The Finch Formerly Known As Gold

22 December 2003

Our Lady of 46th and Miller

And while we're on the subject of neighborhood associations, Vincent Ferrari links to a story about a Florida woman who was asked (which is to say, ordered) to remove a statue of the Virgin Mary from her front yard because it was deemed to be a violation of the rules of the homeowners' association of which she was a member. Mr Ferrari asks, "Is this micromanagement of a person's private property a legally defensible action?"

The ordinance for the Urban Conservation District in which I live doesn't make any specific references to statuary; there is, however, a catchall phrase about "that which creates a disorderly appearance," which conceivably might be brought to bear. As a practical matter, though, someone would have to complain, and I suspect it might take more than a single religious statue to produce enough disorder to warrant a complaint.

Please note that I am not a lawyer, nor do I play one on TV.

Posted at 7:55 PM to Surlywood

Welcome to the wonderful world of homeowners' associations. They can tell you what colors to paint your house, what plants to plant in your yard, what kind of car you can drive, what kind of pet you can own. (Coral Gables, Florida, a city which has been compared to a giant homeowner's association, famously banned barking dogs back when I was a kid. If your dog barked after a certain hour, you got fined.) But this should be known to anyone who moves to that lovely little new subdivision with the color-coordinated homes and three-inch-high hedges. Their rules aren't usually a secret. I don't like the idea of homeowners' associations, and thus would not move to a neighborhood overseen by one if I were at all in a position to buy a home. But other people seem to see benefits (which I admit I can't see myself) in such organizations.

Posted by: Andrea Harris at 8:38 PM on 22 December 2003

One of these days I'm going to post the entirety of the ordinance for this neighborhood. It can be found by a couple of links off the city Web site (and how did they manage to get a .gov domain?), but it requires a two-step off the actual site and into some mechanized archive. It's not as restrictive as some, inasmuch as we're basically an Historic District with no actual Historic Buildings, and the city, not the association, has the enforcement power.

Posted by: CGHill at 8:53 PM on 22 December 2003

But isn't a refreshingly straightforward URI? What's with stuff like:


Posted by: Dan at 12:50 AM on 23 December 2003

I'm hardly a lawyer, but I'm betting the Homeowner's Association will carry the day on this one. If the homeowner signed a binding agreement to abide by the association's rulings when she moved into the neighborhood, she's probably SOL. Sounds like she might of forgotten to read the fine print.

I agree with Andrea, there's no way I'd ever move into a neighborhood where I had to read the rulebook before I started painting my house.

Posted by: ronbailey at 5:51 AM on 23 December 2003

Pretty much everyone made a point of telling me that the new digs were located in a UCD some because they felt it was a selling point, others to make sure they were covered in case there were legal issues later and I reviewed the rules before I signed the papers. (Being the sort of person who does minor tweaks rather than major improvements, I didn't find the restrictions unduly harsh.)

As a practical matter, I can't tell you how much effect the district has had on the neighborhood: I've been in the house only a month or so, and the rules were enacted by the City Council in late September, so literally no one has had more than 90 days to adjust. I do know that other districts across the city do seem to look better than other neighborhoods of similar age, though I couldn't tell you if there has been any effect on property values.

Posted by: CGHill at 7:21 AM on 23 December 2003