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HOA punishes couple; ends up losing $4k in legal fees after they maliciously comply.

HOA punishes couple; ends up losing $4k in legal fees after they maliciously comply.


Becoming a homeowner is a huge milestone in many people's lives. However, home ownership comes with many new problems. Paying back the loan, fixing broken pipes, and dealing with bad neighbors are all parts of a homeowner's life.

On a popular Reddit thread in the Malicious Compliance Subreddit, an HOA tries to impose their will on a couple, and the couple takes them for an expensive ride.

They write:

This happened several years ago and is a multi-year-long story - I'll keep it as succinct as possible. We installed cameras in front of our home that were looking at our vehicles. Part of the camera angles did overlook parts of two neighbors' properties (one backyard and one side yard).

The cameras were battery-operated and had a function where you could 'gray out' areas that you didn't want to film. When motion occurred in grayed-out regions, the cameras would not be activated to film. The neighbors' entire properties and several bushes on our property were grayed out - we did this when installing them.

One of the neighbors was a friend - and had no issues with this whatsoever (we showed her the camera angle - and she said she didn't care whether or not we grayed out that area - we still left it grayed out over battery life concerns).

The other neighbor's name was Karen (not really, but we all know why I chose that name). Karen was on the HOA board, and, as you can imagine, we didn't get along with Karen or the HOA Board.

We told Karen about the camera and showed her the grayed-out areas at the same time that we told our friendly neighbor about it. It was simply an FYI conversation (not on friendly terms) - not an 'asking permission' conversation.

She told us to take the cameras down immediately, or we would regret it. About a week after we hung the camera up, we got a notice from our HOA that we were violating the bylaws. The bylaw in question? A 'nuisance to your neighbors' bylaw.

There wasn't a specific bylaw preventing the placement of cameras, so this is all they could find to try to punish us. We responded with a letter detailing how we were not violating any bylaws or laws in general - and asked them to cease and desist.

Their first response? The HOA has the right to enforce these bylaws. Try to stop us if you think you can.' (Unfortunately, these responses were quite common from this board.) We entered this battle with one goal: to cost them as much money and time as possible.

The HOA hired a lawyer specifically to fight us. To my knowledge, this has not happened to any other residents. In the following four months, we cost the HOA over $4,000 in lawyers' fees fighting this battle. For reference, the entire HOA income was ~$25,000/year.

When it came time for our official HOA hearing over the matter, we had successfully postponed it (thanks to an attorney friend) three separate times. There were over one hundred back-and-forth emails between the HOA attorney and ourselves. Each one of those emails was a 15-minute expense for the HOA.

I was happy to follow up with a follow-up question with another follow-up question if it meant the HOA attorney was going to keep billing them (did I say 'follow up' enough times?).

We didn't want to take this battle to court, so we removed the cameras the day of the hearing (to prevent being fined - even if the fine wouldn't hold up in court). The HOA decided in the hearing that we were guilty (surprise, surprise) of violating the bylaw. They couldn't fine us - as the bylaws don't allow a fine until after a hearing has been held - and the cameras were already removed.

Ultimately, the punishment was a sternly written piece of paper on the attorney's letterhead (delivered via certified mail) stating that we were 'not allowed to place a camera on our home that could invade a neighbor's privacy.' Remember, the letter stated the camera could not be placed 'on our home.'

We left the cameras off the home for about four months - until the annual HOA meeting. You should have seen the look on the HOA Board's faces when I asked them to explain the $4,000 line item for attorney's fees that stated, 'Title searches - Attorney fees.' The Board tried to hide that they spent $4k trying to fight us over a couple of cameras by putting the fees in as 'title searches.'

Needless to say, that meeting did not go well for them. About half of them lost their positions on the Board. The other half (including Karen, unfortunately) remained on the Board.

About a week after the annual meeting, we installed new cameras - facing the same direction as the prior cameras - only this time, we installed a post in the ground and mounted the cameras to that post. The admonishment we received after the hearing specifically stated that we were not allowed to install cameras 'on our home' - and said nothing about putting them on a post.

They sent a letter telling us to remove the cameras, but a sternly worded response indicating that we were prepared to fight them worked this time. I guess they didn't want to spend another $4k fighting us. We didn't receive any follow-up responses. And the cameras on the post are still installed to this day (over two years and running strong).

The internet hates HOAs.

Thameus says:

Those are some pretty amateur bylaws if you can get away with installing unauthorized posts on your property.

Open-Attention-8286 says:

Wonder what it would have cost them if you had also charged Karen with being a nuisance? She certainly sounds like one.

justanawkwardguy says:

I think if you got something along the lines of 'go ahead and try to stop us' in a situation like this you’d have fair ground for a harassment lawsuit against the HOA board, which is technically separate from the HOA as they’re individually responsible.

OP, this award season, I think you should be nominated for Most Likely to Dunk on the HOA.

Sources: Reddit
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