62-year-old Navy veteran Reed Herman from Saint Michael, Minnesota said he is fighting to keep his home after the Homeowner Association’s (HOA) has forcefully foreclosed on it due to a dispute about a flagpole in his yard.
“Association living, I suppose, is not for everybody. We have a lot of rules, and we sign an agreement to abide by those,” the association’s president Joanne Dungan told Star Tribune.
Herman said that he knew he needed permission to put a pole in his front yard to fly his American flag, so he sent HOA a written letter asking for approval. He claims he never heard back from them.
For two straight months, he called and said that he never received a callback, letter, email…nothing. After being ghosted for so long, he finally decided to just go ahead and set up the flagpole to proudly display his American flag.
Thinking everything was fine and dandy, two weeks later Herman finally received a response from the HOA but it wasn’t what he expected. In the letter, a Preserve West Townhome Association’s lawyer stated that Herman must take the down flagpole immediately for apparently not letting HOA know he installed it.
He said he sent in a second letter and even later a third letter showing all his detailed plans for installing the flagpole. He said the only thing they responded with was that they’ve already been charging him $50 every day that the pole was still there.
After hearing this, he conceded and took the flagpole down, however, the HOA wasn’t done with Herman yet. Almost a year later, they send him a bill for $3,700 claiming that he owed them for attorney fees and other costs related to the dispute.
The HOA continued to add to his bill until it reached $6,656 and then sent him a letter saying that they were now going to foreclose on his home due to him not paying the fees.
They later publically announced that Herman’s $300,000 home would be sold off in a sheriff’s auction in order to cover the fees that they tacked onto him over the dispute.
“You cannot govern by exception,” the HOA president said. “When we make a decision, it’s not just one property, it’s 128 properties.”
According to Minnesota state law, citizens are allowed to fly the U.S. flag, but also allows homeowners’ associations to impose restrictions. Joanne said that this dispute is not about Herman flying the American flag, but the pole he was using to erect it.
“We have many veterans living here and we honor the flag,” she said. “My husband’s a veteran.”
She explained that residents are allowed to fly an American flag outside their homes as long as it’s attached to the home. Having a flagpole not attached to the home and standing alone in the yard is prohibited.
“It has nothing to do with the flag. Just the pole, period,” she said.
Herman has filed a motion in the Wright County District Court for an injunction to stop it and says he’s determined to fight back. He claims there are other flagpoles in the community that are not permitted and are not being targeted like his property was.
The association has the duty to respond to his requests in a timely manner and if evidence shows that they didn’t do so, he is hoping the judge will see this and rule in his favor. If not, he stands to lose hundreds of thousands of dollars and be kicked out of his home.