By Deborah Goonan, Independent American Communities
The story of a years-long dispute between Jim Hildenbrand and Avignon Villa Homes Community Association is a textbook example of waste and abuse of the legal system.
And it highlights the fact that, even when you “win” a lawsuit against your HOA, you usually lose.
As reported by Judy L. Thomas in the Kansas City Star, a Johnson County Judge has ruled that Hildenbrand can keep his landscape, including a low retaining wall that creates a front patio and some raised plant beds.
But, here’s the kicker.
Hildenbrand is still on the hook for his own legal fees, reportedly at least $300,000, plus a $25,000 fine payable to Avignon HOA for the cardinal sins of parking his car in his driveway and having some potted plants in his front yard.
I wish I could say this were satire. But it’s reality.
And, by the way, Avignon HOA is apparently stuck with $330,000 in legal fees of its own. Some of that may be paid by the HOA’s insurance provider, but any deductibles or non-covered charges will be paid by all homeowners in the 153-home neighborhood.
It’s payday for the attorneys.
What a complete waste of everyone else’s time and money.
Olathe man wins years-long landscaping battle with HOA. But it’s costly for both sides
BY JUDY L. THOMAS
January 31, 2018 04:56 PM
Updated January 31, 2018 10:07 PM
An Olathe homeowner can keep his landscaping project that his HOA deemed “over the top,” a judge ruled Wednesday in a years-long battle that has racked up hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal fees.
Johnson County District Judge Rhonda K. Mason said the Avignon HOA treated homeowner Jim Hildenbrand unfairly when it denied his application for the project.
“I don’t think there’s any secret that this was a contentious relationship,” Mason said of the HOA and Hildenbrand. “The court finds that the relationship between the parties played a role in this application being denied.”
Mason also ruled, however, that Hildenbrand violated his HOA’s rules by failing to fill out the proper application before installing the landscaping project, which features a long, low accent wall running the length of his house. So the judge ordered Hildenbrand to pay a $25,000 fine to the HOA.
Read more here:
Readers may recall that Avignon Villa HOA has a history of picking on homeowners and imposing fines for violating all sorts of onerous rules.
Prior to the landscape wall controversy — there goes the neighborhood! — the HOA went after Hildenbrand for placing a small statue of St. Francis in his yard.
The same HOA has insisted that Stuart and Marsha Holland refrain from parking a vehicle in their own driveway. The car is owned by Marsha’s father, who moved in with them while undergoing treatment for cancer.
I find it an interesting coincidence that both Hildenbrand and Holland are of the Catholic faith. Could religious discrimination be at the heart of these contentious relationships?
Or is this just a matter of obsessive compulsive board members run amuck?
What many housing consumers don’t understand about HOAs — until they become ensnared in the crosshairs over some silly issue — is that covenants and restrictions are falsely advertised as a way to protect and enhance property values.
Think about it.
How does removing a homeower’s right to use and decorate private property to personal preferences, in a way that causes no harm to people or neighboring property, add value to one’s home?
It does not!
Most CC&Rs diminish value by limiting personal expression and preventing a homeowner from obtaining maximum enjoyment of his or her home.
And when you add the cost of the inevitable petty and drawn-out legal battles with the HOA, property values drop even more.
Doing some simple math for Avignon, each of 153 properties could have to fork over up to $2,000, just to pay the lawyers that stoked a 4 year long lawsuit over a landscape that, ironically, most observers would agree looks quite attractive.
But the intangible costs to homeowners and residents cannot be measured. First, there’s the bad publicity for the community. Then, there are fractured relationships and inevitable animosity between neighbors.
When “for sale” signs start popping up in Avignon Villa Homes Community Association, how many home buyers will rush in? It could take years for a turnover in the HOA board and for bad memories to fade. Perhaps the community will never fully recover from the damage done.
It should also be noted that, over the years, I have communicated with quite a few homeowners involved in lawsuits with their HOAs.
All too often, they erroneously cling to the notion that their cause is so worthy and righteous, and that they must continue to fight for their rights until the bitter end. They are convinced that good will prevail and justice will be served.
Unfortunately, in almost all cases, just as with Hildenbrand, even if a homeowner wins the legal war against their HOA, they emerge with battle wounds, some of them permanent.