A news brief featuring homeowners association (HOA) problems, abuses of power, lawsuits, financial challenges, and neighborhood conflicts. Some reports feature homeowner and property owner rights advocates seeking potential solutions, including legislative reform.
By Deborah Goonan, Independent American Communities email@example.com
This post is updated frequently, so bookmark the page for future reference. HOA News briefs are listed by state, in alphabetical order.
After a family goes public with its HOA news story, HOA reverses its decision to evict the family’s pet tortoise.
Fred the tortoise has lived peacefully in the Hoover, AL neighborhood since 2015 and has never caused a disturbance or public nuisance. But several months ago, the Ross Bridge HOA created new pet restrictions, and informed the Cannon family that Fred would have to go.
However, thanks to social media posts on Reddit and Instagram, local news media shed light on the HOA’s unpopular decision. That led the HOA board to reverse their decision to evict the family’s beloved pet.
Property owner wins lawsuit against HOA in Appeals court
MacLeod, the property owner, added a kitchen and living space to his airplane hangar, then moved into his new space permanently. Mogollon Airpark HOA objected and created a new restriction that limited occupation of guest spaces to no more than 4 months per year.
MacLeod lost his case against the HOA in the ALJ hearing and in Superior Court. But the Appeals Court reversed those decisions and awarded attorney fees to the homeowner.
The Appeals Court ruled that an HOA cannot adopt new restrictions and rules that cannot reasonably be expected based on the original CC&Rs. Since the original governing documents of the HOA don’t mention any limitations on permanent residents in guest houses, the Appellate Court ruled Mogollon Airpark’s restriction invalid.
MacLeod v. Mogollon Airpark Inc., Not Reported in Pac. Rptr., 2023 WL 2582622 (Cal. 2023)
Neighbors try to stop HOA from chopping down all their shade trees.
For the past three years, homeowners in the Silverleaf Arcadia neighborhood have been fighting to keep street trees, despite the HOA’s insistence on chopping all of them down. After the homeowners went to court, and obtained a court order to prevent further destruction of their beloved Sisoo trees, the HOA began charging owners $3,000 each to get rid of the remaining trees.
The Colorado Sun published a comprehensive HOA news investigation
Report cites examples of homes sold at HOA foreclosure auction for as little as 10% of market value.
Last year, Colorado lawmakers passed a law regulating the HOA foreclosure process, and it has helped to reduce foreclosures, to some degree. (See HB22-1137)
However, by the time the consumer protection bill aimed at stopping egregious HOA foreclosure sales became law, it was significantly watered down. One of the original provisions in the bill would have required the minimum starting bid at a foreclosure sale to be equal to 80% of the home’s market value. But real estate investors and HOA industry lobbyists convinced lawmakers to scrap that idea entirely.
The Bloomberg report also points out that Colorado’s new HOA law to prohibit foreclosure stemming from fines for rule violations still has gaping loopholes. Homeowners continue to lose their homes due to HOA foreclosure liens resulting solely from fines imposed prior to August 10, 2022, when the law became effective.
HOA’s former management company charged grossly inflated fees for certified letters sent to homeowners.
In Colorado, HOA management company (RowCal) has been charging homeowners fees of $35 to $75 to cover the cost of postage for certified mail letters. A simple certified letter costs around $5.
In 2022, state law was amended to require HOAs to provide homeowners with written notice of fines, liens, and the HOA’s intent to foreclose. The legislator who sponsored last year’s legislation (Rep. Naquetta Ricks- D) says this policy goes against the intent of the law and that HOAs and management companies should not be passing on these fees to property owners. The management company resigned after homeowners complained.
Condo and homeowners association laws don’t work for Floridians
Florida has two sets of laws – one for condominiums and one for HOAs governing planned communities. The HOA Act is weaker than the Condo Act, however, both laws offer minimal protection for homeowners.
Corruption and theft are systemic problems in condo and homeowners’ associations in the Sunshine state. And with last years’ mandated condo reserve requirements, many owners object to large special assessments and monthly fee increases.
The problem is, owners don’t trust their HOAs to make difficult and painful financial decisions, when there’s so much misappropriation and fraud that isn’t investigated by state regulators and prosecutors.
Hostilities erupt in Tampa area HOA-governed community.
A neighborhood war erupts in a planned community over a couple’s previously HOA-approved carport for their RV. This report explains some of the details behind a lawsuit filed against the HOA.
According to the report, there are new HOA board members, and one of them is particularly hostile.
Homeowners say D.R. Horton failed to disclose proximity of new homes to sewage treatment facility
JB Ranch is a large Planned Unit Development (PUD) being developed by D.R. Horton in Marion County. In 2021, several current owners of homes purchased new home and lot packages, sight unseen. Many of the owners are from out of state, and purchased online through real estate agents, amid COVID-19 restrictions.
When they arrived in Florida to move into their new homes, they were in for a very unpleasant surprise. Their homes were built directly next to a 30-year-old sewage treatment plant, which serves the neighboring community association. The noxious odors and constant noise coming from the sewage treatment facility led homeowners to file lawsuits against D.R. Horton for deceptive sales practices.
The homeowners also (rightfully) blame Marion County officials for allowing the developer to build houses so close to the sewage treatment utility, which has been cited for several water quality violations by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP).
As usual, no one is willing to take responsibility for this problem. Instead, the homeowners are being told that it’s their own fault for not doing their research before buying their new homes.
Judge awards condo owner $230K in legal dispute over access to HOA records
The Boca View condominium association continues to make headlines in HOA news, due to the board’s stubborn refusal to provide access of official records to a unit owner’s attorney. This is despite a court order that the condo association must comply with state law and allow Eleanor Lepselter’s legal representative to view condo association records.
In July, Circuit Court Judge Carolyn Bell awarded over $230,000 to cover Lepselter’s attorney fees. But the condo association is appealing that award, and still refuses to hand over the records.
D&O policy pays $2M to settle case against former board members who turned a blind eye to fraudulent activities
The Hammocks HOA has been in the news for the past few years, after several of its former board members were arrested and charged with embezzling more than $2 million from the community association’s coffers over a period of several years. The defendants (Marglli Gallego, Jose Gonzalez, Myriam Rodgers, Yoleidis Lopez Garcia and Monica Isabel Ghilardi) are accused of orchestrating an illegal kickback scheme.
While the criminal cases remain pending, Hammocks HOA Receiver David Gersten filed a civil suit against four other former board members, who, in his words, ‘did nothing’ to prevent the alleged fraud. The HOA’s Directors and Officer’s insurance provider agreed to settle Gersten’s lawsuit for the maximum amount of coverage under the HOA’s policy — $2 million.
Georgia Democrat Legislators want “crackdown” on HOA abuse and unfair collection practices
This report explains why some Georgia Legislators want to regulate HOAs. Specifically, Georgia Democrats want to restrict HOA power to fine owners with the potential to file liens and foreclose on homes for simple violations of HOA rules. The crackdown also targets unfair HOA collection practices, such as piling on late fees, interest, and attorney fees. In general, legislators think there should be a limit to fees HOAs can collect through garnished wages and foreclosure.
See this video clip for a prime example of HOA abuse of power.
HOA board President and Treasurer charged with theft of insurance funds
After a fire destroyed 20 units at Camelot Condominiums, owners expected to receive insurance money to rebuild their homes. Instead, their HOA president and treasurer stole the money, according to recent criminal charges.
Investigators are also looking into possible charges of arson that led to the fire damage.
HOA cuts off water supply to condo owner suffering medical problems
In the state of Georgia, an HOA can legally cut off a resident’s water supply, if the HOA is the private owner of the utility. Beth Williams, the owner of a home in Cottage Cove Homeowners Association, Paulding County fell behind on her HOA fees by $713, due to medical expenses.
Once her account was handed over to a debt collection attorney, her HOA fees ballooned to over $4,000. The HOA put a lien on her home and turned off her water supply. Williams could face foreclosure of her home if she cannot repay the debt.
As is the case across the U.S., Georgia law does not limit the amount of attorney fees and collection costs for HOA consumer debts.
In this case, the HOA board apparently chose not to extend any compassion to their neighbor.
Another example of HOA abuse and downright unloving behavior
Valerie Ghant is facing a $23,000 lien and lawsuit from her HOA, Walden Park Community Association. Why? Because the homeowner installed a rock garden and water feature in front of her home. The HOA says Ghant didn’t get the HOA’s approval for the landscape changes, which were installed about two years ago.
Ghant added the therapeutic garden for her daughter, a young adult who suffered a traumatic brain injury in a hit and run auto accident. The garden is attractive and peaceful, but the HOA says it must go, and began fining the homeowner $25 per day, after she refused to remove it.
In this report, Atlanta New First interviews state Senator Donzella James (D-Atlanta), who has filed legislation to create an HOA Ombudsman.
Seven states already have an Ombudsman to handle HOA disputes, but they have been largely ineffective at reining in HOA over-reach. Why?
Because, in all cases, state legislatures failed to give the Ombudsman sufficient authority to investigate and mediate the most common types of HOA complaints. Plus, the state appointed officials have no authority to enforce the law or the terms of HOA governing documents. And dispute resolution isn’t effective when the party with greater power (the HOA) doesn’t mediate in good faith.
HOA wants to force disabled vet to remove vinyl fence and other modifications
A homeowners association in Garrett Creek is threatening to pursue legal action against and put a lien on the home of a disabled veteran. The home was recently modified to accommodate Quinton Walton, who lives with Multiple Sclerosis. The HOA claims that it never approved the installation of a wheelchair ramp and a vinyl fence. But the owner says he submitted requests as required by HOA covenants. The owner also says the HOA failed to respond in 30 days. However, according to the covenants, if the HOA doesn’t respond, the property owner can proceed as though his request was accepted.
Real estate broker highlights HOA greed and abuse of power
A real estate broker from the Atlanta area recently did an interview highlighting the greed and abuse of condominium HOAs in Georgia. One example he highlights is an HOA foreclosure where the unit sold for a mere $2.37.
No doubt about it, public awareness of HOA problems, excessive HOA fees, and power-tripping HOA boards is growing by leaps and bounds every day.
CPA says Gold Coast condo hi-rise reserve study underestimates cash needed for critical repairs.
Ever since the collapse of a condo building in Surfside, FL in 2021, owners and condo boards have disagreed over how much money is needed for their reserve funds.
In this article, Michael Novak, a CPA and former resident of Chicago, says that the Parkway Condominium association’s most recent reserve study is flawed. Novak once resided at Parkway and had battled with the condo board over financial issues for years, before he relocated out of state.
According to Novak, the condo’s reserve fund should be twice as large as recommended by the last reserve study. Novak says that there’s tremendous pressure on auditors to understate reserve contributions, to avoid making fees unaffordable for its condo association members.
However, Parkway condo association and its reserve specialist scoff at Novak’s opinion, and insist their calculations are accurate.
The matter comes down to how the reserve study is conducted and how the accounting is done. There’s no consensus among experts as to the best way to calculate reserve contributions over time.
Developer’s HOA says owner must remove solar panels
Here’s an example of how an HOA can suddenly turn against long-time homeowners.
Jeff and Jill Terhune have owned their home for more than 15 years. In 2020, when they replaced their roof, they decided to add solar panels to their roof. At the time, HOA rules said that solar panels could not be on the front of the home. The owners’ roof is designed such that the solar panels faced one side of their property.
The HOA didn’t like it, and, in 2022, changed the rules to say that the solar panels cannot be visible from the street. Terhune’s panels are just barely visible from the street.
But who cares? Apparently, the developer of the “addition” cares. That’s right, the real estate developer still controls the HOA, as the community keeps expanding in phases.
Several states in the U.S. have already enacted laws that prevent HOAs from prohibiting solar panel installations. But Kansas isn’t one of those states.
The HOA has imposed nearly $3,000 in fines and has threatened to put a lien on the house if the owners don’t pay the fines and move (or remove) the solar panels.
Homeowners win in court. Now they can keep their pollinator garden.
Jeffrey and Janet Crouch reportedly spent $60,000 to fight against their HOA, but they eventually won.
Beech Creek Homeowners Association had sued the couple for refusing to remove their pollinator garden and failing to return their yard to a manicured lawn. The owners had been using native plant species to attract bees and wildlife for about a decade, when someone on the board of the Columbia area HOA decided the landscape was out of compliance with the rules and standards.
The HOA reportedly spent $100,000 in legal fees fighting against the homeowners. But, in the end, the Crouches got to keep their natural pollinator gardens.
It’s great to see the occasional homeowner victory, but let’s face it. Very few homeowners can afford to spend a fortune on legal fees to win a dispute with their HOA.
Maryland condo owners are feeling the effects of a 2022 state law (HB 107) that mandates reserve studies and funding of reserves within three years. Some condo owners are seeing 5 or 6 figure special assessments. One example: a three-bedroom condo in an 80-unit building must pay $58,000 to make up the $2.75 million shortage in reserve funds needed for major repairs and replacements.
What good is Nevada’s defunct HOA Task Force? (Hint: no good at all.)
This article addresses the fact that an HOA Task Force created in 2020. But it disbanded shortly thereafter and hasn’t met since then. Critics explain why.
Homeowners want more transparency from their HOA
Homeowners in a large, planned community in North Carolina are facing HOA fee increases of 50-60% next year. They want to know why.
Interestingly, the HOA and its management company responded to some of the homeowners’ concerns when StarNews began to investigate on behalf of concerned property owners. (One of whom was briefly a member of the HOA board.)
The leaders of Westport HOA insist they are following state laws for conducting HOA elections and providing access to financial records. That may be true, because state law sets a low bar for transparency and HOA election integrity. Read more in the report.
What is an ‘orphan road?’
In North Carolina, the term refers to a road that is built by a developer, but never turned over to the local or state government for ownership, ongoing maintenance and repair.
At The Palisades, a large, planned development near Charlotte, Lennar built a long and winding road that cuts through the community. The road has an official speed limit of 30 miles per hour, but there are no traffic lights at intersections. Thousands of vehicles use Grand Palisades Parkway daily, and travel at high speeds. The road has been the site of several serious car accidents.
Lennar has informed homeowners in The Palisades that it has no intention of transferring the road to the state department of transportation. Because the road is private, local and state police cannot enforce traffic violations on the road. And if the parkway isn’t transferred to NC DOT, then homeowners will be responsible for future repairs and maintenance. Homeowners would also be liable for lawsuits stemming from traffic accident injuries or fatalities.
This is another case of a developer-controlled HOA calling all the shots, and saddling homeowners with huge financial liabilities.
HOA tries to forbid outdoor playing, residents push back
In August, The Great Oaks Condo Association in Wadsworth (about 40 miles south of Cleveland), put up signs and issued email warnings against allowing outdoor activities. The sign read “NO skateboarding, bicycle riding, roller blading, or ball playing.”
The HOA stated that the rules were necessary to prevent children and others from getting hit by a car. But outcry from parents and widespread media coverage of the HOA restrictions on outdoor play had an impact. Not long afterward, the HOA removed the sign, and scheduled a meeting with homeowners to discuss a compromise that would allow kids to play, while also ensuring their safety.
State AG investigating management company after city condemned the condominium.
Rhode Island State Attorney General recently launched a criminal investigation into Vista Management. The criminal probe follows the condemnation of a 56-unit condominium managed by Vista. Due to unsafe living conditions, Canterbury Village was evacuated with less than 24-hours’ notice.
HOA in Memphis mulls adding gated entries for their community
Located in Memphis, Chicksaw Gardens is an HOA-governed community that is popular among walkers, joggers, and cyclists. The neighborhood is desirable and attractive, and it attracts a lot of non-residents who enjoy its scenery and relative safety.
However, the community has experienced an uptick in crime, notably vandalism and theft of items visible in parked cars. That’s why the HOA wants to add two gates at the entry points to the community.
But homeowners have mixed feelings about gating their neighborhood, so the HOA says it is planning a meeting to discuss concerns and options.
Fact: HOAs don’t necessarily deter crime, and gated entries don’t stop crime either.
Military officer fights to keep the home his HOA sold at auction while he was on active duty
Air Force Master Seargeant Christopher Banda is fighting to take back his San Antonio home, after his HOA foreclosed on the property while he was serving in Turkey for 15 months. Banda had been on assignment providing disaster relief after a major 7.8 magnitude earthquake that hit the nation in February 2023.
During his active duty, Banda did not realize that the SA Wolfcreek HOA was not receiving his HOA fees, which he said were set up as automatic payments. By the time Banda returned home, he realized his HOA account was past due, and that the HOA had already sold his home to another owner.
A federal law, the Servicemembers’ Civil Relief Act, offers legal protections to prevent HOAs from foreclosing on homes owned by active-duty military service members. An attorney is working to help reverse the sale of Banda’s home.
The Westfield neighborhood HOA recently mailed all residents a letter prohibiting parking on the streets in their community. The HOA threatened to start towing vehicles starting September 1.
There’s just one little problem – Westfield roads are public, and parking is permitted by the city of San Antonio. The homeowners were so upset about the proposed new rules that they contacted a local news station.
After the story aired, the HOA President said the policy was being withdrawn. He said that homeowners will meet and discuss options to deal with parking and public safety concerns.
66-year-old former HOA treasurer pleads guilty to theft of $250,000
Sharon Gordon admitted to stealing money from her HOA over a period of six years. Gordon has a gambling problem and admits to squandering the money at Nevada casinos.
The judge could sentence her for up to 20 years but could also get as little as 17 months in prison due to the plea deal. The sentencing hearing date is not yet set.
An astute homeowner caught onto the scheme last year and was unable to get anyone to investigate, until Fox13 news picked up the story.
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