When you moved into your home, you were asked to sign a large, wordy document that outlined the rules and obligations of your homeowner’s association. You feel you’ve lived up to your part of the bargain, but your HOA has dropped the ball. If the damage is great enough, you may wonder if you can sue your HOA.
Depending on the situation, and your grounds for filing a lawsuit, taking your problem with your HOA into court may be the best way to remedy the problem.
Here are some common reasons you may decide to sue your HOA:
HARASSMENT OR DISCRIMINATION
While your HOA can set a variety of rules for who is offered membership and what sorts of things need to be done by members, including what color house siding can be and how often you mow your yard, they still must follow all state and federal laws.
If your HOA has denied your membership, or has been unduly harsh on enforcing the rules against you as opposed to other residents, based on a protected characteristic – your race, marital status, sexual orientation, religion, or number of children you have, for example – you can sue your HOA for violation of housing discrimination laws.
The trick to suing for harassment or discrimination is in proving that you were targeted based on one of these protected characteristics, so be sure to carefully document any interactions that you have with your HOA that may be pertinent.
VIOLATIONS OF CONTRACTS
That big document you signed when you first bought your home, also known as the Covenants, Conditions, and Restrictions (CC&Rs), is basically a contract between you and the HOA.
Just as you are bound to abide by the CC&Rs, your HOA is bound to abide by them, too.
Whether the issue is lapsed maintenance of common areas, that your HOA wants to install an expensive swimming pool without proper approval, or your neighbor is violating a cardinal rule of the CC&Rs without repercussion, you can sue your HOA for breach of contract.
Carefully reviewing the pertinent sections of the CC&Rs, and possibly having them looked over by an attorney knowledgeable in HOAs, is key to being able to prove breach of contract.
You pay hundreds of dollars a month for your HOA membership, and you expect that money to be spent properly by the board members.
However, just because you and the other HOA members trust the board to do what’s best for everyone as a whole doesn’t mean it will actually happen. If you see large sums of money going out for things such as board lunches, attorney’s fees, or if expenditures can’t be explained when board members are pressed, you can sue your HOA for misappropriation of funds.
While you are bound to the rules of the CC&Rs, they likely aren’t absolutely comprehensive.
Perhaps you want to add a deck to the back of your home, for example, and the HOA board says you can’t, so you turn to CC&Rs. If the CC&Rs don’t explicitly forbid the remodel you want to undertake, you may be able to sue your HOA to allow you to complete your project.
Your HOA receives fees from all members each month to keep common areas in good repair and to make the community a pleasant place for everyone to live.
But just because you pay your HOA to make sure everything is in good condition doesn’t mean they’ll do so without some prodding. If you and your fellow residents have requested the board make necessary repairs, but those requests have fallen on deaf ears, it may take a lawsuit – or a strongly worded letter from your attorney – to get things moving in the right direction.
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