Summary

Even where homeowners characterize their claims against an Association as civil rights violations, the claims involved in the parties’ rights under the declaration, and the declaration’s attorney’s fees provisions applied.

Facts

In 2011, David Merritt, a former HOA board member, and his wife, Salma, sued their Sunnyvale HOA, Classics at Fair Oaks (Classics), as well as three of its board members. The dispute centered on the Association’s covenants, conditions, and restrictions (“CC&Rs”) involving parking restrictions at the Classics. The HOA’s parking policy requires residents to pay for and obtain a permit for each vehicle parked on the street versus in the garage of each residence. The Merritts had a two-car garage, but only parked one car inside it. They argued that they can only park one car in the garage, because Salma is disabled, and needs additional space to enter and exit the vehicle when it is parked inside the garage.
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Summary

If your Association excessively fines an owner, expect a court to find a way to penalize the association.

The Facts

In 2004 Mr. and Mrs. Mills (“Mills”) bought a home in the subdivision called Galyn Manor.  In 2007 Galyn Manor began fining Mills for a commercial work vehicle parked in their driveway in violation of the association rules.  Galyn Manor advised Mills that the fines would be $50 for each day that the commercial vehicle was parked on their property.  By the end of 2007, the fines amounted to $645.  In January of 2008, the association hired the Andrews Law Firm (“Law Firm”) to collect the fines.  Between 2008 and May of 2015 many demands for payment were made, and many payments were made.
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Summary

Not following ALL of the required procedures when preparing amendments to your association governing documents can be VERY expensive.  Take the time, money and effort to do it right.

The Facts

In 2015 the board for Forest Lakes Master Association distributed notice that it would be holding a vote to amend its voting procedure at its annual meeting.  The board and property manager alleged that they had received the required votes for the amendment.  Because of some interesting counting techniques, the number of votes in favor of the amendment kept rising.  One owner, Johnson, emailed the board and stated that he believed the board failed to follow proper voting procedures and that the amendment did not pass.  After counting the votes, Johnson confirmed his belief that the board had violated the voting procedures in their documents.  Johnson demanded that the Board find the voting procedure void.  When the board refused Johnson filed suit.  Both parties moved for summary judgment and the association also asked for attorney fees.
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Summary

If smoking is otherwise allowed in your association, you do not need to ban it as a reasonable accommodation for a person with asthma.

The Facts

Phyllis Davis suffers from asthma but lives in a condominium complex that allows residents to smoke in their units.  Davis claimed that the smoke from a neighboring unit aggravated her asthma.  Davis is a cancer survivor with “a history of asthma and multiple chemical sensitivity disorder.”  When the association didn’t ban smoking in her building she sued alleging that the association had discriminated against her by not granting her reasonable accommodation request to ban smoking in her building thereby violating the Fair Housing Act because of her disability.  Davis also alleged a nuisance claim under the bylaws.
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Declarant/Developers of Community Associations love to reserve themselves rights within the Declaration that extend far beyond their Declarant control powers.  This is nothing new.  But when a Homeowners Association puts it foot down, who will end up on top?  It depends on how all the sections in the Declaration read together, and as this case shows, ambiguity does not favor the Declarant.

Facts

In a 2019 case, a court had to interpret the Declaration governing an HOA (subdivision) and determine who was right.  The Developer, after turning over control to the homeowners, sold the final lot to a buyer with a planned home that did not fit the specifications of the Declaration.
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Summary

Each owner of a lot in a planned community with multiple subdivisions was required to be a member of the master association – Holly Lake Ranch Association (HLRA).  Some of the owners voted to amend their particular subdivision’s respective deed restrictions.  The effect of which was to add a voting requirement for assessments, mandatory waiver of duplicate fees for additional lots, and restricted HLRA’s lien rights.  In this particular Texas case, Roddy v. Holly Lake Ranch Association, Inc., __ S.E.2d __ (2019), the court found that the amendments were “illegal” and therefore void.  In addition, the court remanded the case to the trial court to determine the reasonableness and necessity of the attorney fees it awarded to HILRA.
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Summary

Declarant owned nine of 10 units, controlled the board and association, failed to have an association bank account, intermingled the assessments that were paid into his business account, never held elections or annual meetings and kept no separate corporate records.  Yet, the Court held that these failures could not be used as an excuse for not paying assessments that were due under the condominium documents.  In other words, you bought into an association, pay your assessments.
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Summary

An entity that ultimately bought the prior interests of the declarant learned the hard and expensive way that not perfectly following the documents can be very costly.

The Facts

Property owners brought action against declarant and their associations seeking a declaratory judgment that declarant was not a proper successor declarant and requiring the alleged declarant to pay assessments they otherwise would have been exempt from paying.  The property owners claimed that the defendant had not validly obtained declarant rights and therefore had wrongfully claimed the unilateral right to appoint the directors of the homeowners’ associations.  The property owners also claimed that they did not owe the assessments because: the right to levy assessments was vested in the associations’ boards of directors; the boards were never duly elected or were otherwise illegally constituted; and in the absence of properly constituted boards, the associations lacked authority to impose the assessments and record the liens at issue.  At the heart of the issue was a foreclosure on a couple of loans against the original declarant followed by a number of subsequent transfers of the declarant rights and the property.  Both parties moved for summary judgment.
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Developers of condominium communities and HOAs often reserve access easement rights within the Declaration/Deed Restrictions for the subdivision, especially when the Developer owns yet-undeveloped neighboring property. But what happens if the Developer forgets to reserve such easement rights specifically within the Declaration or Deed Restrictions? A recent case explores this dilemma, and at least in this case, the HOA owners come out on top.

Facts

In a 2019 case, some lot owners within a subdivision, which had been advertised as a private, gated community, sued the Developer for trying to enforce an access easement he had for the main road within their subdivision. The Developer claimed he needed access to that main road in order to develop the neighboring lots behind the gated community.  The Developer also believed he could grant access to the owners of the neighboring lots through the gated community. 
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Summary

A 79-unit condominium association held a meeting to remove the directors from office and elect new ones. The president objected to the meeting, the procedure and the notice, but since the association followed the documents and had more than half of the unit owners vote for the removal, the directors were removed.
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