the H.O.A. board.

i became quite familiar with the minutia of the rules and regulations. As i walked the dog every day, i documented several dozen violations – even catching one board member leaving his car parked at the clubhouse overnight without the required resident ID on the dashboard!

Last week it was finally time for the hearing – three months later i was still choking back anger. Studley came with me as my paralegal, with the job of taking notes and preventing me from getting stabby. i only had 15 minutes and didn’t want to waste it throwing punches.

Six men. One is a known rational, thoughtful, “pick up the phone, or stop by to chat” man. One is a retired military officer, with a haircut you can set your watch to, and is a stickler for abiding by rules. Another i know through our dogs – he has an elder doggo, and Mr. Pickles used to steal her toys on doggie splash day – nice enough man, but probably pushing 80 years old. The other three? Unknowns.

The H.O.A. chairman informed me of the rules of the hearing. A large man, with a Big Booming Voice, i immediately disliked him. “You have fifteen minutes to have your say. We may have things to say, too. We may ask questions, you may ask questions. After the hearing, we will make a decision in executive session, and you will be informed of our findings.”

“Got it. Thanks.” My standard “pinch off” line.

My first question was a genuine mystery. “i’ve looked through the regs, looked on the walls, searched records, but i can’t find the actual occupancy limit for this building. What IS the limit for the clubhouse?”

They squirmed a little. One of the Unknowns said “That is something we’re trying to lock down. It seems neither the Fire Department and the City have that information on file…”

My. Jaw. Unhinged.

i looked at H.O.A. Chairman and the Rules and Regs guy. “Let me make sure i understand this – you’ve charged me with violating an occupancy limit that doesn’t exist? Did i hear that right?”

More squirming. More discomfort. Once again, i said “Got it. Thanks.” and rolled into the next questions. i had been prepared to provide documentation on the actual number of people attending, but that clearly wasn’t going to be necessary.

For the next 10 minutes or so, i poked holes in their position. “In your own list of rules, dated October, 2015, you state that the H.O.A. board has the option to levy fines for violations of the rules, up to $50 per infraction. Why am i being fined $200?”

Rules and Regs: “That’s for each violation – you had people using the pool, pool deck, tennis courts and lawn area.”

“Got it. Thanks. [eyeroll] You also withheld my deposit of $25. That deposit was for the stated purpose (in your own regulations) of covering any damages, or cleaning deficiencies. There was no mention in your letter that i failed to clean, or left damages, so this is clearly punitive – amounting to an additional $25 fine.”

H.O.A. Board – [crickets, fumbling with notes]

So you state that clubhouse reservation doesn’t allow guests to use the pool, deck, etc. – but as a resident, i’m allowed to bring as many guests to the pool so long as i’m with them? i was with my guests all afternoon Isn’t that inconsistent?”

Rules and Regs: “We’re in the process of updating some of our rules and regulations…”

daisyfae: “Obviously.  That’s all i have. Thanks for your time.”

The rational board member gave me a grin and a wink and said “Daisyfae, now that you’re retired, i wish you’d consider joining the board!”

“Sugar, i’m not around much these days…”, smiled back at him, and put away my notes, while choking back a gigantic pile of rage.

i didn’t think it was possible for me to leave that hearing even angrier than i was when i walked in the door! What a bunch of incompetent bullies! Studley had to talk me off the ledge. i slept poorly, thinking that when those turdbags came back with their findings, i was going to contact my attorney and crunch more cherries!

By noon the next day, i received an email:

The Board appreciated your appearance at the hearing on November 27th, 2017. 

You made a strong case in pointing out the ambiguities currently present in the rules and regulations concerning rental of the clubhouse and usage of the pool.

Because of that the Board has decided to rescind all the penalties that were placed upon you and to refund your $25.00 deposit or I can simply credit your account $25.00. 

Although relieved, the anger hasn’t subsided much. If i weren’t going to be gone so much? i almost want to run for the board. Even if you can beat ’em, sometimes you should still join ’em.

Harper Valley PTA
* Not the actual name of the development, but as christened by The Boy. i am one of the younger residents – demographic of “Active Senior Citizens”, but with many not-so-active. Lately, we’ve had a run of younger people move in, and even a few with small children. Impact of this change in demographic? Probably just means more fecal matter in the community pool…

Trailer Park Justice

Breaking news from The Park!  Just as i’d hoped expected, it didn’t take long before things got back to normal at the ol’ homestead.  My niece, DQ, and her husband, BJ, are waging a war on crime – Trailer Park style!

While dealing with the difficulties of getting Mom discharged from the rehab facility last week, my niece was also dealing with a neighborhood crime spree.  Two of their lawn mowers, as well as a pressure washer and a ladder, had disappeared from their garage.  i was vaguely aware of this – during one phone call she mentioned that she was with the local police, while they were awaiting a search warrant for their neighbors house. 

That morning, the neighbor had been caught red-handed by another neighbor stealing two lawnmowers.  The police were summoned, and DQ and BJ realized that this could have been the fate of their belongings as well.  Once the warrant was served, the police not only found a garage full of stolen goods, but a substantial amount of heroin as well.

The suspect was arrested, charged and then released after his mother posted bond.  DQ, attempting to be neighborly, went by and told him and his mother that all they wanted was restitution – either return of the stolen items, or payment.  His mother agreed to pay DQ and BJ $600 within a day. 

After a few days, DQ and BJ were awakened on a Sunday morning to the sound of a lawnmower.  Next door.  Seems the suspect was out mowing his lawn, while their grass grew ever higher due to the absence of proper tools.  Since no attempt at restitution had been made, it was time for drastic measures.

A 4′ x 8′ sign appeared*.  Before putting it up, they contacted the police and zoning departments to avoid running afoul of the law.  The amused officials determined this to be free speech, since charges against the suspect were public record.  The sign went up. 

Ladies and gentlemen, need i remind you that this is, in fact, a virtual Trailer Park?  And such a bold challenge amounts to a declaration of war.  The suspect retaliated shortly thereafter.  Yukking it up in the front yard with his buddies, he soon put up his own “bold challenge”**.

His temporary retaliatory victory was short lived.  Within an hour, an additional sign was posted on DQ and BJ’s front lawn.  Oh, and this time they alerted the local media. 

Media types descended upon the neighborhood like flies.  Camera trucks, interviews with neighbors and a hoppin’ mad suspect caught on video storming into his house, yelling obscenities and empty threats of lawsuits.  Thus far, it has been covered on two local television news stations, virtually every local radio station and is the talk of the town.  Neighbors are dropping by, bringing beer, and it’s become quite festive.  All are happy to be part of ridding the neighborhood of a thievin’ heroin addict!  And there are many more reports of missing items coming forward as a result.  The guy had been running a theft ring, has a criminal record a mile long, and is in general, a gnarly, bad man.***

Although they drive me batshit, it is at times like this when i absolutely adore my family.  Never dull, these folks will tackle a challenge.  Taking a stand, trying to do what’s right…  And it makes me wonder – i believe my genuine delight in this “Smack Down” further highlights the duality of my nature.  i am truly, one foot out of a Trailer Park.  And sometimes, i really don’t mind…

* Notice the shiny silver thing in front of the sign?  That would be a floodlight.  Yes, this is highly visible 24 hours a day!  BJ does good work.

** Note – this is after he’s been charged with multiple counts of theft.  Certainly not going to win friends with the legal community with this stunt.

*** A twist to the story:  The suspect is someone who grew up in the neighborhood when i lived there.  He was the youngest of 3 juvenile delinquent boys, who lived with their mom a few streets away.  My brother was the family ‘handyman’, and had to babysit these little terrors from time to time.  One day, my brother brought home a guinea pig with a broken leg for us to take care of – seems the boys had been playing baseball with two guinea pigs given to them as pets.  One died, and my brother saved the other from the same fate… There is a part of me that really enjoys seeing this son-of-a-bitch get some justice.