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When you buy a home in a planned development or gated community, you’re often required to join the homeowners’ association (HOA) and pay monthly fees for the upkeep of the common areas and buildings. There may be other requirements of the HOA, which you, as the property owner must agree to meet.

Keith Strong found this out when his mailbox began to look shabby, so he decided to replace it. He knew what to get because he had the list of approved boxes from when he had moved into the neighborhood 13 years ago.

Imagine Keith’s surprise when just two months later, he and several neighbors received notices that their new wooden mailboxes were no longer on the approved list. Instead, the HOA now required rust-proof, metal boxes. The cost for replacing a mailbox and post was around $500, and they were given two years to complete the work.

However, the HOA made it clear that if the new mailboxes were not installed by deadline, each homeowner would be fined $100 every thirty days until they complied.

Strong and his neighbors were angry. It wasn’t the money – they could all afford the new boxes – but it was the idea that a HOA could have this much power to wield over its residents. He refused to comply and was cited by the board for noncompliance.

He and his wife filed a civil complaint asking for an order to stop the HOA from requiring residents to buy and install the new mailboxes.

So, do you think an HOA has or should have this much power?

A judge came down in favor of the Strongs. Keith Strong did not have to pay the fines that had accrued for noncompliance, and the HOA could no longer make such requirements of its residents. The judge ruled that a HOA mandating a mailbox was too slippery a slope – what if next week the HOA decided everyone should have a slate roof?

If you have legal questions, please consult our Online Legal Directory to find an attorney in your area.

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