This makes for exceptional headlines and fills the chat rooms of CID web sites all over the country. There is no question in anybody's mind that many community association boards have an autocrat or two. They are not all bad, just not as good as we'd like. The nicest thing you can say is that, like Mussolini, they keep the trains running on time. But these boards are also the exception. The majority are smoothly run with the heavy hand of a professional property manager that takes the uncomfortable burden off the volunteers. The presence of an unbalanced individual homeowner also comes with the territory. Some more out of kilter than others. We can look back on the calendar for 2001 and find at least one shooting of a board member committed by an irate homeowner. But not more than one.
CAI and attorneys all over the country scurry around trying to make laws that would prevent this sort of craziness from spoiling the terrain. The real fact is that you just can't carve out legislation aimed at dealing with crazy people. You have to make laws based on rational homeowners and rational boards. Otherwise the laws get too convoluted, extreme and impossible to interpret or enforce.
One disturbing pattern that seems to dominate the court cases is the payment of legal fees. Typically, this is a righteous charge. If a person won't pay, then they certainly ought to absorb the creditor's cost to get the debt satisfied. The insanity arises when there are $1,800 worth of legal fees over a $38 debt. This is a real example that was resolved in Texas. It was over an oil stain on the driveway. The actual amount eventually paid by Mr. Chen was close to $2,400 on what was once a $38 fine. The additional money included court costs as well. There will be plenty of folks out there that say, "He got what he deserved." There was no doubt that he owed the $38. There just has to be a better way to resolve the issue aside from foreclosing on his home. I suppose people who are crazy enough to ignore all the lawyer letters and court orders need to pay thousands of dollars to teach them a lesson. It's just that the publicity makes us all seem like ogres.