I’ve been reading and viewing the news of a Florida Home Owner Association – the Hammock Lake HOA – that banned the local Boy Scouts troupe from soliciting food donations inside the HOA.
It’s an interesting problem – The Boy Scouts (founded by Lord Baden-Powel – I know that not from Wikipedia, but because I was one) and Girl Guides, founded in 1910 (from the Scouting movement begun in 1907), represent over 100 years of education youth in physical and skill development. They are, by any definition, a highly successful worldwide organization who benefit youth in multiple countries, and relatively non-contentious.
Second, the solicitation was for a food drive – a non-commercial collection of food designed to feed local unfortunate citizens. The food drive is clearly a community building and benefiting.
But the action of going door to door is an act of solicitation. The HOA rules clearly state “no solicitation.” As such, the HOA rejected the troupe request to poll the community for donations.
I’m on record that I believe condominium corporations and HOAs are overburdened by rules and by-laws that prevent the development of a community of owners. When I use the term community, I mean a group of people, who by chance of living within the same condominium or HOA, become friends and neighbours instead of strangers.
So I am torn by this – the judgement of the HOA to ban the food drive (a fantastic activity) definitely destroys any sense of community. The rules though are clear, and it is an act of solicitation and should not be allowed.
HOA and condominium rules are often very broad and very broadly enforced. The non-solicitation is a good one to examine. No solicitation, no signs, no political expression – all these exist to make a group of people, all with their own world view function and live together in harmony*. It’s important to limit political, religious and philosophical different expressions because these have huge chances to blow up into bigger fights. We’ve all likely heard the line:
They pull a knife, you pull a gun. He sends one of yours to the hospital; you send one of his to the morgue.
It’s worse when it comes to politics and religion with neighbours – ever seen neighbours attempt to out-sign (in size and numbers) each other during elections? It’s nasty – and worse when some or all of the board participate as well. It creates a community that is very dysfunctional. It becomes downright unwelcoming to people of different views.
Instead of allowing any signs, the HOA allows no signs at all. It’s simpler to enforce, it’s harder to litigate against, and it prevents the board from being seen as purposefully supporting or picking on specific owners.
If the HOA allows the Boy Scouts, the what about requests from a local synagogue, a chapter of the Red Crescent, Bank of America Community Volunteers, or the local Atheists Organization (the Boy Scouts and Girl Guides require a Duty To God, and a greater participation with God the further along the organization).
“No Solicitation” is neither vague nor ambiguous. “No solicitation” isn’t an aesthetic like “keep your yard neat” which is arguable if trimming the hedge to 3’ in height is neater than 3.5’ high shrubbery. “No Solicitation” is simple – no (as in disallowed) solicitation (asking residents for something or some action).
In this case, it would take a lawyer to say a two word statement is vague or ambiguous.
*These rules are very different than no-parking on the street, no-chickens rules, controls on the delivery of furniture, limitations on access to facilities, lawn and home standards. Those are all “operational” rules which should all be simply trashed.