Somewhere along the way, we miss the forest for the trees. We miss the humor that’s all around us, often as clear and obvious as our governing documents–often embedded in our documents.
Sometimes, it’s worth taking a few minutes to stop, step back, and laugh at the logic-defying, the mind-bending, the just plain goofy rules and regulations that seem to dwell within every set of association governing documents. We’ve experienced them ourselves, or we’ve heard about them from our colleagues. Either way, they deserve a bigger audience.
STRANGE BUT TRUE
Chances are you have your own tale of infamy, your own brush with an off-the-wall original provision or amendment seemingly designed to make you go, “Hmmm.” Here’s just a sampling, compiled from homeowners and managers eager to share their mirth and wonderment, arranged in no particular order, and spanning the ridiculous to the sublime:
Joseph Vella tells about an association that has banned chartered buses from its master-planned community. The residents aren’t exactly pleased with having to walk outside the community in the snow, heat, or rain to catch the bus for the day trips planned frequently by–who else–the homeowner association.
Virginia Angle has a unique problem: Her association prohibits residents from sitting in public areas, including outside their front doors. Violators are fined $25.
Sometimes it’s not the rule itself but the enforcement of it that can make you shake your head. Carl H. Starrett II relays a story about one of his client associations that has put the kibosh on Christmas lights. Seems that one bold homeowner decorated the exterior of his house anyway, so the association scheduled a hearing on the infraction–for the following March.
Nor is this a local phenomenon. States get into the act, too.
Kathy Johnson is bemused by the Delaware Open Meetings Act, which requires community associations to allow homeowners to attend board meetings. Since there’s no penalty detailed in the act for disobeying the law, there’s no way to enforce compliance. Apparently many states have a similar shortcoming.
Don Buck wonders about one association’s rule–which Don found in CAI’s old “Samples & Examples” files–that prohibits feeding the swans below any balconies on the property.
Michael Buckley sends these thoughts from Nevada: In 1997, the state legislature began requiring community association residents who sold their homes to give their buyers a disclosure statement–really a warning–about what life is like in a common-interest community. The idea made sense, although why only resellers and not the developer who made the original sales had to provide the information wasn’t clear. (In 1999, the statute was broadened to include developers.) In another Silver State case, a series of laws known affectionately as “Piergate” were enacted in response to a powerful lobbyist’s problem with his own homeowner association’s refusal to allow him to build a pier. The lobbyist convinced his buddies to pass a law enabling him to do so.
Grace Morioka thinks it’s virtually impossible to enforce laws that require cats to be on leashes when in a common area. Good point.
David Swedelson chuckles over a set of CC&Rs he recently saw that allowed owners to have “no pets except one dog under 30 pounds, one cat, and one no-talking bird.” Get the feeling that whoever drafted those documents had a particular neighbor in mind?
And sometimes, seemingly out-of-left-field rules do make sense. Portfolio manager Bryan Zak’s associations, for example, prohibit the storage of dog food on decks. Seems crazy–until you realize that Bryan lives in Alaska, where dog food left outdoors attracts bears. (There’s also a rule prohibiting feeding leftover Halloween pumpkins to the moose.)
Here’s my personal favorite. Back in the 1970s in Houston, there were very few attorneys involved in drafting governing documents for community associations, mostly because very few of these new-fangled communities were being developed. However, once the specialist lawyers figured out what should go into the documents, they merrily spit them out of their word processors for every subsequent developer client. That’s why so many associations have their annual meetings on the third Tuesday in January–and why I have to figure out how to attend five of them the same night.