Do homeowners associations go to far?
Courts entertain some bizarre cases brought by HOA’s
David and Arna Orlando never thought they’d get sued by a homeowner’s association for parking at their own house.
The couple were the target of a lawsuit filed by the The Kimry Moor Homeowners Association just outside Fayetteville, NY. The HOA sought an injunction in Onondaga County, NY Supreme Court to stop them from parking their 2014 black Ford150 truck in their own driveway.
The association asserted its regulations only allow residents to park “private, passenger-type, pleasure automobiles” in driveways. The association owns the driveways in the development. The association argued the couple’s pickup did not qualify as a private passenger-type vehicle.
The Orlandos contended their pickup was a personal passenger vehicle and not a commercial vehicle of any sort.
The couple eventually moved to Florida and the lawsuit was subsequently settled to the satisfaction of both sides. The Orlandos are prevented from discussing details of the settlement, but cases like theirs are not so rare.
What is an HOA?
Independent American Communities, an HOA watchdog blog operated by Deborah Goonan, describes them this way: “Homeowners, condominium, cooperative, and property owners associations are collective legal entities – usually incorporated. Governing documents of HOAs – which include Declarations of Covenants, Conditions, and Restrictions (CC&Rs), By Laws, and Articles of Incorporation – are legally binding on both individual members and their Association, with U.S. courts generally viewing the relationship as contractual between and among the parties.”
The blog explains for homeowners the risk of entering into a homeowner’s association.
“But that contract is usually written by and for developers, making it one-sided in favor of the HOA,” IAC reports. “In addition, governing documents are not subject to state or federal review, and state laws impose very few restrictions on the terms of HOA contracts. A buyer or heir to HOA property must agree to all terms without any opportunity for negotiation before taking title to that property.”
HOA loses case, homeowner loses privileges
Even when an HOA loses in court, it could take vindictive measures. A Florida homeowner took his HOA to court so he could review information that should have been public record. He won his summary judgment case, gaining access to the management contract and financial records of his HOA, including the specific compensation of its manager. As reported by Jan Bergemann, president of Cyber Citizens For Justice, Inc.:
In an order granting plaintiff’s motion for summary judgment, Circuit Court Judge William L. Roby ruled against Piper’s Landing, Inc. in Martin County, Fla. in a case where the homeowner’s association refused to allow a member to inspect the management contract and the financial records indicating the specific compensation of manager Brian Reich.
Not long after, the homeowner received the following letter:
Maryland HOA sues non-member
Bill Peters, of Bel Air, MD was sued by a neighboring HOA over a 2-foot span of his driveway.
The case started when Harford County issued permits for Peters to build the driveway. He said he gave the neighboring homeowners’ association, which his property is not a part of, a month’s notice, according to wbaltv.com.
He spent $15,000 to build his driveway, which passed county inspection. Then, the Emerald Hills Homeowners Association took him to court.
Peters won the case, but it cost him $50,000 in legal fees.
How to protect assets
The Homeowners Protection Bureau, LLC offers information and resources regarding disputes and asset protection. If sued by an HOA, it is best to consult an attorney.