Looking for justice in an HOA? Look here first!

In the recent California case, Sui v. Price, the plaintiff owned a van for 12 years, and parked it in their reserved parking space. For the past 4 years, the van was inoperable due to a damaged engine, but remained locked in the parking space.

In 2006 Price, the HOA president, caused an amendment to the Rules prohibiting inoperable cars to be approved, and had the van towed. Where have we heard this before? A $1,700 fine was levied on Sui, which affected his credit rating and ability to refinance his home. The homeowner sued for breach of contract and several tort claims, based on an intent to harm the plaintiff, and sought $58,000 in punitive damages. Another case of the effects of ex post facto amendments, when the doctrine of estoppel by laches would be very applicable in favor of the homeowner.

There is no statement of ”an unsightly intrusion” caused by the van with a damaged engine — no fact of a beat-up body, or no tires, etc. California law allows the removal of a vehicle in violation, presumably after 96 hours of notice. The complaint was dismissed. The court dismissed the fact that Sui was just one individual with an inoperable vehicle, and that the CC&Rs prohibit rules that discriminate against member.  Forget about the holding that the CC&Rs supesede the Rules.

The court only looked to the the reasonableness of a covenant, relying on,

Simply put, there is nothing unreasonable about prohibiting the open, long-term parking of disabled vehicles. The association was perfectly reasonable in prohibiting this unsightly intrusion upon the aesthetics of their common interest development. (emphasis added).


And that is the danger of the “general interest or general purpose” doctrine – almost anything can be rationalized and justified when isolated and only considered by itself. So the court chose – it was a validly passed amendment, and those other, unaffected members, could undo the amendment. Is this communalism or socialism?

We see no reason to apply a different test for reasonableness of an association’s operating rules, especially since a rule adopted by the association’s board may be reversed by majority vote of the homeowners at a meeting called on petition of only 5 percent of the separate interests in the association. (emphasis added).

Here again the court diminishes individual rights for a perceived common good of the community in what many would call socialism.  It’s disturbing that the homeowner in these cases is not compensated for a loss in benefits by being a member of the community, while others are held to benefit. Another overlooked requirement for upholding valid amendments.

In the public arena, the homeowner would have received compensation for this “taking.”

Published in: on April 10, 2012 at 3:17 pm  Comments (1)  
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  1. Good evening .. I came across your website thru youtube. I’m in the middle to write a concern letter to my Florida Senator and Representative about HOA. I been hit with a $10k lawyers & hoa fees for a rental condo I have in Ft.Myers vacant for nearly two years. Even though I have a buyer for a short-sale it can not go thru until I comply this assessment. After reading your information..I realized things I was unaware off..but I will try anyway..also added your web into my favorites. Thanks for increidible information. ps: I went to a law firm for help with the short sale and they had taken almost two years to get things moving…

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