Have You Been Harmed Lately By Your HOA Board’s Decision?

Sometimes owners are harmed by decisions of the board – and here is an example which is a passage from an email of a person that was referred to me by another attorney:

“My HOA recently replace the old mailbox (was in the entrance to the complex, and was broken in) with the whole complex 72 units Cluster mail box right in front my windows only 8 feet away, not only it block my view, but also it is going to bring a lot more foot traffic to my home, due to the fact mailbox is an easy target of vandalism and breaking in. This make me feel unsafe and invading my privacy.I would like to get Legal advice from you whether i have a case against my HOA?” [Sic.]

This owner did not have money to fight this. I am unable to do pro bono work because I spend so much time and energy writing for the masses. I get it that some owners just cannot pay for legal services.  And I feel badly when something like what is described above happens. One time I had to step in and help some friends get extracted from a losing battle in litigation they were dragged into by an attorney who failed to tell them what the worst possible scenario might be if they allowed him to file a lawsuit. He estimated a cost of $5000 when seeking the original retainer. They were up to about $30,000 and counting with no court date anywhere in sight when they came to me. The trial if it were to come to pass would cost easily $50,000.00. The issue was that a board had approved a neighbor’s pool and yard reconstruction without realizing that once constructed it would block the light from all windows on one side of the house of my friends. The neighbors lot was on higher ground and no one paid attention (on the board at least) to what the extension of the elevated pool would do. Of  course my friends “wanted justice”, but it was not looking at all good, because the board had the legal authority to approve the improvements requested by one owner without considering the effect on another, and the other owner had insurance defense counsel on his side, so did not have to bear the expense.  The most that was offered was to plant some trees or shrubs that would block the structure, but there was a real question as to whether they would even grow in the shade of the elevated deck.
In California, if you file a lawsuit and then want to back out because of the cost you might be held liable for the attorney fees and costs of the other side (Heather Farms case), so it was a dicey situation. The ultimate settlement was the planting of the trees or shrubs of my friends’ choice. They wanted to sell, not have their home eaten up in legal fees. They were fed up with CID living where a board could wreak such havoc on their lives.
Once construction is completed, and if the authority is there for the “perpetrator” (in both cases here, the Board) to have made the choice, it can be a real uphill battle to try and get “justice” when there are two sides to the issue equally positioned, and both are competing and equally compelling. I am not saying that there is not a chance to win, but you have to have the stomach (and maybe the purse) for it.
Or, as an alternative, work to get the majority of owners up in arms, which doesn’t seem likely here since the change affected only one owner. And last but not least, it is always possible there may be something the board did that was illegal or contrary, or omitted to do that was a requirement set forth in the governing documents. You can go to californiacondoguru.com  and check my other blog written this same date to see what kinds of other things to look for if you think a board decision might be worth the challenge.
It’s a fact though; sometimes life is just not fair, and you may be better to move on instead of “betting the farm” on the outcome.
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2 Responses to Have You Been Harmed Lately By Your HOA Board’s Decision?
  1. Hawk
    February 21, 2014 | 8:16 am

    An excellent article. It is so very true that a lawsuit is easy to start and so difficult to end. They are okay for rich people but not for regular citizens.

    I hope all condo and HOA owners get the opportunity to read this.