Homeowner Associations: Pro & Con

Homeowner associations (HOAs) and the covenants, conditions and restrictions (CC&Rs) that are prevalent at most residential airparks rule what and how you will live at the airpark you decide to buy into.
In 99 out of 100 cases, most issues that arise are settled amicably and for the benefit of all concerned. Unfortunately, from time to time issues arise that result in animosities making life at the airpark considerably less than enjoyable.

A couple of the items that seem to come up more often than not revolve around the individual at the airpark who feels the rules are made for everyone else. A spin on this scenario is the homeowner’s association board member who feels he can dominate all decisions and make them over in his image.
Here are a couple situations that we’ve discussed over the years:

One of the more frequent questions we receive concerns the various forms of operation of the residential airpark. Usually, this is in the form of a homeowners’ association and the problems involved in getting the various personalities to work together for the betterment of everyone.

Most recently a caller was complaining that the homeowners’ association at his airpark seemed to be dominated by one individual. The person was a member of the board of directors but seemed to have an extraordinary influence on how actions were carried out by the group.

Even when the majority of the board or the action of the entire homeowners’ association was in conflict with what this one individual wanted, he seemed to always get his way and unless that person favored the action nothing was done (or, things were done that others were opposed to).

What can I do about this sort of situation, he inquired?

He indicated that the association rules were pretty clear on the issues and the dominating individual didn’t have the right to do the things he was doing.

The response wasn’t exactly what this individual really wanted to hear.

The first step, we advised, was for the concerned property owner to try and sit down with the offending individual and the board of directors and discuss the concerns and the issues in a pleasant atmosphere. See if the issues can be clarified and attempt to work them out amicably, we suggested.

If that step doesn’t work, the next course of action is to get others in the association who feel the same way and hire a mediator to see if the problem can be resolved in that manner. Often the issues are simply misunderstandings among the parties and pent-up frustrations block the normally cooperative individuals from seeing the other point of view. A trained mediator can usually work through the issues without any animosity arising from resolving the problems.

If that isn’t the case in your airpark, there are just a few ways to turn from there. One, you can mount a political campaign to get the board member out and insist that the supportive property owners stand firm.
Another approach is to simply ignore the individual and the problem, although that hardly seems the way to turn if actions contrary to what the majority wants are taking place.

Of course, you can sell your property and move away; obviously not the course of action most people want or will take.

Lastly, comes legal action. Frankly, we discourage that course of action because it is costly to everyone, it takes a tremendous amount of time and in most situations it doesn’t really seem to work.

Here’s one other case to think about!

When considering acquiring a lot or home on a residential airpark, most people give little thought to the negatives. Unfortunately, in many instances these can be the deciding factors on whether an airpark will be an enjoyable experience for you and your family.

One of the negatives relates to prohibitions on certain types of airplanes or activities.

Do you fly a prop-jet or a full jet aircraft? Are you the builder of an experimental plane? How about owning and operating an ultralight machine? Are you a helicopter enthusiast?

Most people buy into an airpark without giving any thought to aircraft other than single and multi-engine prop planes of the most popular type – the Cessna, Piper, and Beech.

After getting into their home and bringing an ultralight airplane or helicopter in for the first time, they suddenly start getting negative reactions from neighbors.

That’s when someone starts looking closely at the covenants, conditions and restrictions (CC&Rs) to see how the helicopter or ultralight or jet can be restricted from operating at the airpark. Or, conversely, to see if such aircraft can be operated legally.

Unfortunately, it is rare that the CC&Rs get into the finer points of the types of aircraft that can and cannot be operated on the field. When such situations arise, there are usually homeowner association meetings filled with anger and disappointment. Friendships are shattered and families sometimes find disagreements within their own.

How can it be resolved?

If there is nothing in the CC&Rs related to the types of aircraft that can be operated from the field, there is nothing that can be done against the operator, in most cases. It is possible that local noise ordinances might be brought into play, but that, again, is unusual. If the majority is opposed to certain types of aircraft and the CC&Rs don’t specifically prohibit them, there is really very little that can be done even if all but one resident is opposed. Discussions and cooperation are the only real recourse.

Taking actions to try and block the individual whose activities are offensive to the majority – but not restricted by the CC&Rs – can only result in frustration, extra costs and hard feelings.

The moral of the story is that the CC&Rs must be examined closely when you are considering a purchase to make sure they contain all the elements that you consider important for your way of life. Here is one instance where a good attorney who knows real estate law and has a good working knowledge of general aviation can save you a lot of heartache and, possibly, money.