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CCOC Decision Summary

#624-0, Billy T. Lee v. Green Hills Farm Homeowners' Association (November 17, 2004) (Panel: Reilly, Huggins, & Smith

The complainant homeowner (HO) placed oriental lion dog statues on top of his driveway pillars in early 1991 without approval of the Elm Street Development (ESD), respondent's predecessor.  Most homeowner associations prohibit changes/additions to property without prior approval by an architectural or similar committee.  In July and September 1991, the HO was notified by ESD that his statutes were in violation of their covenants, and they were not approved.

The HO replied that numerous other homeowners had made changes without prior approval.  In November 1991, the HO wrote ESD that either the matter should be dropped or submitted to arbitration by the Office of Common Ownership Communities.  No reply was made to the HO by ESD.

In December 2002, the respondent homeowner association (HOA) wrote the HO that his previous violation had gone unrectified.  Furthermore, the HOA gave the HO a deadline of February 28 and a threat to impose a fine of $25 for each day the statues were not removed.  The HO again suggested that the matter be submitted to arbitration.  The HOA responded that it had "no intention of pursuing the matter through arbitration."  In March, the HO filed his complaint with the Commission on Common Ownership Communities.

The Commission ruled: 1) the Maryland Homeowners Association Act mandated that homeowners' associations deposit their governing documents in the county depository and that failure to comply renders the documents unenforceable.  The HOA did not place the documents into the depository until September 3, 2003, at which time they did become enforceable.  2) As a matter of equity, an eleven years lapse between notification of a violation and an attempt to enforce is too long.

The Commission noted: 1) due process requires that anytime a governing body imposes a sanction, the violator must be given a chance to speak in his defense.  The fine here was imposed without any hearing. 2) The HOA's refusal to participate in arbitration before the Commission demonstrates a lack of understanding of the governance of HOAs and the type of arrogance that give HOAs a bad name.   

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