CO: HOA attorney fee extortion?

By Deborah Goonan, Independent American Communities


A few weeks ago, the Stapleton HOA was in the news for preventing a homeowner from installing a radon mitigation system in connection with the sale of her home. The HOA denied Melissa Crowder’s request for modification for dubious reasons. Legal experts and the Department of Environmental Health have gone on the record opposing the HOA’s decision, and in support of Crowder.

Nevertheless, the HOA dug in their heels and nixed plans to install the radon mitigation system. Crowder’s buyer walked away from the sale, but the home is now under contract with another buyer.

But Stapleton HOA just could not allow the sale to go through without another hitch. Now they have informed the title company that Crowder will have to pay HOA legal fees in conjunction with the legal dispute over the radon mitigation system!

Readers, this could be YOU. Imagine if your HOA hit you with surprise fees just days before closing sale on your home. It’s nothing short of an ambush. Legal experts refer to Stapleton HOA’s actions as a legal “gray area.” But there’s really nothing to stop them from seemingly arbitrary and retaliatory behavior, especially when they know you don’t want to jeopardize a sale.

It ought to be illegal for an Association Governed Residential Community to:

  • deny installation of a radon mitigation system
  • indiscriminately charge attorney fees, transfer fees, and other junk fees
  • interfere with the sale of your home

An HOA that engages in such actions needs to be held accountable to pay financial penalties and damages, and the infraction should not be covered by the HOA’s insurance policy.

Stapleton HOA that blocked radon mitigation is now charging legal fees
HOA blocked homeowner from installing radon system

David Firmin, an attorney specializing in HOA law, called the decision to charge Crowder legal fees “shortsighted,” but legal under Colorado law.

“While it’s permitted under Colorado law, seeking attorney’s fees for architectural approval is inappropriate and should not be levied against her account,” said Firmin.

Still, Crowder said she is handcuffed.

If she doesn’t pay, the HOA could put a lien on her house and stop the sale.


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