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My Manifesto to the Homeowners’ Association

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Below is my manifesto, delivered to my homeowners’ association Monday night. The text is pretty much self-explanatory, but you can find more background on yesterday’s posting here.

 

Fellow neighbors,

I come to you this evening to discuss concerns that I have regarding two recent deed restriction violations that have been declared on my property, as well as the current process for identifying and handling deed restriction violations.

With regards to the deed restriction violations alleged on my property at <insert address here>, we have acted in good faith to address these concerns. We were cited as needing to refinish our front doors, which was completed in a timely manner. Additionally, we fixed a rut on the edge of our driveway that was cited by APM, created by soft soil after recent rains and my going off the driveway in my SUV one morning rushing out to work.

We were also cited for two other violations. The first is for a broken drain pipe and stained brick on the side of our home. Please note that there is no true drain on the side of the home, only a small hose to release excess condensation from the air conditioning unit in our attic. Secondly, this entire condition has existed since before we purchased the home in January 2005, but for whatever reason is now considered to be a nuisance by APM and the board. The staining that is being referred to is permanent and despite numerous attempts using various methods to remove these stains, we have been unsuccessful. I have contacted APM multiple times regarding the issue trying to get it resolved, finally being told the last time that I needed to produce pictures of the home from before I purchased it showing the condition and if I did not have that I would need to take it up with the board. Of course I don’t make a habit of taking pictures of homes I don’t own from odd angles, so I stand before you to plead my case on this item. It is also worth noting again that the stain referred to is barely visible from the edge of the property as it is on the side of the home and mostly hidden by vegetation and the small distance between that wall and the neighbor’s home.

It was also alleged that my mailbox was in need of repair and was a nuisance to the community. I disagreed with this assessment and contacted APM to dispute such, and although the brick stain issue was noted in the next follow-up notice sent the mailbox issue was not, leading me to believe that APM had cleared that particular issue. Imagine my surprise when I receive a third notice from APM still noting the stain issue as well as the mailbox issue, and assessing me a $25 fine for the violation. Unfortunately my mailbox was apparently struck with a baseball bat this past week and should now in my estimation be replaced, but it is still my position that this was a non-issue and should have never been cited. I would note that despite my disagreement with both of the forementioned citations, in an effort to appease APM and the board I began work to install a gutter on the side of the house this past weekend and have purchased a new mailbox to replace the current one, although this work has been delayed due to the recent rainfall.

I am disappointed that these issues could not be resolved prior to now, however I am further disappointed that it appears that either APM, the Board, or both have taken a selective approach to enforcing deed restrictions. During my independent inspection of properties in our neighborhood, I found 51 violations using the apparently tough grading standards APM has used on my property. My review was only a quick drive-by of properties, so it is likely a closer inspection would produce more instances. While I realize some of these instances may have already been addressed by APM and the Board, the sheer number of violations leads me to the conclusion that not all properties in our neighborhood are being assessed equally. As a quick overview of the issues I found:

6 properties were found to have signs in violation of the deed restrictions. The restrictions clearly state “no signs of any kind shall be displayed in public view on any lot except one sign of not more than 5 square feet advertising the property for sale or rent.” The violations I noted ranged from political campaign signs to school pride to signs declaring that their home could “talk”. One of my favorites, though, is the “Support our Troops” sign, proudly displayed in front of the home of our esteemed president. I haven’t seen one of these since the first gulf war, probably because they haven’t made them since the first gulf war. Based on the condition of the sign it’s probably been there since then. While I agree with the sentiment, this is a violation and if you wish to display this sign you should formally amend the deed restrictions to allow such. But my absolute favorite is this sign designating Droddy St. as “Elvis Presley Blvd”. I’m sure if the king were with us today, he would be very proud. Of course this 6 doesn’t include the numerous security system yard signs throughout the neighborhood, which would also technically be in violation. I would formally propose that the deed restrictions be revised to allow security system signs, as it seems consistent with the prevailing view of the board and would be agreeable to most if not all residents.

Have either of these last two violations resulted in any enforcement action or the assessment of fines by APM and the board? Well, I just happened to have a conversation with an employee of APM calling himself Lee who was conducting this month’s deed restriction violation inspections that answers that question. I was a bit alarmed that he admitted that neither of these two violations had been reported. When I mentioned to him the violation involving our board president’s home, I was told that APM as a matter of policy would not report any violation involving the display of an American flag or patriotic message, as they had done so previously at another community they managed and received unfavorable press coverage for it. While I can understand their concern, in my opinion it is not APM’s place to choose not to enforce our community’s deed restrictions, no matter how politically unpopular the enforcement action may be. This proves that the restrictions are not being equally enforced, and creates further questions as to what other restrictions APM might be choosing not to enforce. For the second violation honoring the King of Rock and Roll, he checked his listing and admitted he hadn’t even noticed that issue previously, which calls into question the quality of these monthly inspections.

I also noted one instance where an obviously disabled vehicle was parked in a driveway with flat dry-rotted tires, and another with an RV parked in the driveway with the awning extended no less. Looks like they are making themselves at home outside the home!

But the violations that I was most interested in and most relevant to our discussion this evening are the ones similar to the alleged violations on my property, namely mailboxes in disrepair and stained exterior walls. I noted 22 mailboxes in some state of disrepair, including 6 that are leaning or otherwise not standing completely upright, 12 that are in need of repainting or replacement, and my favorites are the 4 jungle mailboxes that are in the middle of so much vegetation you can hardly even see the mailboxes. As my mailbox is such a nuisance, I hope the board has pursued action against these 22 other nuisances.

I also noted a total of 20 properties that were stained on the exterior walls. 8 of these had some degree of staining on the side walls, much like my property albeit much more visible from the road. But the most noticeable were the 12 that had some degree of staining on the front, street-facing side of the structure. Seeing that my staining on the side of the property barely noticeable from the road has caught the attention of APM and the board, surely the board has pursued action against these other more obvious violations.

As a service to the community, I have taken photographs of these violations and labeled each with the appropriate property address to allow APM and the board to see to it that proper enforcement action is taken.

Now, my purpose here is not to cause trouble or for the wrath of APM and the board to come down upon my neighbors the way it has come down upon me. I simply seek to resolve these alleged violations, have this ridiculous $25 fine that has been assessed removed from my account, and ensure that all property owners are treated fairly and equally. I feel that my property has been held to an unreasonably high standard, however if this is the standard that will be used I want to make sure that all properties are held to this same standard. To this end, I propose the following:

  1. Details of all deed restriction enforcement actions should be published in the monthly newsletter. This would provide greater transparency to the deed restriction violation process and provide comfort and assurance to all residents that all deed restriction violations are being addressed. It would also give the residents the means to determine if there are any violations that are not being addressed and bring those to the attention of APM and the board. It may also “shame” property owners into addressing these violations. However, the most important benefit to the neighborhood and the board would be that this sends the message to the residents that deed restriction violations are taken seriously and that no resident is immune from enforcement action, resulting in greater compliance to the terms of the deed restrictions.
  2. The process used by APM and the board for handling deed restriction violations should be publicized and distributed to all residents. This would allow everyone to understand how violations are handled and what the consequences of violations are, and when those consequences would come to pass. I certainly would have appreciated being informed that I would be assessed a $25 fine for my non-existent violations instead of being sent a bill along with a nasty note from APM.
  3. A formal deed restriction violation dispute process should be developed and distributed. This would allow an avenue for misunderstandings such as mine to be resolved while minimizing the run-around from APM. As APM seems unwilling to give residents a straight answer on how to go about disputing alleged violations, a direct communication from the association to the residents is appropriate.

As a concerned resident of this community, I would be more than happy to assist the board in the implementation of the steps I have set forth. I believe these steps would provide greater transparency and integrity to this process. If you ever want the neighborhood as a whole to support the efforts of the association, you must prove that the association isn’t a mechanism used to harass homeowners as many residents perceive it to be but a partner with whom we can improve our community and our quality of life. Until this happens, we will continue to see a neighborhood where the majority of residents view the association with a high level of contempt and want nothing more from the association than to take their yearly dues assessment and leave them alone.

I would ask that the board adopt these proposed actions, as well as to officially clear the alleged violations on my property at <insert address here> and reverse the $25 fine that has been assessed. I look forward to resolving this issue and working with the board for the betterment of our community. Thank you!

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June 27, 2007 - Posted by | Home Ownership, Homeowners Associations, Real Estate

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