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Homeowner devastated after developer destroys key neighborhood feature: 'You definitely need a lawyer, ASAP'

The lack of a legally binding contract can come back to bite residents.

The lack of a legally binding contract can come back to bite residents.

Photo Credit: iStock

One homeowner regretted trusting the "informal HOA" set up by their home developers when, 12 years after they bought their home, they claimed their handshake agreement with the previous owners suddenly changed.

"We're a one street community on a lake. We have a common area with deeded boat slips for the water access houses," the homeowner explained in a Reddit post. "We were fine with an informal HOA, but the developer is taking away our waterfront access and internet."

Generally, "informal HOAs" don't exist. An HOA must be registered with the municipality and has specific legal obligations, just as the homeowners who are part of it have legal ties to it. Sometimes, that can go badly for homeowners, like when an HOA leverages its power to foreclose on a home.

That's probably why an informal arrangement sounded attractive to this homeowner. "The developers/previous land owners never got around to creating an HOA once all the lots were sold," said the original poster. "We just take care of the maintenance ourselves. We mow the common area, [and] maintain the road, gate, boat house and dock ourselves, cooperatively."

However, the lack of a legally binding contract can also come back to bite residents.

"Now the owner is logging the acreage that they own that goes up to the common area road," said the original poster. "They've cut down all of the trees, including the trees that anchored the Point to Point Internet hardware that everyone on the street depends on."

Without a formal HOA or a contract, the original poster was no longer certain they had any say in what the developers were allowed to do with the land they owned. "What rights do we have? Do they have the right to remove trees that are part of the common area?"

Sadly, the answer might be yes — despite the damage that does to both the neighborhood's property values and the environment. 

"If there are no [covenants, conditions, and restrictions], then there is almost certainly no HOA and no right to any sort of 'common area,'" one commenter pointed out. "That said, if you truly do have a valid deed to the boat slip, registered with the county, then you should well have some sort of easement to access that land."

"You definitely need a lawyer, ASAP," said another user.

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