July 4, 2024 at 12:43 am

HOA Sends Brand New Homeowners A Non-Compliance Letter In Their First Month Because Of A Tree, So After Losing The Battle They Get Revenge

by Heather Hall

Source: Reddit/Malicious Compliance/Unsplash/ekrem osmanoglu

Buying your first home is exciting. So, it’s understandable that a person would be willing to sign a contract they don’t completely agree with, especially when an HOA leaves little choice.

But what happens when you and the HOA disagree over landscaping? Do you comply with their wishes to keep the peace? Or do you fight to get your way?

Today’s story is about a man who fought to keep a tree in his yard and didn’t want to back down.

Let’s take a look at his battle with an HOA.

“Self Metering Flower Pot” defeats HOA

When I was in high school back in the late 90’s, one of my teachers shared a story with the class in order to explain why we would have a substitute teacher in the next week.

This is by far my favorite story in the vain of Malicious Compliance.

My teacher was in his late 30’s, married for only a couple of years, and over the summer he and his wife bought their first house together.

As is typical, the house was in a development that had an HOA.

While he wasn’t thrilled at the idea of a meddling HOA, it is a necessary and unavoidable evil.

Sometimes, key points are missed, no matter how well you read a contract.

He went through their CCR’s with a fine tooth comb and decided that while there was some stuff he wasn’t a fan of, overall he could live with it, so they signed the papers and bought the house.

About a week after they move in they get a Non-compliance letter, stating that the tree in their front yard was not an approved species and must be removed.

Problem is the tree was native to that spot, was estimated at 80 to 100 years old, and was a Pecan.

I mention the type for two reasons.

Apparently, not all trees are created equal.

First, a Pecan produces nuts (obviously) and that is why the HOA said it can’t be in the front yard.

After all, a lawnmower flings a rogue pecan through a neighbor’s window and there will be an issue.

The second issue is that this was in the Dallas, Texas area. The Pecan is the state tree of Texas and as such gets a little legal protection.

Basically, to cut one down you need to have a permit.

To get that permit you have to show the tree is diseased or a hazard. Just being in the way is not sufficient.

My teacher is upset as the tree is large, provides lots of shade, and he likes eating pecans.

He writes back to the HOA who turn a deaf ear and point to the CCR and refer him to their legal team for any further questions.

If the HOA won’t help, surely the legal system will.

He then contacts the county and state who both come back and say he can’t remove the tree without a permit or he will face a large fine and/or jail.

He copies that letter and sends it along with his own letter in a certified envelope to the HOA lawyers.

The lawyers come back that the CCR is binding, he is not allowed to have fruit or nut producing trees in his front yard, but ornamental trees of flowers and flower pots (this part is important) are fine.

If it isn’t removed in 30 days they will begin fining him.

At this point he gets his own lawyer and turns it over to him.

A couple of months go by and we are to the part of this story where he is explaining why there will be a substitute. He will be going to court to have a judge weigh in on the matter.

The next week comes and after the court hearing he comes in and says that basically he lost as the judge ruled the CCR did apply and the tree had to go.

However, since it was a native tree at the time of development, the HOA would be responsible for all costs of removal, not him as the homeowner.

Apparently, not one to let things go, the teacher came up with a brilliant idea.

Now, most people probably would have let it go at this point. Sure, you lost the tree, but it isn’t costing you anything.

Not my teacher, the man decided it was time to protest the overreaching HOA and their absurdity. So, he got to reading.

After going through the CCR’s thoroughly, he took a trip to Home Depot and bought some hose, fittings, and a nicer Kohler toilet.

He set the toilet up in the middle of the yard right where the tree had been and ran the hose and fittings to his outside faucet so that it was hooked up for water in (not hooked to a sewer, this is the front yard after all).

He then dumped some potting soil in the bowl and planted some decorative flowers.

The HOA wasn’t amused and hit back… again.

It took a few weeks, but the non-compliance letter came in stating he had “house waste” is in front yard and it must be removed within 72 hours or he would be fined. He wrote back there was no house waste.

They responded again and he stated they needed to come show him where this supposed waste was. The next day an HOA guy comes out and points right at the toilet and says it can not be there, it is an eyesore.

My teacher responded, “Sorry you feel that way about my self watering flower pot, but I see nowhere in the CCR’s that state what style of flower pot is or is not allowed.”

HOA guy gets verbally heated and threatens to call the cops to which my teacher agrees. Having his bluff called the HOA guy leaves.

Just because a judge rules against you once doesn’t mean it will happen twice.

A week or so goes by and the class I am in is pestering our teacher everyday for new stories on this. He said he got a letter from their lawyers which he sent straight to his lawyer.

His lawyer agreed with him that the CCR in no way, shape, or form puts any qualifiers or limitations on flower pots and as the flowers are clearly visible, it doesn’t constitute “debris or trash” in the yard.

A few back and forth things happen between the lawyers and then the HOA moves for a trial, which gets the same judge as before. The judge reviewed the case and dismissed it as frivolous.

He did put in his remarks or decision something along the lines of “While the defendant’s choice of a flower pot is eye-raising and isn’t traditional, there is nothing illegal about his use of a commode as art in his yard. The plaintiff has failed to demonstrate any sound reason this would violate existing rules and bylaws of their association.”

Eek! While it’s easy to see both sides of this issue, the tree had been there for 80 to 100 years.

So, it’s not like the homeowner planted it.

Let’s read what some of the users over at Reddit had to say about this situation.

This person has the most logical defense.

Source: Reddit/Malicious Compliance

This person also had the same idea.

Source: Reddit/Malicious Compliance

Someone really does not like HOAs.

Source: Reddit/Malicious Compliance

This person was just happy the judge let him keep the planter.

Source: Reddit/Malicious Compliance

This person offered a great idea that could have worked.

Reddit: Source/Malicious Compliance

Yes, the pecans getting hit by a lawnmower could break a window and cause an issue, but the tree was protected.

The HOA could’ve been more lenient.

If you liked that post, check this one about a guy who got revenge on his condo by making his own Christmas light rules.