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CCOC Decision Summary

#371-O, Suschinski, Rivera and Stansfield v. Inverness North Homeowners Association (July 2, 1998) (Panel: Stevens, Glancy, Skobel)

The tenant (T) and his landlords, who were homeowners (HO) of a unit in the homeowners association (HOA) filed a complaint claiming that the HOA's attempt to prevent the T from parking his pickup truck in the community was unreasonable and not a proper interpretation of the community rules that prohibited "trucks".

The evidence at the hearing showed that the HOA declaration prohibited the parking of "junk vehicle, commercial vehicle, trailer, truck, house trailer, or the like," and the bylaws gave the HOA general authority to regulate the use of the common areas.  The HOA later adopted several rules concerning parking, which reiterated the ban against "trucks" but did not specifically mention "pickup" trucks.  The HO's did not give the T a copy of all of these rules when he signed his lease, and the T testified that before he signed, he drove through the community and saw several pickup trucks parked in the lots, therefore he concluded that the rules allowed the parking of pickup trucks.  However, the HOA's witnesses testified that the HOA had always interpreted the word "trucks" to include "pickup trucks" and had enforced the parking ban against pickups.  The HOA did grant a waiver for one pickup truck only, based on an unusual situation.

The hearing panel held that the HOA's interpretation of the word "truck" to include "pickup truck" was reasonable, and that it was not appropriate for the panel to substitute its own judgment for that of the HOA when the HOA's decision was reasonable, and not arbitrary or capricious.  The facts showed that the HOA had been consistent in its interpretation of the declaration and in its efforts to enforce the rule against pickup trucks.  The panel noted that although public attitudes towards pickup trucks have changed since the HOA declaration was written, and although the HOA could have interpreted the word "truck" to not include "pickup truck", the panel ruled that "a change from one reasonable definition to another must be a decision made in the community" and not by the panel.

The panel ordered the T to remove his pickup truck within 30 days.

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