This Alabama appellate decision, Grove Hill HOA v. Rice, sheds light on the reasons CAI insists that the CC&Rs being strictly enforced by the HOA and the courts: the irrational fears of a slippery slope eradication of the HOA. (The HOA was seeking an injunction against the homeowners who had built a driveway not to its liking). One person, the proft-seeking developer, is allowed to set the rules that govern the HOA community for all time to come, regardless of any political consequences with respect to the creation of a private government regime.
The trial court held, based on the Willow Lake opinion, emphasis aded,
“The Association maintained throughout the proceedings that any violation of a restrictive covenant, if allowed over its objection, necessarily dilutes the power of the restrictive covenants and thereby lessens the value of the subdivision property. We agree. In creating the restrictive covenants, the partnership expressly declared that the purpose of the covenants was `to protect the value and desirability of the Property.’”
However, as we are finally beginning to see a proper sense of justice for homeowners, the appellate court attempted to reject the Willow Lake precedent and held, “We do not interpret Willow Lake as requiring that an injunction is due to be granted in every case in which a resident has violated a restrictive covenant. Indeed, this court has applied the doctrine of “undue hardship . . . .” That is, emphasis added,
enforcement of covenants running with land `”is governed by equitable principles, and will not be decreed if, under the facts of the particular case, it would be inequitable and unjust”‘; specifically, if `”the restrictive covenant has ceased to have any beneficial or substantial value”‘ or `”the defendant will be subject to great hardship or the consequences would be inequitable,”‘ a court of equity will not enforce the covenant.
Unforunately, to complicate matters, “undue hardship” requires “clean hands” on the part of the homeowner in that he had no prior knowledge that his act was in violation of the CC&Rs. The court held that the homeowner had prior knowledge and therefore had “unclean hands,” stating “that a restrictive covenant should be enforced if the defendant had knowledge of it before constructing an improvement contrary to its provisions, even if the harm is disproportionate.” The homeowner lost and had to undo the driveway at a cost of $15,000 to him.
Grove Hill HOA v. Rice, No. 2100293 (Ala. Civ. App. July 29, 2011).