After Gatlinburg, Tennessee, residents lost their homes to a huge fire, their HOA still assessed fees for community facilities that most of the affected homeowners could not even use, USA Today reports.
The brutal November 2016 fire burned down many of the 560 houses in Chalet Village, according to USA Today. Some were vacation homes and cabins; others were the primary homes of owners and renters.
Some, like the home of resident Bruce Brock, were brand new, having finished their reconstruction only weeks before, after an earlier fire in 2011.
“We lost everything,” Brock said.
The local HOA, the Ski Chalet Village Owners’ Club, sent letters to the owners acknowledging their losses — while still demanding hundreds of dollars in fees for properties that were no longer livable.
For other properties, the fee is optional, depending on whether the owner wants to use the facility. Whether an owner is required to pay and how much they owe has nothing to do with the number of people using the facilities. Instead, it’s tied to each home’s deed and depends on when the home was built.
This isn’t the first time an HOA has caused grief for residents. One recently demanded a Redditor water their lawn excessively to keep it green in a drought. Another HOA charged $2,500 in fines for a backyard clothesline that the resident was legally entitled to have. Thankfully, changing laws are slowly eroding the power of landlords and HOAs to enforce these overbearing rules.
There are also other ways to fight back.
One resident of Chalet Village, Michael Luciano, pushed for residents to get involved in the HOA, USA Today reports.
His solution is that only residents who use the pool facilities should have to pay for them and that wealthier owners — those with larger houses or who rent out their properties — can afford to pay more. Like many HOAs, the Ski Chalet Village Owners’ Club’s rules can be changed by the residents if enough show up to vote.
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