HOUSTON – In a perfect world, homeowners associations work to protect the rights of property owners and keep subdivisions safe and clean. But what happens when an HOA applies rules differently for different homeowners? Our KPRC 2 Investigates team is getting answers.
Our KPRC 2 Investigates team often gets questions about HOA rules and regulations. We drove out to Katy to see how one HOA debate is playing out in a neighborhood there.
HOA notice about fence stain
The Young Ranch Subdivision in Katy is idyllic, picture-perfect suburbia. The streets are tidy, homes uniform and in order. Homeowner Margie Love could not believe it when she received notice about a tiny section of her gate that was visible from the street.
“This is the only part of my fence you can see from the street,” said viewer Margie Love.
The color of the gate, according to the Young Ranch Architectural Control Committee is a violation. Margie says she received the notice more than a year after staining the fence with BEHR Premium Transparent Waterproofing Wood Finish. It’s the same product she shared with her neighbor across the street. Margie says the HOA board approved the neighbor’s use of it. But her application was denied.
“It is crazy,” said Love. “There’s no explanation for it. It’s just pick and choose.”
HOA also denied other projects
It was the same story on her request to change out boarders and pavers around her flower beds. The HOA Committee wrote since the outstanding violation of her unapproved fence stain was not resolved it would not grant approval for any project requests.
“They did say that we’re in violation and we have to fix the violation, but they don’t give us a clear thing of what fixing the violation is,” said Love.
We took a drive around the neighborhood. Fence after fence appeared to be stained with a protective coating; but Margie couldn’t get answers as to why hers was not allowed.
“How do they approve one but not another when it’s the exact same thing, same materials?” she said.
“The association does not have the right to pick and choose who gets to choose natural tone stain. If it’s good for one neighbor, it should be good for all neighbors,” said David Kahne, Homeowners’ Rights Attorney.
What are homeowner’s rights against an HOA?
Houston Attorney David Kahne specializes in Homeowners’ property rights. He says while the HOA can send violation notices and even levy fines against Margie, they wouldn’t likely hold up in court. But Kahne said court really shouldn’t be necessary.
“They shouldn’t have to go to the consumer reporter and get on TV to be treated fairly and they shouldn’t have to hire a lawyer,” said Kahne.
“I don’t know what else to do or where else to go,” said Margie.
Kahne says Margie has a right to a hearing before her HOA levies fines. Under the current law, those hearings can be pretty superficial.
You may remember, our KPRC 2 Investigates team has been following the latest on the new laws passed in Austin to help homeowners. (Here is a complete list.) Beginning September 1st, a new law requires the hearings to come before the entire board and the HOA must first present evidence of the violations and explain what the homeowner can do to correct them.
Could an HOA fence debate go to court?
If the HOA is unreasonable at the hearing, Margie or any homeowner can sue her HOA in small claims court. This would let her collect any damages the HOA caused her like the cost of a new fence if the Young Ranch HOA goes so far as to demand it in this case.
We did reach out to Margie’s HOA, but no one called back. We will let you know when we get an update. Let us know if you have a problem you need help with.