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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.

The judge further stated that the couple's Christmas lights displays were too large. The non-profit group acting on the couple's behalf points out that the jury noted several instances of discrimination on the part of the HOA, which repeatedly attempted to put an end to the annual display and charity fundraiser. The judge considered a death threat made by a neighbor involving the display to be hyperbole and questioned the credibility of the homeowner's testimony. "There was no good reason for a judge to overrule [the jury]," a deputy general counsel for the group said in response to the judge's decision.

A homeowner dispute attorney may first recommend that a homeowner review their Declaration of Covenants, Conditions, and Restrictions to make sure the alleged issue isn't a clearly stated violation. Even if this is the case, however, a lawyer may pursue a court case to have unfair rules removed from HOA documents. Homeowners association disputes are common but can sometimes be resolved.

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