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New homeowner floored after receiving unexpected water bill caused by HOA: 'Good luck at the board meeting'

"They cannot control your water without having authority somewhere in your documents."

"They cannot control your water without having authority somewhere in your documents."

Photo Credit: iStock

Oregon is famous for its rainy weather, but that didn't stop one new homeowner from receiving an unwelcome surprise on their first water bill. 

In the subreddit r/HOA, the homeowner wrote that their sprinkler system, which is controlled by their homeowners association, has been running for around 30 minutes each night, resulting in a nearly $200 bill.

"I didn't know we were using our water to water our own lawn and we're paying for it but have no ability to turn off the sprinkler system. I assumed the sprinkler system was separate from our water and was included in our HOA fee, it's not," they explained in a comment.

The original poster also shared that they would raise the matter at the next HOA board meeting and asked for further advice.

Other Redditors agreed that the HOA may not have a case because the OP had said that "the HOA guidelines have no information about water usage or the sprinkler system."

"They cannot control your water without having authority somewhere in your documents," one person pointed out, suggesting that they may be able to adjust the water timer on their own but should contact an attorney before they do so. 

More than half of homeowners in the United States belong to HOA communities, according to iPropertyManagement, but the organizations have frequently been criticized — particularly for preventing people from making money-saving upgrades or adjustments.

In one instance, a woman in drought-stricken California was fined after she swapped her traditional grass lawn for native plants, which need less water, are easier to maintain, and support pollinators

These decisions are often intended to preserve property values by maintaining a uniform aesthetic, even though eco-friendly features like native lawns have been found to make properties more desirable. 

Also, there's a cost to unnecessary water waste. As detailed by the Washington State Department of Health, depleting reservoirs and groundwater can increase the concentrations of harmful pollutants in our water supply.

An expensive bill is never fun to receive, but many homeowners have eventually been able to get their HOAs on board with their plans, including by rallying other neighbors to their cause. 

"Talk to neighbors who have been there longer," another Redditor advised the OP, adding that they felt as though something was off with their water bill. "Good luck at the board meeting."

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