Friday, September 12, 2008

A Tree and Property Rights

Today I'm going to go out and mutilate the tree in our front yard. I'm not doing this because it's sick or ugly. It's really a beautiful tree. And I'm not carving off large sections of it because we don't like the way it looks. We're really very fond of it, often commenting and receiving compliments on its appearance. It is, after all, the largest, healthiest looking tree of its kind in the entire neighborhood. But then it should be, as we've cared for it, watered it, even worried over it when its leaves turned a little brown or shed at unexpected times of the year. The truth is that I'm not taking saw in hand out of my own free will at all. I'm doing this because we have the misfortune to live in a community ruled over by a Homeowners Association (HOA), and have been ordered to destroy our own property.

the offending tree

It seems that the HOA's board of directors has taken issue with the fact that our tree has grown larger than the others of its kind in the neighborhood. This is a grievous affront to these enforcers of conformity. To them variation is unacceptable. As one of the board members informed me months ago "everything should look alike." To this narrow mindset, the concepts of private property rights and individualism are dangerous, alien, and, quite frankly, too complex to comprehend.
So, despite the fact that the 5th Amendment to the Constitution of the United State states explicitly that no person shall "be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law," I must go out and deface our property at the whim of another. If we refuse to do so we will be fined and harassed. If we refuse to pay the fines we face the very real danger of having the house foreclosed upon by the HOA.
And to those who say property rights are voluntarily signed away when one purchases a home in such a community, I disagree. The powers of the HOA are hidden in hundreds of pages of legalistic jargon. As a result, people often do not fully understand the rights they are giving up. Beyond this, there is no "choice" in many locations if one wishes to purchase a new home. Municipalities are increasingly requiring developers to put associations in place to govern new communities. This, although subjecting the resident to a level of unregulated government and fees (taxes in any other situation), is simply an economic decision. The existence of the HOA as another level of government saves the municipal government both the time and expense formerly associated with overseeing the neighborhoods within its boundaries--individual rights be damned. This is neither what America was intended to be, nor what it should be.


The Wife said...


Fern said...

We are the Borg, resistence is futile...

1) HOAs often can and do change the rules after homeowners move in, so it is not reasonable for someone to say that the homeowners knew what they were getting, other than that they knew they were moving into a HOA governed community.

In law school I read about a case where a condo association decided (after a lady moved in with her two indoor only cats) that the association would no longer allow home owners to have pets, regardless of whether they were kept exclusively inside or not. The Supreme Court sided with the HOA. The lady had to move or give up her cats.

2) It's getting to the point where there are fewer and fewer neighborhoods without HOAs, so there is often no choice for people who would rather not live under an HOA.

lola said...

OMG, Is ones rights & privacy not sacred anymore? It would tend to make one want to live out in the "boonies". I say it is NOT right.

Robj98168 said...

This is exactly on of the reasons I refuse to and did not buy a home in a HOA. I don't want anybody telling me I cannot park a trailer, motor home in front of my house. Sounds to me like they are jealous of your green thumb! Imagine asking someone to cut down a perfectly good tree! In this day and age!

Di Hickman said...

Yep this is why I will never buy a house with a HOA. Sorry but its MY land, the HOA can take a running jump

Anonymous said...

I am anti HOA... when we were looking for a house if it had a HOA it was OUT!

ITs my property I am going to do what I want!

one of our friends got in trouble with their HOA because the wires on a hanging basket were white and not green (ruls says green wires on stuff like that and christmas lights).... if it were me I would have put up orange ones and told them to "Stick it"!..... sorry little rant!

Tara said...

I'm incredibly anti-HOA and I can sympathize.

Perhaps the old adage applies - if you can't beat em, join em! Perhaps you can join your HOA and help knock a little sense into them!