Just when you think things can't get worse, they do. We learned our beautifully landscaped front courtyard and backyard were "dedicated use public space." We should have known that and what it meant, but we didn't. In other words, although those enclosed areas were part of our home-buying contract, and were dedicated to our exclusive use in the deed, they actually belonged to the HOA as public space. After four years of thinking they were ours to do with as we pleased, their nasty attorney informed us that we had no say over what the HOA decided to do with them since we didn't "own" those areas. Yes, we'd paid for the gardener and landscaping from the day we closed escrow, but all of a sudden the HOA laid claim to our sanctuary.
They sent in a crew to tear up all of the porcelain tile in both the back and front and tore out beautiful plants, then loaded up a dumpster with what had been our dream yard and courtyard. We stood by helplessly. Our attorney had checked every possibility of contesting this and came up empty-handed. He said only very cruel people would take this approach. They sent in a contractor to install plain cement in place of the slate-looking tile and ran it right up to the edge of the house and fences surrounding the property, leaving no room for plants. One funny thing did happen, however. There were some trees along the back fence and a small planted area remained in the courtyard. In their zeal the stupid contractor cemented right over the sprinkler controls. Since the sprinklers came with the house, we were able to insist they break the concrete and liberate the sprinklers.
As for repairing the house, by now the bitch president of the HOA had become ill and was replaced by her husband, a retired physician who was even worse than she was. He was backed by one resident who abused his wife and daughter and another who was a henpecked husband exercising his muscle with us. What a team! They forbid us to talk to the contractors, question them or anything, or they would cancel the repairs. One day my husband heard people in our back yard and went out to see what was happening. The President from Hell was conferring with the contractors, deciding how else they could cut corners. My husband tried to join the conversation---after all it was our home and we were paying the mortgage and HOA dues. This ass got right in my husband's face and yelled, "You just go back in the house! You're not allowed out here while we're discussing the repairs."
He came back in shaking and called the attorney, who consulted with construction law experts with long track records. The verdict? We were screwed.
They had accused us of causing the drainage problems by overwatering our lush landscaping (before it was all torn out with a vengeance) in a yelling/shouting HOA meeting that left me in tears with all the residents of the complex giving me hateful glares. The Terrible Three had convinced everyone that we were devils incarnate out to cheat the HOA out of money that should be theirs. It turned out that the roots of four big trees next to the pool, on HOA property OUTSIDE our fence, had penetrated the substandard pipes and totally blocked them. When the common areas were watered (HOA property) the runoff had nowhere to go but under our house. That plus use of inferior building materials caused a foot of water to fill the space under the foundation and weakened it even more.
It should have been over when the repairs began, but as Murphy's Law would have it there was yet one more obstacle. Mr. "I'm The Big Shot HOA Prez" had taken to blasting in and out of our yard, yelling at us if we dared venture out when he was there, and strutting around as though he owned our house. The constant harrassment had become unbearable. We decided to call our attorney to have him warn opposing counsel to rein in his client. That was a Saturday. We'd had a nice dinner with our attorney only a week before, and had mentioned the problem to him. However, at that time we thought we could deal with it, but it had gotten so much worse. On Sunday I scanned the obituaries in the L.A. Times as I always do looking for neat names to use in my books and stories. I stopped at one that looked familiar, and said to my husband, "Look, honey, this fellow had the same last name as---" That's as far as I got. Our attorney, who was in solo practice and was about 52, had died of a heart attack on Saturday.
Okay. We couldn't let the opposing attorney know that ours had died because then we'd have to start from scratch with someone else and we'd already invested $40,000 with Daniel. That plus all the time it would take to bring a new attorney up to speed. It was a balancing act until the construction was complete, and we took a truckload of crap from the HOA triumverate, now absolutely drunk on their own power and how they'd "brought down the people in the luxury home in the back." We had to keep Daniel's death secret at all costs.
Finally the nigtmare was drawing to an end. Things had been fixed in the cheapest way possible, but the good news was before he died, Daniel made sure that the settlement included HOA documents indemnifying the house and grounds against any further claims resulting from the faulty construction. We WOULD be able to list the house for sale once everything was done, and that wouldn't come a moment too soon. Any buyer would be guaranteed that the defaults, that were now a matter of public record, had been fixed but if anything further went wrong the HOA would have to foot the bill. Our lives had become four years of living hell in the house we'd loved so much thanks to a power-hungry HOA.
As an author, I'd decided I was going to kill this guy in a story. I'd have him floating face-down in the pool and those thoughts comforted me through the ordeal. Years have passed, and I have yet to write the story. In the meantime, both he and his wife passed away---I saw their obits in the L.A. Times. But I will write that story and it will be a humdinger. So, dear friends, now you know why I shudder at those three letters: HOA.