June 19, 2024 at 7:33 pm

HOA Issues A Homeowner A Citation For Putting Up Security Cameras, So She Fought Them In Court And Cost Them 16% Of Their Annual Budget

by Michael Levanduski

Source: Pexels/August de Richelieu

Security cameras are a normal part of living in a modern neighborhood.

Even if you don’t have them yourself, you may benefit from the fact that they can help reduce crime and keep things safe.

Of course, the downside is that there can be some privacy concerns.

Fortunately, most rational people can balance the pros and cons within the neighborhood without any issues.

Not in this story though. Karen from the HoA has to cause some trouble.

Check it out.

HOA tried to punish us – Told us to “Stop them if we can” – Malicious compliance cost them 16% of the annual HOA income – And the cameras are still installed today

We installed cameras in front of our home that were looking at our vehicles.

Part of the camera angles did overlook parts of two neighbor’s properties (one back yard and one side yard).

I can see not wanting a camera pointing into my backyard.

The cameras were battery operated and had a function where you could “gray out” areas that you didn’t want to film.

When motion occurred in the grayed out areas, the cameras would not be activated to film.

The neighbors’ entire properties and several bushes on our property were grayed out – we did this when installing them.

One of the neighbors was a friend – and had no issues with this whatsoever (we showed her the camera angle – and she said she didn’t care whether or not we grayed out that area – we still left it grayed out over battery life concerns).

The other neighbor’s name was Karen (not really, but we all know why I chose that name).

Of course, Karen is on the HOA.

Karen was on the HOA board and, as you can imagine, we didn’t get along with Karen or the HOA Board.

We told Karen about the camera and showed her the grayed out areas at the same time that we told our friendly neighbor about it.

It was simply an FYI conversation (we are not on friendly terms) – not an “asking permission” conversation.

I understand if she doesn’t like the cameras, but why can’t she try to deal with it nicely?

She told us to take the cameras down immediately or we would regret it.

About a week after we hung the camera up, we got a notice from our HOA that we were violating the bylaws.

The bylaw in question? A “nuisance to your neighbors” bylaw.

There wasn’t a specific bylaw preventing placement of cameras, so this is all they could find to try to punish us.

We responded with a letter detailing how we were not violating any bylaws or laws in general – and asked them to cease and desist.

We all know how these stories go though. They did not cease. And they did not desist.

Their first response?

It sounds like Karen wrote the response herself.

“The HOA has the right to enforce these bylaws. Try to stop us, if you think you can.” (These types of responses were, unfortunately, quite common from this board.)

We entered this battle with one goal in mind: to cost them as much money and time as possible.

The HOA hired a lawyer specifically to fight us.

To my knowledge, this has not happened to any other residents. In the following 4 months we ended up costing the HOA over $4,000 in lawyers fees fighting this battle.

For reference, the entire HOA income was ~$25,000/year.

When it came time for our official HOA hearing over the matter, we had successfully postponed it (thanks to an attorney friend) 3 separate times.

There were over 100 back and forth emails with the HOA attorney and ourselves. Each one of those emails was a 15 minute expense for the HOA.

If they are harassing her, at least she made them pay for it!

And I was happy to follow up a follow up question with another follow up question if it meant the HOA attorney was going to keep billing them (Did I say “follow up” enough times?).

We didn’t actually want to take this battle to court, so we ended up removing the cameras the day of the hearing (to prevent being fined – even if the fine wouldn’t hold up in court).

The HOA decided in the hearing that we were guilty (surprise, surprise) of violating the bylaw.

They couldn’t fine us – as the bylaws don’t allow a fine until after a hearing has been held – and the cameras were already removed.

In the end, the punishment was a sternly written piece of paper on the attorney’s letterhead (delivered via certified mail) that stated that we were “…not allowed to place a camera on our home that had the potential to invade a neighbor’s privacy.”

Keep in mind, the letter specifically stated the camera could not be placed “on our home.”

We left the cameras off of the home for about 4 months – until the annual HOA meeting.

You should have seen the look on the HOA Board’s faces when I asked them to explain the $4,000 line item for attorney’s fees that simply stated “Title searches – Attorney fees.”

The Board actually tried to hide the fact that they spent $4k trying to fight us over a couple of cameras by putting the fees in as “Title searches.”

Needless to say, that meeting did not go well for them.

It is good that some of the board was held responsible, but why not Karen?

About half of them lost their positions on the Board. The other half (including Karen, unfortunately) remained on the Board.

About a week after the annual meeting, we installed new cameras – facing the same direction as the prior cameras – only this time, we installed a post in the ground and mounted the cameras to that post.

The admonishment we received after the hearing specifically stated that we were not allowed to install cameras “on our home” – and said nothing about putting them on a post.

They did send a letter to try to tell us to remove the cameras, but a sternly worded response indicating that we were prepared to fight them actually worked this time around.

I guess they didn’t want to spend another $4k fighting us.

We didn’t receive any follow up responses. And the cameras on the post are still installed to this day (over 2 years and running strong).

I really can understand why someone wouldn’t want to have a camera pointed in their backyard.

Let’s see what other Redditors thought of the situation.

LOL – Exactly! Karen is all talk, but action is expensive.

Source: Reddit/Malicious Compliance

That’s the downside of being on the board of an HOA.

Source: Reddit/Malicious Compliance

Too bad Karen handled it so poorly.

Source: Reddit/Malicious Compliance

I bet the HOA could have done some good things with that money. Instead, they wasted it.

Source: Reddit/Malicious Compliance

Oh, if only we could charge annoying Karens with being a nuisance!

Source: Reddit/Malicious Compliance

Can’t we all just get along?

In a perfect world, maybe.

If you liked that post, check out this one about an employee that got revenge on HR when they refused to reimburse his travel.