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Subject: Examples of HOAs that lose court battles
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PaulJ6
(New York)

Posts:319


08/31/2019 3:32 AM  
With so many stories of homeowners' associations getting away with mistreatment of owners, I'd be curious if anyone has a story of a HOA getting sued, involving the HOA either losing in court or the HOA settling to avoid a court defeat. The larger the loss or settlement, the better.

(Please don't respond with, "you're a lawyer"; I know that I am and I am not seeking legal advice. I'm seeking real-life stories, not necessarily by lawyers, of HOAs that were defeated, more for my own entertainment.)

Thanks.
TimB4
(Virginia)

Posts:16481


08/31/2019 4:48 AM  
There are lots of examples.

Most famous one in Virginia, which I've talked about before (2013), is Sarnir R. Farran, et al. v. Olde Belhaven Towne Owners Association (from HOA Leader):

During the 2008 election season, Sam and Maria Farran placed a political sign supporting Barack Obama in the front yard of there home in Fairfax County, Virginia, an area of suburban Washington, D.C. The sign was four inches larger than the maximum sign size permitted by the governing documents, so the board requested that the sign be removed. The Farrans responded by cutting the sign in half, so that two signs complying with the guidelines were formed, reading “OBA”, and “MA”. The board responded by fining the Farrans, and in turn, the Farrans filed a lawsuit against Olde Belhaven Homeowners Association, claiming that the association did not have the authority to levy fines. After a four year battle, the Court ruled that such fines could only be assessed “if the association’s declaration expressly allows it to impose fines or its declaration expressly allows it to adopt rules or regulations which impose fines.” Since the declaration was silent regarding fines, the Court ruled for the Farrans and awarded all attorney fees and costs to be paid by the Association. The association dues were raised from$650 per year to $3500 per year to cover the legal fees and costs, ultimately ending in bankruptcy for the association.

See opinion letter:

pages 1-3
pages 4-6 and court order



Note: The Association had to declare bankruptcy because of this case:

How A Homeowners Association Went Bankrupt Because Of One Obama Yard Sign from The Consumerist

Fairfax homeowners group humbled by court battle with residents The Washington Post

Due Process Changes in Virginia

LetA
(Nevada)

Posts:789


08/31/2019 5:49 AM  
This one hit close to home.
https://www.ktnv.com/news/contact-13/hoa-hit-with-20m-verdict-over-swing-set-negligence

Yes, Annual inspection of playground equipment cost close to $1500 per year I think $5.00 per year out of my assessments is well worth the cost to prevent a massive lawsuit.
TimB4
(Virginia)

Posts:16481


08/31/2019 7:02 AM  
Here is a recent one:

How a Loudoun Co. family’s year-round holiday lights sparked a lawsuit From WTOP radio

The ruling:

SAINANI v BELMONT GLEN
TimB4
(Virginia)

Posts:16481


08/31/2019 7:05 AM  
One thing to note:

Often the HOA/COA wins the initial case.

Those who can afford the appeals often win the appeals (at least that is what I'm seeing in the court cases)

SueW6
(Michigan)

Posts:586


08/31/2019 8:16 AM  
In the 89’s, our secretary kept overly detailed minutes. Every comment made, she wrote down in the minutes. After a discussion about one homeowner who damaged a bridge during construction of his house, the board closed off all traffic to the peninsula (4 houses plus the new one) . This affected all residents. Builder sued. Still, the builder used the bridge to work on the new house. Another homeowner objected and mentioned that he couldn't get his relatives over the bridge during the holidays due to the rule , yet the builder continued to use the bridge. That resident sued the HOA. A comment made by the president recorded in the minutes was “I don’t care if he cant get his mother to his house for Thanksgiving.” Needless to say, the judge took note if the comment. The homeowner got $12,000 settlement and the HOA had to pay all legal fees. The HOA never did get the builder- resident to replace the bridge. He just fixed it to what it was before.


Another time, the HOA sued someone and the judge threw the case out of court. The HOA hadn't filed its annual state corporation statements for years and technically didn't exist.
JZ2
(Florida)

Posts:52


08/31/2019 2:09 PM  
There are many of them in Florida. A few that I was personally involved in included: (1) a condo association that refused to permit my unit owner clients to lease their condo unit without proper justification; (2) a condo association that attempted to exert control over my clients regarding various matters beyond its lawful authority; (3) multiple suits brought against both condo associations and homeowners associations for denying owners various statutory rights (e.g., due process in fining of members/members' tenants, access to official records, improper restrictions on owner participation in meetings); (4) owner challenges brought regarding unlawful collection actions by condo associations and homeowner associations; (5) owner challenges to improper architectural review decisions and enforcement actions.

I'm sure that if you Google the subject, you can find many more....
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