Homeowners Association: Seven Houston-Area Horror Tales

We wrote yesterday about a River Oaks-area homeowners association hassling a resident who had dared to park her car in the driveway while loading donations for wildfire victims.

That's pretty crass, but HOAs are famous for such behavior. New state laws went into effect this month that make homeowners slightly less vulnerable to overzealous HOAs, but the record is replete with evidence that the groups will soon enough find the loopholes to fuel their OCD ways.

Houston's HOAs have become famous for cases involving evictions, helicopters, pigs and flags.

Here are seven tales:

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7. The Marine who couldn't fly the flag Mike Merola, a former marine, wanted to fly the Stars & Stripes outside his Cypress home. But his flagpole was 20 feet high and the HOA's limit was six feet. So they took him to court.

"Everyone is in support of displaying a freestanding pole," the HOA's lawyer said. "But what if someone wants to display a swastika? There may be future things that are offensive to one person and supported by someone else."

HOAs: Bravely Protecting America from Nazis.

6. The 83-year-old widow Wenonah Blevins, 83, bought a house in Champions but failed to pay about $800 in HOA fees. So naturally, the HOA brought in the deputies and kicked her out of the house even after she offered to write them a check.

The HOA moved to sell her house to pay off what had become a $3,756 debt with legal fees and penalties, but she sued in court and won a $300,000 settlement.

5. No burglar bars needed downtown You live on street level near Minute Maid Park. Maybe the security of some burglar bars might appeal to you.

Forget it. An HOA rejected one homeowner's bid to install some.

"I know it's not the most attractive thing, and I would love to not even have them, but with the crime and everything that is going on right now, I really don't see not having them as an option," the homeowner said. Read the fine print next time, pal.

4. Death from above A Magnolia-area HOA used a helicopter to spy on residents and make sure they were living up to the exacting standards one expects in the Magnolia area.

The homeowner told KPRC:

He said the chopper was flying just above the treetops, blowing shingles up on his roof and terrifying his wife and daughter.

"They was flying real low. They was flying real low over the house and she could see a guy hanging out, taking pictures. Debbie got real scared and tried to run into the house," [Mark] Spiva said.

Yeah, but they got their prize: Some of Spiva's horses were on the wrong side of a fence. BUSTED.

3. Those attorney fees are a bitch You fall behind on your HOA dues, and the HOA has to hire a lawyer to send out a form letter. This is a very, very expensive thing, apparently, because adding those fees to a homeowner's bill makes it skyrocket. One Houston woman had her condo sold out from under her not because of the HOA fees she hadn't paid -- she wrote a check to cover them -- but because of attorney's fees the HOA wanted her to cover.

Sure, it was less than $1,000 in fees, but it's the principle of the thing.

2. Pigs, part one A Spring family had to hire a lawyer to keep its pot-bellied pig, which had inordinately pissed off the HOA.

The battle to save Wilbur has spawned T-shirts, like all great risings of the people.

1. Pigs, part two On the other hand, some people don't like pigs, especially if they're feral and destroying your yard. So naturally you put up a fence.

At least you do until the HOA comes in and demands you take it down. And hits you with daily fines.

That's the way they roll in Cinco Ranch, baby.

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Richard Connelly
Contact: Richard Connelly