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CCOC Decision Summary

#70-12, Rose Hill Falls Homeowners Association v. Perkins (August 30, 2013) (Panel: McCabe, Stone, Wilson)

The HOA complained that the homeowner was storing her garbage cans  in front of her house, where they could be seen, in violation of the HOA rules.  The homeowner responded that her garage was too small to allow her to reach her garbage cans if they were in the garage at the same time as her car was, so she kept them outside under a fabric cover to conceal them.

The evidence showed that the HOA’s Declaration of Covenants stated that, “all trash containers shall be stored so that they cannot be seen from any public way or from any other Lot.”  The homeowner’s garage was one of only 3 in the community that were 10 feet wide, all the others were larger.  The homeowner testified that she could not use the trash containers if they were stored inside the garage because when her car was in the garage it blocked access to the cans.  Therefore, she had green fabric covers custom-made to cover the cans.

The hearing panel held that for the board’s decision to be upheld under either the “business judgment” rule or the “reasonableness “ rule [see, Appendix A], the board must first show it had the legal authority to make the decision.  In this case, it did not.  The Covenant in question said that members had to store their trash cans “so that they could not be seen.”  Therefore, the HOA could only regulate trash cans that could be seen from any public road or any other lot.  So long as the trash cans were covered the way the homeowner covered them, an observer will not see the trash cans but only the cover.  As the panel wrote, “if the trash containers in fact cannot be seen, then that should end the inquiry.”

The panel further noted that the HOA had no rules on where trash cans could be stored or how they could be covered, but only that the cans must be out of sight.  In this case, the cans could not be seen even though they were in front of the house.  The HOA did not have authority to go beyond enforcing its governing documents as they were written at the time of the hearing.

 The panel dismissed the complaint.

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