HOUSTON — Do homeowners associations go too far? It’s what one west Harris County neighborhood is asking after the color of a resident’s house has become a sticking point.
The question is whether the house on Barton Oaks Drive in Sommerall is gray or purple.
Many residents rely on HOAs to enforce high standards in a neighborhood, making sure rules are followed. Those rules often include keeping cars off front yards and making sure homes are well-maintained, along with trees trimmed and grass mowed.
“It’s the neighborhood image,” said longtime Sommerall resident Maria Vanegas.
Residents, however, can sometimes find themselves in hot water with HOAs and wonder if there’s any recourse.
“In Texas, homeowners groups start out with a lot of power. The presumption is they’re usually right,” said KHOU legal analyst Gerald Treece.
He adds, though, “There’s a balance between protecting property values and riding a certain homeowner too far.”
The homeowner in Sommerall says he’s been issued nearly $1,000 in fines in recent months, because the HOA considers his house to be lavender. The family says the color is gray and that it has been painted that color for more than a decade.
“They’re kind of out of control,” said Matthew Swann, the homeowner’s son.
Swann believes the HOA is over-reaching.
Treece urges property owners to read the subdivision’s by-laws. Most HOAs require a homeowner pay their attorney fees if the property owner challenges the group.
He says, however, in 2015 and 2017, the state legislature created protections for the homeowner, stating as long as a person is paying the homeowner association fees, his or her house can’t be foreclosed upon. A lien can be put on the house, but the money wouldn’t be collected until the house is sold.
Experts say a compromise reached between the homeowner and HOA is often the only answer.
“The lone warrior has a really bad time unless the by-laws give him a remedy, or unless the homeowner can turn it into a political issue, and rally support with other homeowners,” Treece said.
It seems to be exactly how the conflict over the paint color will be resolved. The homeowner tells KHOU since media coverage of the issue, the HOA has called him to express an interest in putting the problem to rest. KHOU contacted the Sommerall HOA for a comment but did not hear back.