Selective application of HOA rules

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We are in a dispute with HOA about changes to a property located in Tennessee. After purchasing the property, we have installed privacy walls on a deck, something that about 50% of properties in the association has. We also made necessary repairs which somewhat changed appearance of the foundation (there are now bars which hold the foundation together and prevent further deterioration). Due to general unresponsiveness of the HOA we did not seek any permissions.

However, soon we received a letter from the HOA attorney with request to remove the privacy walls and the foundation support bars with fines for every day not complying.

We have learned that effectively nobody has permit for privacy walls and that several properties have other non-compliant alterations, yet they do not have any problem with the HOA. Also, if we now remove the foundation support bars, the property can potentially collapse.

We have responded to the HOA attorney but after 3 month there is no response. So, we have consulted this with an attorney who says that HOA is free to apply its rules selectively as they like, and we can't do anything about it. There may be some other ways of defense and we are proceeding with the attorney's help.

However, I find it hard to believe that the HOA is entirely free to selectively apply rules. Does anybody have any experience with this kind of problem or idea how to approach it?

Originally posted by @Peter Schiff

We are in a dispute with HOA about changes to a property located in Tennessee. After purchasing the property, we have installed privacy walls on a deck, something that about 50% of properties in the association has.

***Are the walls permanent? We have a similar HOA in our own neighborhood about our darn garbage pails being visible from the street. The way our house is situated on our lot, our pails will be visible unless we put something around them, which of course has to be removable if we move. So once in awhile we get a letter, then hide them in the garage and pop them right back out. What I'm leading to is that if they're removable, can HOA accept that they'll be removed once you physically move if they're not a permanent fixture? Another thing I wanted to mention is when we ripped our back deck off and wanted to get concrete deck. If I remember correctly, we had to first get HOA approval and then the township had to give us a permit. A land surveyor came out to tell us exactly how big it could be based on our lot size allowing certain amounts of porous and non porous areas. The contractor laid out the dimensions and then the township verified marked dimensions and then let us move forward with the job.

We also made necessary repairs which somewhat changed appearance of the foundation (there are now bars which hold the foundation together and prevent further deterioration). Due to general unresponsiveness of the HOA we did not seek any permissions.

***So in one of our rentals, we tested it for Radon. Radon levels extremely high. However, you, as a landlord aren't required to fix it since most tenants move every 3 yrs. (Not completely sure of that one). I personally don't w ant someone's possibility of getting cancer or whatever from radon, therefore, I wanted to get a radon system installed. This had to be approved by the HOA because it "altered the roofing." I explained that I am taking preventative measures for my tenants and it doesn't damage the roofing etc. Of course I had the radon system installation company write a letter on my behalf and the HOA allowed it without trying to make me accountable for paying for the roof in the future should it need repair/replacement. This is where I found out the HOA was composed of homeowners who had very little knowledge or radon systems. With that being said, it sounds like you were looking out for your own property's foundation. Going along those lines, I hope you always mailed everything to the HOA via confirmation signature required or emails were saved in your sent file and everyone cc'd. What I would do if I were you, get a letter from whomever did the work on the foundation. Have them clearly state the need for the additions to the foundation. That should help alleviate the issues at hand. Usually a good explanation of how you want to "maintain the upkeep of your property so it helps keep property values up in your neighborhood" should help get them off your back.

However, soon we received a letter from the HOA attorney with request to remove the privacy walls and the foundation support bars with fines for every day not complying.

We have learned that effectively nobody has permit for privacy walls and that several properties have other non-compliant alterations, yet they do not have any problem with the HOA. Also, if we now remove the foundation support bars, the property can potentially collapse.

****Beware, sometimes things are "grandfathered in" as they may have been there before you bought your property.  Is that an accurate statement for me to make?  Again, regarding the support bars, get that letter from the contractor who did the work and if you need an architect or home inspector, get them involved.  

We have responded to the HOA attorney but after 3 month there is no response. So, we have consulted this with an attorney who says that HOA is free to apply its rules selectively as they like, and we can't do anything about it. There may be some other ways of defense and we are proceeding with the attorney's help.

****Check your HOA rules and bylaws. Again, make sure you do all 3 forms of communication and document EVERYTHING! Email daily and cc your lawyer. Call daily or every 2 days and write down times you called and who you left messages with. Only send mail that needs a signature and keep all receipts. DO NOT let it continue as it sounds like your lawyer is NOT on top of this if they haven't recommended all of this yet. It's crazy to think you have to get the lawyer involved because letters from those who can prove the foundation is at risk of collapsing should be more than enough evidence to have HOA back down.

However, I find it hard to believe that the HOA is entirely free to selectively apply rules. Does anybody have any experience with this kind of problem or idea how to approach it?

***I hope that helps you a little bit and look forward to hearing that it got resolved once and for all....3 months is too long.