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CCOC Decision Summary

#379-O, Miller v. Manchester Farms Community Association, Inc. (September 2, 1998) (Panel: Hickey, Glancy, Skobel)

The homeowner (HO) disputed a decision of his homeowner association (HOA) prohibiting him from parking a small commercial vehicle in the common parking lot.

The HOA's rules stated that "no commercial truck or vehicle over one-half (1/2) ton capacity. . . . .shall be kept upon the property."  It was undisputed that the HO's vehicle is a truck lettered for a pest-control company�and therefore a commercial vehicle�and also that the truck had a capacity of less than � ton.  The issue for the panel to decide was whether the rule, as written, prohibited all commercial vehicles, and also prohibited all vehicles of over one-half ton capacity, or whether the rule prohibited all commercial vehicles of over a half-ton capacity.  In other words, did the rule only prohibit vehicles of more than a half-ton capacity?

The hearing panel noted that under Maryland law, it must consider not only the ordinary meanings of the words but also the intentions of the parties as shown by the circumstances at the time the rule was created; it further noted that under the relevant court decisions, a rule of strict construction should not be used to defeat a restrictive covenant that is clear on its face or is clear when considered in light of the surrounding circumstances.  The panel further noted that the HOA had never permitted any commercial vehicles in the past, and that this was also evidence of what the rules were originally intended to mean.

The panel ruled that an objective reading of the rule left no doubt that the HOA intended to prohibit all commercial vehicles from parking in the common parking lots, regardless of size, and rejected the HO's claim.  However, the panel ordered the HOA to revise the rule to make it more clear that all commercial vehicles were banned.

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