Recent Court Rulings

Homeowners Required to Pay Association to Maintain Shared Easement Road

Facts: A homeowners association was formed in 2013 to govern several homes, which then became a planned community. The association began to charge a yearly fee of $300 to its members, which was used to maintain and repair the only common areas in the association—a road and a gate installed on the roadway. The homeowners were made aware of the $300 per year assessment fee via a hand-delivered letter and a mailed letter. None of the homeowners responded with an objection immediately.

Neighbor Objects When Family Allowed to Install Fence Around Their Yard

FACTS: An Ohio homeowner’s association fended off a lawsuit from a resident who objected to its handling of a reasonable accommodation that allowed her next-door neighbors to fence their yard to protect their young daughter from a water hazard.

Both families lived in single-family homes with backyards that abutted a lake. Community rules banned residents from putting up fences, plantings, or enclosures in backyards without prior written consent of the architectural committee.

Association Not Liable for ‘Open and Obvious’ Sidewalk Defect

Facts: A townhouse-style condominium resident who was living with the owner of the unit, his mother, tripped and fell on the sidewalk in front of the townhouse. He claimed that the fall was due to the sidewalk being “uneven.” He sued the association in a premises liability lawsuit, asserting that it had been the HOA’s responsibility to fix the sidewalk. The association asked a trial court for a judgment in its favor without a trial. The trial court ruled in favor of the association.

Homeowner Must Stick to Specific Palm Tree Species Approved by ARB

Facts: The restrictive covenants and bylaws for a homeowners association set out that no homeowner should “decorate, change or otherwise alter the appearance of any portion of the exterior of a dwelling or the landscaping, grounds or other improvements within a lot” unless approved by the association’s architectural review board (ARB), to “preserve the architectural and aesthetic appearance of the development.”

Membership to Recreational Club Was ‘Easement’ Permitted by Governing Documents

Facts: A group of homeowners sought a declaratory judgment from a trial court that an amendment to the governing documents of their homeowners association was null and void. The amendment expressly authorized the association to enter into an agreement with a nearby private swim and tennis club. Under the agreement, the club granted an easement giving the association's members the right to use the club's facilities as members.

Association’s Enforcement Efforts Weren’t ‘Outrageous’

Facts: A homeowner in a planned community violated several restrictive covenants by allowing his roof to fall into disrepair and keeping a tree stump and car on his lawn, among other things. The association began sending him warning letters. When the homeowner refused to rectify the situation, the association called him multiple times and then began legal proceedings. Throughout that process, the homeowner complained to the association that he was being harassed by the letters and phone calls.

Management Company Wasn’t ‘Debt Collector’ for Association

Facts: A community association hired a management company to handle all aspects of maintaining the community, including notifying members of delinquencies and other assessment and dues issues.

Condo Renter Claims Request for Assistance Animal Was Met with Threats to Evict Her

Facts: A resident rented a condo unit for three years from its owner, who was a member of the community’s homeowners association. She lived there with her minor daughter under a month-to-month tenancy. Allegedly, the resident was under medical supervision for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Association Obligated to Provide Flood Insurance

Facts: An association maintained flood insurance for five of the buildings in its multi-building property. All five buildings were in flood zones as designated by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). The association later decided not to renew the flood insurance policy, citing concerns regarding cost and the allocation of the expense among the other members of the association who lived in the non-flood exposed buildings.

Recent Settlements Illustrate the High Cost of Fair Housing Complaints

Recent cases from California and New York—involving families with children and reasonable accommodation requests, respectively—highlight the importance of staff training in fair housing law in order to avoid discrimination complaints.

Families with children. A California condominium community recently had to pay more than $1.1 million to settle a class action lawsuit involving hundreds of current and former residents with children under 14, who lived there from 2011 through mid-2017.