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CCOC Decision Summary

#633-G, Potomac Mill Farm Homeowners Association v. Dinh (January 13, 2005) (Panel: Hickey, Perkins, Stein))

The homeowners association (HOA) filed a complaint alleging that the homeowner (HO) was constructing a change to his home that had not been approved and that the HO was installing an unapproved siding to other portions of his home not involved in the original application.  The HO replied that the HOA had approved the plans and the siding, and that he had orally requested permission to make changes to the plans, and had received oral permission for them.

At the public hearing, the evidence presented to the hearing panel showed that the HO had presented written plans to the HOA for an addition to the house which included the use of "Hardie" siding; this proposal included an "alternative" proposal.  The HOA approved the proposal.  Subsequently, the HO orally requested permission to make changes to the plan, including the implementation of the "alternative" proposal and the installation of a "crown top" mailbox.  The HO received oral approval and began work on the changes.  A month or so later, the HOA sent the HO a letter saying that he had not submitted a written drawing of the mailbox for approval, and that he must stop work on it.  Then the HOA sent another letter to the HO saying he was using an unapproved type of siding ("Stucco") and must stop work on the house.

The evidence also showed that although the HOA's rules clearly required all architectural applications and approvals to be in writing, the HOA did not enforce them consistently.  The HOA was unable to document modifications made to the homes of its board of directors, although it asserted the changes had been properly applied for and approved; and the HO was also able to show that there were other examples of changes to residences that were made on the basis of oral approval without the necessity of complying with the written application process, and that this practice had been in use when he submitted his own applications.  The HO also showed that his neighbors supported the changes he was making to his home.

The hearing panel concluded that the HO was not in violation of the rules.  He was following the alternate plan, which the HOA had orally approved, and the siding he was using was the approved "Hardie" siding.  As to the disputed mailbox, the hearing panel concluded that the HOA was acting unreasonably and arbitrarily in demanding a written application and approval when it had frequently given oral permission to other homeowners, and that the "alternative" plan and the proposed mailbox were fully consistent with the overall appearance of the community.  The panel dismissed the complaint.

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