Ministry of Controversy

“He’s in prison for God knows how long because we can’t afford to sod the lawn,” said his sobbing daughter.

According to this, you can actually be thrown in jail for letting your lawn go brown – if you live in a tight-ass community like Beacon Woods, Florida.  With no bail, mind you.  By court order, the 66-year-old financially challenged perp will remain in jail until his sod has been replaced.  The court even awarded the homeowner’s association $800 in expenses.

Homeowner association prez says: "It’s a sad situation, but in the end, I have to say he brought it upon himself.”

Yes, this is the same community I’ve ranted about before, thanks to tips from one of their more mavericky residents.

Posted by on October 25, 2008 at 4:24 am, in the category Ministry of Controversy.
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20 responses to ““He’s in prison for God knows how long because we can’t afford to sod the lawn,” said his sobbing daughter.”

  1. tai haku says:

    Woah, their priorities in a credit crunch are, as they say down here, jacked up.

  2. Tina says:

    Here’s the follow-up to that story:

    Man jailed for brown lawn gets help from neighbors

    http://tampabay.com/news/humaninterest/article850257.ece

  3. kim says:

    As I read the original story, I was wondering where the friendly neighbors were, where was the help? Then I looked at the community association page and saw that volunteers had repaired his sprinklers and sodded his lawn.

    A number of years ago, I wrote my master’s thesis in part on the quasi-government organizations that are homeowners associations, and I still remain prejudiced. I probably shouldn’t comment, but when laypersons are given the kind of power that some of these associations have, very often good intentions can go horribly awry. I’m just glad there were volunteers to help out this family which was obviously in financial distress. And I shake my head and have to ask – where was the common sense? Where was the compassion. And that’s what’s often wrong with these HOAs.

  4. I urge gardeners who live in such communities to volunteer for the board and work from within the organization for innocent-sounding campaigns such as inviting birds and butterflies into the neighborhood. This will require that much of the high-wattage lawn acreage be replaced with butterfly gardens and rain gardens. Invite the local extension agents in and involve the kids, if it’s not a 55+ community. Yes, serving on board is not necessarily a pleasant experience, but it’s the best way, in my opinion, to effect change. Here’s to more “no-grass”-roots actions.

  5. aubade says:

    That is insane. Just absolutely insane. What a world. I’m speechless.

  6. I realise this is silly but this is the first post on any blog that has made me cry.

    It’s bewildering.

    It’s like going into a nightmare.

    How can any one person tell another what to do with a garden?

    For myself, large lawns are boring and wasteful . . . there are so many other things that could happen there.

    But, if someone has a lawn . . . or a garden . . . what’s the point of having it if you can’t let it live or let it die . . . it’s about the only bit of the world where most of us can take part in nature. If you can’t be allowed this freedom – it’s like being cast from Eden.

    Recently, I read posts from a blog where the owner had been going through a hard time. The garden deteriorated. She was reassured to see that, none the less, it managed some degree without her. Then, when she was ready, she went back to it. The garden sort of went with her. It expressed where she was ‘at’ while she was down – and it was waiting to help in her healing when the time came.

    And then there’s me . . . emptying glasses of water from meal tables onto plants so water isn’t wasted . . . while others are being sent to prison because they won’t / can’t . . . splash it around all over the place.

    It’s going to haunt me, this.

    Esther

  7. “How can any one person tell another what to do with a garden?”

    Well if you took the time to read the very basic and highly publicized literature that was a part of your CONTRACT when purchasing your home you would understand the rules and regulations of buying a piece of property that was a part of a Corporation.

    Simple. – Simply READ and COMPREHEND before signing on the dotted line.
    If you don’t like the CCR’s, then do not purchase your home in a planned living community.
    It’s “PLANNED” for a reason : regulation.

    I have empathy for those who cannot meet their financial obligations due to hard times.
    In situations like this a conversation with the HOA would have been appropriate instead of the stance ” I just ignore them”.

    This is what ignorance, stubborness and the refusal to collaborate can garner you.
    He refused to collaborate or find a middle ground with the corporation that he had signed a contract with.

    He gave the corporation/ HOA no other choice but to seek outside invervention. This is why we have a judicial system – to solve problems and seek justice when there is a disagreement or an infraction in the law.

    Bottom line. Do not purchase a home in a HOA or a regulated town if you plan to ignore or not abide by the incorporated legal rules of the land.

  8. Lisa Albert says:

    As much as HOAs get a bad rap, they can be the saving grace as they were for our neighborhood when a contrary neighbor, who read but chose to ignore the CCRs, started to do whatever he wanted for no other reason than to piss off the neighbors. How do I know? He told us so in very ugly language! The man lived to piss off; it gave him twisted joy. Why on earth someone like that would want to live in a *neighborhood* is beyond me since he was the most un-neighborly person I’ve ever met. When we heard he’d had a heart attack a few years earlier, we all expressed astonishment that was even possible; he had a heart? Think that sounds cold? Well, if you had lived next door to him, I suspect you’d have thought the same. Oh, did I mention that he made the evening news when he pulled a gun on someone over a parking space dispute? Yeah, he was a piece of work. When we saw the for sale sign go up, we all cheered.

    But that aside, this situation seems extreme and one that could and should have been avoided. Thank goodness for this man’s wonderful neighbors. Now that’s what a neighborhood is all about!

  9. Shibaguyz says:

    Why would anyone move into a community with such strict HOA rules??? We specifically avoided such things when searching for our first home and have been thankful that no one has been policing the color of our curtains (burgundy) or our garden (The Jungle).

    Our heart goes out to this man and a hearty “get a grip” to the board of his HOA. Priorities need to change with the times and it sounds like this bunch of addle-brained board members are antiquated at best… a bunch of “big jerks” (I got nuttin’ better here folks) at worst.

    *whew* Had to rant a bit… gggrrrrr…

  10. SJ says:

    My sister lives in HOA home in IN. I was told by my BIL that why they and many of their neighbors bought there was so that they could escape the “rascist” element of nearby Indianapolis.

    I was sickened by what I heard from my own Sister & BIL. In my opinion, I think that is why, sadly, so many of these associations exist because of ridiculous notions of so called standards are really a pretense for veiled rascist attitudes.

    My heart goes out to this gentleman that had to endure a stay in jail. And hooray for the neighbors who rallied together to help him out.

  11. aubade says:

    This isn’t just a matter between the homeowner and his HOA when someone is being sent to jail. As far as I know, jails are funded by tax dollars. So now people who don’t even live in that community are expected to pay for jailing that poor guy over a brown lawn!

    It is bad enough that we are expected to tolerate lawn chemicals seeing into the groundwater. And now people are supposed to pay for someone to be jailed for a brown lawn? No. No way.

    I am sorry but with all of the problems in the world, that someone could be allowed to be JAILED by our legal system for something as utterly pointless as a brown lawn is absolutely outrageous. It was just a few months ago that news stories reported more than 1 out of 100 Americans are jailed. We have the highest incarceration rate of any country in the world.

    The fact that anyone would defend “corporations” over something as inhumane as this just goes to show what is wrong with America today. People have given corporations power beyond any rational sense and certainly beyond common human decency.

  12. susan harris says:

    Yeah, to add to aubade’s thoughts, why is enforcing an HOA contract a criminal matter in the first place, rather than civil? One would assume the ultimate enforcement action would be foreclosure, not jail.

  13. greg draiss says:

    I live in somewhat of tight ass community but since when does the all knowing ever ruling HOA have legal jurisdiction with the courts.
    Ok so fine the guy a few bucks for the brown lawn but JAIL!

    ASS HOLES! Sorry but that is waht they are.

    Thing is there are thousands of these fifedoms all across America where not only HOA boards but school boards (almost every volunteer board) where the members become bigger than the job at hand.

    They seem to forget that they are members of the community.

    I am still searching the constitution for the small print that says if this thing called America does work out we can opt back to the Brits after 230 years!

    The (long live the queen) TROLL

  14. greg draiss says:

    Just click on the link to the HOA/community site in the post and start emailing the bastards!

    I DID

    greg

  15. Daphne Gould says:

    I personally would avoid a place with a HOA, since I hate the idea of enforced conformity. However if you are in one, it is YOUR association. You have a vote. You can change the rules. The people on the board are your neighbors, not some evil faceless corporation. You can campaign to get the rules changed. My MIL did this with her HOA. Exemptions are also possible. But you have to do the work to make this happen.

    So basically I think that throwing the guy in jail was a really sucky and heartless move (I mean really, how could you throw your neighbor in jail for a brown lawn?). But I don’t feel the HOA had 100% of the blame. The guy just ignored them. Ignoring your problems won’t make them go away. DO SOMETHING!

  16. naomi says:

    Some people lose their bootstraps through no fault of their own. It sounds as though he did keep up his yard, until his sprinkler system and his family’s safety net broke. He chose to use his money to keep his family housed, instead of a green lawn. Neighbors responded to this over the top punishment. I’m trying in a meager way to help my neighbors, but I am still too overly judgmental. Let’s all work on help instead of criticism.

  17. John says:

    These homeowner associations really need to be regulated. They operate as local governments without any constraints. As “voluntary” non-profit corporations, they don’t even have to abide by the Bill of Rights in regard to their dealings with residents. Yet municipalities are increasingly forcing developers and builders to implement HOAs in all new communities. In many places it is virtually impossible to purchase a new home without signing your rights away to a despotic HOA board.

    http://desertcontainergardening.blogspot.com/

  18. Susan in regards to your question why they ( assuming you are referring to the HOA) could not simply foreclose on the gentleman who did not adhere to the CCR’s of his Home Owner Association.
    There are required legal steps to do so. This HOA was ( regardless of how you view the law ) was taking the correct steps.
    They were left with no other option due to the non-response from one of their association members.
    If the HOA did not turn over this non compliant member to the courts then they themselves could be taken to court and sued for not upholding the CCR’s.

    I have worked with many HOA’s over the years in a professional capacity. The most highly recognized HOA in landscape architectural history is The Sea Ranch in Sonoma County CA.
    If there was one thing that I learned while working with The Sea Ranch HOA ( besides the legal end of the CCR’s ) is that one should not purchase into a HOA if they are not going to abide by the rules.
    Refusing to discuss your options with the HOA ( as the gentleman from Florida did ) leaves the elected members no other choice.
    The community members/ neighbors can hold the HOA board members “personally responsible”, which means each member on the board can lose their own house in a court of law due to not fulfilling their elected positions and upholding their CCR’s.

    Again the bottom line , ” Do not purchase a home that is under HOA + CCR’s if you do not agree with their rules.” – simple. – purchase somewhere else and for go the amenities ( pool, golf course, gym, adjoining wildlife hiking grounds ) as well as the rules of the association.
    You have a choice.

  19. Old Kim says:

    When I was a kid I thought the neighbor’s neglected lawn across the street might look better mown. I offered to mow it in exchange for some apples that were just going to waste. It made me feel good.
    I feel bad for folks that are just getting by that may have made a bad decision or didn’t have any other choice of a place to live.
    Sometimes people end up in trailer parks. Last year in my community there was a lady who dried her laundry outside. Since it was against the rules of the trailer park she had to stop.
    I’m just wondering if in the more prestigious areas with CCR’s are you allowed to have an outdoor clothesline?

  20. PeonInChief says:

    I went out for a walk in the first rain we’ve had here since February. It’s possible that California will have strict mandatory water rationing next summer. What will our local HOAs do then?

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