State supreme court cases favor member rights and freedoms over HOA

I would like to thank Deborah Goonan on her post[1] covering two especially important state supreme court HOA cases, and her excellent reporting and analysis of the issues. My review and comments follow.

WDIS, LLC v. Hi-Country Estates Homeowners Ass’n, Phase II, 2022 UT 17 (Utah 2022)

Raised in this landmark case, but not directly addressed, is the constitutional validity of the CC&Rs that contain implicit waivers and surrenders of fundamental rights and freedoms that are available to and protect all Americans under the Constitution. At issue, as stated by the Utah SC in WDIS,

“More relevant to this case, future owners of parcels or homes within the jurisdiction of any HOA are not required to formally sign onto the restrictive covenants when they are first created. Instead, consumers (be they buyers, heirs, or lenders) are merely entitled to a take-it-or-leave-it option to accept ownership of the property, subject to whatever covenants and restrictions are on file in County records. By taking possession of the property, an owner is presumed to have accepted the restrictions as valid and enforceable.”

The “Landowners” raised the especially prominent issue of freedom of contract, raising the charge of CC&Rs as an unconstitutional contract. The Utah Supreme Court concluded:

“The protective covenants at issue were not contractual” because “they did not involve two parties agreeing to perform acts in relation to each other. We conclude that applying the presumption is appropriate.”

“The freedom to contract is implicated because the question we are resolving is whether parties “of full age and competent understanding” are free either to accept or reject those covenants later on. And there are other reasons, beyond the freedom of contract, to apply the presumption.”  

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Belmont Ass’n v. Farwig,  No. 214A21, 2022 NCSC 64 (N.C. 2022)

First, with respect to outwardly friendly HOA member legislation let me point out what we see here,  the bill/law usually contains an offsetting exception or exclusion that renders the homeowner benefits questionable or negates them under practical application. Obviously, anybody seeing solar panels on roofs know that they will be seen by the public. How can a court ignore that?

Also, watch out for Rules that cannot be supported by the CC&Rs and are invalid as the SC pointed out regarding an ARC rule. HOAs cannot add restrictions or conditions not specified or prohibited by the CC&Rs without a CC&Rs amendment.

Second, as I’ve repeatedly stated, state legislatures favor the HOA over member rights and constitutional protections. Thank God there are some courts who do seek justice like the NC  Supreme Court in this case that saw, in plain English, the subterfuge of “friendly” HOA member law.

Read the full post here:

  1.  HOA Lawsuits: Property owner challenges to HOA boards (Part 2) – Independent American Communities, Deborah Goonan, Aug. 5, 2022.