Why HOAs Get Sued:
Homeowners' Associations (HOAs) often find themselves facing lawsuits due to various issues, and these legal battles can be both costly and contentious.
It is crucial for HOAs and their insurers to understand the common triggers for litigation and work together to prevent them.
So, what are some of the common issues that lead to HOA lawsuits?
Let's take a closer look:
1. Failure to maintain and repair shared areas like pools and parks within the neighborhood.
(Neglecting the Neighborhood: When HOAs fail to maintain and repair common areas like pools and parks, they're just asking for trouble. It's like leaving a banana peel on the floor and waiting for someone to slip and sue. )
2. Denial of architectural plans without proper justification.
3. Disputes arising from board election results.
4. Conflicts over violations of the HOA's bylaws or covenants.
There are many ways, one of the most common is called Selective Enforcement.
Selective enforcement is when a board member or members choose to apply certain rules and regulations in a discriminatory manner, giving preferential treatment to some homeowners while ignoring others. This means that the board or a single board member may be biased when deciding how to act in certain circumstances, leaving residents feeling ignored or discriminated against.
While building your new home you are required to pay a road bond fee, yet other's are allowed to cut the roadway for a waterline without having to pay the road bond fees. Nor pay for repairing the road back to original condition. In essence, a board member gives them preferential treatment.
A homeowner is cited for junk when others have been allowed to be an eyesore for years.
The street you live on is still not paved. There are 4 homes on your street. Past board member lies to you and says there is a rule that there must be 5 homes. It is later discovered that there is no such rule.
Other board member lives on street with 4 homes and their street is paved.
Another board member, prior to putting his home on the market has the road in front of his home re-paved.
5. Allegations of discrimination, such as violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act when common areas are not easily accessible.
6. Accidents that result in personal injury allegedly on account of the HOA’s negligence.
Allowing a board member to drive intoxicated in the village, assaults a village member. That board member is allowed to remain on HOA board and is hired to be part-time maintenance. There is no board censure or public reprimand. Board turns a blind eye. What would happen if board member assaults another member or crashes while intoxicated, injuring someone.
Being advised that the pool shower rooms floor drains are dangerous but doing nothing to fix it. It leads to a child or anyone for that matter getting hurt.
7. Disputes regarding the HOA's restrictions on pets.
Owner cited for dog at large, but neighbors dog is allowed to run free around the village for years.
It has nothing to do with the "Good Dog" theory. Their dog may be nice. The family may be nice people. But it becomes a problem legally for the village when you cite someone that has a mean dog on the loose. The mean dog owner can now sue LHV for selective enforcement. All because you have not upheld the law equitably or the same for everyone. The board needs to have the ability to uphold the laws and covenants without the fear of being sued.
(Please don't get mad if this is a picture of your dog. It is just used as an perfect example.)
As you can see, there are numerous ways in which an HOA can become entangled in legal battles. Therefore, it is crucial for these entities to take a proactive approach in developing policies and practices that can prevent many of these issues from arising in the first place.
Now, let's address the question of whether an HOA can commit negligence.
The answer is yes, HOAs can indeed be guilty of negligence.
In personal injury law, negligence is determined by three elements:
1. The defendant had a legal duty of care.
duty of care
n. a requirement that a person act toward others and the public with the watchfulness, attention, caution and prudence that a reasonable person in the circumstances would use. If a person's actions do not meet this standard of care, then the acts are considered negligent, and any damages resulting may be claimed in a lawsuit for negligence.
In general, a duty of care is a legal obligation one person owes to another to exercise reasonable caution when doing something that could foreseeably cause harm.
Lake Helmerich Village board members have a duty of care to properly manage all aspects of the village. Everything from finances, employees, contracts, security, equipment and most of all, to provide a safe environment.
2. The defendant breached that duty of care.
The defendant was involved in creating the risk which caused harm to the plaintiff.
3. The breach caused harm to the victim.
Board member is made aware of potential issues regarding dams. Board member and staff member do not want to have inspectors in to inspect dams for fear that, “ I’m, I’m talking about the... the last thing we want in here is State anything.”
“They do dam inspections, but we... we got to fix it ourselves. We don’t want to advertise it. Cause they could make you cut that dam down.”
Dam fails causing property damage or worse.
They are liable for their negligence.
1. Imagine if the HOA neglects to de-ice a roadway in the village, causing you to crash, and get injured.
2. Another scenario could be if the HOA fails to take precautions against a dangerous dog on the property, resulting in an attack on you, your child or your pets.
3. Suppose the HOA ignores common area dead trees for months, and it eventually falls onto your roof, causing significant damage. Or that tree falls onto powerlines and shuts off the power to the surrounding homes. And it's winter and those homes pipes freeze.
4. If the HOA neglects to keep pool area equipment in proper working order and someone gets hurt.
5. Lastly, if the lights or security cameras in the village goes out, and the HOA doesn't promptly replace or fix them, leaving you vulnerable. Potentially exposing your homes being burglarized or potentially an assault in the darkness.
In each of these examples, the lawsuit against the HOA would claim that they did not exercise reasonable care to prevent harm.
What exactly is a homeowner's association (HOA) and it's responsibilities? It's essentially a self-governing organization of homeowners, where each homeowner pays fees or dues to the HOA.
Job of the board...
It's important to address these issues within an HOA to maintain a fair and harmonious community. By understanding the potential consequences and liabilities, board members can ensure they act in the best interest of the association and its members.
Lake Helmerich Village HOA is a lawsuit waiting to happen.