HOA’s Harm
VS.
A Social-Psychological Perspective Here’s the pitch: Ever dreamed of living in a neighborhood that provides a wide range of amenities for all its members? One situated in a beautiful, tranquil area with a lake and golf course?  Our Homeowners' Association is dedicated to enhancing the quality of life of residents through community services and amenities. But the REALITY, Nationwide, is too often something quite different:  Poor quality construction or repair, inconsistently and/or irrationally enforced rules, substandard amenity upkeep, ineffective management practices, poor fiscal mismanagement and worst of all - abuse of members.    There are other excellent websites that provide an honest view of HOA's from the legal, legislative and governmental viewpoints, e.g., "Independent American Communities.com."  Our aim is to give consumers an accurate and realistic picture from the social-psychological perspective.  We hope to show how dysfunctional most HOA's are and how they are socially and emotionally harmful to homeowners and their families. Our goal is to enhance and improve your ability to get the information you need in order to make a fully-informed decision about buying into any HOA; or, to likewise get the information you need to determine whether the HOA you current live in is worth your while to stay.  HOA-Governance dynamics have been around a very long time. Here’s just one example from not so long ago - We know many people who have lived in one of the largest HOA’s in Northern California (2500 homes; 3,270 properties). With our backgrounds in post-secondary education, law, mental health, general healthcare, linguistics and business, we have decided to focus our perspective in a psychological, sociological and “systems” direction. Since having lived in this HOA community, we have studied its history and dynamics extensively. We have also studied the history of HOA’s throughout the USA. What we have discovered has been disheartening and alarming. HOA’s do NOT serve their member homeowners. They serve developers, the real estate industry, legislators, the HOA Industry and the “collective narcissism” of small groups of homeowners bent on control of governance processes. HOA’s claim to serve their members, but this claim exists as lip-service only and window-dressing for the outside world. Here’s what else we’ve learned. Though the seeds of their undoing exist in “plain sight”; there’s a barrier in “seeing” them. You must know where to look and what to look for. Without such an in-depth approach, most HOA’s appears to be “normal” and “typical” of any other community. In scrutinizing HOA’s to discern their core problems …….. HOA’s are a “form of government” that by their very design are geared toward an imbalance-of-power, i.e., ultimate control by the Board of Directors (the Corporation). Members are left to figure out and work out their own role, if they can, and if they dare. All HOA laws are written and designed with this de facto outcome built-in. All State Governments “exercise” (i.e., loosely) their regulation of HOA’s in such a way as to support and reinforce this imbalance. Again, members (home owners) are left adrift, to assume that a “benevolent” board will guard their safety, privacy and property rights. This amounts to a gross denial of basic human nature, e.g., see the “Stanford Prison Experiment and the “Milgram Obedience Experiment.” It also leads to some very negative social, community outcomes; and, it does in most HOA’s. The “hidden” seeds of HOA’s undoing fall into two categories: (1) Ignorance – a very direct result of singular power given to boards; and, (2) Cognitive Impairments – common flaws in thinking and decision-making (often consequences of unidentified disabilities and/or aging). Ignorance Assuming HOA Laws are Fixed (i.e., not open to interpretation) – Assumptions such as suing your HOA is the only way to get real justice, or, that boards have no obligation to consider member surveys. Take the latter for example. Legally, it’s true that an HOA board can simply ignore any member survey results. What usually goes unsaid, however, is the highly significant fact that a board’s life depends upon the social/political power of their membership. In other words, if an HOA membership is sufficiently organized and able to effectively wield its power, any board would be very hard pressed to ignore their wishes. Therein lies the “rub.” If an HOA membership is not organized, good luck…the board can do pretty much as it wants! Denial of Historical Influences – Many HOA’s have histories loaded with organizational dysfunction. Again, the very governance structure of HOA’s (a board comprised of “volunteer”, limited-term, poorly qualified/trained directors) tends to make them blind to the continuity and patterns within their governance history. If an HOA has a history of significant and/or disabling dysfunction, and, if that HOA largely ignores that history, as if it were of no consequence, it will most likely continue to repeat many of the same previous dysfunctional patterns. Full and open exposure of past dysfunctions along with full acknowledgment of their myriad effects, and then development of concomitant solutions is required. Disenfranchisement of Members – Many HOA’s, because of their legal design, tend to concentrate social and political power into the hands of a few members, meanwhile relegating other members to a no-man’s-land of isolation and mis/dis-information. A look at an HOA’s history of member voting and board-meeting attendance will tell the story. If voting turn-out is worse than the National average of 60%, e.g., 30% in one No. CA HOA, and meeting attendance is low (or mostly attended by “VIP’s”) then there is significant member disenfranchisement. Poor Grasp of “Public Relations” and “Customer Service” Fundamentals – Most HOA boards tend to have low skill-sets in these areas. Even fewer HOA’s have someone on-staff with such skills. A fairly high-level of these skills is required for the effective actions and responsiveness to engage members and draw them into the community/governance process, rather than offend or alienate them. Poor Grasp of Organizational Dynamics (understanding human social systems) – Most boards lack these skills to any great degree. Staff can compensate but often do not excel in this area unless specifically trained. Lack of knowledge and skills in this area typically results in low overall performance in addressing community/member needs. Resistance to Change – Maintenance of Status Quo – This is a common HOA phenomenon. Dependence on Existing Problem-Solving Pool (people and ideas) – Some HOA’s insist on solving all problems internally. Unfortunately, this tends to create a cloistered community that repeats previous “solutions” and, thus, previous mistakes. Thinking Impairments Collective Narcissism (self-centeredness, low empathy) – This is a social/community phenomenon that was first identified in 1973. If, as is the case in some HOA’s, there are one or more groups of members with significant social and/or political power who also have strong narcissistic traits, they can be a highly disruptive and negative influence. They can become the “tail that wags the dog”, having out-sized effects on community-wide issues. If an HOA has one of these groups that has existed for a long time, their impact can be particularly pervasive and harmful to the membership as a whole. Specific and strong measures will be needed to deal effectively with them. Low Critical-Thinking Skills – Few HOA board members enter office with these skills at a sufficient level. Good critical-thinking skills are a basic requirement for effective participation on an HOA board. Yet this is rarely recognized let alone put into active practice. Learning Deficits, e.g., limited perspective, poor comprehension or language skills – A large percentage of the current “boomer” generation (who are the most numerous on HOA boards) have learning deficits and other “disabilities” that were never identified in childhood. Although this is somewhat less true of successive generations, many of them, as well, passed through school without significant problems identified. Just to mention a few, an impaired ability to take a proper, broad-enough perspective can greatly hamper a leader’s ability make good decisions. Poor reading or verbal comprehension can likewise interfere significantly with effective leadership. A language impairment such as “Speech Disfluency” can cause a board officer to be poorly understood and even disliked by members simply because they are laborious to listen
Lord of the Flies - 1954 novel by Nobel Prize–winning British author William Golding. The central theme is the conflict between two competing impulses that exist within all human beings: the instinct to live by rules, act peacefully, follow moral commands, and value the good of the group vs. the instinct to gratify one’s immediate desires, act aggressively to obtain supremacy over others, and enforce one’s will. 
HOA’s Harm
A Social-Psychological Perspective Here’s the pitch: Ever dreamed of living in a neighborhood that provides a wide range of amenities for all its members? One situated in a beautiful, tranquil area with a lake and golf course?  Our Homeowners' Association is dedicated to enhancing the quality of life of residents through community services and amenities. But the REALITY, Nationwide, is too often something quite different:  Poor quality construction or repair, inconsistently and/or irrationally enforced rules, substandard amenity upkeep, ineffective management practices, poor fiscal mismanagement and worst of all - abuse of members.    There are other excellent websites that provide an honest view of HOA's from the legal, legislative and governmental viewpoints, e.g., "Independent American Communities.com."  Our aim is to give consumers an accurate and realistic picture from the social-psychological perspective.  We hope to show how dysfunctional most HOA's are and how they are socially and emotionally harmful to homeowners and their families. Our goal is to enhance and improve your ability to get the information you need in order to make a fully-informed decision about buying into any HOA; or, to likewise get the information you need to determine whether the HOA you current live in is worth your while to stay.  HOA-Governance dynamics have been around a very long time. Here’s just one example from not so long ago - We know many people who have lived in one of the largest HOA’s in Northern California (2500 homes; 3,270 properties). With our backgrounds in post-secondary education, law, mental health, general healthcare, linguistics and business, we have decided to focus our perspective in a psychological, sociological and “systems” direction. Since having lived in this HOA community, we have studied its history and dynamics extensively. We have also studied the history of HOA’s throughout the USA. What we have discovered has been disheartening and alarming. HOA’s do NOT serve their member homeowners. They serve developers, the real estate industry, legislators, the HOA Industry and the “collective narcissism” of small groups of homeowners bent on control of governance processes. HOA’s claim to serve their members, but this claim exists as lip-service only and window-dressing for the outside world. Here’s what else we’ve learned. Though the seeds of their undoing exist in “plain sight”; there’s a barrier in “seeing” them. You must know where to look and what to look for. Without such an in-depth approach, most HOA’s appears to be “normal” and “typical” of any other community. In scrutinizing HOA’s to discern their core problems …….. HOA’s are a “form of government” that by their very design are geared toward an imbalance-of-power, i.e., ultimate control by the Board of Directors (the Corporation). Members are left to figure out and work out their own role, if they can, and if they dare. All HOA laws are written and designed with this de facto outcome built-in. All State Governments “exercise” (i.e., loosely) their regulation of HOA’s in such a way as to support and reinforce this imbalance. Again, members (home owners) are left adrift, to assume that a “benevolent” board will guard their safety, privacy and property rights. This amounts to a gross denial of basic human nature, e.g., see the “Stanford Prison Experiment and the “Milgram Obedience Experiment.” It also leads to some very negative social, community outcomes; and, it does in most HOA’s. The “hidden” seeds of HOA’s undoing fall into two categories: (1) Ignorance – a very direct result of singular power given to boards; and, (2) Cognitive Impairments – common flaws in thinking and decision-making (often consequences of unidentified disabilities and/or aging). Ignorance Assuming HOA Laws are Fixed (i.e., not open to interpretation) – Assumptions such as suing your HOA is the only way to get real justice, or, that boards have no obligation to consider member surveys. Take the latter for example. Legally, it’s true that an HOA board can simply ignore any member survey results. What usually goes unsaid, however, is the highly significant fact that a board’s life depends upon the social/political power of their membership. In other words, if an HOA membership is sufficiently organized and able to effectively wield its power, any board would be very hard pressed to ignore their wishes. Therein lies the “rub.” If an HOA membership is not organized, good luck…the board can do pretty much as it wants! Denial of Historical Influences – Many HOA’s have histories loaded with organizational dysfunction. Again, the very governance structure of HOA’s (a board comprised of “volunteer”, limited-term, poorly qualified/trained directors) tends to make them blind to the continuity and patterns within their governance history. If an HOA has a history of significant and/or disabling dysfunction, and, if that HOA largely ignores that history, as if it were of no consequence, it will most likely continue to repeat many of the same previous dysfunctional patterns. Full and open exposure of past dysfunctions along with full acknowledgment of their myriad effects, and then development of concomitant solutions is required. Disenfranchisement of Members – Many HOA’s, because of their legal design, tend to concentrate social and political power into the hands of a few members, meanwhile relegating other members to a no-man’s-land of isolation and mis/dis-information. A look at an HOA’s history of member voting and board-meeting attendance will tell the story. If voting turn-out is worse than the National average of 60%, e.g., 30% in one No. CA HOA, and meeting attendance is low (or mostly attended by “VIP’s”) then there is significant member disenfranchisement. Poor Grasp of “Public Relations” and “Customer Service” Fundamentals – Most HOA boards tend to have low skill-sets in these areas. Even fewer HOA’s have someone on-staff with such skills. A fairly high-level of these skills is required for the effective actions and responsiveness to engage members and draw them into the community/governance process, rather than offend or alienate them. Poor Grasp of Organizational Dynamics (understanding human social systems) – Most boards lack these skills to any great degree. Staff can compensate but often do not excel in this area unless specifically trained. Lack of knowledge and skills in this area typically results in low overall performance in addressing community/member needs. Resistance to Change – Maintenance of Status Quo – This is a common HOA phenomenon. Dependence on Existing Problem-Solving Pool (people and ideas) – Some HOA’s insist on solving all problems internally. Unfortunately, this tends to create a cloistered community that repeats previous “solutions” and, thus, previous mistakes. Thinking Impairments Collective Narcissism (self-centeredness, low empathy) – This is a social/community phenomenon that was first identified in 1973. If, as is the case in some HOA’s, there are one or more groups of members with significant social and/or political power who also have strong narcissistic traits, they can be a highly disruptive and negative influence. They can become the “tail that wags the dog”, having out-sized effects on community-wide issues. If an HOA has one of these groups that has existed for a long time, their impact can be particularly pervasive and harmful to the membership as a whole. Specific and strong measures will be needed to deal effectively with them. Low Critical-Thinking Skills – Few HOA board members enter office with these skills at a sufficient level. Good critical-thinking skills are a basic requirement for effective participation on an HOA board. Yet this is rarely recognized let alone put into active practice. Learning Deficits, e.g., limited perspective, poor comprehension or language skills – A large percentage of the current “boomer” generation (who are the most numerous on HOA boards) have learning deficits and other “disabilities” that were never identified in childhood. Although this is somewhat less true of successive generations, many of them, as well, passed through school without significant problems identified. Just to mention a few, an impaired ability to take a proper, broad-enough perspective can greatly hamper a leader’s ability make good decisions. Poor reading or verbal comprehension can likewise interfere significantly with effective leadership. A language impairment such as “Speech Disfluency” can cause a board officer to be poorly understood and even disliked by members simply because they are laborious to listen to. A leader with a “mood disorder” can have myriad consequences all over the association. Inflexible Thinking – Simply put, this means the person has “stuck thinking”. They tend to fixate on matters or issues that may not be relevant or important to the HOA as a whole. If someone like this gets onto your board, good luck! You’ve got a real “system” problem. There’s another aspect of this that comes with aging. Cognitive flexibility, the ability to shift one’s mental process quickly and easily as the situation demands, is essential for effective leadership. With aging, this capacity tends to erode in terms of speed and agility. A certain amount of loss in this area does not necessarily interfere with governance participation. However, there comes a point where it does and this must be recognized and addressed. But it rarely is! Limited Learning Achievement Level – The “real” issue here is skill-level. There are people with HS education who have good skills in critical-thinking, problem-solving, etc. But, there are people with college educations who have poor skills in these same areas. However, college education does matter, as does the quality of that education. This is one area where vetting is essential to determine a board candidates skill-level and past performance. Impaired Memory – A reality for many HOA’s is the fact that most board and committee members are from the “boomer” generation or beyond. This, unfortunately, raises the question of aging impairments. Chief among these are impairments in short-term memory. Leaders who make multiple unnecessary contacts, who do not recall having met someone previously or who become significantly less organized than before, all due to failing short-term memory, can significantly impede organizational processes. Great sensitivity and care is needed in addressing this issue. Undoubtedly, there are more social/psychological factors, not mentioned above, that impinge upon HOA governance/management functioning. The purpose here is to bring this category of factors to the attention of all who live in HOA’s.
Lord of the Flies - 1954 novel by Nobel Prize–winning British author William Golding. The central theme is the conflict between two competing impulses that exist within all human beings: the instinct to live by rules, act peacefully, follow moral commands, and value the good of the group vs. the instinct to gratify one’s immediate desires, act aggressively to obtain supremacy over others, and enforce one’s will. 
HOA'S:  FANTASY
Vs. REALITY