Lexington-Fayette, Kentucky 2022-06-29 09:27:42 –
Waldorf, Maryland — Conflicts between homeowners and their condos or homeowners’ associations are not uncommon, but a Maryland woman said the board did too much.
The discrepancy included the fence and its boundaries. The construction of the fence cost about $ 8,000, but subsequent proceedings reached nearly $ 40,000.
“This controversy began like 2017,” said Betty Hooker, who lives in the Autumn Hills community in Waldorf, Maryland.
Hooker received permission from the Autumn Hills Homeowners Association to build a fence in the backyard, but in March 2018, the association said that the fence was a forest area behind the community’s common area and Hooker’s house. I told her that I was infringing on the conservation easement.
“It’s exactly 8 inches in his measurements,” Hooker recalled when the HOA president told her.
A few months later, HOA sent her a letter informing her that the association would take legal action if the fence was not moved.
Hooker said he got a quote and went back and forth with HOA about who would pay it. The HOA then claimed to the Charles County Circuit Court in March 2019 that the fence was still invading and demanded a fine of $ 25 per day dating back to November 2018, at about $ 3,500 at the time. did. ‘price.
Hooker represented himself at a hearing in the fall of 2019.
“I felt it was a trivial case, and the judge would hear me,” Hooker said.
But she lost.
Shortly thereafter, Hooker moved the fence within the boundaries established by the research company he hired, but the HOA claimed that the fence was not yet compliant. Then, in April 2021, they returned to court and Judge Donine Carrington Martin ordered Hookers to pay a fine of $ 22,200 and legal and legal fees of nearly $ 17,600.
“It’s devastating. Mental, emotional, and financially,” Hooker said. “When I heard the judgment from the judge, it was incredible. I got up right away and left the courtroom.”
Following the ruling, Hookers sought legal assistance to file an appeal.
“I think it was around the time the sheriffs came and issued a warrant to seize their home,” said Jessica Branberg, a Costello PC who sued Hookers.
On January 7, 2022, the Maryland Court of Appeals (COSA) heard the case.
“HOA has enthusiastically pursued a proceeding against them to collect attorney’s fees instead of assisting the appellants, and by the end of this proceeding, a fine of more than a year for intrusions of less than an inch in a corner of property. Was pursuing a fee, “Bloomberg insisted in court.
“Are you saying the whole dispute is over an inch?” Asked Judge Melanie Shaw Getter of the Maryland Special Appeals Court.
“Yes, at the end of this proceeding, the dispute was over an inch and your honor was less than an inch,” Blumberg replied.
“It’s only important that they’re invading, and if they’re invading, they’re invading,” HOA’s attorney Scott Silverman asked about a one-inch intrusion. Answered and said.
In April 2022, COSA ruled that HOA did not act in accordance with its governing documents.
“The complaint states that some notices were sent to the appellant, but none of them met the requirements outlined in the Declaration. In addition, the complaint began on November 1, 2018. Although stated to be fined, the HOA chairman testified that the start date was October 4, 2018. The HOA violated the contract tenant of the Covenant Declaration and concluded that the fine was inappropriate. As a result, the court abused its discretion in imposing fines, “said the judge.
“The HOA Declaration very clearly sets out the notices that homeowners should receive and the due process they deserve before further action is taken against them, but do not follow them here. We did, “Blumberg said. “So the case was completely reversed, Hooker, all fines were removed, all attorney fees payable to HOA were removed, and in fact they were paid.”
WMAR I talked to HOA President William Henderson about the decision. An association lawyer said no one could comment at the time.
A few days later, Sofastaii knocked on Henderson’s door to see if he was free. No one answered, but a HOA lawyer sent the following statement:
“The HOA Board has sincerely pursued this issue in order to fulfill its obligation to enforce the Community Covenant. The HOA was naturally disappointed with the outcome of the appeal, but the HOA respected the COSA’s decision and its obligation. Is observed. “”
“I feel a little overall, but I’ve been exposed to a lot of stress, so it’s not completely perfect,” Hooker said.
Resolving HOA disputes
When asked if homeowners could do something to prevent the HOA conflict spiral, Blumberg replied, “If they just go back to the governing document, there are already many due processes.”
These bylaws detail how the association operates, including rules, voting rights and procedures.
“A six-hour training session for the board, a leaflet that” knows your rights “to homeowners, this is a simple thing that will help a lot,” Blumberg said.
Blumberg added that lawyers can also help by resolving the issue and then bringing it to court.
This article was written by Mallory Sofastaii from WMAR.