In early 2007 I got fed up with the deed restriction violations in my SW Austin neighborhood. This was a neighborhood with no Home Owner’s Association, and thus, no formal enforcement mechanism to keep bonehead neighbors in line.
This all came to a head when one neighbor decided to install a mobile home on their newly purchased 2 acre property. They did install the MH and they moved in. The plan was to live in the mobile home temporarily, for a year or two, while they built a new custom home, then remove the MH. The neighbors were outraged at the mobile home, which was a clear violation of deed restrictions. Tempers flew, rude signs were placed at the property, the email list caught fire with discussions, and a neighborhood meeting was called.
“Good!”, I thought. Under the umbrella of addressing the mobile home being placed on the property, we could also discuss the fact that nearly every other home in the neighborhood was also in violation of the deed restrictions, though in smaller ways.
In my neighborhood of 2+ acre homes, fences were in disrepair and/or too high, or made of wood, mailboxes broken and never fixed, driveways crumbling, yards never mowed, out-buildings that didn’t match the main home in appearance, remodel and construction projects that were started, abandoned and left as eye-sores, and several large commercial metal buildings had been built in back of properties.
The neighborhood was going down hill and becoming shoddy. Remember, without an HOA, and outside city limits, there is nobody to whom these violations can be “reported”. The County does not enforce deed restrictions. You have to actually hire an attorney and sue your neighbor in order to address violations. My home, which we had built in 2003, was the newest home in the neighborhood and I felt its value was threatened by the lack of upkeep in the neighborhood. This neighborhood meeting would therefore be a perfect opportunity to see if that could be turned around.
At the meeting, a succession of neighbors got up and railed against the mobile home. When I got up to speak, I spoke not against the mobile home or its owners (who attended the meeting and took all the heat), but instead asked the simple question “do we want to enforce deed restrictions or not? We can’t say that we want to ignore all deed restrictions except this particular one restricting mobile homes”.
And then I rattled off the aforementioned list of actual, current deed restriction violations on various neighborhood properties and wanted to know if anyone cared about those. To me, we needed to have this discussion of the underlying issue and then discuss the mobile home and other violations in the context of a shared understanding of whether or not the deed restrictions should be observed equally by all home owners.
I nearly got booed out of the meeting. “That’s different”, someone said. “This isn’t Circle C”, another blurted, to which I responded, “yes, that’s obvious to anyone who drives through and sees how shoddy the neighborhood looks”. Another neighbor shouted at me “we all moved out to a neighborhood like this because we want to be left the f**k alone and not be hassled by Yard Nazis”. To that I responded, “but you’re not leaving this family alone, now are you? You’re hassling them. You’re all saying that you don’t care about following the rules, but you want this one family alone to follow the deed rules – the same deed restriction rules that most of you are breaking yourselves – because you think their particular deed violation is a whopper, but that your own lesser violations are ok. You can’t have it both ways”. This perfectly logical and fair reasoning fell on deaf ears.
Finally someone said if I didn’t like it I could move. I already knew that. I went home that night and told Sylvia we were moving. I didn’t want to live around these rednecks and their declining neighborhood anymore.
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