The first HOA I successfully "slayed" was in the early 1990's. When the Fair Housing laws were changed in 1989 to add "familial status" (families with minor children) as an additional protected category, there were a number of HOA's in Florida and elsewhere who tried to adopt amendments to their original covenants and restrictions, in an attempt to restrict occupancy to only those households including a person age 55 or older. The HOA's did that in an attempt to fit within an exemption created in the law for defined "housing for older persons." In the case of the HOA which was my first "slay-ee," the subdivision had been originally developed as "all adult" (16+) housing. The HOA sponsored and later recorded a 55+ amendment to their covenants. I then sued to invalidate the amendment. The HOA fought us to the bitter end. We eventually obtained a judgment against the HOA and its directors, invalidating the amendment and awarding damages of approximately $500,000. In executing on the judgment, we seized the HOA's assets (the community club house and swimming pool, all the common areas, etc.) and pursued several of the directors through the bankruptcy courts. At the end of the day, that HOA was no more. It had been slain.
The second HOA I successfully "slayed" was in a community developed with no common areas. Having no common areas, the developer made no provision in the covenants for a homeowner's association, mandatory or otherwise. As the community aged, some owners took care of their property, some didn't. As a result, there was a push in the community to form a mandatory homeowner's association as a corporate mechanism to enforce the covenants against those owners who had not taken care of their property to the satisfaction of their neighbors. Using the amendment provisions in the original covenants and restrictions, they recorded a mandatory membership/mandatory dues amendment to their covenants along with what they thought were a sufficient number of owner approvals of the amendment. The new HOA went to work and began enforcing the covenants, writing new architectural standards for the community and assessing fines against who they deemed to be transgressing homeowners. That's when I got involved. At first blush, I knew the nature of such a change in the original covenants and restrictions was not permissible under Florida law. So, I filed suit on that basis, asking the court to invalidate the amendment. As I got deeper into the case and checked each of the approvals recorded in favor of the amendment, I realized that many of the owners who had signed approvals for the amendment sold their homes between signing the approval f0rm and when the amendment was eventually recorded. I found so many such homeowners that the number of valid approvals fell below the threshold required by the original covenants for amendments. So, I filed a motion to amend my complaint to add that second reason why the amendment creating the mandatory association was invalid. At that point in the case, the HOA and its directors saw reason and the case settled. Though I won't go into the terms of the settlement here, I can tell you that that HOA is no more. It had been slain.
The third HOA I successfully "slayed" was in a multi-phase development. As with the second HOA above, the development was created with no common areas. And, again, having no common areas, the developer made no provision in the covenants for a homeowner's association, mandatory or otherwise. Also as with the second HOA above, as the development aged, some owners took care of their property, some did not (at least to the satisfaction of their neighbors). So, again, there was a push to create a homeowners association with mandatory membership/mandatory dues. Unlike the second HOA above, this third HOA creatively tried to create "common areas" and "common amenities," and then use them to justify its existence to the courts. Also unlike the second HOA above, the homeowners pushing for a mandatory HOA tried to transform an existing HOA in one of the phases in the development into a mandatory HOA for the entire development. After years of litigation, the trial court eventually entered an order declaring the change so drastic that it could not be enforced against owners without their consent. In that case, we were able to obtain a fee and cost judgment of around $150,000. And, again, that HOA is out of business. It had been slain.
The common thread of these three situations is that each represents an attempt by some residents in a neighborhood to impose their will on other residents in the neighborhood through an HOA. For example, rather than knocking on their neighbor's door to see if they could somehow help their neighbor clean up his yard or fix his house, they sought to use an HOA as a vehicle through which they could use the legal system to force their neighbors to clean up their yards or fix their houses.
It is ironic that the same legal system they sought to use as a club against their neighbors was the same legal system that took a club to their dreams of a mandatory HOA through which they could impose their wills on their neighbors. I guess a wise man once said, "He who lives by the sword, dies by the sword." I guess that quote equally applies to the use of clubs.