Tag Archive for: HOA

HOAs: Miss Marple Would Fit Right In

Dear Stiletto Gang Readers and Contributors: No surprise here, I’m traveling again and it’s my day to blog.  I do have an outstanding surprise for you. My dear friend Author Linda Lovely is here in my stead to promote her HOA Mystery series and upcoming release, A Killer App available on November 7th. Please welcome Linda Lovely to The Stiletto Gang! ~ Donnell Ann Bell

HOAs—Miss Marple Would Fit Right In

Author Linda Lovely

By Linda Lovely

Where might Agatha Christie’s Miss Marple hang her hat if she were teleported to the U.S. in 2023? Where could the snoop find the ambience of sleepy St Mary Mead? Where could the spinster sniff out villains among her neighbors?

Some 355,000 common-interest communities offer Miss Marple condo, coop, and homeowner association (HOA) choices aplenty. Societal heirs to yesteryear’s villages—HOAs are now home to 74 million people.

And they make ideal settings for mysteries. If neighbors don’t actually know each other, they’ve heard whispers about the folks they’ve yet to meet. When a murder occurs, the rumor mill makes it easy to churn out suspect lists.

Plus, the inevitable power struggles provide motives and subplots. Think the GOP House of Representatives’ current infighting on a more intimate scale. Who backs more rules and restrictions? Who wants to scale them back? Who favors special assessments to add pickleball courts? Who thinks annual dues are too high?

These power struggles take on real emotional weight if changes directly impact an owner’s home—his or her castle. For instance, how would you feel if a dog park was proposed for the vacant lot next to your house?

Once I decided to write an HOA Mystery series, I knew the crimes couldn’t be confined to a single HOA. After all, who’d want to live in a place like Cabot Cove with its sky-high homicide rate?

To solve that problem, my heroine, Kylee Kane, works for a friend’s HOA management firm. The company has a dozen HOA clients in the South Carolina Lowcountry. Kylee, a retired Coast Guard investigator, has the experience and skills to be a realistic sleuth when trouble surfaces in any of these tight-knit enclaves.

Are HOA management companies common? I was somewhat surprised that only 35 percent of HOAs are run by volunteers. The rest leave the nitty-gritty work to 8,500 firms that specialize in managing HOAs.

Guess it shouldn’t be a shock. Owners who hold full-time jobs aren’t eager to pile more responsibilities on their plates, while retirees may feel they’ve earned the right to relax and travel. By and large, owners in both categories don’t want to prepare budgets, collect fees, manage landscape vendors, assess fines, or force neighbors to tear down a fence that doesn’t meet specs or repaint shutters an approved shade of green.

Of course, a few people LOVE to file complaints against neighbors over nitpick infractions. Guess that’s one reason that 2021 saw 263 complaints filed against 180 different HOAs in South Carolina, where my HOA Mystery series is set.

Like almost any group with more than two people, HOAs can hatch conflict. There’s no guarantee the folks who elect to buy in seaside HOAs will have a shared vision of an ideal community. Some will want to specify which plants are permitted and how many can be planted in a yard. Others will want to install vegetable gardens and native plants.

Some folks will view all trees, especially Palmetto and pine trees, as view-blocking weeds to be cut down. Nature lovers will strive to protect the trees for erosion control and wildlife habitat. As a result, cliques form, gossip passes for gospel, and outcasts long for revenge.

I’ve asked readers to tell me about HOA rules they find unreasonable. I’ve been told the ones listed below appear in the bylaws of at least one HOA.

  • Multicolored outdoor holiday lights are banned. Is the Grinch the enforcer?
  • Owners are only allowed to keep garage doors open five-minutes. Who mans the egg timer?
  • All drapes and window coverings must have white linings facing the outside. What happens if Joe Blow takes down all window coverings in protest and parades in his birthday suit?
  • If an owner wants to sell a home, he must pay the HOA to display a For Sale sign. Said sign can only be appear in an interior window.

While few of us hang out with rock stars, hitmen, or bitcoin tycoons, we know our neighbors—from the quietly heroic to the bullies. Familiar characters and homeowner passions make it easy for readers to relate to HOA tales.

I do attempt to showcase well-run HOAs as well as those in constant upheaval. The difference? Usually it’s the individuals who serve on the board. Did they run to push personal agendas? Or do they want to listen to neighbors and search for consensus on important issues?

My main goal in writing My HOA Mystery series is to entertain. (Okay, there is the bonus of killing off stand-ins for the types of folks who annoy me.) But I also hope my mysteries spotlight strategies to promote peace and harmony within HOAs.

About the Book:

Deepfakes Can Be Murder

Kylee Kane, a security consultant for Welch HOA Management, finds the first victim, Andy Fyke, crumpled at the bottom of a flight of stairs. Kylee suspects his fall’s no accident and is tied to Andy’s campaign to prohibit rentals in his Hilton Head Island community. Yet, Andy’s obvious enemies have ironclad alibis.

When another Lowcountry HOA retiree dies in a hit-and-run boat tragedy, Kylee begins to think the incidents are linked—even though the victims and their assailants have little in common.

The link is the Chameleon, an Artificial Intelligence expert, who can create a deepfake of almost anyone—living or dead. Even more frightening is the Chameleon’s ability to seek out disturbed souls and laser-focus their rage. A talent employed to compel subjects to act as surrogate assassins.

When Kylee begins to pursue the Chameleon, the AI expert decides it’s time to groom an assassin to permanently sideline Kylee.

You can learn more about Linda Lovely and/or sign up for her newsletter at Welcome (lindalovely.com)