When you hear the term “HOA” what is the first thing that comes to mind? If you’re like I used to be, your first thought is probably “Oh, wonderful! I get to live in a community where a bunch of people gets to tell me what I can and can’t do with my own home. This is going to be horrible.” Look, I get it. I really do. Who wants to be told what to do, especially in their own community? No one! When my family and I moved into our home, we had never dealt with an HOA before. We had no idea what an HOA was, let alone what role they played within a community. Sure, we were given all of the paperwork when we bought our home, but who really reads all of that stuff? (Note to self…and all of you faithful readers: Always read every important document that is handed to you. That paperwork has a lot of really useful information in it.)
So, there we were, living in an HOA community. Everything seemed to be going pretty smoothly until one day, seemingly out of nowhere, we were sent a violation letter about our grass being too tall. “What?! Are you kidding me right now?! How dare they send me a letter about my grass being too tall! Who do they think they are?! Who cares how tall my grass is? Why does that matter?! What about the people across the street? Why don’t they do something about them and all of their trash sitting on their porch? Send them a letter and stop worrying about my grass!” Yep, that was me. I couldn’t believe I was getting a letter! I mean, our lawnmower was broken, for crying out loud! How were we going to mow when our lawnmower only had three wheels!? Surely there were more serious issues within the community that were far more deserving of a violation letter than how tall our grass was, right? …Right? Oh, how I wish I could go back and educate my past self. I never realized how truly important an HOA really is.
You see, it was never about the grass. Not really. It was about keeping the community as a whole looking nice. If Homeowners Associations didn’t exist who would maintain the ponds? Who would mow the common areas? Who would repair the community pools? Who would take care of the trees? What about that neighbor that has a pile of trash on their back porch that you get the pleasure of staring at every morning as you look out your back window? Who is going to make them clean that up? Are you? These days that’s probably not the best idea. If no one took care of the ponds, or mowed the common areas, or made sure that all homeowners kept their homes looking nice, would you want to live in that neighborhood? Probably not. So, in order to keep the community looking nice, associations hire companies to do the work that it takes to care for the ponds, grass, trees, pools, trash… you get the idea.
From that day forward I started paying more attention to the HOA. I started going to meetings, talking to the neighbors and paying more attention to the parts of the community that I always took for granted before like the flowers at the entrances, or the fountains in the pond. I realized there is a lot more work that goes into this community than I thought. The other realization I had was that the board members, god bless ’em, are literally volunteering their spare time to handle all of the homeowners like me complaining, and all without getting paid. That is the moment when I thought to myself that maybe getting that letter wasn’t such a bad thing. It showed me that the board actually cares and that they want our community to look nice. Who knew all these years later what would happen…
I got a call one day from a friend of mine saying that the company she worked for had an open position and that she wanted me to apply for it. I was working at the time and I loved my job, but I am always open to opportunity. She wouldn’t tell me much to begin with but after I started researching it I realized it was (drumroll please)… that’s right, an HOA management company! What are the odds? I mean I just told you how much I used to hate HOA’s!
One of the funniest parts about the whole situation is that I began in the inspections department! (I swear I’m not making this up) – The very same department that wrote the letter to me about my grass being too tall! Imagine that! To be honest, I’m glad that I received that letter so many years ago. That letter gave me a real-life experience that I wouldn’t have gotten otherwise. I now have the ability to relate to other homeowners who receive letters about similar situations and tell them that I do in fact understand their frustration.
I appreciate you taking the time to read this story and remember that next time you get that letter, try to look at it from a different perspective. : )