Petty Meddlers Face Jackbootby Brad Warbiany
Homeowners’ Associations are one of life’s little sour tastes of government. Petty meddling nannies who tell you that you can’t do X, or that you must do Y, in order to keep the neighborhood “uniform” or somesuch. Sadly, it’s also a microcosm for most peoples’ reactions to government. When it’s a neighbor doing something they don’t like, they scour the by-laws for a way to run off to the HOA board of directors to get a nice little note sent to the neighbor. But when it’s their own behavior scrutinized, they think the HOA board of directors is an intolerable PITA.
So you can imagine I’m not a big fan of HOA’s, and there’s a little bit of schadenfreude in watching them get their hands slapped… But I still can’t support this (via Ezra Klein — hence calling this “good” — on Waxman-Markey):
Lots of small tweaks were added in the past day or two. And some of them were good! Rep. Dennis Cardoza, for instance, added a smart amendment to discourage neighborhood associations from prohibiting solar panels of aesthetic grounds.
So, they can tell you not to paint your door green, but they can’t stop you from filling your roof with a solar array the size of a tennis court.
I have a coworker facing this issue right now. He lives in Newport Beach, CA, and his HOA has some waterfront homes. One of his neighbors with oceanfront (cliff, not sand) is planning to put solar panels down the face of the cliff to electrically heat his pool. This, of course, is California. There are environmental laws, and the HOA doesn’t want to see this happen either. But being California, they ALREADY have laws that stop the HOA or anyone else (including the Greens) from interfering, because solar energy takes precedence. Now it sounds like this will extend nationwide.
This is one of those issues that gets thorny for libertarians. It comes down to property rights, but the question of what legitimate hindrances can be placed on the owners by HOA’s. After all, an HOA is a contract that a buyer of a house willingly enters into. But it doesn’t seem to me like an issue in which Congress has any right to intervene.
As a renter who is waiting for the complete collapse of the market before I buy a home, I know that I may be faced with a tough decision regarding my purchase based upon whether or not I’ll choose a neighborhood with an HOA, and whether the existence of an HOA is enough to dissuade me from the house we otherwise find desirable. But I know what I don’t want, and that is for Congress to be the one telling my HOA what it can or cannot do.