HOA Threatens to Foreclose on Residents Conducting Business at Home During Lockdown

Charlie Chaplain as The Great Dictator (Public Domain)

The always quotable H.L. Mencken once observed, “Every normal man must be tempted, at times, to spit on his hands, hoist the black flag, and begin slitting throats.” For some residents of one unnamed Tennessee neighborhood, that time is now.

A Reddit user went to the legal advice thread with a question about being evicted for working from his condo along with 24 other “offenders.”

The HOA complaint — which was verified as legit by thread moderators — says, “It has come to our attention that you are in violation of Article VII, Section 8 of our Bylaws” which state that “Commercial business may not be maintained or transacted on any Lot or in any residential unit.” As a result, “we will be invoking section II, Article 4 of the Bylaws, which allows the Board to foreclose on any property that is in violation.” The HOA president demands, “You must vacate the premises by April 30, 2020.”

The letter is dated March 30, 2020, and here’s a screencap of it:

With Tennessee under a statewide lockdown, it’s unclear exactly how an eviction would work, or where the evictees would go. Also unclear is the legality of the threat, give that “the letter does not serve as a valid quit notice for TN as there is a lack of requisite language they left out,” according to one Redditor. “For tenants,” they explain, “it fails to give opportunity to cure; for homeowners, there’s a whole host of additional issues.”

What is clear is that the HOA president is the kind of organically useless martinet for whom lampposts were invented. Or as one Redditor put it, “Your board member is, simply put, bananas.”

We can debate the wisdom of these lockdowns until the next pandemic, but the fact of them means the entire nation must adopt lifeboat rules. What I mean to say is, we need to jettison all the extraneous crap in order to keep the boat afloat.

In this case, the boat is the economy. What needs to get thrown overboard are any luxury rules which in normal times might prevent people from making a living, from innovating, from producing — even from home. The mortgage is due, the car payment is due, the children are hungry, but the office is closed.

What do we do in times like these? The best we can, and we stay out of our neighbors’ way as they do the best they can. But the worst among us exercise petty authority in nasty ways that do nothing but make everything worse.

There’s a recurring theme in American speculative fiction in which, having lost our way as a free people, some horrible calamity ensues that forces the survivors to re-examine, re-evaluate, and re-capture our essential Americaness. From Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged to John Ringo’s The Last Centurion to John Birmingham’s Without Warning, the idea of American liberty reemerging through some terrible crisis has been a bestselling one for decades.

The Chinese coronavirus from Wuhan, a city in China ruled by Chinese Communists where the Chinese-sourced Sino-virus came from, doesn’t look at all likely to rise to the level of crisis described by Rand or Ringo or Birmingham. But it is threatening enough that states and the federal government are in many cases suspending a lot of regulatory cruft. In recent decades, the regulatory state has sat on the economy like Horton the elephant sat on that egg — only with none of the good intentions.

It’s my hope that by the time this is over, we’ll reassess which of those rules need bringing back (none of them, I hope), and what additional laws and regulations and martinets we can safely throw overboard with the rest.

Starting with whatever fussy little jerkweasel wrote that letter.