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When a Shed Is Not a Shed


Ruth, a.k.a. Elayne Kongaika, was raised in the orchard town of Orem, Utah. She married a Polynesian and has had amazing travel experiences.

Our pansies and strawberries.

Our pansies and strawberries.

We Love Gardening!

I am quite sure this is something that you have not had to contemplate during your lifetime. Neither had we, until now. This is the second summer we have lived in our home. We moved to this area because of our daughter and granddaughter who live only a couple of blocks away. We recently retired, and having lived many miles away from our children, decided it was time to move closer to them. It has been delightful to be able to attend activities our grandchildren are involved in.

One thing both my husband and I enjoy is gardening. We lived in Hawaii before retiring to Utah. There are only two seasons in Hawaii, the dry season and the wet season. We were able to grow a garden nearly year round in our backyard. My husband also had access to a plot where he grew bananas, papaya, and many local root crops. Utah has four seasons, so we are still getting used to gardening from late Spring through Autumn. Winters can be very cold and snowy in Utah. All the trees and plants go to sleep.

Our our back window - our sunflowers.

Our our back window - our sunflowers.


In a fairly short time, we have accrued quite a few garden tools including a lawnmower, tiller, wheelbarrow, hoes, rakes, and other necessities. Our garden paraphernalia has become a bit more than our garage can hold together with our two vehicles. So, I got what I thought was a rather brilliant idea to store our garden tools in a shed to be in a small area of the backyard rather than having them strewn about the backyard.

We live in an area which has a Home Owners Association (HOA). We have no experience with this, but we have had a rude awakening to the control the HOA has over the freedoms we took for granted in the past. Soon after my idea to get a shed to store our garden tools, my husband found one he thought was suitable. It was not too big, was similar to the color of our home, and it was affordable. He even drew up a plan with our home and yard showing where the shed would be located and its size in comparison to our home. We excitedly went to submit an application to the HOA office together with the plans.

Pretty flowers in our yard

Pretty flowers in our yard

Wood Chips

I’ve experienced a few unwelcome “slaps in the face” before but did not expect one on that day. I am Caucasian and my husband is Polynesian. Prejudice and racism are still very much alive these days. I’m not sure that this experience was race related or rather “class” related. But, one thing for sure is that we both felt something negative like that. We were told that for them to just look at our application, we would have to pay $75. So if they denied our request, we were out that much. Hey, we are retired, and every dollar is counted that we spend.

Since living in our home, we were told we had to change the color of the wood chips. When we purchased the home, it had redwood chips. So we decided to be compliant and after a labor-intensive removal of all the red chips and purchase of new black wood chips, we were in good standing with the HOA once again. We were a little put out by the requirement to pay the money for them to look at our application, not knowing whether it would be accepted or not. We must have not been the first to utter our disagreement with this policy, because a lady came out and took us in her office without us forking out the money.

Our roses

Our roses


In a rather short time, she glanced over our application and carefully drawn plan of our home and yard with the little shed that took up a mere presence. She told us that no pre-fabricated sheds were accepted in our neighborhood. Both my husband and I asked in unison, “why not”? It matched our house and was easy to sell should we decide to move. She explained that we had to hire someone to make us a shed that had the same siding as our house and same shingles as our roof. It also could not be taller than our fence! She also said that it would probably cost us a considerable amount of money, other than the $800 we had planned on.

We were both in amazement at the absurdity of the HOA’s response. It was just a shed!! Somewhere to store our garden tools for the winter. Was this to become an issue? Her answer to our shocked faces was, “Well don’t you love living in this neighborhood”? My husband replied, “not really”. I jumped in and shared my feelings of feeling unsafe in the area. Just a few roads over there was a drug bust that had been going on for who knows how long. Sirens are an often occurrence here. One criminal was loose and was caught hiding in a window well. Transients frequently walk around the roads looking for open garages to see if they can take whatever they like. Many people have given in to getting security cameras and paying monthly fees to feel a bit safer. Solicitors also find their way to this neighborhood. Where is the HOA when you need them?



Fair Treatment?

We explained that the reason we moved here was to be closer to our daughter and grandchild. She reminded us that it was our choice to move here. We reminded her that we were retired and wanted to be closer to our children in our elderly years. Of course, there are some amenities that we enjoy here, like a local swimming pool which has also proven less than safe since some intruders recently took keys from the dressing rooms and stole several items from the residents. I’m sure the outsiders look at our neighborhood as the perfect spot to Impinge on us their need for worldly desires. If we also have deluxe sheds, won’t it just get worse?

Our neighbor has a large shed and they have not told him to remove it. On the other side of us, the neighbors do not keep their yard tidy and still have the redwood chips brightly outshining ours. They also have a tree and the roots find their way into our yard and come up through our grass. When does the discrimination begin and when does it end? With all these thoughts and feelings welling up inside me, I decided I better leave, before I say something that may get us banned from the neighborhood for good. So, I walked out, leaving my poor 70 plus husband to wrap it up. Who knew that a simple request for a garden shed could ruin a perfectly good day?

Pretty flowers!

Pretty flowers!

Just a shed?

So in conclusion, when is a shed not a shed? When the HOA says it isn’t. To live in our neighborhood, you must hire a contractor to build you a custom-made deluxe shed that looks exactly like our house does! You might bring down the value of our whole neighborhood with anything less. I began to envy all the people who did not live in our neighborhood that had homes with an attractive pre-fab shed that jutted above their fence for all the world to see. They lived in the same America we did, but they had more freedoms. We had not thought of moving until then. Could a shed be the catalyst to make us move to a freer area of America?

Just for your information, we have never gone late on paying our HOA fees and have complied with all of their demands. We have been ideal citizens and parked our cars in the proper spots and kept our lawn cut, prettied up our yard with flowers and been neighborly as expected. But, this shed thing had “shed” a new light on our existence. Could the lack of apathy and indifference to our personal circumstances force us away from our children and grandchildren? Who knows how much longer we will be around to enjoy the association we now have with our family? This lunacy and aloofness have us in turmoil - over a shed!

The day hail hit our backyard.

The day hail hit our backyard.


Will we move? Will we just leave our garden tools in the yard to rust over the long cold winter. Does the HOA have an even colder heart? We cannot afford to hire someone to build us a luxurious ritzy shed to hold our rakes and hoes. What a quandary we find ourselves in. Almost too much for two old people to handle, and over a shed. Are there demands justifiable for something so ignominious? If they were fair, they would go and demand that all the sheds that already exist in the neighborhood meet the same standards, regardless of the resident’s state of affairs.

I have shared this story to hopefully make sense out of it and would appreciate any input from those who have lived in an HOA neighborhood before. I know we can move out, but that is not our wish. Should we give up gardening, the one thing we can still enjoy in our elderly years? Or, should be just “bite the bullet” and fork out the money to build the shed of the HOA’s dreams. Will it possibly raise the value of our home to what they claim it will? So many questions to be answered.

Go for it! But it can't show above our fence!

© 2018 Elayne


Devika Primić from Dubrovnik, Croatia on October 04, 2018:

This sounds troublesome.

RTalloni on September 18, 2018:

Showing off their power, no doubt. Perhaps having an attorney simply write them a letter would solve it for you.

Elayne (author) from Rocky Mountains on September 18, 2018:


I appreciate you sharing your feelings about HOAs. I am still trying to deal with the disappointments I encountered trying to get a shed. I find we are just one of many unhappy people living with an overbearing HOA. If they were consistent and fair it would be much more reasonable, but I have noticed several of our neighbors with sheds and other things in their yard that do not meet their demands.

RTalloni on September 17, 2018:

HOAs are sometimes run by people who are racist or class driven but nearly all are run by control freaks. They don't care what you look like or your pedigree as long as you do not oppose them. That's how they go their job. Without the help of an attorney they can rarely be successfully opposed.

So sorry you are in the situation. You might want to google some info on ways people have gone around HOAs. Maybe someone responding to this will have info. Keep us posted!

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