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#236-G, Middlebridge Village Homeowners Association Inc. v. Feinberg (May 10, 1994) (Panel: Gardner, Blumberg, Auvil)

The homeowners association (HOA) filed a complaint that the homeowners (HO) had violated the community rules by installing a basketball backboard on their driveway.  The HO claimed in defense that the backboard did not violate any rule and in addition that it had been approved when the HOA failed to act on the HO's application to install it within 60 days after the HO submitted the application.

The evidence at the hearing showed that the HOA's Declaration stated that "no play equipment backboards, basketball hoops and other equipment....shall be attached in any manner to the exterior of the dwelling.  Any basketball backboards, hoops. . .and the like which are permitted to be erected by the Architectural Committee shall be painted to match the trim color of the dwelling...No play equipment shall be installed beyond the front building line of the dwelling..."  The HO installed a basketball backboard in front of his home without approval and when notified this was a violation the HO applied for permission to install the basketball backboard on July 23, 1992.  In this application the HO offered to move equipment and mount it on a pole placed on one side of the house although the hoop and backboard would extend past the front of the house.  The HOA board met to consider the application on September 3, 1992 and voted to reject it; but there was no written record made of this meeting and the HO denied that the meeting took place that day, or at any time before the 60-day deadline expired.  The HOA's Declaration states that "[i]n the event that the Committee fails to approve or disapprove any [application] within 60 days after such plans...have been submitted to it in writing, then approval will not be required and this Article will be deemed to have been fully complied with."  On September 23, 1992 the HOA formally advised the HO that the application was rejected because the backboard and hoop extended past the front line of the house.  The board of directors acts as the architectural committee of the HOA.  The HO never moved the basketball equipment to the side of the house as offered in their application, although the Declaration also specifies that if work has been applied for and approved, the homeowner must begin the work authorized within 6 months of the date of the approval.

The hearing panel ruled that the front building line meant the most forward part of the house, which in this case meant the line of the second floor, which extended 2 feet past the line of the first floor.  Although the pole was placed behind and under the line of the second floor, the hoop and backboard projected past that line, and therefore constituted a violation of the rule that no play equipment extend past the front line of the house.  The panel further held that the HOA denied the application within 60 days based on the letter of September 23, 1992, and that this denial was therefore valid and enforceable.  Finally, the panel ruled that even if the HOA did not act in time, the HO's "silent approval" expired when the HO failed to move the pole assembly from the front of the house to behind the second floor house line within 6 months as required by the Declaration.  The panel therefore ordered the HO to remove the basketball pole, hoop and basket from the property within 30 days.

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