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.
The homeowner opted to pursue legal action after receiving a letter from the HOA about the Christmas-related display. When overturning the initial verdict, the judge stated that the jury was unfairly prejudiced by stricken evidence of threats made against the homeowner and attendees at his holiday show. The judge also noted that the alleged death threats made by other homeowners in the area were embellished and could not be interpreted as credible threats of physical harm. These letters were ordered stricken from testimony because the court said the HOA was not responsible for threats made by other homeowners.
The homeowner will have a new trial. In the meantime, he plans to appeal the decision. In similar situations, an HOA dispute attorney may first make an effort to amicably resolve the matter to the homeowner's satisfaction. Before recommending legal action, an attorney could also review a member's Declaration of Covenants, Conditions and Restrictions to determine if the HOA has a valid right to question a homeowner's actions.