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.