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homeowner

Thousands of homeowners in East Baton Rouge Parish belong to neighborhood homeowners' associations with rules that tell you what you can do to your property. Richard Gruse and his wife found out the hard way that taking on a homeowners association can mean a long and costly fight. WAFB's Julie Baxter reports now from the 'Lake at White Oak' subdivision with a story that asks whether those homeowner's rules protect or burden property owners.

[CG at 0:23:Name - TitleRichard GruseHomeowner]
[CG at 0:54:Name - TitleGlen Petersen, Past Pres.Lake at White Oak Hom. Assn.]

<We had just gotten married, had a child on the way, wanted to live in a nice subdivision with no problems where it was really quiet--and there weren't any issues about anything....and it turned out we're the major issue...>

[TAKE VO]{***VO***}RICHARD GRUSE BOUGHT THIS HOUSE THAT HAD BEEN VACANT FOR A YEAR IN "THE LAKE AT WHITE OAK SUBDIVISION". BUT WHEN HE BEGAN ADDING ONTO HIS GARAGE, HE GOT A CALL FROM THE HOMEOWNERS ASSOCIATION.

<I get a drive-by shooting around here every month or so--it's the homeowners association taking pictures--all these blurred pictures--looks like undercover operation, let's see what he's workin' on now...>

[TAKE VO]{***VO***}

RICHARD TELLS HOW HIS WIFE QUESTIONED SOME HOMEOWNERS' ASSOCIATION BOARD MEMBERS WHEN SHE FOUND THEM IN HER GARAGE TAKING PICTURES.

[TAKE SOT

AT: 6:00

TO: 6:08

DURATION:0:08]

{***SOT***}

<They said our president is an attorney--he's a very good one and we'll take you to court. Well you don't start off with your neighbors by trying to sue 'em, I don't think.>

[TAKE VO]

{***VO***}

THE HOMEOWNERS' ASSOCIATION DISPUTES THE PART ABOUT TAKING PICTURES...

[TAKE SOT

AT: 9:25

TO: 9:28

DURATION:0:03]

{***petersen SOT***}

<I am totally unaware of that, I don't think that happened.>

[TAKE VO]

{***VO***}

BUT THE ASSOCIATION SAYS THE REAL PROBLEM IS THAT RICHARD STARTED BUILDING WITHOUT GETTING THEIR APPROVAL FIRST.

[TAKE SOT

AT: 2:51

TO: 3:01

DURATION:0:10]

{***petersen SOT***}

<He made a conscious decision to go ahead without approval, unfortunately that's what got him into the predicament he's in now.>

[TAKE VO]

{***GRAPHICS VO***}

AND INDEED, THE HOMEOWNER'S COVENANT CLEARLY SAYS 'NO WORK MAY COMMENCE ON ANY LOT UNTIL THE APPROVAL OF SUCH PLANS HAS BEEN GIVEN BY THE COMMITTEE.'

[TAKE VO]

{***VO***}

THAT'S THE 'ARCHITECTURAL CONTROL COMMITTEE' THAT UNDER MANY SUBDIVISION COVENANTS HAS THE POWER TO STOP YOUR ADDITION IF IT DOESN'T BELIEVE THE BUILDING PROTECTS THE ARCHITECTURAL INTEGRITY OF THE NEIGHBORHOOD.

{***petersen SOT***}

<Our ACC decided primarily the roofline was not as he had drawn it--it was a contiguous roofline we were looking for and that wasn't the case.>

{***SOT***}

<I installed this door and they said well, none of this matches.>

{***SOT***}

<I used white paint, which they still say is not approved.>

{***peterson SOT***}

<I don't know where that's coming from--but the color of the paint was never an issue in the litigation or dispute.>

[TAKE VO]

{***GRAPHICS VO***}

RICHARD SAYS HE EVEN GOT THE CITY PARISH BUILDING INSPECTOR TO APPROVE THESE PLANS, BUT GLEN PETERSON SAYS HOMEOWNERS ASSOCIATIONS LOOK AT AESTHETICS--HOW THE PLANS FIT WITH THE NEIGHBORHOOD.

{***petersen SOT***}

<We made it pretty clear as to what our problems were with his drawings--you know the important thing is he went ahead and started with this construction prior to getting approval.>

{***SOT***}

<But anything along those lines that doesn't fall in line with the look of our homes, is what we'd be concerned about...>

[TAKE VO]

{***VO***}

AND PETERSEN SAYS MOST HOMEOWNERS HERE *WANT* THESE RULES TO PROTECT THEIR PROPERTY VALUES...WHEN WE WENT BACK TO VISIT RICHARD, HE HAD DECIDED TO RIP OUT THOSE DOORS, MOVE THE GARAGE WALL BACK FOUR FEET TO MAKE HIS ROOF-LINE CONFORM AS ASKED, AND BUILT THIS FENCE TO KEEP UNSIGHTLY TOOLS OR TOYS FROM VIEW...RICHARD LOST IN ARBITRATION PROCEEDINGS AND HAS NOW PAID MORE THAN 20,000 DOLLARS IN LEGAL FEES OVER THIS....BUT THE HOMEOWNERS ASSOCIATION SAYS HE CREATED HIS OWN PROBLEMS BY NOT GETTING PERMISSION FIRST.

{***SOT***}

<Then he should suffer the consequences of doing that...when he intentionally does that and ignores the rules and ignores the covenants, then yes, I absolutely believe and believe the residents of our subdivision would expect that structure to be taken down.>

JULIE BAXTER, WAFB NINE NEWS.

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