By Marian McPherson | JAN 12, 2018 | Inman Connect New York
After 15 years in real estate, Scottsdale, Arizona-based Realtor Jeff Sibbach of Realty One Group’s Sibbach Team is no stranger to dealing with homeowner associations (HOAs) and the rules they create for their individual communities. But after having over $250 worth of open house signs thrown away at the request of the Desert Ridge Community Association in December, Sibbach is at his wit’s end.
“It’s a constant battle, and it’s a double-edged sword to talk about it,” he said. “When they start stealing the signs, we have to start saying something, right?”
Sibbach became aware of the issue after a seller called him asking where the open house signs for her property were. After the call, Sibbach’s business partner, Phil Sexton, went to Desert Ridge to check on other for-sale properties and found a landscape worker piling open house signs into the back of a pick-up.
Sexton filmed his interaction with the worker who said the Desert Ridge HOA hired him to collect the signs that didn’t follow the association’s guidelines.
In the nearly-eight-minute video, the worker explains that open house signs must have the brokerage’s name, the agent’s name and an address or phone number, and it must be encased in a metal A-frame — no plastic or wood allowed.
After his conversation with the landscapers, Sexton sent a number of emails to Desert Ridge Community Association residential community manager Carmello Mussara to get clarification about open house sign guidelines.
What are the rules, exactly?
In the first email to Mussara, Sexton attached the two types of signs The Sibbach Team uses and asked if the kinds of A-frames they used were within regulation. In response, Mussara wrote this message, as obtained by Inman News:
Thank you for the email and the photos. The black a-frame is an approved sign that may be placed out for sales in the Desert Ridge Community, the second white frame is not considered an approved sign, but may be placed in the homeowner lot should you wish. Please note that signs are not permitted to be installed in the common area of the Association or the medians located within the Desert Ridge Community Association, all signs shall be located as to not block access to any sidewalks.
Two days later, on December 29, Sexton reached out to Mussara again asking for a list of written rules since he had an open house scheduled for that weekend and didn’t want to risk having his signs confiscated again.
This time, Mussara said, “the only signs permitted in Desert Ridge are the angle iron signs as directed by the sign ordinance in accordance with the state statutes.” He also said all signs must list the brokerage’s name and information and cannot say “open house” only.
Sexton answered back, noting the discrepancies between what Mussara and the landscaping team hired by Desert Ridge told him:
Ok cool, thank you Carmello. I appreciate your attention as these signs are not cheap. It appears to me that you and AAA Landscaping are not on the same page. Terry and Juan at AAA Landscaping said as long as the signs were on the sidewalk they would not be removed. Your email stated they are not allowed to block sidewalks. This seems contradictory, but maybe I’m misinterpreting it. Please provide clarification. Also, look at the signs in this video that they confiscated. These say more than just “open house”, but they are still being confiscated. Can you or AAA Landscaping share the city, state, and/or local ordinances that AAA Landscaping is enforcing?
“In Arizona, they’re [HOA] allowed to make up rules and then you have to follow them,” Sibbach told Inman in frustration
According to Arizona law, HOAs must follow these rules regarding signage regulation:
HOAs cannot require the usage of open house signs.
HOAs cannot restrict the usage of open house signs that follow these requirements:
The sign must be commercially produced.
The sign cannot exceed eighteen by twenty-four inches.
The rider attached cannot exceed six by twenty-four inches.
HOAs can prohibit or regulate an “open house” sign that is not commercially produced and doesn’t follow size standards.
Sibbach says he understands the state laws and is more than willing to comply with Desert Ridge, especially since he’s losing anywhere between $40 to $60 for each sign the HOA throws away.
“If they take five, that’s $250 bucks,” Sibbach said. “And if they do that over two weekends … I mean, we can only afford to lose $250 one time. Just show us the rule.”
When asked why the HOA seemingly insists on destroying signs rather than providing the written guidelines, Sibbach said the HOA thinks open house signs bring down the neighborhood’s worth.
“They think they’re doing it to improve the value of the subdivision,” he said. “They think open house signs are hurting the value. You think more demand for the subdivision hurts the value?”
“By restricting me, you’re essentially restricting demand,” Sibbach finished. “That’s where I’m at — I’m trying to help demand. It’s having houses sell versus having houses not sell.”
Inman reached out to Desert Ridge Community Association for a response and will update the story when we hear back.
In the meantime, Sibbach, Sexton and their team plan to keep doing business as usual and continue pushing for answers from Desert Ridge.