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CCOC Decision Summary

#19-11, Decker v. Kingsview Village HOA (September 20, 2012) (Panel: Hitchens, Farrar, Brandes)

The homeowners disputed the right of the HOA to order them to re-install shutters that they had removed from their home.  In response, the HOA defended its decision as a reasonable one and requested that the CCOC to enforce the HOA's decision.

The evidence at the hearing showed that the community was built by several different builders, and at least some of them offered shutters as an option, and did not require shutters.  Several homes were constructed without shutters and many were constructed with them.  The homeowners selected shutters when they bought their home, but later removed their shutters without permission because one blew off and narrowly missed hitting one of their children, and there was evidence that the shutters were poorly attached.  Some other homeowners also removed shutters without permission.  The shutters were cosmetic only. 

The HOA, upon being notified of other homes that removed shutters, initiated enforcement action against those homes.  The shutters can be re-attached with metal screws and clips.  The HOA stated that it refused to allow the removal of shutters from the homes which had them in order to preserve the original appearance of the community and also because it could not state a clear reason why it should allow removal of shutters from the house in question but not from other homes which had them.  The HOA then asked for $12,000 in attorney fees as its costs in enforcing the rules.

The hearing panel upheld the HOA, citing the leading case of Kirkley v. Seipelt, which ruled that an HOA's decisions on architectural matters must be upheld if they are based on a reason which is consistent with the overall design of the community.  Even if shutters were an optional feature and purely cosmetic, they are nonetheless a component of the overall appearance of the community as built.

The panel awarded $8000 in attorneys fees because under Chapter 10B it may do so if the amount is reasonable and if the association documents require it.  In this case, the HOA's governing documents required homeowners to pay for any legal fees incurred for enforcing the governing documents.  The panel applied the Court of Appeals decision in Monmouth Meadows v. Hamilton to determine what were reasonable fees for this type of case and reduced the amount requested from $12000 to $8000 in applying the factors listed in the Court's decision. 

The panel ordered the homeowners to re-install the shutters and to pay $8000 in attorney fees.

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