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CCOC Decision Summary

#220-G, Avenel Community Association v. Nayar (March 11, 1994) (Panel: Stevens, Fox, Jacobsen) 

The homeowners association (HOA) filed a complaint alleging that the homeowner (HO) had not completed the landscaping project for which the HOA had given approval.

The evidence at the hearing showed that in October, 1988, the HOA approved the HO's application to build a circular driveway and related landscaping; in March, 1991, the HOA approved the construction of a fountain in the front yard, conditioned upon additional landscaping to blend the fountain into the yard;  A year later, in 1992, the HOA reminded the HO that the work must be completed within a year after it was approved, and in August, 1992 the HOA ordered the HO to complete the work by September 15, 1992, which the HO refused to do on the grounds that the contractor hired to do the work was not cooperative, and the HO told the HOA the work could not be finished until Spring, 1993.  The HOA filed this complaint in February, 1993, by which time all work had been completed except for the landscaping around the fountain.  The HO testified that he had been given copies of the HOA's governing documents when he bought his home but had never read them.  Although the HOA has numerous rules on property improvements, most of them have not been filed with the Homeowner Association Depository; the only such document properly filed stated that all work on "the exterior of all structures" must be completed within one year of the date the construction began.  The landscaping plan approved by the HOA does not state the sizes of the plants to be installed.  The HOA argued that the plants installed were too small; the HO argued he had the right to change the plantings at will.

The hearing panel held that the HOA had the legal right under its governing documents to regulate the fountain and landscaping project and to ensure its completion.  However, the term "the exterior of all structures" which must be completed within 1 year of the start of the work, while it might include the driveway and fountain, did not include the landscaping and plants.  The driveway and fountain projects had been completed.  The panel ruled that the 1-year deadline did not apply to the landscaping but also ruled that the landscaping must be completed "in a reasonable time", and that the 3 years in this case was reasonable.  The HOA's approval of landscaping did not specify the size of the plants to be used; however, the terms of the approval did allow the HOA to require additional landscaping if the plants used did not adequately soften the appearance of the fountain.

The panel ordered the HO to complete the plantings within 30 days according to either the original plan they submitted to the HOA or according to the HOA's proposed plan, or unless the parties otherwise agreed to a third plan.

The panel refused to require the HO to pay the HOA's costs and fees on the grounds that the facts of the case did not show sufficient cause.

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