By Deborah Goonan, Independent American Communities
IAC is reading an increasing number of reports about attorneys willing to sue your HOA.
Sure, industry trade groups will attempt to convince Americans that residents are satisfied with life in a common interest community association. But, there’s no doubt about it: homeowners, condominium, and co-op associations are highly litigious environments.
That’s why the industry sells insurance to HOAs!
Your association’s insurance policies, paid for by property owner assessments, generally pay attorney fees to defend the association and its board members when someone sues the HOA.
Historically, the majority of HOA attorneys have represented associations and board members. After all, that’s where the money is.
But IAC is seeing more and more attorneys willing to sue HOAs, representing homeowners and third parties.
Today’s posts features several egregious examples of HOA abuse of power, misconduct, negligence, and corruption — all of them leading to expensive lawsuits.
Owners of Denver lakefront homes sue realtor over water rights
Kate Tracy November 1, 2018
A Denver Realtor is in deep water with the buyers of multiple waterfront properties he listed.
Plaintiffs Koren and Michael Vining, Nicholas Hodgdon and Rhidian Orr last week sued Steve Travers of The Kentwood Co. in Denver County District Court, alleging he misrepresented homeowners’ rights to Riviera Lake, a small body of water in southwest Denver.
“He knew the truth and he didn’t disclose it to our clients,” said attorney David Chipman of Chipman Glasser, who is representing the plaintiffs. “In fact, he represented just the opposite.”
Reached Wednesday, Travers disputed the claims.
Steve Travers, a Realtor and former board member of Riviera Circle Lake Club sold 3 homes in the community, allegedly misrepresenting them as having lake rights via the HOA.
However, the HOA does not currently have Water Storage Rights for Riviera Lake.
In fact, the HOA is involved in a lawsuit with the city of Denver and others, as it attempts to obtain water rights.
Colorado Division of Water Resources informed the HOA that, without legal rights to store water, the HOA might be required to drain the lake.
Feeling cheated, owners of 3 recently sold homes are now suing Travers, alleging that the Realtor – HOA board member knew or should have known that Riviera Lake does not have legal Water Storage Rights.
New Jersey condo association charged with disability discrimination
Condo allegedly forced sight-impaired resident to use separate entrance
October 29, 2018 Kelsey Ramírez
A condo association in New Jersey is coming under fire as it allegedly forced a resident who is sight- and hearing-impaired to use a separate entrance.
The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development charged Hudson Harbour Condominium Association in Newark, New Jersey with discrimination. The disabled resident was allegedly forced to use the service door instead of the main entrance to the development’s common areas when accompanied by her assistance animal.
HUD also alleges that the condo charged the resident’s daughter a fee for walking the assistance animal in the development’s common areas.
Yet another Fair Housing lawsuit against a condo association! This time, the condo association is charged with discrimination against a residents with disabilities.
The primary resident of Hudson Harbor Condominium, located in Newark, has sight and hearing impairments. She owns a service dog, for obvious reasons. The daughter of the disabled resident helps her mother by periodically walking her service dog.
But the condo association insists the resident and her dog are not allowed to use the main entrance. Nor will they allow anyone to walk the service animal in the common areas.
Not surprisingly, after the condo association fined the resident for violating their unreasonable rules, her daughter filed a disability discrimination complaint with HUD.
Rabbi Files Suit Against Active Adult Community (NJ)
By Jennifer Peacock – October 11, 2018
JACKSON — He moved from Chicago to be closer to his daughter and her family. But he said he cannot practice his religion in the township home he purchased in a 55+ adult community.
Philip Lefkowitz, a retired Orthodox Jewish rabbi who relocated to Jackson in July 2016, moved to his Crooked Stick Road home in the Westlake Golf and Country Club with his two sons, Levi and Moshe. All three suffer from diabetes and have lost parts of their legs from the progression of the disease. All three use wheelchairs to get around.
Lefkowitz is suing Westlake Master Association Inc. and each Board of Trustees member individually for religious and disability discrimination. The suit was filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of New Jersey. The men are represented by Gregory J. Bevelock and Charles M. Fisher of Bevelock & Fisher LLC in Madison, New Jersey.
Lefkowitz, a retired Jewish rabbi and his two sons want Westlake Master Association to make several accommodations for their disabilities. All three men use wheelchairs for mobility.
First, the men want the HOA to allow them to build a Sukkah large enough to accommodate their wheelchairs. The Sukkah is an important part of their religious faith, in celebration of the Jewish holiday Sukkot.
Second, the residents ask the association to pave a path to a limited access gate on common property, and modify the lock on that gate, which would allow the men to more easily get to religous services on the Sabbath.
Orthodox Jews do not drive on the Sabbath. Therefore, the residents need wheelchair access to and through the gate, reducing the distance of their trip by one mile.
This Fair Housing lawsuit will mostly likely come down to the reasonableness of the requested accommodations. Further, who will be responsible to pay for an extension to the sidewalk or new locks on the gate?
As explained in a previous post, although condo associations are required by law to make reasonable accommodations, depending on the circumstances, either the HOA or the resident may be required to pay for modifications.
Woman takes on HOA with marijuana signs (AZ)
By Bud Foster | October 11, 2018 at 7:15 PM MST – Updated October 12 at 1:39 PM
TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) – 66-year-old Helene Feinerman is in a legal battle with the exclusive River Ranch Homeowners Association on Tucson’s far east side.
An aging hippie, who displays “hipi” on her license plate, and a former protester, she believes the HOA is harassing her.
“Singling me out and treating me differently than the other homeowners,” she said.
The problem began last spring when Feinerman put up two, three-inch lighted plastic dragonflies in her front yard.
The HOA, she says, told her she would have to ask permission to put them in the front yard. She has them in her back yard also.
Read more (Video):
This dispute began when the HOA objected to a few harmless lawn ornaments. But now it has escalated to a lawsuit about First Amendment rights and selective enforcement.
As a protest to the HOA’s actions, Feinerman put up a dozen lighted marijuana signs in her windows.
Like it or not, the owner’s attorney says there’s not much the HOA can do about it.
So, now the HOA is trying to convince at least 75% of owners to agree to amend their CC&Rs, to prohibit the display of signs inside their homes, but visible though the windows.
But even the former HOA board President says the current board should “back off.”
Central Oregon man’s ‘Don’t Tread on Me’ flag vexes neighbors (OR)
Updated Oct 12, 1:55 PM; Posted Oct 12, 1:45 PM
A central Oregon man is suing his homeowners association for the right to display a “Don’t Tread On Me” flag that has offended his neighbors.
James R. Boyd III, 68, has been hanging the Revolutionary-era flag, seen by some as a symbol of racism, from a window of his La Pine home for at least a year.
That has riled the Wild River Owners’ Association, which warned Boyd last fall that it was going to start fining him $10 for every day he left the banner up because it violates association rules.
Boyd upped the ante.
By June, Boyd started displaying a total of four flags: the original “Don’t Tread on Me” flag, a U.S. Marine flag with a “Don’t Tread on Me” logo, a Ferrari-themed flag, and an American flag, according to warning letters sent to Boyd from the association. Two of the flags hung from his home’s windows and two were affixed to the outside siding, the letters state.
In July, the association made good on its threat by fining Boyd $810. When he didn’t pay, the association filed a lien on his property with Deschutes County in August.
Here’s another defiant homeowner. As soon as the HOA started threatening $10 a day fines for displaying a “Don’t Tread on Me” (Gadsden) flag, the owner added three more flags.
The association say its restrictions require residents to get permission to display flags, with the exception of the American flag. The HOA says it also requires all flags to be mounted on a pole attached to the exterior of the home.
After the HOA fined Boyd $810 and put a lien on his home, he decided to file a lawsuit against Wild River Owner’s Association.
OLD MILL AND TOWN SUED FOR FLOOD DAMAGE (SC)
POSTED ON OCTOBER 15, 2018
The owner of Rhoten’s Country Store and Wash World Laundry is suing the Old Mill, it’s owners, the Town of Lexington and the Barr Lake Homeowners Association for damages incurred in the October 2015 rainstorm.
In his suit filed on 2 October, Mr. Wesley Rhoten claims Old Mill, LLC, Old Mill Partnership, Ryan Condon, Laban Chappell, Barr Lake Homeowners Association, Inc., and the Town of Lexington were negligent for not properly maintaining dams for which they are responsible. Mr. Rhoten contends that negligence led to dam breakages at Old Mill Pond, Gibson Park Pond and Barr Lake, resulting in flooding of his two businesses and a storage building across Hwy 1 from the Old Mill property. (In South Carolina, a suit for damage to real or personal property, must be brought within three years, according to South Carolina Code of Laws section 15-3-530.)
Mr Rhoten is seeking both compensatory and punitive damages. Unable to reach Mr. Rhoten, Lake and Main spoke with his attorney, Mr. Jake Moore of West Columbia, who “guessed” that real damages were as high as $750,000.
All parties are being sued for “negligence.”
Rhoten, a business owner, is suing several parties, including an HOA and the town of Lexington. The lawsuit alleges the defendants neglected to maintain several dams that were breached in a 2015 storm.
The lawsuit contends that the defendants did not monitor and maintain the water in three separate ponds and lakes (Old Mill Pond, Gibson Park Pond and Barr Lake) at safe levels to prevent flooding of downstream properties.
Rhoten’s attorney estimates damages of up to $750,000, caused by flooding when water overflowed nearby ponds.
The lawsuit was filed shortly before a three-year statute of limitations.
While the Town of Lexington holds limited liability for damages, the HOA and other private properties do not.
Seniors sue Botsford Commons complex demanding better living conditions (MI)
POSTED: OCT 12 2018 09:31PM EDT
VIDEO POSTED: OCT 12 2018 09:23PM EDT
Botsford Commons residents suing Beaumont Health (MI)
Brad Kadrich, Hometownlife.com Published 4:25 p.m. ET Oct. 12, 2018 | Updated 8:49 p.m. ET Oct. 12, 2018
Virginia Halley says she’s seen the river bank behind her unit in the Botsford Commons Condomimium complex drop some six feet in the last five years.
Halley and other residents of the complex have seen similar erosion around the complex, and they want Botsford Commons to do something about it.
After what they say has been years of wrangling with Botsford Commons and its parent corporation, Beaumont Health, the residents of the Botsford Commons Condominium Association are pushing a lawsuit aimed at forcing the property owners to take action.
The lawsuit, originally filed in Oakland County Circuit Court in November 2017, claims that Beaumont Health and its subsidiaries caused the condo complex to “fall into a state of disrepair to the point where the health, safety and welfare of the seniors” are jeopardized.
“There is, for example, a riverbank problem that has been eroding for 15 years, and they have failed or refused to take care of the problem,” said attorney Robert Meisner of Bingham Farms-based Meisner Law Group. “We’re … attempting to get the judge to order that they take care of this erosion problem before it caves in.”
The Botsford Commons Property Association has been overcharging the homeowners association to the tune of as much as $450,000 over the last 10 years. Meisner said homeowners have paid 39.14 percent of the operating costs of the complex, which includes an assisted living center, a nursing home and, Meisner said, a hospital.
“We disagree with the manner in which Beaumont has computed the condo association’s obligations,” Meisner said. “We think it’s at least 7 percent more than it should be.”
That’s the part resident Lise Tetrault said she most wants corrected.
“They were hiding everything from us,” Tetrault said. “We want to be treated fairly. They took advantage of seniors.”
RICO case. Meisner said Beaumont’s behavior amounts to a case under the federal Racketeering Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, and noted an $84.5 million lawsuit the health system recently settled.
Some readers may not be aware that nearly all senior housing, inclucing communities with assisted living facilities, are association-governed common interest communities.
Beaumont is a healthcare coporations that manages condominiums for older residents, many of whom have age-related illnesses and disabilities.
Most senior living communities collect condo and HOA assessments from their residents in independent living quarters, while also collecting money for a variety of health services provided in the community. Revenue sources include Medicare, private insurance coverage, and assigned retirement benefits.
Seniors at Botsford Commons have complained about river erosion and unsafe conditions in their community for many years, but the HOA failed to take action.
In addition to safety hazards, a lawsuit filed last year also alleges that the HOA has overcharged homeowners and engaged in RICO violations.