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What Are Common Disputes Between Homeowners And HOAs?

According to an article in U.S. News and World Report, the Community Associations Institute found that about 20% of people in the U.S. live in neighborhoods with homeowner associations, often called HOAs. While residents of neighborhood associations usually have the benefit of paying monthly dues in exchange for association services like maintenance of home exteriors and common areas, insurance on the outside of buildings and more, depending on the terms of their association documents, it is not unusual for disputes to arise between homeowners and their HOA boards.

Association living has historically been in multifamily housing like townhomes and condos, it is becoming more common for neighborhoods of single-family homes to be developed as associations, so the associated legal issues are becoming more widespread.

Normally, a volunteer board of directors carries out the business and operation of an HOA, subject to the terms in the governing documents like by-laws or others containing “covenants, conditions and restrictions” or CC&Rs. In addition, the association must comply with state law, most importantly the Davis-Stirling Common Interest Development Act in California.

Common disputes that can arise include those concerning:

  • Financial assessments on individual units such as for one-time improvements like new roofs or resurfacing parking lots
  • Board spending of association funds
  • Adequacy of maintenance or repair of common areas like sidewalks, lawns, parking areas, mailboxes and more
  • Board fines on homeowners
  • HOA dues like late payment, late fees, increases, liens or foreclosure for nonpayment and more
  • Quality of or need for repair on outside of home
  • Parking, rental, noise or use of home
  • Election of board members
  • Compliance with rules for calling or conducting meetings, including voting
  • Drafting, interpretation, content or amendment of governing documents
  • Reasonableness or unreasonableness of operating rules
  • Disagreement over which service providers to hire such as those for garbage, repairs, resurfacing, professional services and others

For example, in the widely cited case of Eith v. Ketelhut, a California appeals court said that homeowners who grew grapes in their yard within an association did not engage in business or commercial activity prohibited by the governing documents because the grapes were shipped offsite for wine production, homeowner did not post commercial signage and no retail selling was done on site.

Any member of an HOA who faces a dispute with the HOA board should consult with a lawyer for legal advice about resolution, whether informal, through negotiation or mediation, or, if necessary, through a lawsuit.

Attorney Bryan Snyder of the Law Office of Bryan R, Snyder, APC, in San Diego represents homeowners in HOA disputes in the surrounding area.