In Nashville, Tennessee, a frantic mother found her daughter hanging from her bedroom window with the blind cord wrapped tightly around her neck. The mother, Monica Meeker, fortunately had heard her daughter’s cry, responded quickly and she and her husband removed the cord.     “She was gasping for air and crying and coughing,” Meeker said. “She had purple ligature marks on her neck for a week.”     The Meekers took down the blinds that night, and replaced them with grey curtains.

Within two weeks, a letter arrived from the property manager for their homeowners association. The letter stated that the grey curtains that the Meekers had put up violated their homeowner’s association standards. This began the Meekers nightmare with their homeowner’s association.     The Enclave at Harpeth Village homeowner’s association letter said the Meekers were required to have 2-inch blinds on all front-facing windows “to provide a uniform appearance throughout the community.” Monica, who refused to put the blinds back up, was told an inexpensive product could keep the cord out of the children’s reach.     “I said, ‘Well, pardon me, but I am not going to have anything in my children’s room that can kill them,’ ” she said.

The Consumer Product Safety Commission says hundreds of children have been fatally strangled in the past three decades by cords on window blinds.

The developer of the community, Austin Daniel, who also is the self-appointed HOA president, said the Meekers could install cordless plantation shutters on the front windows. But the Meekers would have needed three sets of shutters, which they said cost more than $500 each. Daniel did not respond to The Kansas City Star’s repeated requests for an interview. Daniel sent an email to the Meekers in November stating, “I have had to make many, many decisions about the standards for the Enclave” and “not all have been warmly received because people generally think their own opinion is the most important one. Fortunately, the market is telling me that our vision for the Enclave was correct because we are sold out with a waiting list. Daniel told the Meekers they had several options: put the old blinds back up with the device designed to keep the cord out of reach, install plantation shutters, get 75 percent of homeowners to agree to change the HOA rules, file a lawsuit or move.”

Instead of bending to the will of their homeowner’s association, the Meekers eventually moved out in June.

According to The Kansas City Star, This Drama Has Played Out in Homes Across the Country:

“The Kansas City Star has for more than six months examined the homes association explosion and the problems it has generated. Today, one in five people in the U.S. lives in a homeowners or condo association, and 80 percent of new housing starts are in HOAs.

The number of residents of homes associations has grown rapidly — it’s now difficult to find a new home that’s not in an HOA.

Homes associations wield far more power than homeowners realize. That’s because local governments have saved money by ceding HOAs more and more authority over such responsibilities as streets and sewers. Associations can fine you for leaving a garage door open and seize your home over late dues.

“A lot of people don’t realize, especially first-time homebuyers, that when you purchase into these homeowners associations you are giving up some of your constitutional rights and some of your due process rights,” said Dave Russell, who runs a formerly troubled Arizona condo association.

HOA boards often are run by volunteers with little training, which can lead to neighborhood strife and even violence. Lawsuits are filed over seemingly petty issues such as “unattractive” flowerpots on a front step.

The Result?

An institution originally created to protect homeowners instead has morphed into one that sometimes torments them.”