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#235-G, Middlebridge Village Homeowners Association v. Pendleton (April 22, 1994) (Panel: Gardner, Blumberg, Auvil)

The homeowners association (HOA) complained that the homeowner (HO) had violated the rules by erecting a portable basketball backboard on his property.  The HO claimed that the relevant rules did not apply to portable equipment.

The evidence at the hearing showed that the HOA Declarations stated that "no structure of a temporary character....shall be erected, used or maintained on any lot at any time" and that "no play equipment backboards, basketball hoops and other equipment...shall be attached in any manner to the exterior of any dwelling...No play equipment shall be installed beyond the front building line of the dwelling on any lot..."  In early 1992 the HOA noticed a portable basketball backboard on the HO's driveway and asked him to remove it from the driveway when it was not in use.  The HO did not comply or respond and the HOA eventually filed this complaint with the Commission.  At the hearing the HO said he would not remove the backboard unless he were ordered to do so by the Commission.  The basketball backboard is usually located in front of the house on the driveway but it is collapsible and can be stored in the garage.

The hearing panel held that the portable basketball backboard was not "a structure of temporary character" as defined by the Declaration.  The panel concluded that these words meant a structure that was somehow attached to the property, but the backboard was more akin to a bicycle, car or trailer, which would not be called "structures of temporary character."  The examples of temporary "structures" mentioned in the rules were kennels, sheds, tents, barns, etc., which did not have permanent foundations and are difficult to move.  The panel further noted that under Maryland law, any ambiguity in the meaning of a rule should be resolved in favor of the unrestricted use of private property.  The panel further held that the restrictions on the location of basketball and playground equipment did not apply to equipment that was not fixed to the property in some way, whereas this backboard has its own base, on which it can easily be wheeled around.

The panel ordered that the relief requested by the HOA was denied.

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