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Orange County Real Estate Law Blog

Judge throws out unanimous HOA dispute verdict

Homeowners association disputes can be lengthy, tedious, and sometimes frustrating for anyone in California or any other state involved in this type of disagreement. Yet even when a homeowner prevails, there are times when decisions are reversed by another court. This is what has happened with a case involving an Idaho couple initially awarded $15,000 in punitive damages and $60,000 in compensatory damages because of a dispute involving an annual Christmas lights display.

When the HOA dispute was first heard by a jury they found that the homeowners were the victims of religious and other forms of discrimination. However, an Idaho district court judge overturned the decision, stating that the HOA did not discriminate against the couple. A non-profit legal organization has filed an appeal on behalf of the couple with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit to restore the jury's unanimous verdict.

Family sues HOA over backyard gathering spot dispute

Homeowners association disagreements can easily frustrate property owners from California to New York and all points in between, including a charming subdivision adjacent to a lake in Georgia. This is where one family involved with an HOA dispute resides. The problem started when the family's HOA nixed plans that the homeowners had to build a backyard gathering spot.

After this homeowner dispute resulted in fines and liens, the owners filed a lawsuit against the HOA. They claim that the association is violating discriminatory practices banned by the Fair Housing Act. The dispute began in early 2017 when plans were submitted to the HOA for a play area that included a spa-pool, a barbecue cooking set, a gazebo and other amenities. The homeowner says his architectural drawings and applications were prepared as per HOA guidelines.

A dispute with a HOA can sometimes get personal

Many California residents live in communities run by homeowners' associations. The HOA and an individual owner could get in a dispute over a variety of issues, especially in regard to renovations, additions or new construction. Most disputes can be worked out through meetings or mediation. However, some conflicts can turn ugly.

Such was the case of a South Carolina man living in a neighborhood controlled by an HOA. The problem arose when he sought to have a sunroom added to his home. After a series of disputes and a lawsuit, the man has become convinced that the HOA is determined to drive him out of the community.

Common issues many homeowners have with their HOAs

When you buy a home, you are probably full of excitement about plans for the future. Perhaps you want to install a pool for your kids or erect a swing set. Maybe you want to paint the house a different color or redo the landscaping. You may even have your American flag ready to hang proudly by your garage door. Before you move forward with any of these plans, you may want to check with your HOA rules.

Homeowners' associated are in place in many California communities in order to keep up the look of the neighborhood, maintain the common areas, take care of property-related issues and protect the value of the homes. HOAs often have strict rules regarding what homeowners can and cannot do, and you would be wise to take the time to understand these rules more closely.

HOA relents in dispute with mother of autistic child

California residents who live in a homeowners association may know what its like to be in a dispute with the board. One woman was threatened with a fine for shining blue lights to raise awareness about autism. The woman has a 19-year-old son with the condition, and she says that the blue lights have been shining outside of her home for years during the month of April.

The HOA asked that she replace the blue lights with white ones. After a social media campaign resulted in a swell of support for the mother, the head of the HOA decided that the blue lights could stay. While the woman admitted that she is tired of blue by the end of each April, she realizes that her son cannot simply turn off his autism. She says that by displaying the lights, it helps her son feel included.

HOA wants man to remove patriotic display from yard

A sculpture handmade by an artist in California is at the center of a homeowners association dispute in Delaware. The man's HOA wants him to remove a patriotic symbol, a life-size bronze eagle, from his yard. The former U.S. Army MP says he has dozens of eagles inside of his home, but it's the one on display outside that has ruffled some feathers.

The residential property dispute started when the homeowners association claimed the man's backyard sculpture was "inconsistent with community-wide standards." This came after a neighborhood architectural review committee gave their approval of the sculpture, primarily because they agreed with the landscape elements the man said he would place around it. "They approved it, unanimously," the homeowner said when discussing the initial response he received about the sculpture.

Judge overturns Christmas light display HOA dispute verdict

Many California homeowners' association members are aware of the possibility of getting into ongoing disputes. This is what happened with an Idaho man who claimed his HOA discriminated against him because of an elaborate Christmas lights display. Previously, the man was awarded $75,000 in damages. However, that ruling has been overturned by a federal judge. He will now receive $4 for compensatory and punitive damages. He must also cover the HOA's legal fees.

This particular homeowner dispute began in 2015. The man and his family hosted an annual charity Christmas show that included lights, a live nativity scene and other festive features. The HOA claimed the show violated rules about excessive traffic, too much brightness with holiday lights and similar issues. However, the HOA eventually retreated and the show went on for the next two years.

What should an HOA do about neighborhood sexual harassment?

If you live in a neighborhood or community in California that has a Homeowners' Association, you may understand how difficult it can be to work with these organizations sometimes. HOAs have a notorious reputation for citing and fining homeowners for even the smallest of infractions. This can be frustrating for property owners.

Some HOAs may pay attention to the smallest of details and nag homeowners about seemingly unimportant things, but at the same time, they may overlook some of the most important issues. There is reason to believe that many California HOAs overlook complaints involving sexual harassment from residents, property managers and others. There are new rule changes to regulations set by The California Department of Fair Employment and Housing that would change an HOA's responsibilities for cases involving sexual harassment. 

What to know about installing a fence

California homeowners will want to make sure that they consider their neighbors before putting up a fence. This means ensuring that the fence meets zoning requirements and is entirely within the owner's property line. It can also be a good idea to explain to a neighbor why the fence is being installed. Those reasons could include to add privacy, to keep a pet from running off, or to enhance the look of a backyard.

Prior to installing a fence, the owner should make sure to have a survey done to ensure proper placement. Usually, an installation company will dig holes about 36 inches from the actual property line. Speak with an HOA representative prior to selecting a fence. This is because there may be limitations as to how high the fence can be, what color it is or what style a homeowner can use.

HOA dispute causes parties to spend $1 million

It isn't uncommon for those who live in homes controlled by homeowners associations to have disputes with that association on occasion. This happens often in California and around the country. However, one legal dispute between a homeowner and Avignon Villa Homes in Kansas has cost the two sides about $1 million collectively. The dispute started over the placement of a satellite dish as well as a decorative wall.

The conflict has been going on since 2012 when the man first moved into the community. According to a Kansas City Star investigation, roughly 20 percent of Americans lived in an HOA as of 2016. In many cases, those who make up the HOA boards are volunteers who aren't necessarily experienced in their roles. The role of the HOA is to provide maintenance and other upkeep services in exchange for a monthly fee.