LA CYGNE, Kan. (WDAF) — Some homeowners living in Linn County say their homeowners’ association (HOA) prevents people from accessing their homes.

Tanglewood Lakes is a private community 60 miles south of Kansas City. It consists of three lakes and an estimated 2,200 property owners.

“It’s such a hidden treasure,” said property owner Sherri Toynbee.

“I love the quiet, the serenity, the peace of mind that you get that comes with that country,” said Eva Riojas.

Several people who live around the lake say the HOA is the one thing that spoils it all. They also say rules are not enforced equally.

“There’s always going to be disagreements. There’s always going to be debates about how rules should be and how they should be applied. But, what we have seen in Tanglewood in last couple of years is a trend that has been very harmful, hurtful, non-compassionate and inhumane,” said John Ivan, an attorney in Merriam.

This is a fight that has been happening silently for at least four years.

Neighbors tell WDAF it does not matter if you pay your annual $200 HOA dues, you could lose your gate access at any moment, and it’s all up to the board’s discretion.

A 54-page Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) report shows that gate access for 737 people was deactivated between October 2018 and October 2020, all due to violations.

“They won’t give us gate cards to go in and out, so we are like a prisoner on our own property,” said James Horton.

Sherri Toynbee is one of the hundreds who lost access to the community and their homes.

“We lost total gate access since March of last year. They tell us we can leave but not return,” Toynbee said.

Toynbee said her nightmare began when she purchased two alpacas in 2020. She was later told the animals were a violation of the HOA covenant.

She claims the board tried to remove them from her property forcibly, even though they are registered as emotional support animals, authorized by her doctor and secured behind six-foot privacy fences.

“There was literally four to six sheriff patrol up there with a tow truck and trailer. They were coming to get them. They were literally going to forcefully come on our land and remove them,” Toynbee said.

Another family of nine told WDAF that they were forced to spend brutal winter months living in tents after the HOA had them remove their campers, then denied their approval for a building permit.

“There’s other people who’ve lived out here for years in their campers and still have their campers, but us, we have a family of nine out here. Came in and took our campers and told us, we’re not even allowed to bring our campers back out here,” Horton said. “Because of their rules and what they want to throw at certain people, this is what they’ve left us with.”

Kansas law allows HOAs to be creative and allows foreclosure on a property for unpaid feeds, dues, and other violations. However, Ivan, the attorney representing the Toynbee family, says HOAs cannot limit access to homes. Ivan says that is a violation of the law.

He believes the bylaws and covenants may not even be valid in this particular case. So he’s in court trying to fight the legality of the group.

“The covenant instituted by Lake Estates inc. in the 1970s gave five years to review and revise covenant from original developers. According to the records, there’s never been another covenant. It indicates at that point, it ended,” Ivan said. “But they have gone and enlarged their claims.”

“We’re not trying to destroy the association, we’re trying to protect the association, made up of all the unit owners, so that it can be fairly administered and managed,” Ivan said.

WDAF made multiple requests to speak with the HOA vice president and head of security Tate West on camera, but he declined. Instead, WDAF was promised a written statement that has not arrived yet.

“I think that at some point and time, there has to come humanity in government. We’ve tried to take it to court. We’ve tried to have it adjudicated. We’ve tried to do everything the legal way and have gotten nowhere,” Riojas said.

Ivan filed a court order asking the court to immediately and temporarily take over the management of the HOA.