By Nicole Lyn Pesce
Homeowner’s associations are where the hate is, according to this viral Reddit thread.
The post shared under the AITA (aka “Am I The A–hole”) subreddit asks whether one particular homeowner is a jerk for keeping an extra dog, despite the homeowner’s association (HOA) rule that caps residents at just two canines .
Two of the three dogs look almost identical, so the original poster admits that they have kept the extra pup under the radar by never walking all three dogs at once. And after one neighbor wised up and reported them to the HOA, the original poster managed to discredit said-neighbor by having the HOA investigate the home while the third dog was at the vet. “The rest of the neighborhood is calling her crazy,” the original poster says.
This post has drawn almost 700 comments on Reddit in the past two days, with many people siding with the dog owner because they’ve had their own negative experiences with HOAs. “HOAs are poison,” wrote one commentator, asking, “How is it legal for them to have that much power?”
So what is an HOA? Homeowner’s associations are self-governing organizations in some residential communities that share a “common interest” — which could be single-family homes and townhouses in neighborhood developments, or condominiums in an apartment complex or high-rise — which require residents to pay fees to maintain their housing unit and their building or neighborhood. But the rub is that HOAs often include rules and bylaws that can dictate what physical changes people are allowed to make to their homes, where they can park, where they keep their trash cans, or how many pets they can own (if pets are allowed), etc.
Some recent headlines about HOA headaches include an Indiana couple petitioning their homeowner’s association to allow them to keep a portable basketball hoop in their driveway, for example. And Illinois just passed a law to make it tougher for HOAs to block homeowners looking to install solar panels .
So the Reddit thread struck a nerve with many current and former HOA residents. And the post really took off on Twitter /zigman2/quotes/203180645/composite TWTR -6.60% after the @AITA_reddit account tweeted the post out on Monday. It’s drawn 38,000 “likes” and almost 4,000 retweets and quote tweets, and led “HOAs” to trend on Twitter with more than 11,500 tweets on Tuesday as many people aired their grievances.
“HOAs are basically neighborhood tyranny systems,” tweeted one person. “Imagine owning your own house and having no say in what color it’s painted, what shrubs and landscaping you’re forced to plant, or what kind of grass is in your lawn. Just to name a few,” added another .
Some HOA residents shared stories of being fined for leaving a bagged newspaper in their driveway, and worse. “I just received a $100 fine because the day I was cleaning my yard they did a neighborhood inspection and my trash cans were ‘in view from the street,'” tweeted one person .
“My grandpa died and the HOA sent my grandma a letter about her unkept yard (she was grieving),” added another .
Many critics also called out the racist roots of some homeowner’s associations. “A Republic of Equals” author Jonathan Rothwell told Business Insider that, “There is plenty of evidence from historic records and housing policy discussions that anti-Black racism motivated some of the strategies used by homeowner associations , such as deed restrictions and covenants that explicitly discriminated against Black people by compelling other owners to avoid selling to them.
And a 2019 study by economists Wyatt G. Clarke and Matthew Freedman from University of California, Irvine — one of the few academic papers looking at the impact of HOAs nationally — found HOA residents are disproportionately more likely to be white or Asian, and are disproportionately less likely to be Black or another race, than non-HOA residents. What’s more, the data analysis found that HOA demand was higher in states with lower scores of racial tolerance , as well as in metros where typical white residents had a harder time associating positive adjectives with Black faces. The authors wrote that, “demand for HOAs is driven at least in part by a desire for exclusion.”
Clarke and Freedman’s 2019 report also found that HOAs have come to house a fifth of Americans, making them “a staple of the U.S. housing market,” although they are not prevalent outside of the U.S. “Indeed, HOAs govern 80% of houses built in new subdivisions today, and a fifth of all existing single-family homes,” they wrote at the time. What’s more, their findings suggest that homes with a HOA sell for at least 4% more than similar homes with no HOA, on average.
And indeed, HOAs still have their supporters online. Some said that rules are in place for a reason. Others mused that their own HOA rules aren’t so bad.
What’s more, one comment on the original Reddit post came from someone who said they were once on the board of an HOA, who noted that many of the rules that sound stupid or intrusive are created to deal with inconsiderate or disruptive residents. “For example, the woman who’d release her bunny into the hallway to run around without supervision resulting in near misses when people almost stepped on it and ‘accidents’ as it wasn’t litter trained,” they wrote. “Boom — rule that unleashed animals are no longer allowed in hallways or common areas.”
But even this person noted that being on the HOA board was “soul crushing.”