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CCOC Decision Summary

#55-08, Vinaik v. Quince Orchard Estates HOA (July 17, 2009) (Panel: Shontz, Kivitz, Perlingiero)

The homeowners appealed a fine of $125 for landscaping services performed on their lot by their HOA.

The evidence at the hearing showed that the homeowners were landlords who rented the house to tenants and did not live in it.  Over the years the HOA had sent several notices about the tenants' failure to keep the lot in good condition by cutting the grass, removing weeds, trimming bushes, etc.  On August 26, 2009, the HOA sent a violation notice to the owners to the effect that the "plant beds" were not in good condition and gave them 15 days to improve them.  However, sometime before the 15 day deadline expired, the HOA's contractor went on the lot to cut the grass and remove trash in the lawn, and the HOA billed the owners $125 for this service.  There was a dispute over whether the lot in fact needed any maintenance.  Several months later the HOA manager sent a letter to the owners saying that grass must be kept to 4 inches, flower beds must be weeded monthly and shrubbery trimmed so that it stays within the borders of the planting beds.

The hearing panel overturned the $125 fee because the HOA entered on the lot and did the work before its own 15-day deadline had passed.  The panel also concluded that the property manager's letter defining certain maintenance standards was not valid because "property managers are not permitted to arbitrarily define or impose architectural and maintenance standards on a community."  Such standards must be adopted in compliance with the community's governing documents.

The panel ordered the HOA to remove the $125 fine and to refund the owners' $50 filing fee.  It ordered the HOA to give a copy of its decision to all its members, and to review  – and modify if necessary – its violation procedures so that they provide minimum due process protections to the members, including notice of the alleged violation and the right to a hearing with the board of directors before the HOA takes any action on the violation.

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