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I Lost the Election for My HOA

Remember all of my post’s about my home owner’s association earlier this year?  Well, they did.  ;-)

Backstory

My husband and I moved into our new neighborhood in October 2012.  We knew about the HOA, several people suggested we find a place elsewhere, but I thought we could fit in really well anyway.  By February 2013, I was completely frazzled by about 6-7 letters about deed restriction violations that just didn’t make sense to me.  But I started attending the meetings, tried getting to know all of the board members through those evenings, and I thought it was all getting better.  No letters, so I figured that meant that the board and I were getting to know each other finally.

I also thought that since I was getting more involved with the meetings and even offering to be a one-woman welcoming committee to new arrivers, I could probably take a spot on the board this month since 3 positions were opening up.

Nope.

Elections Turned Personal

The elections were October 24.  I was out of town for blogging business from October 15-20 and was sick October 21.  There were 3 open positions on the board and 3 official people running for them, including me.  I figured I could concentrate on getting better and then make it to the Thursday meeting.

But I answered the door to a concerned neighbor on Tuesday morning.  They let me know that one of the guys running had started going around the neighborhood asking for people to sign over their proxy votes so that they could elect a write-in candidate – a friend of the two guys already on the ballot.  He was pointing out some of my blog posts titles and explaining how I would be bad for the neighborhood.  Great.

So I had a little breakdown, printed up some fliers, and started going door to door Tuesday and Wednesday night.  I knocked on more than 100 doors, spoke to dozens of people, and thought I was making a difference.  I learned a lot at least and met a few super nice people that I hope to get to know better.

But the last minute push (and 5-6 hours of walking) didn’t get rid of the proxy ballots.  I showed up to the Thursday meeting, got drilled in front of everybody about my HOA-hating posts, more ballots were collected, and the vote came in for the two other guys and the write-in candidate.  At that point, I wasn’t surprised.

Hind-Sight is 20/20

Being put on the spot in a negative way in front of others simply sucks.  But I handled it the best I could, and I pointed out that all of my venting was for justifiable reasons and happened before I started attending the bi-monthly meetings in February.  The super stressed ones were before I met the board members.  I said out loud that I was surprised anyone would bring it up since I thought we had moved on.  That’s the best I could say to sum up all of my feelings at that moment in time.

With some sleep, I figured out what I wanted to say.  I wanted to say that I have 12+ years in customer service, a BBA with honors, and the ability to understand the budget.  I would make an excellent HOA treasurer.  I wanted to say that I disliked how I was treated and was running for the HOA board to help ensure that others weren’t as sad after moving in as I was, and that disliking an HOA is not disliking a neighborhood.  I wanted to ask why I was being attacked just because I publicly state how I feel while everyone else hides it.  Wouldn’t that make me a great person to work with?  Easy to read, straight-forward, and detail-oriented?

But you always know what to say later.  Plus, it wouldn’t have actually mattered anyway since the stack of proxy and absentee ballots far outweighed the 30 people who voted in the meeting.  Overall, I lost last week while I was out of town.

Knowledge for the Future

Going forward, I know that at least 3 of the 5 board members generally don’t like me.  They may have even deeper feelings about their distaste, but I’ll just sum it up with “don’t like”.  Well, I hope that changes.  It would make life easier on all of us since we live on the same street, lol.  I actually try to avoid drama on a general basis, so I hope there’s none here regularly now.

I also know that you can’t make people accept you.  Based on the feedback about my blog from the other home owner’s not on the board, I’ve got at least 3 new readers (welcome!) and 1 lady that had no problem publicly denouncing it and me.  But at least she read most of a post and not just the title.  The lines she read out loud in the meeting were actually from this post (http://www.budgetinginthefunstuff.com/home-owners-association-bullies/):

I love my house.  I really, really do.  I also knew that we were moving into a neighborhood with a home owner’s association, but I didn’t realize how annoying that really can be!  Ugh.  And I feel silly because I was warned.  My parents have been in a neighborhood with a crazy HOA for years and years.  All of my friends and family were jealous of our last little subdivision since it was HOA-free.  But none of that prepares you for receiving stupid little letters and wanting to poke someone in the eye…

I think that post was well-written and stated exactly what I meant.  I love my neighborhood, I was warned about HOA’s, and now I have to deal with one that actually doesn’t like me.  And it’s not like I’m being paranoid – one or two of the members actively didn’t like me enough to go door-to-door telling people not to vote for me.  For an unpaid, volunteer position!

I don’t know why that woman in the front row was offended by the post.  I do love this neighborhood and I was willing to volunteer my time on the board.  I didn’t see her up there or on the ballot.  It’s not like it’s a paid position and I was trying to sneak in and steal a salary from someone.  I am very proud of this blog and I like my neighborhood, so I was trying to make a difference instead of just whining.

Meh.  It’s all good.  I’ll keep attending the meetings since they do keep me up to date on the neighborhood.  I’ll keep reaching out to the friendly neighbors that wave back.  And I’ll accept for now that I am not wanted on the board.  My 449 neighboring households either don’t know me well enough to know what they are missing, or they sincerely want nothing to do with a balancing voice on this HOA.  Either way, I can’t change anybody’s mind right this second, so I will just keep on keeping on for me.

Have you ever been in a similarly charged situation?  Think I’m handling this correctly?  How would you proceed from here?

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14 comments to I Lost the Election for My HOA

  • I blog anonymously because my employer has a very strict anti-social media policy.

    I write about people I know but I don’t want the drug dealer next door to know that I write about him from time to time.

    Too late for you to put on a mask and hide your identity and make life simpler for you.

    The 3 amigos that control the board will continue to be haters because that is what haters do. Keep going to the meetings and be yourself and you will win over the rest of the community and they will see how wonderful you are.

  • As you can see, politics are corrupt not just at the national level but even at the HOA level.

    I’m sorry to hear about you losing the election. Hopefully they don’t target you and come after you for anything and everything they can find the in rule book.

    I guess I’m pretty lucky in the sense that I moved into my house almost a year ago and I haven’t heard one peep from my HOA.

  • These people take this WAY too seriously. It’s a homeowners association, not Congress. I’m sorry that you had to go through all of that. I was on an HOA a few years back at a place that I used to live it, and they had such problems filling seats that the President came and asked me to be on the board, knowing that I was a caring, active member of the community. Didn’t have to run or anything, just agree to show up and have the rest of the board OK my addition.

    You did see some rather interesting things though.

  • @Jane, I blogged semi-anonymously for about a year, but once this was becoming my full-time job, it made sense to “come out”. I figure if people actually disagree with my posts and that keeps them from supporting me, then at least they are participating. It’s okay if everyone doesn’t agree with me. I just want everyone to participate. :-)

    @Kevin, it didn’t feel corrupt – it just felt like I was being attacked for not liking HOA’s…which shouldn’t affect whether I would be a good member or not. And yes, you are pretty lucky! :-)

    @Money Beagle, it’s okay. I think the whole “Crystal-for-HOA” controversy at least got people to get a little more involved temporarily.

  • Kim

    Our HOA is small in comparison, but is certainly skewed in favor of a certain type of property owner. If you are retired, pretty well off, and spy on all the other neighbors, you can pretty much do whatever you want. If you are younger, I have certainly seen bias. I get along pretty well with most people and don’t really take a ton of time to pay attention to the HOA very much. They are always arguing about weeds, dogs, or someone having too many cars parked at their house, so as long as I don’t break one of those rules, I’m OK for the most part.

  • I think you did the right thing. Be involved and try to get your neighbors and those votes for next year, before others go out trying to collect them.

  • Linda

    Crystal, do you think there’s a chance that other HOA members were offended when you said the HOA is “crazy” and “annoying”? Not sure if you can see the other point of view but I wouldn’t want you on the HOA either because of all the public venting. HOA is a private matter and I’m sure people will worry that you will complain about them publicly and the real estate development.

  • Dee

    I think you handled that the best way you could on the spot. With even the best response you could have offered they would probably have tried to use someone else. I agree with Linda in her suggesting that they may have been offended by you calling the HOA “crazy” and “annoying” although those were legitimate complaints. The fear of someone publicizing what happens in private meetings is a big deal now as well. Especially in positions that control money. I am glad you tried and I hope that once they get a chance to really know you, you try again. If you don’t win so what. Politics are about hiding and blogging is about transparency. When given the choice between the two, I like what you picked.

  • It sounds like a group of bullies has it out for you. You really can’t win against these types of people. My advice is simply to keep an eye on them. if they live by the law then great. But the minute they step out of line or harass you in any way, sue them. That means, if you get a letter for ‘violation X’, drive around the neighborhood and see if anyone else has the same violation and ask if they got a letter… and if not, the HOA is harassing you and you have a claim. It is likely most of the troublemakers in your neighborhood are middle-aged losers who are in debt past their eyeballs and are simply jealous that you are self-employed and nearly debt -free at such a young age. Take joy in knowing your life is, frankly, likely a lot better then theirs… after all, if they had a good life they would be happy and not bitter.

  • Hey Crystal,
    I started the neighborhood watch for my community when break-ins started and opened a facebook page getting a lot of people involved in the community, organized block parties and events all before the HOA was turned into homeowners hands for my community. I was elected to the board and now I found out that my other board members slander me behind my back. (Don’t forget I’m down over $200 for the HOA and I don’t worry about it while the other board members are near instantly reimbursed)

    Sometimes, it’s just best to stay in the background, after this event and my time expires or next election depending on how things go (we elect 1 person every year), I’m going to call it quits and completely leave everything. People tend to be ungrateful no matter how much you do for them. So while I understand that you are frustrated on how the election, and your honestly, your neighbors treated you, sometimes it might be for the best, because while your energy is high now, after 1 to 3 years of being treated poorly, who knows how you’ll feel about it.

    On a side note, totally jealous about how successful you are. I don’t blog too steadily, but I look to you and many others as inspiration of what I can achieve both financially and on the blogger side. If you’re ever in the San Antonio region, let me know. Take care.

  • @Kim, sounds similar here.

    @Lance, I can totally try. But if FinCon continues happening around the same time, I simply can’t do it all…

    @Linda, I am sure the members were offended by “crazy” in the posts before I met them. Although everybody vents when they feel picked on more than those around them. But then I stopped whining and attended meetings, and started the one-person welcoming committee. I didn’t delete the old posts since that would seem hinky (think of it – the guy running against me would say “she knows they were bad and deleted them to keep you from seeing them”). But even if the members didn’t like the earlier posts, I’m not sure how they make me less qualified to the other home owners to be on the board. I don’t share details that could get anybody identified by anybody else – no real names, etc., unless it’s a company that either gives me amazing service or crappy service. And I generally don’t write about any events unless they are amazing or annoying, so getting me on the board would have shut me up. So, yes, I can see why the previous board members may have decided to stay annoyed with me. Not sure why the rest of the voters would think I’m a bad representative.

    @Dee, thanks. That was very well put.

    @Denise, love you too, lady. Honestly, I think my earlier posts just ticked the board off and that was enough. Hopefully they will understand with time that I vented about events before I started attending meetings. Or at least, they’ll stop campaigning against me. Overall, I do love this neighborhood and hope they don’t actually go out of their way again to make me feel unwelcome.

    @JOBs Money, a neighborhood watch sounds really good for our area too. And yeah, I could see being worn down when you are unappreciated for what you do. I am trying to remember the supporters I had, or at least the friendly words of support from people as I went door to door, as opposed to being put on the spot in front of everybody for something I wrote 8 months ago. But at least I am not shamed by what I wrote – I just said what I was feeling. I wish the whole board was required to have a blog, lol.

    As for being jealous, I actually understand (I’m jealous of Pat Flynn). But blogging is not the only way to make good money. And our $85,000-$120,000 a year is achievable by nearly anyone with a skill that someone else wants to use. So you can be a little jealous of me, and I’ll be a little jealous of Pat Flynn ($60k a month…that makes me want more, lol), and as long as we all keep trying, we’ll all improve our financial positions eventually, right?

    And if you are ever in Houston, just let me know. :-)

  • AmAnda

    Well that sucks but at least you gave it your all.

  • A HOA is simply another layer of government, with all that that implies. In addition to being tasked with maintaining safety and guarding against degradation of quality of life, they also get final say over what affects perceived property values. I’m guessing a front-yard veggie garden or a backyard rabbit hutch are out of the question, but you kind of knew that when you read the covenants before you started the process. It’s not something I could tolerate, but now that you’re there, you get to work within the political processes. you’ll be able to mend fences, but you will have to realize that a rant on a public blog, which is a source of income to you, may not be the right way to keep the natives from getting restless. They will always be wondering, if I say this, will it end up all over the internet? Posting about lessons learned while working within the governmental structure of a HOA will be very helpful, and if you were to take that approach, the members will be much more open to repairing the emotional damage done.There are personalities–and egos–involved. Some people want to serve on boards to genuinely serve, others are simply to incompetent for other levels of government but can get elected to a HOA and thrive on the power that gives them. “If i woke up in your shoes,” as Dave Ramsey says, “here’s what I would do…” I’d write a letter to everyone whose name or face has been associated with this whole ordeal, to this effect: It was not wise to post on my blog any material that was detrimental to any person or to the HOA. This did not give them the opportunity to express their side of the story, and my readers were predisposed to see things my way, which may or may not be the accurate viewpoint. This will never happen again. I do not want to live in animosity with any of my neighbors. Please accept my apology for my lack of judgment. I would like, however, to use this experience, and future experiences, to assist my readers in navigating the HOA waters they may encounter. I will never again post in anger against the HOA. Any future posts regarding the HOA will be constructive and educational. I have appreciated the opportunity to get this lesson in the only way that I would receive it–the hard way.

  • @Nancy, I already posted http://www.budgetinginthefunstuff.com/good-point-apologizing-to-specific-members-of-my-hoa/. At this point, it’s just a matter of waiting and watching to see what the bullies do next.