Rules, RVs, and a four-story phallus: the HOA thread

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dhex
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Rules, RVs, and a four-story phallus: the HOA thread

Post by dhex » 11 Jun 2012, 11:10

http://consumerist.com/2012/06/hoa-trie ... chalk.html

the usual disclaimers about n=1 and all that but chalk washes off as soon as it rains. having no firsthand experience with hoa groups, my only understanding of them generally comes from people complaining about them.
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Ayn_Randian
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Re: OFFS

Post by Ayn_Randian » 11 Jun 2012, 11:43

HOAs can be intrusive but I'm generally in favor of them. "aww you cannot paint your house purple and leave your RV out for weeks at a time? Poor baby!"
It has the effect of making me want desperately to do the opposite of what Green Day is suggesting I should want to do. Billy Joe Whassname may have created a generation of war mongers. - Jason L

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Re: OFFS

Post by Jasper » 11 Jun 2012, 11:47

It doesn't bother me that they exist, but I wouldn't want to live in a very strict one.
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Re: OFFS

Post by fyodor » 11 Jun 2012, 11:49

Ayn_Randian wrote:HOAs can be intrusive but I'm generally in favor of them. "aww you cannot paint your house purple and leave your RV out for weeks at a time? Poor baby!"
Tangential issues and implications aside, that sure sounds like a raaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaather illiberal thing to say! One man's BFD is another's purpose to live, no?
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Re: OFFS

Post by thoreau » 11 Jun 2012, 11:55

Friends tell me that the HOA at my new place is pretty chill. If they're wrong, and the HOA turns out to be a bunch of micromanaging dicks, you'll see footage of me throwing shoes. Contracts are contracts, but there's no need to be a micromanaging dick.
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Re: OFFS

Post by Highway » 11 Jun 2012, 12:00

I'm generally against HOA's. There's very little good they actually do. They rarely do anything worthwhile like mow the common areas or maintain parks or stormwater facilities. At best, they'll organize a cleanup (hey, they provided trash bags, great) or get a dumpster for the development for the day once a year (which fills up in 2 hours). Sometimes they contract for snow removal (maybe the actual best use of a HOA I've seen). Almost everything else is conformance / compliance with the wishes of the most restrictive people in the neighborhood, who are actually the people most likely to bolt out of the neighborhood as soon as conditions favor them (Isn't that the main purpose to trying to keep your own property values high?).

Want a purple house? Go for it. Need to park your RV in your driveway? If it fits, go for it.
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Re: OFFS

Post by fyodor » 11 Jun 2012, 12:00

Jasper wrote:It doesn't bother me that they exist, but I wouldn't want to live in a very strict one.
Or have your daughter marry one? :)

I'm reminded of the first time I met someone who had actually lived in a commune (you heard about communes a lot when I was in college in the late 70's). He said it gave you a lot of control over your living situaion -- while giving your co-communalists lots of control over you. He got out. My fascination with the idea diminished greatly. HOA's may have the opposite image of dirty hippy communes, but I think the same (dubious, IMO) dynamic comes into play. Of course, to each his own, so what I think shouldn't matter beyond that it's what I think. I've expressed before my view that HOA's and covenants are somewhat paradoxical to my libertarian world view. As long as the participants genuinely and willingly and knowingly (or should have known) entered into the agreement, I find it hard to say it shouldn't be enforced like any other (of the legally binding variety).
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Re: OFFS

Post by Jasper » 11 Jun 2012, 12:03

Two places we looked at in FL were in 'deed-restricted' suburbs. Both places had minimal restrictions on house colors and boat or RV storage in the yard. They basically boiled down to 'keep the neighborhood looking nice'. I could deal with that.

HOAs that dictated what shades of taupe I needed to keep the shutters painted? FU.

fyodor: 8-)
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Re: OFFS

Post by fyodor » 11 Jun 2012, 12:21

Jasper wrote:Two places we looked at in FL were in 'deed-restricted' suburbs. Both places had minimal restrictions on house colors and boat or RV storage in the yard. They basically boiled down to 'keep the neighborhood looking nice'. I could deal with that.

HOAs that dictated what shades of taupe I needed to keep the shutters painted? FU.
Do the by-laws, are whatever they're called, make it possible to change the restrictions in the future? I think that's when HOA's start to get real government-like.

I'm also reminded of a debate I heard on the radio between a libertarian (decoder ring type) and the liberal (public radio type) host. When the libber said he shouldn't have to pay taxes cause he never agreed to them the host said well you have to pay your cable bill even though you don't want to to which the libber said aha! but that's because I agreed to it and the host said well you agreed to the taxes BY LIVING HERE. And y'know he's got a point, up to a point. It may not apply to federal laws owing to the restrictive nature of national boundaries, but if you have a choice about where to live within a nation, does your choice constitute consent to all the local laws therein? Well, maybe the restrictive nature of national boundaries still comes into play, albeit more indirectly, and this only really applies to decoder ring type libertarianism per se, but then once you blur those boundaries, is everything permitted? Is your only recourse to say don't be a dick or I'll throw stones? Only problem with throwing stones is it tends to get them thrown back....
fyodor: 8-)
Heh!
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Re: OFFS

Post by JasonL » 11 Jun 2012, 12:39

I get annoyed with the no secondary structure convenants around here. I'd like to do a nice shed but it's technically verboten. I guess they are afraid my yard will look like Sanford and Son or something?

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Re: OFFS

Post by fyodor » 11 Jun 2012, 12:56

JasonL wrote:I get annoyed with the no secondary structure convenants around here. I'd like to do a nice shed but it's technically verboten. I guess they are afraid my yard will look like Sanford and Son or something?
Well maybe not your yard, but if the prevention of S&S looking yards is the goal (and the priority over individual choice in the matter), you either outlaw all sheds or you setup a shed approval committee. The former is easier and neater and avoids all potential for the dreaded slippery slope of sheds! :)
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Re: OFFS

Post by Highway » 11 Jun 2012, 12:58

fyodor wrote:
Jasper wrote:Two places we looked at in FL were in 'deed-restricted' suburbs. Both places had minimal restrictions on house colors and boat or RV storage in the yard. They basically boiled down to 'keep the neighborhood looking nice'. I could deal with that.

HOAs that dictated what shades of taupe I needed to keep the shutters painted? FU.
Do the by-laws, are whatever they're called, make it possible to change the restrictions in the future? I think that's when HOA's start to get real government-like.
Even if they have the ability to change them, it's the same Demosclerosis problem that governments have. It's hard for a broad but shallow interest to resist a narrow but deep interest. It's hard to get anyone to officially throw out a rule that an HOA has because "What if?" always goes to the worst possible case, and people want to have that ability to crack down on the worst case. But they do it with rules that restrict far more than the worst possible case, without any possible judgment or discretion. The discretion only comes in the question of whether to enforce it or not, which always leaves the individual with exposure, since that discretionary non-enforcement can be rescinded at any time, and since your whatever it is that was done out of compliance is still likely out of compliance, you're screwed.

Jasper: My HOA actually restricts my house color to the original color of *my house*. If I wanted to change the color of the door, shutters, or siding to a color that is somewhere else in the neighborhood, I can't by the rules. Now, if I wanted to argue it, and get HOA permission to do it, I could probably do that. But again, it's about discretionary non-enforcement, not about the freedom to do something.

And yes, I made the choice to live where I do, because the benefits outweigh the negatives. That doesn't mean I must forfeit the ability to complain about those negatives or try to change them.
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Re: OFFS

Post by JasonL » 11 Jun 2012, 12:59

I'd like to believe that, but I suspect it's more like the developer wanting to force you to buy an upsized multi car garage as opposed to handing over money to some other storage solution. As time goes on the developer is out of the picture but the covenant endures.

ETA: this is a response to fyodor

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Re: OFFS

Post by Highway » 11 Jun 2012, 13:03

JasonL wrote:I'd like to believe that, but I suspect it's more like the developer wanting to force you to buy an upsized multi car garage as opposed to handing over money to some other storage solution. As time goes on the developer is out of the picture but the covenant endures.

ETA: this is a response to fyodor
Hey, just because two different groups have different motivations for the same restriction of your freedom doesn't mean either one is invalid or wrong. And my development has the "shed approval committee" but with other conditions tacked on: You have to have *the* approved fence in *the* approved location and then you can put in *the* approved-style shed in *the* approved location.

I honestly can't believe as many people in my development have fences as they do, because every house backs onto community property, and the lots really aren't that big. What looks like "my yard" would shrink dramatically, by about 1/3, if I put up the approved fence in the approved location.
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Re: OFFS

Post by Jasper » 11 Jun 2012, 13:07

When we were thinking of just buying a building lot, there was a gated community on a barrier island that still had several lots available that we would've been able to afford. It was a beautiful area, and the lot we zeroed in on was right around the corner from the association beach/club house & restaurant.

Then we looked at the requirements to build a house there. The HOA board had absolute approval or veto power over everything. The very first requirement was that the house had to be a unique design by a board-approved architect. The second requirement was that the board had to approve the design. It got more nit-picky the further you read.
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Re: OFFS

Post by fyodor » 11 Jun 2012, 13:09

JasonL wrote:I'd like to believe that, but I suspect it's more like the developer wanting to force you to buy an upsized multi car garage as opposed to handing over money to some other storage solution. As time goes on the developer is out of the picture but the covenant endures.

ETA: this is a response to fyodor
Presumably they had to have an angle to base their "selling" of the rule in question to prospective buyers even if the developer had ye olde vested interests.

Kinda like you might cite Haliberton's interest in making money off the Iraq War as one reason it happened, but there still also had to be other ways to sell it to the public.

Highway, I was thinking in the opposite direction, actually. I was raising the possibility that if Jaspar's covenants allowed for change, they could, in time, become more restrictive, rendering his choice based on their currently low level of restrictiveness somewhat moot (although based on your observation, maybe the more restrictive neighborhoods will in time become more restrictive than they are now, too, making the choice of a currently less restrictive covenant meaningful on the grounds that a lower restrictive starting point means less restrictiveness in the future even as restrictiveness across neighborhoods increases?).

EDIT: added an important adjective (then changed an adjective to an adverb accordingly!)

EDIT2: elaborated the final paranthetical (that is, made it more wordy! oh well...)
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Re: OFFS

Post by fyodor » 11 Jun 2012, 13:20

Jasper wrote:When we were thinking of just buying a building lot, there was a gated community on a barrier island that still had several lots available that we would've been able to afford. It was a beautiful area, and the lot we zeroed in on was right around the corner from the association beach/club house & restaurant.

Then we looked at the requirements to build a house there. The HOA board had absolute approval or veto power over everything. The very first requirement was that the house had to be a unique design by a board-approved architect. The second requirement was that the board had to approve the design. It got more nit-picky the further you read.
I see, the restrictiveness you were avoiding applied to your initial building. That's not something that could be duplicated in the future (unless you count additions, and even then, only somewhat).
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Re: OFFS

Post by dhex » 11 Jun 2012, 13:28

Ayn_Randian wrote:HOAs can be intrusive but I'm generally in favor of them. "aww you cannot paint your house purple and leave your RV out for weeks at a time? Poor baby!"
that sounds pretty awful, honestly. you get a mortgage and a landlord(s).
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Highway
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Re: OFFS

Post by Highway » 11 Jun 2012, 13:33

fyodor wrote:
JasonL wrote:I'd like to believe that, but I suspect it's more like the developer wanting to force you to buy an upsized multi car garage as opposed to handing over money to some other storage solution. As time goes on the developer is out of the picture but the covenant endures.

ETA: this is a response to fyodor
Presumably they had to have an angle to base their "selling" of the rule in question to prospective buyers even if the developer had ye olde vested interests.

Kinda like you might cite Haliberton's interest in making money off the Iraq War as one reason it happened, but there still also had to be other ways to sell it to the public.

Highway, I was thinking in the opposite direction, actually. I was raising the possibility that if Jaspar's covenants allowed for change, they could, in time, become more restrictive, rendering his choice based on their currently low level of restrictiveness somewhat moot (although based on your observation, maybe the more restrictive neighborhoods will in time become more restrictive than they are now, too, making the choice of a currently less restrictive covenant meaningful on the grounds that a lower restrictive starting point means less restrictiveness in the future even as restrictiveness across neighborhoods increases?).
It's always going to be better to start from a less restrictive position on one of these things. For the most part, we're talking about rules that are extraordinarily restrictive in the first place: You *must* have a black mailbox, you *must* use plastic trash cans with lids, a fence *must* be placed on the property line fully enclosing the back yard from the back foundation wall extended out to the sides (all rules in my HOA). So the fewer of those rules, the less likely there are going to be more rules. It's not particularly easy to get new rules made, although it's easier than getting old ones removed. I'd imagine that it happens once a decade or so.

As far as "selling it" to prospective buyers, Jasper is on the rare end of buyers in that he rejected a site based on the HOA / board rules, and I'd imagine that's mostly because they were buying to build. Buyers in an existing development are told fluff like "Oh, we have a deed restricted HOA, so that helps to keep property values up" and that's about it. Plus, you know humans as well as any of us: if you're crushing on a house, the idea that you might not be able to put the exact deck on the back that you want doesn't really come into your mind. Other people have decks, right? You should be able to put yours up. Other people have landscaping out front, yours should be no problem.
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Re: OFFS

Post by thoreau » 11 Jun 2012, 14:23

Highway wrote:As far as "selling it" to prospective buyers, Jasper is on the rare end of buyers in that he rejected a site based on the HOA / board rules, and I'd imagine that's mostly because they were buying to build. Buyers in an existing development are told fluff like "Oh, we have a deed restricted HOA, so that helps to keep property values up" and that's about it. Plus, you know humans as well as any of us: if you're crushing on a house, the idea that you might not be able to put the exact deck on the back that you want doesn't really come into your mind. Other people have decks, right? You should be able to put yours up. Other people have landscaping out front, yours should be no problem.
What you've just described is usually the sort of critique offered by non-libertarians arguing for consumer protection laws, to protect people from rash and ill-informed purchasing decisions.

I believe that God created the HOA to confound both the free marketeers and their critics. An entity that is private yet looks remarkably similar to a local government, a community entity that will create misery for the uninformed buyer in a way that we associate with a faceless corporation, a government-like meddler that exists because of contracts.

I am told that the HOA for my condo complex is pretty chill. For a condo community, I think an HOA of some sort is pretty much a necessity, given the connections between units and the common spaces (e.g. the many balconies and stairways accessing multiple units). But even for a gated community, I don't get why people would want an HOA for anything other than the guard at the gate, maintenance of the roads (if they aren't public), the community swimming pool, etc. It is somewhat ironic that those living outside the gates, under the iron fist of The State, probably have more freedom to maintain their property as they wish, and they too get roads and security services and public pools and whatnot.

God created the HOA to confound us all.
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Re: OFFS

Post by Stevo Darkly » 11 Jun 2012, 14:36

I don't actually know much about HOAs, but what I have heard indicates that they can indeed become ridiculously strict and picky.

(*mounting up on one of my favorite hobbyhorses*)

It seems to me that one way to keep them from becoming too demosclerotic (thanks for the word, Highway!) and governmentlike is to avoid modeling them after governments and instead have them incorporate more anarchic-like decision-making processes.

In other words, the power to make rules and to change them should not be delegated to a small group of people. Don't even go by a simple majority vote. Or even a supermajority vote of two-thirds or three-fourths. Make it more like something approaching an actual consensus. Put proposed rules to a vote by all members of the HOA, but require a 90% affirmative vote. Or even a "every member minus one" vote.

That way, the HOA can pressure the one guy who wants to erect a three-ton purple concrete penis on his front yard, while making it less likely that it will require that everyone have a four-foot-tall black mailbox with the address painted in yellow-ochre numerals in a plain (not bold or compressed) Arial font.

Also, you should need an actual, active near-consensus of HOA members, not a mere plurality of voters. The lack of a vote should count as a "no" vote. There will be no sneaking in someone's stupid persnickety pet rule because most people either don't care strongly enough to vote "no" or are too busy to vote. To pass a rule, you must have a near-consensus of people who strongly affirmatively want it. If they don't want it strongly enough to actually submit a "yes" vote, then they can likely live without it.

Some may object that this requires everyone's positive attention to enact new rules, and this will make it difficult to get new rules enacted, and most efforts to do so will fail. This is a feature.

To be continued...
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Re: OFFS

Post by Highway » 11 Jun 2012, 14:39

thoreau wrote:
Highway wrote:As far as "selling it" to prospective buyers, Jasper is on the rare end of buyers in that he rejected a site based on the HOA / board rules, and I'd imagine that's mostly because they were buying to build. Buyers in an existing development are told fluff like "Oh, we have a deed restricted HOA, so that helps to keep property values up" and that's about it. Plus, you know humans as well as any of us: if you're crushing on a house, the idea that you might not be able to put the exact deck on the back that you want doesn't really come into your mind. Other people have decks, right? You should be able to put yours up. Other people have landscaping out front, yours should be no problem.
What you've just described is usually the sort of critique offered by non-libertarians arguing for consumer protection laws, to protect people from rash and ill-informed purchasing decisions.
You're right, it is the same sort of examination of problems. Don't we frequently find that the things that people use as the basis for legislation are actually problems? It's the *remedy* that we usually disagree with, whether it be shutting down payday loans, getting rid of punitive interest charges, or adding another page to sign that you don't look at when you're closing on your house, all by legislation. It certainly does libertarians a disservice when they dismiss the idea that problems exist and that people make choices that are against their long-term interests. It would be better to openly acknowledge that, even though it makes arguing against legislation harder.
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Re: OFFS

Post by D.A. Ridgely » 11 Jun 2012, 14:40

Obviously, there are better and worse HOAs. The better ones arguably have some effect on both neighborhood quality of life and property values. They're far preferable to zoning in just about every way. Moreover, as we lawyer types have repeatedly claimed, real property ownership is a bundle of rights but for the most part not any particular bundle. There being no such thing as natural rights in real property, property ownership and what that entails is a function of a legal system that is, itself, ultimately the result of a political process.

Decoder ring, aside, I'll make this observation about both HOAs and zoning: Houston has very little of either and no one in his right mind would actually choose to live in Houston.

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Re: OFFS

Post by fyodor » 11 Jun 2012, 14:49

D.A. Ridgely wrote:Obviously, there are better and worse HOAs. The better ones arguably have some effect on both neighborhood quality of life and property values. They're far preferable to zoning in just about every way. Moreover, as we lawyer types have repeatedly claimed, real property ownership is a bundle of rights but for the most part not any particular bundle. There being no such thing as natural rights in real property, property ownership and what that entails is a function of a legal system that is, itself, ultimately the result of a political process.

Decoder ring, aside, I'll make this observation about both HOAs and zoning: Houston has very little of either and no one in his right mind would actually choose to live in Houston.
Even if it had San Diego's climate? :P
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Re: OFFS

Post by Highway » 11 Jun 2012, 14:50

Stevo, I like your ideas about HOA's, but unfortunately the way it's set up, none of that stuff is going to happen. I'm pretty sure I've talked about it before here that HOA's are set up by the subdivision developer using boilerplate highly restrictive covenants because they know that it's all going to be selective enforcement, and they know they'll be out of there before anyone cares. 99% of the rules in in effect in any HOA are enacted before house #1 is built in a development. Maybe you'd get a developer that would write them in awesome language like you talk about, but that's not likely, because of the stuff I mentioned in the previous post. People interested in buying would look at your rules and see that it would be hard to stop the guy next door from parking his RV. They don't see that it would let them put that sun-porch out back that they want, or the hot tub they want (conditioned of course on the idea that they actually LOOKED at the covenants before buying, hahahaha). Or that it might let them decide that painting the metal front door of their south-facing house dark blue is maybe not the best idea after they've lived with it for a while.

And Demosclerosis is Jonathon Rauch's term from his book Government's End. I really enjoyed it.
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