Recent Court Rulings

Owner Sues Without Association Approval, Then Sues Association To Recoup His Costs

Sometimes owners strike out on their own and file lawsuits they think their associations should be filing—but does that mean the association has to reimburse them for their legal costs? The guiding principle regarding action, or lack thereof, is clear in most community associations: The majority rules. Sometimes, though, fired-up owners who disagree with the…

Association Isn’t Liable for Lone Wolf Owner’s Legal Costs

The guiding principle regarding action, or lack thereof, is clear in most community associations: The majority rules. Sometimes, though, fired-up owners who disagree with the majority decide take matters into their own hands. That’s what happened in a Wisconsin case involving a dispute over ownership of a sewage system that was an association’s common element.…

Governing Documents Determined Lot Assessments

Facts: Lot owners in a planned residential community owned two adjacent lots. After several years, they combined both lots into a single lot. They followed state law to do so and properly recorded the change. When the association charged them for assessments for each of the two lots, which now were combined, the owners objected.

Vineyard Wasn’t a ‘Business’ Prohibited by Governing Documents

Facts: Two homeowners cultivated a vineyard on their land in a planned community for the purpose of making wine to be sold to the public. The association’s CC&Rs didn’t prohibit the cultivation of a vineyard for this purpose, but they did prohibit “any business or commercial activity.” Several other homeowners objected to the operation of what they considered to be a commercial vineyard in violation of the prohibition against any business or commercial activity.

‘One Contract’ Theory Didn’t Relieve Association’s Obligation to Repay Loan

Facts: Over the course of several years, a construction company performed construction work for an association. When the association encountered financial trouble, it requested a loan from the construction company. The association also needed to replace a deteriorating retaining wall and asked the construction company to bid on the project. The parties agreed to and executed: (1) a promissory note memorializing the loan; and (2) a contract for the construction of the wall.

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.”