Illustration by Jan Igoe
A couple of months ago, when the moon was full, I briefly pondered raising alpacas in my backyard and inviting the Ringling Brothers to park their elephants in my garage. Instead, I decided to replace my leaky roof, which I hoped would be less traumatic for my homeowners association. I’m thoughtful that way.
You’d think my HOA would be overjoyed. New roofs make homes look nice. Nice homes mean the neighborhood is thriving, and thriving neighborhoods mean higher property values. But they didn’t see it that way, because I forgot to ask permission, as outlaws often do.
It wasn’t intentional. The pond in my living room was getting deep when the roofers called to say they could fit me in ahead of schedule, so I agreed. My preference would have been May when their shirts are off. (Have you seen those marathon athletes race up ladders with 4-by-8-foot boards balanced on their heads? Roofing should be an Olympic sport. And for $9,500, the least they can do is entertain me.)
Besides, I didn’t go artsy-fartsy or anything. It’s not like my shingles are fluorescent purple. (Couldn’t find anything that interesting.) Of course, I considered painting and collaging the gray ones into an asphalt mosaic of flamingos shag dancing, but I deferred to blah and boring—exactly what homeowners associations love. These folks are a “fat-free vanilla yogurt with no sprinkles” kind of crowd.
Anyway, the dreaded “bad girl” letter was already in the mail. On page 73 of the homeowner’s manual, which they graciously photocopied for me, Rule 4C5-0916X clearly states that replacing a roof requires the architectural committee’s blessing. Oopsie.
The letter arrived on Friday, so I spent that weekend wondering what it would cost to have somebody remove all the shingles and send the roof back. I never did check their return policy.
Although I am a certified troublemaker, I still respect my HOA. These selfless volunteers are our last line of defense against pink polka-dot houses, poolside possum skinning, free-roaming giraffes and Genghis Khan invasions. (Rule 74D17-1109Y states that hordes on horseback cannot pillage without recreation committee approval.) That’s all reasonable. But do I really need a permission slip to decapitate a dead tree or save myself from a flood?
So, I called the HOA to apologize first thing Monday morning.
Me: “Hi, this is Ja…”
HOA rep: “I know who it is. You needed a permit.”
Me: “I’m sorry. Do I owe you money?”
HOA rep: “No. Permits are free.”
Me: “Do I need an inspection?”
HOA rep: “No. The roof looks fine.”
Me: “Then, what is the prob…”
HOA rep: “You needed a permit. And we heard about the tree.”
Another oops. Maybe I’ll hold off on the alpacas for a while.
JAN IGOE is trying to keep a low profile in the ’hood until the roof thing blows over. While she’s still on the lam, write her at HumorMe@SCLiving.coop.