Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Mischief Most Foul: The Witless Coup

It gave a lot of people pause when I announced I was moving to a subdivision. They stared rather blankly when I added that it was on a (public) golf course, but they couldn't hold back the cries of dismay when I further revealed that it was subject to not one, but two Home Owner's Associations.

"Wow, what a spectacularly bad plan!" One friend cried out, while trying to repress a laugh. "You'll never be able to resist picking a fight." I assured her I would, that as long as the HOAs weren't trying to dictate what I could do to the interior of the house that we would get along peacefully. When you get right down to it, I tend to follow rules.

Oddly enough the exterior of our previous home would probably have fit within the guidelines of most HOAs. Well, perhaps not, for a long time we did have two gravestone sized concrete blocks, left over from a construction project, perched beneath our maple. It looked a bit like we'd taken to planting our deceased relatives on the family plot at the homestead. It seemed to amuse our neighbors, who were all of the same sort of cussed disposition. We had one neighbor who had attached Christmas Tree Stands all over the front of his house, not to stick trees in, up against the wall, like sculpture. Another would stick a Giant Inflatable Turkey in his front yard at every Thanksgiving and that's just for starters. Eventually we made better use of the gravestone twins, but not before my husband had planted a row of flowers at their base, making them dead ringers for the final resting place of someone or other.

But that was then, and this is now. Now we live in the subdivision best referred to as the Land of Bland when it comes to front yards. It's all very tasteful, it's all very neutral, it's all very controlled. I was assured they weren't actually that strict. That the nightmarish tales of HOA intrusion did not apply to this place, and I believed that. After all, there's a bright blue house within sight of ours.

I should have been tipped off that it appeared to be the only blue house in amongst the many tan, cream, beige and coffee colored homes, but I thought perhaps it just hadn't been a popular color among the approved ones.

As it happens, at our old home we had a hot tub, a better hot tub than the one that came with this place and since one had already been approved for here, it never occurred to me that I'd have to have special permission to swap one for the other. After all, ours is newer, nicer and technically better looking. When I found out that I'd have to inform the HOA, I didn't balk, or grumble. I set about contacting the proper channels. I was willing to play to ball, to conform to the rules. I'd still be willing if it weren't for two things:

1. The request will take more than four weeks to process. Yes, four weeks to approve swapping almost identical hot-tubs, accept that one is in much better shape, and it happens to be the one we're putting in. You know what? I was willing to do that. I heaved an irritated sigh, but I was willing, ready, able.

Until I found out the second thing.

2. The bright blue house belongs to the HOA president. He claims that the committee was unable to tell that the blue would be that bright from a chip, and therefore approved it. That the color was subsequently put down as being unacceptable after it turned out to be so vivid in real life. His house has been that color for three years, by the way. No fines. No pressure to change it. Suspiciously he's had landscapers in all summer also.

But I didn't set out to flip the HOA president off, I truly didn't. It just seemed silly to me. I've been having things delivered throughout the course of moving in. Furniture trucks, the occasional service truck, appliances have been delivered on more than one occasion. The swapping of the hot tubs would take less than a half an hour, and our neighbors agreed readily to the possibility of having to remove, then replace a fence panel. They also told me every tale of HOA horror you can possibly imagine, including that Big Blue over there is home everyday, all day.

That the landscaping crew our neighbors had in, the one I commented on working so hard? He had them rousted, with the help of the HOA treasurer, who lives three house away in the other direction. He'd sent an entire crew packing because our neighbors had thought replacing the paving stones of their walkway was within their rights, without approval. The reason they thought this? The HOA treasurer has an unapproved walkway.

It turns out that we inadvertently moved onto the street where several HOA board members live, and they all have violations. It isn't the actual violations that bother me. Frankly, I couldn't care less about paving stones in walkways unless they are capable of intelligent speech, in which case they might be intriguing. No, it was that evidently these people like to use their proximity to swoop down and enforce the rules on everyone but themselves. That irked me.

My neighbor, who is waiting out the approval process now, with her walkway torn to shreds, and half of her backyard in dusty upheaval, immediately consented to the removal of the fence panel. Then she gave me all kinds of advice for what time period would be best to try and sneak the delivery in and out. At the close of the conversation, she literally told me she'd be praying for us. In fact, it turns out that there are several neighbors around here who would absolutely love to try and get one in under the nose of Big Blue.

I looked up the amount I am likely to be fined. I also know that they can force me to remove the hot-tub and stick it in my garage, while I await approval. I know all that, yet I'm proceeding with the witless coup. I know how likely I am to get caught, and called out.

"I knew it, I knew it! You moved there fully intending to pick fights!"

I didn't. I swear. I fully recognize the futility of this, the absolutely pointless quality of paying to make a point. I don't even expect to get away with it. So why in the world would I choose to bloody my head against a brick wall in such a manner, and pay for the privilege?

Because Big Blue is a bully, and a petty little tyrant, lording it over other people that he is above the rules. I don't think there is even one thing I can do to change that, but I can at least openly acknowledge it in a letter to the HOA if I end up fined.

It seems silly to use a word like corruption when it comes to something like an HOA, but there you have it. They are corrupt little power mongers, yielding the rules like a cudgel, but paying them no heed themselves.

That's wrong. I told you, when you get right down to it, I follow the rules. Unless the people enforcing the rules are breaking them because doesn't it then follow that breaking the rules is actually the new order of the day? Everyone gets to violate the rules when convenient, or no one does.

No? Yeah, and when they fine me, I intend to point that out, in a variety of ways, possibly at a variety of volumes.

"I knew it, I knew it. It took you less than a year to pick a fight!"

Actually, it's the other way around. Big Blue started it.

My husband, an equally stubborn, cussed man with a similar vein of, "Hold on, that strikes me as being wrong." is happily plotting away also. The funny thing is, we both like blue. Heck, we like diversity, and nonconformity. We moved here for the views of the mountains and because I wanted a pool in my backyard. If we get away with our silly mischief, then I'm sure something else will eventually crop up.

It's silly, and it's stubborn. Civil Disobedience in the Suburbs but until I get a chance to say, "Excuse me, but you stop the construction of one walkway, and fine people for the exact same thing you allow for board members? Explain that to me. In detail." I'll feel like I'm cowering in a big blue shadow.


Jo said...

Omigawd, it sounds as if you are in suburban hell. I detest nosy busybodies. I received a complaint from someone today because they said I "use my dryer too often." I use it for about 15 minutes every once in a while. I work every day, so I am certainly not at home doing laundry all the time.

I have a suggestion. Paint your house blue and put some pink plastic flamingoes on the lawn. :-)

PhilipH said...

Tin pot Hitlers might be an appropriate aphorism or description of these cretins. Just an opinion of course :-)

Land of shimp said...

My neighbor was very funny while telling me about the HOA antics here. Evidently what they lack in fairness, at least they occasionally make up for in entertainment value.

Jo, the next time your neighbor thinks you are doing too much laundry, you may wish to tell your council that a much worse fate would be living next to someone that doesn't bother washing their clothes. "My neighbor has too much personal hygeine!" not being a particularly reasonable complaint!

Perhaps you have house elves who sneak in, Downy dryer sheet in hand, working their magic in your laundry room.

I had a desperate desire to make use of Pink Flamingos and plastic deer, by the way. However, our hot tub move was met with what appeared to be an absolutely reasonable response. No interference whatsoever. No doorbells ringing, No complaints tacked to our door, yet :-)

Perhaps the universe decided to grant me the opportunity to hoodwink our little Hitlers, PhilipH :-)

Or I've got a big fat complaint letter winging its way towards my inbox.

KarlaKraft said...

Heeee. I see a shopping trip for some pink flamingos and lawn gnomes in my future. Look for a package soon!

A human kind of human said...

Car tyres turned inside out and painted bright colours, with any kind of flower planted in them seemed to be in vogue over here in some areas a couple of years ago. Maybe you should try some of those amongst the pink flamingoes and plastic deer.