Happy Summer! At this time every year, we take a break from our normal HOA financial management topics and inject a little humor into our blog. This is the third installment of one of our most popular article series. Fortunately, there are plenty of new stories to choose from each year!

What are the craziest things that HOA boards, property managers, and residents have experienced? I’m sure we all have some interesting tales to tell. The BJM team scoured the internet to find the most amusing stories. I’m sure that some of these are more legend than fact, and they probably weren’t perceived as funny at the time, but I hope they will bring a smile or chuckle as you read them now.

Even more amusing HOA stories

Drought Dilemma. A California homeowner let his lawn turn brown during an extreme period of drought, and subsequently received a letter from the HOA stating that he would be fined $500 unless he watered his lawn. The catch-22? If he watered, the city would fine him $500 for a violation of statewide watering restrictions. The HOA ultimately backed down.

Extra Coats of Fraud. A vendor and property manager were caught after they embezzled about $2.8 million from a condo association over a 10-year period. Suspicious debit card charges (they must have read my blog!) led to an investigation that uncovered a stack of vendor invoices for fake painting jobs. Both went to jail, although it’s unclear whether insurance covered the loss.

Something Rotten. A financially struggling community allocated money to repair exterior siding. The vendor discovered that the damage was deeper than the siding, and the frameworks of some homes had begun to rot. After being told to cover the rotten wood with siding, the vendor took pictures, attempted to fix the rot where possible, and then blew the whistle on what could have been a dangerous situation.

Tree House Tribulation. A homeowner decided to build a tree house in his backyard. While it wasn’t a covenant violation, the HOA was against the project and kept asking for additional safety measures, hoping that the resident would give up. Eventually the HOA asked the resident to have plans signed by an engineer, confirming structural safety. The resident, who had a degree in Civil Engineering, took out a pen and signed the plans.

Shut the door. A resident received a knock on his door from someone soliciting garage door repairs. The door looked fine, so he politely declined. A week letter, he received a letter from the architectural committee requiring garage door repairs. As it turns out, a committee member owned a garage door company. After having his attorney send a letter to the HOA, the garage door was found to be acceptable as-is.

Sign of the Times. Homeowners placed an election sign in their front yard that was larger than the covenants allowed. After receiving threatening letters and emails from residents and the HOA, they cut the sign in half. Fines and retribution ensued, so they sued the HOA – and won. Faced with $400,000 in legal fees, the HOA was forced to sell the common area. Hopefully, the For-Sale sign was the right size.

 How to avoid becoming our next amusing HOA story

A lot of HOA issues can be avoided, or at least minimized, through common sense and a little due diligence. Here are four things you can do to avoid being published in our next article:

  1. Understand the CC&R’s. Board and committee members, as well as residents, should fully understand all HOA rules and regulations.
  2. Review the financials. Conduct a monthly review of the basics, including financial statements, collections, and expenditures.
  3. Read the board meeting minutes. If you can’t attend meetings, it’s the best way to stay current on what going on.
  4. Be a good neighbor. Remember, HOA are communities. Try to work together to reasonably resolve disputes. Let’s all try to get along!

Do you have any funny anecdotes based on your own HOA or community association experiences? Please let me know and we’ll include in our next addition of Amusing HOA Stories.

Have a happy and safe summer!
Neal Bach, CPA