HOA, HOA, HOA… And Now The Rest of Story

As if this blog is becoming the CNN of Homeowners Associations (aka HOAs), I felt a little more compelled to add my two cents since it arrives from a different perspective, and, unfortunately, a different outcome. This one involved boisterous altercations, parking stickers, and the police, as well as one restraining order to be issued sometime within the next 24-48 hours.

I’m the HOA president of our community in Silver Spring (yes, boo hiss, I’m a suburbanite), and arrived at that designation by attrition, and, somewhat, by lack of interest by other board members. I ran for the board at the edging of my wife, but also a heartfelt desire to help improve the community, and give the perspective of a new resident on the board (at the time, I had been a resident for less than 6 months). I ran, which included a personal statement, as well as going door to door to try and talk to the residents in our mixed housing community of single-family homes and townhomes.

I arrived at the restraining order against one of our residents due to an issue regarding parking regulations, much like the post by Don, where we were attempting to enforce a non-commercial provision in our bylaws. Besides our work vans, we get cabbies and other commercial trucks parking both on the county road (allowed) and the private cul-du-sacs (prohibited). Unfortunately, during an evening where some parking violation stickers were applied, one happened to land on the window of, what I consider now, a very paranoid resident.

The first message I got was an e-mail from our community manager (a private firm we contract to do the books and other coordination) asking who stickered a black SUV. As I didn’t sticker an SUV, and black one regardless, I figured the van that was stickered moved the sticker. So the following evening it was restickered. Only then did I receive a call from the resident (I believe in public information to communicate among residents) already heated from discovering a sticker again. She wanted an apology, even after I explained what rule was being enforced and why, and that she was not singled out as she claimed. She wondered why we couldn’t enforce other things in the community (which we do) and some other odd items, which I also said we are in the process of reviewing and fixing.

From then, explicitives ensured from her and a threat to sue was issued by her towards myself and the HOA. Regardless, when she showed up on a early Sunday morning at my door (already rousted awake by her incessant knocking), I had but to show up in a T-shirt and boxers a the door to answer. Besides the sneer of “oh, how classy”, the same tirade was launched again by her, and my same response ensured. She said she’d show up at the next HOA meeting (which she never did).

Today, this Saturday, and ambush of sorts was launched by her, which included seeing my wife and I leave the house for an errand, me stopping by the mailbox, not recognizing at first, and once again, and again, hearing the same comments from her regarding her sticker (this is about 3 months after the event). I replied in the same and walked away towards my house and wife. At that point she started launching a tirade at my wife, including saying that she was my “trophy wife” (yes, we snickered about it later.. we live in a townhouse for goodness sake), which my wife asked for clarification on from her. As my wife turned away, and another HOA board member showed up (my next door Russian neighbor), I told her again about her vehicles and that they were classified as commercial by the manufacturer, and at that point, i felt and heard a loud slap as she whacked me across the left side of my face with her right hand.

She did what?!

She stood back and challenged my “what are you going to do big HOA president”. I stood there, mainly in shock, but also trying to figure out in my head what to do next. At that point my wife called me back to the house, and was going in to call the police. My neighbor tried to calm her down, and said he smelled alcohol on her breath. She then made fun of his Russian-affected pronunciation of the word alcohol. Which I turned to her and said “he smells alcohol on your breath, have you been drinking?”. With that she yelled some more explicitives and stormed away. The remaining folks talked about what happened (confirmed we had witnesses), the police came, I filed a report…and saddled off on our errand, but included a not-so quick stop at the Rockville’s County Commissioners Office (and jail) to file a “Peace Order” (Mont. Co.’s version of a restraining order). Four hours and two depositions later, there is a Sheriff on the prowl to issue the paperwork for that order to a resident. I decided for the order to avoid pressing charges, which, irregardless of this being an HOA matter, I was in my right to do.

Once thing for folks to take away from this is, for me, even as a volunteer, don’t expect everybody to think that your work is appreciated. We’ve had larger issues to contend with recently, including vandalism and more seriously, a spate of car break-ins and thefts from the street I live on. We’ve been pursuing those ex-parte from our normal duties as HOA board members. Why, because we take an interest in the safety of the community (I even walked notices door to door when the first theft occurred over a month ago). So, HOA Boards are not the evil that you may always think, and take crap from folks who may be off the deep-end (including our crazy garden lady), just to try to help.

3 Comments so far

  1. Don (unregistered) on June 3rd, 2007 @ 4:12 pm

    Wow that’s disturbing. I think you should have pressed charges – one of the ways people like that get to push the envelope and get their way inappropriately is to prey on the rational behavior and desire to Just Be Reasonable that others (myself included, I’d like to think) feel.

    I admire your desire to make your community a better place, and I think there’s some worthy purposes to HOAs (look for a post from me later this week on the matter), but I’ll be interested to see if you’re still in this job next year. A number of my friends have been on boards but none of them could stand to stick around for some of the reasons I talked about in my past post and others I didn’t feel like anyone would care about… or at least not my take on them :)

    The commercial vehicle thing, however, continues to really bother me. It offends my egalitarian sensibilities and at the best feels silly – how many people drive pickups, Hummers and SUVs unnecessarily? Who are we to say that those impractical vehicles are okay or not okay to park within our eyesight? At worst it gives me a very uncomfortable feeling that I am living in a community that thinks people like plumbers, construction workers, taxi drivers, and other people who need specialize vehicles are somehow unworthy of living in the same neighborhood as us white-collar workers.

    Please be careful with yourself David – a habitual drunk with violent tendencies is nobody to take lightly.

  2. David (unregistered) on June 12th, 2007 @ 2:46 pm

    We got the final restraining order today.

    She claimed she was unstable due to menopause.

    The judge obviously didn’t buy it.

  3. Don (unregistered) on June 12th, 2007 @ 4:34 pm

    I’m so going to plead “testosterone poisoning” the next time I have any kind of legal or work-related issue.

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