Payback! After 6-year legal battle, Judge orders nonexistent HOA to pay homeowner $188K in legal fees

By Deborah Goonan, Independent American Communities

 

It took more than 6 years, but Jonathan Friedrich can finally  close the book on his long legal fight to against the Rancho Bel Air HOA of Las Vegas.

As chronicled over the years here on IAC, Friedrich originally filed his lawsuit against Rancho Bel Air in 2014, within the three year statute of limitations of discovering that he had been paying HOA fees and assessments, even though he wasn’t legally obligated to do so.

When the community was developed decades ago, Friedrich’s home was officially excluded from mandatory membership in Rancho Bel Air homeowners association.

Therefore, as far as Friedrich is concerned, his home is not governed by any type of HOA.

Nevertheless, Rancho Bel Air invoiced Friedrich and collected HOA fees from the homeowner for many years, before it admitted its error.

 

HOA appealed Jury decision all they way up to Nevada Supreme Court

In 2017, a jury ruled in favor of Friedrich’s ‘negligent misrepresentation‘ claim, and awarded a 70% reimbursement of the fees historically paid to the HOA.

Believe it or not, Rancho be Air HOA appealed that ruling. Incredibly, the case went all the way up to the Nevada Supreme Court.

But Friedrich and his attorney, Joel Hansen, persisted.

Then in November 2019, The Supreme Court upheld the jury’s verdict. The affirmation of the jury’s decision finally opened the door for Friedrich to go after the HOA to recoup his legal fees and costs.

 

‘Happy Days’ for the homeowner

Last month, a Nevada judge awarded Friedrich $188,118.51 — a big chunk of the money the homeowner has spent on the case since 2014.

Incredibly, Friedrich says he spent even more money to ward off the HOA he wan’t obligated to pay. As of last December, the homeowner estimated he had spent about $273,000 fighting Rancho Bel Air in court.

But Friedrich is happy to recover about two-thirds of his out-of-pocket costs.

 

Friedrich get paid redacted check

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L to R: Attorney Joel Hansen; Plaintiff homeowner Jonathan Friedrich; Jonathan Hansen, Joel’s son and law partner. Friedrich holds a check from Farmers Insurance for payment of legal fees and costs, in the amount of $188,118.51.

“Happy days. We won AND got paid.” — Jonathan Friedrich

In case you missed the back story on this case, I’ve reposted the details below.

November 2019

Supreme Court rules in favor of homeowner, affirms 2017 jury verdict of ‘negligent misrepresentation’ against HOA

In 2003, Jonathan Friedrich purchased a home in the Rancho Bel Air neighborhood of Las Vegas. At the closing, the homeowner was presented with a copy of Covenants,   Conditions, & Restrictions (CC&Rs) for Rancho Bel Air, Unit 2 Property Owners Association (the HOA).

Being a responsible property owner, Friedrich paid HOA fees to Rancho Bel Air until 2012, when, to his surprise, he received a letter from the POA informing him that his home was, in fact, not part of Unit 2 POA.

Friedrich learned that his home is located in Unit 1 of Rancho Bel Air, and Unit 1 is not governed by Rancho Bel Air POA or any other owners association.

The POA took the stance that, even though Unit 1 was not part of the association, homeowners were still obligated to pay POA fees. However, the POA also asked owners to sign legal papers annexing their properties to the Unit 2 owners’ association.

Feeling duped by Rancho Bel Air for nearly a decade, Friedrich refused to sign the papers, and stopped paying fees to the POA in 2012.

In 2014, Rancho Bel Air POA attempted to foreclose on Friedrich’s property for failure to pay assessments and fees. Friedrich sued the association to stop the foreclosure, on the grounds that his home is not part of the POA. The homeowner also asked the court to order Rancho Bel Air to repay 10 years’ worth of HOA fees that it never had the right to collect.

The case dragged on for three years.

Finally, in 2017, a jury found that Rancho Bel Air POA made a “negligent misrepresentation” to Friedrich, by claiming that his home was included as a property in a homeowners association for Unit 2, when, in fact, Friedrich’s house is situated in Unit 1, where there is no owner’s association.

The jury awarded Friedrich 70% of fees previously paid to the POA, plus $20K in punitive damages.

But that wasn’t the end of the legal fight.


Related:

Jury rules in favor of homeowner in case of non-existent HOA


 

Rancho Bel Air appeal fails

The state of Nevada has a three year statute of limitations for bringing claims of negligent misrepresentation.

Rancho Bel Air POA argued that Friedrich knew, or should have known, that his home was not part of Rancho Bel Air, Unit 2 POA from the time of purchase in 2003. That fact was noted in fine print on the copy of the CC&Rs handed to Friedrich at the close of sale.

So, the POA reasoned that the court should reverse its 2017 jury ruling in favor of Friedrich. Citing the 3-year statute of limitations, Rancho Bel Air argued that the homeowner waited 11 years to file his lawsuit in 2014.

Friedrich maintained, once again, that Rancho Bel Air misrepresented the truth, by continuously billing him for POA fees from the time of his home purchase. The association didn’t inform homeowners in Unit 1, including Friedrich, that their properties were not part of any mandatory membership homeowner’s association until 2012.

Therefore, Friedrich did not discover the negligent misrepresentation until 2012, and his 2014 lawsuit fell within the 3-year statute of limitations.

The 8th District Court agreed with Friedrich, but the POA appealed to the Nevada Supreme Court.

In November,  the Supreme Court of Nevada upheld the District Court’s decision, once again ruling in favor or Friedrich.

 

Read the decision:

IN THE SUPREME COURT OF THE STATE OF NEVADA
RANCHO BEL AIR PROPERTY OWNERS ASSOCIATION, UNIT 2, INC.,
Appellant, vs.
JONATHAN FRIEDRICH, INDIVIDUALLY AND AS TRUSTEE OF THE JONATHAN FRIEDRICH REVOCABLE TRUST,
Respondents.
No. 74816 FILED November 22, 2019

11-22-19 Order of Affirmance

According to Jonathan Friedrich, he’ll be going back to court to seek reimbursement for his legal fees.

To date I have spent over $ 273,000.00 in legal fees and costs. If you want to go up against an HOA you need a FAT checkbook!
Now we have to go back to the Trial Judge for my legal fees. Judges do NOT have to grant all me fees only “reasonable fees”.  The defense can go back to the Supreme Court and APPEAL what ever the Trial judge gives me. NO END to this. ♦