Beware of the Fence Police!

Somersett United
Somersett United

It appears that SOA CC&R compliance police are making the rounds issuing no-compliance letters to homeowners who have stained their privacy fences, at least those portions visible from the street.  Makes no difference when they were stained or if there is no detrimental appearance effect on the neighborhood.

The basis for the non-compliance letters appears to be a violation of Section 3.7.1 of the Aesthetic Guidelines, which state: “Privacy fencing must be maintained with the full body or semi-transparent stain detailed for your neighborhood (consult the Somersett Owners Association for specific information) or oil based clear sealer if no color is designated……The homeowner is responsible for sealing the wood on fencing within the lot boundary. No paint or semi-opaque stains are allowed unless otherwise designated”.  Herein lies the rub in that, per the SOA’s Compliance Director, it is a Somersett standard that stained fences within the community are not allowed and that no approved stain colors for doing such have ever been designated.   Therefore, those owners who to took responsibility to maintain their privacy fences on in good order by sealing them with a stain color slightly different than the original color, are now being punished.   As many of these non-compliances occurred several years ago, one would think a statue of limitations might apply.

To further complicate matters, non-compliance letters received by owners did not specifically identify what the non-compliance was all about.  Rather just a generic statement quoting Article VI, Section 5 of the CC&R’s as follows:  “No building, garage, shed, walkway, satellite dish, fence, wall, retaining wall, dog run, drainage ditch or system, landscaping or any other structure shall be commenced, erected, placed or altered on any lot in the Subdivision until the building plans and specifications thereof have been submitted to and approved in writing as to the conformity and harmony of external design with the existing structures or general scheme in the Subdivision , and as to the location of the building with respect to topography and finished ground elevation, by the Committee”. Thus, leaving the recipient with no clue as to why he or she received the letter. These letters also violated SOA Compliance Policy SOME.003.02, which requires that such letters include a “Request for Information and Compliance (RIC) Form” to be completed by the owner.  If the Compliance Committee wants owners to follow the “Letter of the Law”, suggest they do the same.

Bottom line, if you have stained your fence for whatever reason, even if years ago, be prepared to receive a non-compliance letter.  The SOA’s solution, if you are guilty of such a transgression, is to power wash off the stain, or replace slats, to return to its original state. If you have not yet done so, but are contemplating stain sealing your fence, suggest you refrain from doing so without first submitting a request for approval (along with $500).  However, except for a rare case, do not expect a successful outcome.

6 thoughts on “Beware of the Fence Police!

  1. Owners should know that they have signed a form when purchasing their home that they have read and understand the rules attached to ownership in Somersett and Sierra Canyon. To whine later does nothing for me. To have a “rules don’t apply to me” attitude is plain wrong. If you don’t feel comfortable with the rules, don’t buy here.

    Another example are those owners that purchase homes in a community that is designated a “dark community” and then put their outside lights on all night, acting like street lights. They show their non-compliance to me after dark each night.

    1. Thank you for your comment, Don. Well said.
      It’s just like the group of folks who buy homes in Somersett, “A Master-planned Golf Community” and then want to let the golf course go brown.
      I don’t understand it.

      It is the CC&R’s, and enforcement of them, that make this community such a beautiful place to live. If we all just did what we wanted to our yards and homes, this community would look like hell.
      Thanks again. Most of us agree with you.

  2. HOA’s have governing documents and boards have the fiduciary duty to see that their provisions are carried out whether owners have read them or not. One has to wonder why after thirteen years enforcement is just now being carried out with respect to many violations.

    In addition to the Aesthetic Guidelines, the Somersett PUD is the “chief” governing document. Too bad that owners are not given a copy at close of escrow. Heaven forbid what an expense! Many HOA’s have all the governing documents on a CD that they hand to new owners. We’re about as up-to-date on that as we are with our fancy dancy websites which are difficult to navigate. Yeah we’re work’n on it. Heard that before.

    The 2009 PUD (slightly different from the 2003 version) says:

    Capped Cedar Fence

    Capped Cedar fencing may be a maximum of six feet in height to provide privacy between houses. In the case of corner lots where the side yards face a street, or when abutting the golf courses, parks, trails or common area, the three rail split fencing is required except in Moran Pointe where two rail split fence is required. Privacy fence must be built of #2 western red cedar or better AND LEFT NATURAL OR STAINED WITH THE APPROVAL OF THE AGC AND USE OF SOMERSETT FULL-BODY STAIN SPECIFIED FOR YOUR NEIGHBORHOOD (refer to Figure 2-67A) – [emphasis added]

    Standard Grade Split Rail Fence

    This fence is a low, 48-inch high three rail fence to be used along rear property lines, side yards which face the street, golf course area, park, trail or common area and in side yards to connect from privacy fence to rear fence. This fence shall be informally aligned to follow the topography so that it blends into the landscape and reflects traditional ranch fencing. This fence MAY NOT BE STAINED OR SEALED, BUT SHOULD BE ALLOWED TO AGE TO A RUSTIC COLOR TO BLEND WITH THE LANDSCAPING. Split rail fence must be standard grade. Pony or jumbo grade is prohibited. Standard grade two-rail (42″) split rail may be allowed in some neighborhoods with prior approval of the Somersett Aesthetic Design Committee (refer to Figure 2-67B and 2-67C) – [emphasis added]

    Get ready illegal wire on split rails is coming next.

    Oh yes, are you stuck with doing the required repair/replacement if you bought the home and the prior owner had done the illegal staining; and/or put up the illegal chicken wire?

  3. When I purchased my home I received a rule book that I follow. The attitude in the associations (homeowners) is I can do what ever I want. The HOA is all talk and no action as their would not be violations. I here all the time that the HOA will grandfather the violators. This is not fair to the owners who follow the rules. The HOA makes exceptions as to not upset their neighbors. Enforce the rules and no grandfathering. The fine is a joke as the HOA’s are writing off the debt as uncollectable. In Sierra Canyon the HOA changed the color (painted) the outside of the lodge and did not even get approval for the color change. So much for the approval process, SCA should of been fined and the board removed for fiduciary incompetency as aboard member okayed the change without going through the process.

    A HOA board member told me to go somewhere else if I did not like it. I ask the HOA to enforce the rules, which is why I moved here and no grandfathering.

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