Tuesday, January 24, 2017

In a community of million-dollar homes, a fight over a $500 mailbox ends in court - The Washington Post

In a community of million-dollar homes, a fight over a $500 mailbox ends in court - The Washington Post:

"The $35 wooden mailbox Keith Strong bought in 2009 seemed charming and functional for the home he shared with his wife in a posh golf community in the suburbs of Washington. It was a newer version of the mailbox the homeowners association previously approved and had sat at the end of their driveway since the couple moved to their Bowie-area home four years earlier. But no more than two months after Strong installed his new mailbox, he received an order to dump it — for a $500 mailbox upgrade. The board of the homeowners association voted to require all residents in the Woodmore golf community to buy metal mailboxes, monogrammed with the letter “W” and mounted on a decorative post. The $500 mailbox mandate angered Strong and others in the community, launching him into a seven-year fight that finally ended this month when a Prince George’s County judge signed, sealed and delivered a ruling that the board of the Pleasant Prospect Home Owners’ Association overstepped its bounds with its postal pronouncements. It’s a victory that cost Strong $33,000 in legal fees — roughly the price of 66 of the new bronze-colored mailboxes"


This Washington Post story highlights several common features of HOA litigation: the triviality of so many of these disputes; the cost of using the court system that we all pay for to litigate them; and the way owners have to spend a fortune to contest association decisions;


IC_deLight said...

... and the fact that the HOA corporation provoked the dispute. The HOA attorney is utterly unapologetic and recalcitrant - adamant that HOAs have such power and that its error was simply not allowing a greater phase in time. The HOA attorney undoubtedly received at least as much as the homeowner's attorney was paid. $33,000 cost that existed for the homeowner solely because of the existence of the HOA corporation. Take that off the top of any sales price and please explain how HOAs "preserve value" for anyone other than the unscrupulous vendors that prey off the HOA and its involuntary members. Because there is no evidence that HOAs "preserve" or "enhance" value for the involuntary members why don't we start off with the premise that HOAs do NOT preserve or enhance value. There is certainly ample evidence that HOAs LOWER value to homeowners by trying to impose restrictions on use and enjoyment of property and costing the victim homeowner his legal fees as well as squandering payments extracted from the other involuntary members on litigation with the targeted homeowners.

robert @ colorado hoa . com said...

“It’s a victory that cost Strong $33,000 in legal fees”

Unfortunately, the takeaway from this by whatever it is that calls itself an H.O.A.-reform movement will be “owners should be awarded attorney fees if they win!” or “this is why we need arbitration instead of the courts!”

While the first is a laudable sentiment, and the second is one of the dumbest ideas put forth from our ranks, neither proposal (1) does anything to empower home owners, against whom the law is so heavily weighted that they can rarely win, and (2) does anything for the majority of home owners who can’t afford an attorney in the first place.

As noted elsewhere on this blog (03/06/2017), the people who identify themselves as “homeowner advocates” have no well-defined agenda on how to prevent these type of conflicts in the first place.