Bush thieves, ‘crack grass,’ Santapede: Houston homeowners share their wildest HOA stories

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We asked Houston-area residents to share their most outrageous dust-ups with local homeowners associations and what we got back were hundreds of grievances.

Some of the tales are humorous up until the moment when you think on what it would be like to face a fine, receive a citation or get a warning for hanging an American flag on your porch, laying down brown mulch in your flower bed, leaving Christmas lights up until New Year’s Eve, drawing on your driveway with chalk, mowing your lawn sans a shirt or placing a pinwheel in your yard.

Here are 70 of the grievances against homeowner associations we received from locals:

Editor’s Note: The responses were edited for clarity and content.

“This is for a business in Pearland that has to abide with the local HOA & even our landlord is baffled by some of their rules. One example is we’re not allowed to have an ‘Open’ sign hanging inside our store by the front door. If you want one, it has to be set back so far that customers can’t see it.” - Jonas Referente of Pearland, Texas

“Bought my house in 2020 (it was a model home) and it has a retention pond on the other side of the fence in my backyard. HOA decided that they no longer approved of the bushes THEY planted and had already approved, so they decided the bushes needed to be replaced. HOA ILLEGALLY broke into my backyard and replaced the bushes WITHOUT informing me/telling me AND THEN left exposed sprinklers with no intent of replacing ALL of the bushes. HOA then used the bushes they removed from my house to put into a backyard of another model home. I was told that because I had a “no trespassing” sign that they were allowed to go into my backyard without advising me.” - Teresa Contreras of Rosenberg, Texas

“For Halloween I put out three skeletons done up like from the movie Human Centipede. (I’m really into horror) After Halloween, I added Santa hats to them and called it my Santapede. It stayed up all of November and into the first week of December when they sent me a letter and said it needed to be “less offensive.” - Veronica Lynn Smith of Katy, Texas

“I just had to pay $1,920 to my HOA because of a ***$325*** association fee that I completely forgot about in January when it was due! As of this year, there is a management company in charge of collecting the fees, as opposed to the previous six years living here where you would just mail a check to a PO Box. I received a reminder, set it aside and forgot to log in to this new website… All of the sudden we received 12 certified letters in ONE DAY from an attorney, demanding $1,900+ or else a lien would be placed on our home!! When I asked the woman who owns the management company now managing our HOA -- how we went from owing $325 to owing $1,900, she said that she sent a certified letter about this in March. I told her I NEVER received that. She verified that she did not have my signature for the letter, but in her words, that is irrelevant because it is not her job to prove that I received the letter, it is only her job to prove that she sent it! It has been the biggest nightmare with the most heartless, money hungry thieves!” - Jenny of Brenham, Texas

“My house was built brand-new and trees placed. I live on a corner lot. You have to have two trees planted in your front yard. They planted two when the house was built but one was placed a half of a foot off my property on common area. I was sent a letter stating I needed a second tree. I fought it showing proof the trees were planted like that when I purchased the house so they had to come dig up the tree and move it over, 10 years after I purchased the house!” - Natasha Jones of League City, Texas

“My second day moving in, our cars were towed due to a no-parking on the side of the curb after midnight rule. My contractors were using our driveway and I parked by my mailbox. I didn’t get a rule book, and there was no official sign that said it anywhere. I had to pay $252 to get my car back. That was my “welcome” to the neighborhood.” - Cyre of Spring, Texas

“Things we got letters for from the HOA: 1. Having a water hose laying out in the lawn. 2. Not watering our lawn during a drought. 3. A flat bed trailer full of mulch sitting in the driveway while we re-mulched our landscaping. 4. Grass growing between the cracks in the driveway. 5. Having pink flamencos and a “you’ve been flocked” sign in our front yard - which was temporary and a fundraiser being held by the local church youth group. 6. A bicycle learning against the side of the house. It was constant. When I questioned it, I was told that these are things that will affect the value of the homes in the neighborhood. I explained that these were petty things that actually meant someone was living there and it wasn’t a show home. The husband of the HOA president drove around in a golf cart daily with a clipboard writing down offenses. We finally got enough, sold the house and moved onto 80 acres in the country. No HOA.” - Jennifer Seale of Conroe, Texas

“When I lived in a neighborhood in Conroe I got a letter and a fine for having my bicycle in the yard when I took my kids inside to get a drink. In Kingwood, I get letters all the time about toys being out also. Sorry people I have kids and they have toys. But they ignore things like people piling trash in their yard for a month. Very confusing.” - Lesley of Kingwood, Texas

“They will not allow us to replace a dead tree, unless we replace with a live oak. A live oak is not allowed to be planted in the utility easement and is against city code. Also would not approve sidewalk from driveway to fence for person with disability. Had to hire a lawyer. Now, they are asking us to reimburse them for their lawyer fee, after a variance was granted.” - Stephanie of Friendswood

“I bought five $1 dollar solar lights to line my sidewalk ( about four to six feet long) ... in order to place them in my yard … I have to pay a $75 application fee. They also planted two oak trees in a four-foot radius because I have to have two oak trees in the front yard. One is now dying due to competition for nutrients, and they won’t let me remove it because of the two tree rule, as well as paying hundreds of dollars for application fee...but will fine for having a dead tree.” - Jocelyn of Porter, Texas

“We have been harassed by our HOA due to my husband having his work vehicle in the driveway. Apparently it’s considered a ‘commercial vehicle’ and should be ‘stored’ away. My husband drives a car that has his company’s logo on it and is by no means a ‘commercial’ vehicle. And to make it worse at one meeting we were told it devalues a neighborhood. So apparently blue collar workers are beneath everyone.” - Nicole Puerta of Tomball, Texas

“The homeowners association charges $1,700 per month and has promised a lagoon, amenities with restaurants and a fitness center. This was promised over two years ago as an sales pitch to attract potential homebuyers. Now the promise is an island type of venue. No groundbreaking has taken place for over two years and they continue to charge $1,700 a year for the HOA fee.” - Ronald Scurry of Rosharon, Texas

“Our HOA sent my neighbor a warning regarding too many birds on her roof. Birds. Wild freakin’ birds. Seems they were a nuisance and an eyesore. She was ordered to rid them or be fined. People are crazy.” - Aimee Casas

“We had a bad storm a couple of years ago and lightning struck a tree next door. That tree fell and landed across our driveway luckily barely missing our vehicles. So the next day our neighbors and us spent the day cutting up the tree and moving it from our driveways. We got a letter from HOA that we were being fined because we did not ask them permission to cut down the tree. After a call from us and our neighbor, they decided to waive the fine.” - Adrienne Morales Rodriguez

“I bought a new house and three years later got a letter stating I didn’t get approval to install screens over all my windows. I wrote a letter back kindly telling them that the house had screens already installed when we bought it three years ago. I didn’t receive another letter after that.” - Ron Wills

“I got a letter that I needed to replace some of my boards on my chimney and in the same sentence told me to email into the board and get approval.” - Kelsie Wilkins

“The requirement to pay an annual $200 gate fee for a gate that has been broken more than 90% of the time of the three-and-a-half years we have lived here.” - David Green

“Having to pick up my trash can the day of trash day before 5 p.m.!! Hello!! We get off work at 5 p.m. how is that doable?” - Jessica Salto

“Barbecue pit was still out in the front. The pic they sent still had smoke coming out.” - Kyle Dodd Bigley

“A friend of mine got 2 notices, one was because her condensing unit for her ac wasn't tan like the original. The other was because she had a blue water hose, only green and yellow were allowed. She rounded up all the neighbors and they voted the entire HOA out and changed the more stupid rules.” - Herbert Smith

“I got a letter that there was junk in the yard. October (Halloween decorations), November (Thanksgiving decorations), and December (XMAS decorations) One letter each month. Letters every month about visible trash (trash day), inoperable vehicle in driveway (extra car, that works but doesn’t move often because it’s not used daily). Just ridiculous stuff. Never had any proof. I moved out of that neighborhood into a new neighborhood and no issues from new HOA. Old place still complaining, but now about my tenants. Same issues every time. Waste of postage, if you ask me.” - A.J. Abraham

“Not being allowed to hang an American flag as I may offend someone that lives in America.” - Gwen Sharp-Diggs

“I once received two letters on the same day. The first said my front yard needed to be mowed, the second said I needed to treat my front yard to promote growth.” - Josh Diak

“I got a letter because my trash can fell over after it rained. It has a lid so nothing fell out. They said my garbage can is supposed to be upward.” - Michelle Schober

“Getting permission for a trampoline in my fenced-in backyard.” - Dawn Molina

“When COVID started, I have access to supplies the public wasn’t able to get like toilet paper. I run a restaurant in Magnolia. The HOA wouldn’t allow me to give out supplies, I had to do it in a public spot, like the local Kroger parking lot. Got an email minutes after posting in my neighborhood FB group about helping anyone in need.” - David Dukeheart

“A neighbor got a notice for weeds in her planter. They were bluebonnets that hadn't bloomed yet!! 🤣🤣” - Heather Olsby Rich

“I had to repaint my door after the paint the crappy builder used was chipping. Painted the closest color I could. 5 years later I got a letter telling me I never got the color approved. Navy...the navy door I repainted navy.” - Amy Schomer Halliwell

“When you sell your house, you have to give the HOA .1% of the sale.” - Chris Marcantel

“We kept getting letters/warnings with pictures of a dog in our yard saying to keep our dog put up or on a leash. WE DON’T HAVE A DOG! 😂” - Mary Walker-Hernandez

“Christmas lights on house six days after Christmas.” Cheryl Torres-Soto

“I like to water my plants and mow my yard with only shorts on. They said no shirt no boxers no watering.” - Ruben Rodriguez

“Okay, so I got a notice to wash my driveway. It came with a picture that showed me pressure washing my driveway. My neighbor got a notice for a dead bush. They went out with a can of green spray paint and painted it. Never got another notice.” - Greg Smith

“Getting a letter for a violation on a house we had sold two years prior. You have to pay a fee to transfer the house to the new owners (also a stupid rule) so it’s not like they didn’t know who owned it, besides it being public record. They threatened to sue us if we didn’t take the Christmas lights down at someone else’s house 🤣.” - Erin Brucia

“We got a letter saying our front door was dusty.” - Francisco Pena

“Not being allowed to plant a new flowerbed in front yard. However, HOA said if I planted a tree with flowers that was ok. They actually said that the rules didn't state the shape of a tree ring so it could be any shape. So my flowerbed got an upgrade of a nice maple tree.” - Anna Buck

“My kids’ basketball NET. Yes the net, not the whole goal just the NET, needs to be replaced…” - Jessica Aguilar

“I wanted to put the same color roof and got denied, they wanted black. I walked around the neighborhood and sent in pictures with all the different colors. They approved me then.” - Sharon Wade

“You have too many of the same flowers 🤦🏻‍♀️.” - Hortencia Armenta

“Our neighborhood (gated community) was told that odd address number houses should only park their cars in the street every other day. Lol Then we were given two parking passes per household. I asked what happens if I had company, I was told to ask my neighbors to borrow their passes lol 😂.” - Jacob Salas

“I got a letter for putting a plant stand on my front porch. They said I needed approval from the architectural improvement committee before I made any “additions” to my home. Seriously?! A plant stand???” - Tera Shelton

“I got a $75 ticket for blocking my own driveway overnight.” - Roy Ramon

“I keep receiving letters about my solar yard lights, the ones that you just stick on the grass. Had to send them plans and pictures for five stupid lights, got the approval... And I am still receiving letters about how I have to ask for approval. Also letters about my gazebo... I don’t have a gazebo 🙄.” - Zpɥ Iɹpɐ

“Not being able to have the same flowers that decorate the communal property and signs in our own flower beds....” - Larry Lowry

“Bought a house with rundown flower beds. Spent days clearing and cutting overgrowth. Power washed the border stones and put in new mulch. The neighbors all around were so happy to not have to look at that mess any longer. Violation? The mulch color was not approved. It was a standard brown.” - Gail Schmidt

“I replaced my front door to a door with a half moon window at the top. Painted it the exact same color as the old one. Replaced a couple of trim boards too. Got a letter a couple days later that I needed to file a request. I ignored the letter since it has been done already. Got a second letter about a week later. So I sent a letter back stating I replaced my door and it was this color. And painted a 2-inch spot the color of my door. Never heard back from them.” - Shane Finch

“We get our grass cut every other week and HOA sent us a letter a day before our grass was to be cut that we needed to cut our grass.” - Sabrina Almaguer

“I received a citation letter because my kids had drawn on our driveway with chalk!” - Sheri Snyder Scribe

“‘Miscellaneous items in my front yard’ a.k.a. my kids bikes, chalk, water guns, etc. during the day during this quarantine. Sorry we are outside playing.” - Stacy Gordy

“I once got a letter that I couldn’t store my ladder out in the open. I then looked in the backyard and was like, ‘It’s put away!’ My wife reminded me that I used it two weeks before for a couple of hours to fix some issue on my second level. Some people, give them a little power and it goes to their head.” - Ron Wills

“Mandatory three large oak trees in small front yards that cannot handle to roots of trees that big.” - Snazz Tazz Bazz

“I cannot have my trash can visible, but all the fences in the neighborhood are falling and some are completely on the ground, but those are ok. It’s only the trash can that makes the hood look bad.” - Maria Robles

“We had to remove a rainbow pinwheel from our front yard.” - Taylor Cudworth

“Not being able to keep a boat, boat trailer or jet ski in our driveway. We live in Waterford Estates ON LAKE CONROE. Just plain ridiculous.” - Tracy Sarge Ratzlaff

“My ex got a letter that his lawn needed to be mowed. The day after it got mowed he received a letter saying it was mowed too short and they sent him a diagram showing how a yard should be mowed and the length the grass blades should be. Another one was he repainted the front door after they said the paint was peeling. He repainted it the exact same color. He received a letter stating he didn’t get permission to repaint the door and that the color he used wasn’t an approved color.” - Caitlin Rooney

“One time when we were going out of town, I put my suitcase and the kids suitcase behind the open trunk for my husband to load. Came home to a letter to remove the “clutter” from the yard. The picture sent of the “clutter” were our suitcases waiting to be loaded…” - Stacy Gomez Sawyer

“I had an insurance claim to replace my damaged roof do to storm damage got an email after the shingles were removed to STOP my project since I didn’t get approval and they said I needed to fill out the paperwork for replacing the roof, funny thing was the paperwork they have is specific for pools and patio covers -- nowhere to fill out for a roof replacement!!!” - Chris Pfeffer

“Dented garage door panel had to be replaced and color-matched in a nine-year-old house. But needed approval first and didn’t get in time which caused a lawsuit! ...$6,000 later we were done.” - Gabe Arevalo

“I got one letter from the HOA that said I had to do something about my dead grass and another that said I had to remove my dead tree and replace it. I told them to wait until spring, the grass and tree would no longer be dormant, and to stop harassing me. (No weeds in my lawn just St. Augustine grass and the maple is the first one to drop leaves in the fall and last one to bud out in the spring.)” - John Beetle

“HOA denied my request to put up my Little Free Library on my property because... it’s a ‘community aid device’ thus forbidden 🤦🏻‍♀️.” - Cocheiska Pearce

“No fishing in the ponds when the signs driving into the new houses being built say, big yards...fishing...gated community... - Danny Malone

“I had a full-size two-star flag in the window while my son and son-in-law were deployed. I had to take it down and the only way we were allowed to fly it was on a flagpole outside. 😐 The letter said it looked like a towel hanging in the window.” - Darlene Homer Shew

“I just found out my HOA charges $300 to transfer to a new home owner. That’s half of our annual HOA which has been paid for the year.” - Gina E. McGinn

“Letter that stated swing set was too close to house behind privacy fence. Still have not figured out how they did their measurement without jumping my fence or unlocking gate. Don’t miss that place.” - Philip Bucket Mayeux

“I used to have a Rottweiler, she would only bark if something was wrong. One night at 2 a.m. she was barking. I saw someone walking down the street. The next day, I got a letter from HOA saying that my dog was barking. These people really have too much time on their hands. We moved because the neighborhood was full of busybodies who couldn’t mind their own business” - Anna Kloesel-Volkots

“I can’t change an engine and transmission in my driveway.” - Julio Landaverde Sr.

“Parking fee without a car.” - Liza Phillips

“An uncoiled water hose.” - Cindy N. Scott

“I wasn’t allowed a small window unit to help keep our house colder in the summer! We have to tell HOA what we want to do with our front yard and see if they approve of it first! Some of this HOA stuff is ridiculous!” - Andy Oviedo

“Got a letter about an ‘unapproved’ crepe myrtle tree that had been in our yard for 10 years.” - Linda Blankenship Cardenas

Got anything to add? Have you fought any battles with your homeowners association? Tell us about here or in the comments below.

About the Author:

Briana Zamora-Nipper joined the KPRC 2 digital team as a community associate producer in 2019. During her time in H-Town, she's covered everything from fancy Houston homes to tropical storms. Previously, she worked at Austin Monthly Magazine and KAGS TV, where she earned a Regional Edward R. Murrow award for her work as a digital producer.