If you’re a fan of John Oliver’s humor (like I am) and GEICO’s talking gecko (he’s ok and was smart enough not to star in the commercial I am talking about), you may have seen Oliver’s recent segment and GEICO’s recent ad poking fun at Homeowners Associations (HOAs). I am going to lump condominium associations in with their portrayals as well, because so many people see them as one in the same. So when I use the term HOA in this blog, I am also referring the condominium associations. While Oliver and GEICO’s statements may have elicited a laugh or two, as a community association attorney, I feel the need to set a few things straight. Settle into a comfy chair and let’s expose some of the misconceptions that Oliver and GEICO have perpetuated about HOAs.
Oliver’s segment portrayed HOAs as the ultimate villains, lurking in the shadows, waiting to pounce on unsuspecting homeowners. But let’s face it; every superhero needs a villain to make their story interesting. Oliver wonders why a man named Ted can’t put a bench on the common area, well I will tell you why. If Ted gets a bench, then so does Mary, Barbara, Seth, Barry, and Myrtle. The next thing you know, there are benches everywhere. Without HOAs, neighborhoods could end up with cars parked on lawns, houses painted neon pink, and junkyards replacing front yards. While HOAs may not be everyone’s favorite, they play an essential role in keeping neighborhoods safe and tidy.
Oliver made it seem like HOAs are run by power-hungry dictators who take pleasure in controlling every aspect of homeowners’ lives and GEICO depicts Cynthia the board member as a tyrant that cuts offending flower pots out of the sky. But in reality, HOAs are run by volunteers who dedicate their time and effort to keep the community safe, clean, and organized. Many times people end up on HOA boards because no one else in the community will step up. It is an often times thankless job and can be very stressful and time consuming (hence why many HOAs hire management companies to take some of the burden off, another practice Oliver disparages). While it’s true that HOA rules can be strict, they are there for a reason. Rules that forbid residents from making changes or additions to the outside of their dwellings, or to shared walls, ceilings, floors, electrical or plumbing may seem ridiculous to some, but those rules are there to ensure the safety and aesthetics of the neighborhood.
Oliver seems to think that HOAs are all about fancy pools and clubhouses, but that’s not entirely true. While those amenities are great, they are not the only benefits of living in an HOA community. HOAs provide a sense of community, allowing homeowners to connect with their neighbors and participate in neighborhood events. They also provide things such as safety and security, ensuring that the neighborhood is well-lit and that everyone follows the rules.
Oliver suggested that HOAs are heartless entities that care more about enforcing rules than the well-being of homeowners. But that couldn’t be further from the truth. HOA board volunteers are usually homeowners in that neighborhood, and they care about the community as much as anyone else. They are there to help their neighbors resolve disputes, enforce rules, and maintain the neighborhood’s appearance.
Oliver and GEICO both seem to think that HOAs are all about handing out fines for every little infraction. But that’s not entirely true. HOAs are there to maintain the community’s appearance and safety, and sometimes that means enforcing rules. But fines are usually a last resort and are only handed out when homeowners refuse to comply with the rules. Usually there is a warning letter with no fines attached asking the homeowner to come into compliance. Most HOAs would much rather work with homeowners to find a solution that works for everyone than to had out a boundless array of fines.
Oliver made it seem like HOAs are immovable monoliths that crush homeowners’ dreams under their iron-fisted rule. But in reality, HOAs are willing to negotiate with homeowners who approach them in a reasonable and respectful manner. If you have an issue with a rule, talk to your HOA board and try to find a compromise that works for everyone. Don’t come into the conversation with a fighting attitude, come in with one geared toward reaching resolution.
In conclusion, HOAs may have their flaws, but they play a vital role in maintaining the appearance and safety of our communities. While John Oliver and GEICO may have entertained us with their humorous take on HOAs, it’s essential to understand the value that HOAs bring to our neighborhoods. They may not be perfect, but they are an integral part of homeownership, and we should appreciate their efforts to keep our communities clean, safe, and organized. So, let’s give HOAs and their board members a break and try to work with them to make your neighborhood even better. And the next time you see GEICO’s or John Oliver poking fun at HOAs, don’t take it too seriously. After all, they’re just trying to make us laugh, make us think a bit, and perhaps buy some insurance!
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