I've never lived in a home in an HOA (development with a Home Owner's Association) until we moved to Las Vegas. Needless to say it will never happen again. Nearly all homes in Las Vegas are part of an HOA and the news regularly covers HOA horror stories (examples here and here). We sometimes get notices from our HOA saying "there are five weed in your yard please remove them or you will be fined". And in our friend's HOA, they get notices any time there are black marks from tires in people's driveways which means the homeowner somehow needs to clean rubber marks off of their concrete driveway (?!?).
A few days ago I got a notice from our HOA which I figured would have something to do with the weeds that just popped up during our recent warm weather but no, it was a notice to paint all of the fascia and trim around our house because it looks faded. We have 25 days to comply and when I got the first estimate to do the painting it was $1000!!! I would have done the painting myself but we have a two story house and both hubby and I are in the "prone to falls" age group and the last thing I want to do is roll off the roof so I asked some friends for recommendations and found a guy who will do the painting for $350 which is a lot less than the original estimate but for people who live on a fixed income and don't have any savings something like this could be a major financial disaster for them.
I guess the take away from this is to not live in an HOA (we are planning to move), to have money in savings (we do), and if you are a homeowner, be prepared for unexpected expenses to pop up.