Unlike many people, I watch the local evening news from time to time. This is something only old people do, which is up there with heading to Olive Garden at 5 pm, driving 25 mph in a 35 mph zone, and taking out a bunch of clipped newspaper coupons in the express check-out lane, causing you to miss most of the second half of the Germany-Ghana match. Watching the local evening news, with its coverage of about a renovated community center, a Trinidadian cultural festival that took place last weekend, and a brush fire that happens to be surprisingly close to my house at the moment, is an action which tends to be up there with practicing for the spelling bee.
As a millennial, I shouldn’t be watching the local news broadcasts if the ratings tell us anything. After all, millennials have Facebook (McKenna Smith: HEY GUYS! The community center has been renovated! The kids won’t be in house all the time anymore! FREEDOM!), Twitter (@nbcbayarea Wildfires have burned another 25 acres. Find out in which direction at 6 pm!), and Buzzfeed (25 Ways the Trinidadian Festival Was the Best Event Ever). With sources like those, I hope I can be forgiven for watching two teleprompter-reading baby-boomers tell me about the High Times Cannabis Cup (a real thing!) in Sonoma.
But in my years (yes, years) of watching local news broadcasts, stories involving home owners’ associations have been prevalent, though nowhere near as reports about robberies in Oakland, how Facebook is impacting your life, and those car accidents which held up commutes for hours.
Almost once every month, there’s a short feature involving a resident or group of residents and their grievances against homeowners’ associations. There are interviews with the people involved along with explanations of written statements submitted because (SHOCKER!) certain people didn’t want to be on TV. And then the station’s investigation team, led by a man who thinks he’s Bob Woodward, but really should be hosting the 20/20 “What Would You Do?” segment, narrates a story about how they solved or didn’t solve the dispute.
This generally solves one part of the problem, but it’s never quite been able to solve the gripes that thousands across America have with HOAs, which I’ve come across in my twenty minutes of research. Things like the dues being expensive. Not allowing solar panels because they’re a perceived eyesore. Fining homeowners for not taking care of their lawn. Not allowing a sign to be placed in the yard.
I could go on and on, but since the site I’m writing for is Clunkerture, I’ll focus on the bits that involve cars, because apparently that’s what my site is about, according to those e-mails about the watch pieces I’ve been posting lately.
For instance, during last week alone, a Georgia HOA booted their residents’ cars if they hadn’t paid their dues yet. And another piece details the letters a man in Idaho (yes, Idaho, land where everyone either is a potato farmer or a miner, apparently has HOAs) had to deal with for parking his restored Oldsmobile 88 on the street.
Because it seems automotive-related HOA horror stories are never going to end, I’m going to focus on the four highest car-related complaints about HOAs and explain to HOA administrators who have somehow stumbled across this piece that they’ve got it wrong, through the description of a few plausible and extremely implausible scenarios.
Not Allowing Cars Parked in the Driveway Overnight: Believe it or not, because of this rule, a family I know had their Toyota Sienna Limited (a $40,000+ minivan) towed from their driveway because it was parked there for more than three nights in a row. Towing a family vehicle is low and gives the neighborhood a reputation of being family-unfriendly. There was a science project going on in their garage. This was the all-American family we see in housing development brochures across the country.
A driveway is part of the property, but unfortunately, people see it and apparently, people need to seem tidy. In my view, having a car in the driveway probably helps deter burglars, since there’s a possibility of someone being inside. A jalopy in front deters burglars as well, because anyone willing to keep it probably doesn’t have many valuables in the house.
Not Allowing Cars Parking in the Street Overnight: The HOA view is that it helps prevent theft in the neighborhood. “Oh, a new Range Rover is in the neighborhood. Why is parked on the street at 9 pm? A BURGLAR IS ON THE LOOSE!” The other HOA view is that it helps facilitate traffic while eliminating the risk of hitting a parked car. “I hit a parked car that wasn’t supposed to be there! No, the smell of my breath has nothing to do with it!!!”
There are many good reasons to park a car on the street. For example, someone could’ve bought a new car and haven’t had a chance to sell the old one, so the car has to sit outside. Or maybe a guest came to visit and ended up staying up overnight because they had too much to drink. There’s a dinner party running late, so a group of cars are parked in front of the house. Someone probably wanted to spite the HOA and superglued a rusted-out 1957 Chevy Pickup to the ground. The possibilities are endless.
Citing Residents for Their Cars Being Too Loud: This one I understand. You’re sleeping peacefully at 9 am Monday morning (if you’re me), when some guy who almost certainly gets his news from Temple of VTEC (Pothole on A Street Causes Civic Suspensions to Collapse; VTEC Didn’t Kick In, Yo) decides to blow past your house at 7000 rpm. Just don’t go after the person who drives a Jaguar F-Type V8S with the active exhaust on, because he or she, like most Jaguar owners, will sue. Chances are they’re driving a Jaguar because they know the lemon law really, really well, and people who know that are likely to do well for themselves in court.
No Pickup Trucks: If cars are allowed in the driveway, it’d better be something over worth over $30,000. Trucks are a different ball game since HOAs tend to associate truck ownership with blue-collar workers. That would be true if the truck in the driveway was a Chevy Colorado, Nissan Titan, or Ford F-150 XL with a ladder rack installed and a toolbox in the bed. As a result, disputes with HOAs over trucks in the driveway happens way more often than you think.
But trucks these days can easily cost over $40,000, which is more than a base 3-Series, C-Class, or A4. Trucks in the driveway mean that your subdivision’s residents are dutiful and hardworking. It also means that they can help you move that antique grandfather clock you inherited. After all, you’re on the board of the HOA so there’s little incentive for them to refuse. And a truck owner and his cronies might drop a bunch of dirt on your lawn, “mistaking” you for the recipient.
So, if anyone on the board of a homeowners’ association is reading this, please chill out. It’s not as if a well-kept 1974 Mustang II will depress property values. Trucks owners are your friends, not foes. Don’t go after the family vehicle in the driveway. Avoid citing Jaguar drivers. Don’t think that Range Rover is a burglar’s car. They usually use Ford Econolines.
Instead of looking out their windows, determining whether the water fountain in your neighbor’s front yard is an HOA infraction, HOA administrators should watch the local evening news. They’ll feel much better after hearing about a robbery in Oakland for the seventh time in twenty minutes.