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Homeowners Association Disputes

If you live in a neighborhood with a homeowners association (HOA) long enough, you likely will encounter some disputes between the HOA and individual homeowners. For example, HOAs are required to keep a certain amount of cash in reserves for unexpected expenditures. If an HOA's cash balance falls below a certain level, it may raise the monthly HOA dues to cover the shortfall. But homeowners may balk at the rate hike, blaming the HOA for mismanaging the funds.

This article provides a brief overview of typical homeowners association disputes. See How to Get Involved in Your Homeowners Association and What Homeowners Associations May Regulate to learn more.

Some of the disputes between homeowners and their associations are simply misunderstandings, others are amusing, and still others are considerably more serious. Cases range in legal significance from residents being sued by their homeowners associations for using the wrong shade of paint to residents winning multi-million-dollar class-action lawsuits against their HOAs.

In one 2018 case, a couple in Hayden, Idaho won a lawsuit against their HOA. The dispute had arisen after the couple covered their home in over 200,000 Christmas lights and had invited people to drive by their home, turning the home — and therefore the neighborhood — into an attraction. According to the HOA, the association had rules regarding the installation of excessive lights and increased traffic, and the couple was breaking those rules by creating a spectacle. The couple ended up winning the lawsuit and were awarded $75,000 by a jury (even though the couple decided to move to a new area anyway).

In an even more recent example, a couple in Belleville, Illinois was sued by their HOA for allegedly installing improper solar panels on the couple's roof. The couple, who received express verbal permission from all of their immediate neighbors, did not get the HOA's approval before installing the panels. In response, the local HOA sued the couple, demanding that the panels on the front of the house be removed and that the couple cover all legal fees.

Other typical HOA disputes involve:

  • Noise complaints (loud music, parties)
  • Property maintenance issues (not cutting the lawn, unrepaired roofing or siding)
  • Home renovations or additions that violate HOA regulations (fencing that is too high or too close to the street, for example)
  • Claims of irregular enforcement (if the HOA seems to allow some violations or shows favoritism)

Legal Actions and Resolutions

Homeowners association disputes are quite common but usually resolvable without litigation. Sometimes disputes can be resolved through simple e-mails and phone calls. Other times, a formal meeting between homeowners and the HOA board members may be warranted.

When a problem is more difficult to resolve, the parties may have to involve lawyers. In these more complex cases, the parties and their attorneys may choose to privately mediate their disputes; otherwise, litigation in court may be necessary. If you're involved in a dispute with a HOA, you may want to consider seeking the services of a knowledgeable attorney familiar with these types of issues.

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