I first bought a home after graduate school in 1973, and it seems like I’ve lived under homeowner associations ever since. I was surprised when, as president of the Galveston Alliance of Island Neighborhoods, so many neighborhoods preferred to live under the new rules of short-term rentals rather than form an association with deed covenants that prohibited them.

I thought having an association might be a simple solution to limiting short-term rentals in a neighborhood. For those living in established neighborhoods, the thought of an owners association meant something akin to dying. My suggestion was rebuffed by everyone I talked with.

I bought a home in Pirates Cove in 1983, and have lived under the Pirates Property Association since then. It’s only been in the last 10 years I’ve awoken to what the traditional Galveston neighborhoods seem to have known. While such associations can be beneficial, they can be quite a bit of underhanded trouble and unilateral decision-makers.

Our association gave birth to the West Galveston Island Property Owners Association 20 years ago to work as a lobbying organization. While WGIPOA does do educational events for the island, I can’t think of a single matter on the West End that it has left untouched in the last 20 years.

It’s been active in legitimizing short-term rentals, which were well established at Pirates Beach long before they were legal, development, getting our beach classified as an engineered beach after the destruction of Hurricane Ike, and countless other schemes including limiting where cars could access the beach and driving the change to have the Ike Dike built with sand dunes at water’s edge. All of this — good and bad — originated from the Pirates Property Association.

Many in my neighborhood now react the same way traditional neighborhoods react when somebody says “HOA.” We pay for security in our bay-side neighborhood, but the association diverts the patrols to the beach-side during the summer. Our deed covenants say “no STRs” while the beach-side is full of them.

Since renters are mischief-makers, security we pay for goes to the beach-side. Our association finds deliberate and deceitful ways to submarine board elections. And financial decisions to spend substantive money has historically been left to one or two beach-side board members absent the required vote during open meetings.

When the seaweed cleaning permit was jerked from the West End two years ago, two associations had ignored the rules. When Spanish Grant endorsed Marquette Development against the wishes of many of its residents, it was because the association had unilaterally cut a deal trading endorsement for sand despite what the residents preferred, and when I’ve written about intentional blocking of disability access on Pirates Beach, it’s the association that refuses to allow American with Disabilities Act access, and has for many years.

The neighborhoods were right, and I couldn’t see it. Homeowner associations are toxic, and in many cases operate at whim instead of rule of law. Well, at least mine does.

Bill Broussard lives in Galveston.


(14) comments

Charlotte O'rourke

Interesting editorial.

I can’t address specifics in this editorial. But toxicity of any organization is usually not the organization itself but individuals in charge lacking a moral compass to follow the rules or who are willing to change the rules so that their actions aren’t as transparent to others.

I’ve seen good government and bad government in all organizations. Good government has individuals in charge who are willing to follow the rules and stand up for the rights of others thereby giving everyone an opportunity to participate/vote ..... even if they personally disagree with the person’s point of view.

Patricia C Newsom


Gary Miller

So say I.

Miceal O'Laochdha

HOA's, like other ersatz-governmental organizations, have an unfortunate tendency to attract people with "petty tyrant syndrome". Those who have always wished to impose their own certainties upon all others around them but have not been able to secure a official position (like politicians) in order to do so.

Bailey Jones


Gary Miller

Shout it, don't whisper.

Wayne Holt

If you want some late night scary reading, try perusing Texas and Florida blogs devoted to HOA horrors. Charlotte is right; it depends on who is at the helm and their character. Miceal also appears to be right; it can attract folks who have agendas other than owner/resident support.

My understanding is that Texas has pretty good laws in place to corral the incorrigible among HOA officers. The problem is, you have to get other residents to come up with the legal fees to sue over the conditions. Meanwhile, the HOA has the resources you help pay for to defend their actions.

We are looking at some possible ways to make actions of the board and officers part of the contractual prohibitions that would foreclose use of HOA funds for legal defense if the board does not follow the clear directives of the Declarations and By-laws. We don't have any problems now but by the time you need the protection, it's too late if it isn't in place.

It's absurd that homeowners have to come up with additional legal funds apart from their association dues and assessments just to make sure the terms they live under are enforced on HOA boards.

Pete Nanos

You knew the rules when you moved in and now you want to complain. You would be the first one to complain about cars being parked on the lawns, purple roofs or junk cars in front of your home. Suck it up buttercup. Join the association or MOVE.Anyone can sit around and bitch.

Paul Sivon

The HOA officers know the rules. The “bitch”, buttercup, is that they choose not to follow them for their own purposes.

Miceal O'Laochdha

Like I said...petty-tyrant syndrome...

Gary Miller

Miceal> So say I.

Ron Shelby

Well said Bill.

Jarvis Buckley

Well said

Charlotte O'rourke

The highlight of this discussion was the two opposing “buttercup” opinions. They made me laugh ... out loud.

There is nothing so frustrating as having policies or rules and the leaders not following these rules for some unknown purpose or reason. It’s tough to address this type of behavior without a lot of time and effort and usually money for litigation.

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