Associations incite homeowners’ ire

Homeowners Associations have earned plenty of scorn for ruling over people’s paint jobs and lawn gnomes, so it may come as no surprise that a new poll shows that 69 percent of respondents found the groups “a minor annoyance” or “a major headache.”

The poll, conducted by national agency ServiceMagic, which connects property owners with contractors to perform home renovations, was born out of regular comments and complaints the firm hears from its clients, said spokesman David Lupberger. When it comes to remodeling, residents and homeowners associations often find themselves on either side of a very high picket fence.

“We are this country of cowboys [who think], ‘I should be able to do what I want,’” Lupberger said.

According to the poll, 41 percent of respondents had some kind of conflict with the board governing design in their neighborhoods; 19 percent called it “all-out war.” A full 60 percent said they would avoid buying a home if it fell under the jurisdiction of a homeowners association.

Homeowners who belong to such neighborhoods “don’t have many options, short of lawyering up,” said Assemblyman Gene Mullin, D-South San Francisco, who unsuccessfully tried to create an ombudsman to field complaints about homeowner and condominium associations.

Conflict broke out in Redwood City’s Emerald Hills neighborhood last year after members of the Emerald Hills Homeowners Association approached county planners about enforcing design guidelines. More than 1,000 residents signed a petition rejecting the changes.

Homeowners associations have earned a bad and undeserved reputation, said Georgette Sarles, president of the Laurelwood Homeowners Association in San Mateo.

“I have found that when you want to do something constructive, you’re grateful to have an association — because one little voice doesn’t stand a chance,” Sarles said.

bwinegarner@examiner.com

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