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Can I Sue My Homeowners Association?

Curiale Hostnik, PLLC Nov. 2, 2020

About half of all new residential communities and condominium developments have Homeowners Associations (HOAs) set up by the developers. Generally, this is to ensure that a governing board of residents will work to maintain the integrity of the commons areas and make sure owners follow the rules set forth to protect property valuation.

Unfortunately, disputes can occur between the homeowner and their HOA. Such disputes may include mismanagement of HOA funds, maintenance delays, breach of fiduciary duty, or breach of covenant. If you are involved in a dispute and considering filing a lawsuit against your HOA, it is important to consult with an experienced HOA litigation attorney for proper guidance.

The law office of Curiale Hostnik PLLC has been handling real estate issues for more than 30 years. We pride ourselves on personalized service designed to craft a legal solution that fits your individual needs, including issues with HOAs and homeowner rights. We represent clients in Tacoma, Washington, and cities throughout Pierce County including Puyallup, Gig Harbor, and University Place.

Rights and Obligations of an HOA

The duties and authority of any HOA are set forth in what’s called the Declaration of Covenants, Conditions, and Restrictions (CC&Rs), a copy of which must be provided to each new homeowner to be acknowledged and signed. The HOA’s governing body is usually a board of directors elected by and from all affected residents.

The CC&Rs set forth all conditions for property owners subject to the HOA’s governance. In addition to ensuring the upkeep and maintenance of commons areas like pools and recreational facilities, the CC&Rs also cover items such as yard maintenance, noise, pets, parking, vehicle storage, and general nuisances, among other areas of mutual homeowner interest.

The CC&Rs also list a covenant of assessments, which generally means a monthly fee that each homeowner must pay to fund the HOA in carrying out its obligations. Like everything else in life, the cost of the assessment tends to rise over time, if not annually.

What Are A Homeowner’s Rights? Can You Sue?

HOAs generally have broad, enforceable powers set forth in the CC&Rs. So long as the HOA doesn’t step outside the bounds of the covenant, its actions are generally on solid legal grounds. However, if the board fails to fulfill its obligations — for instance, by being negligent in maintaining common areas — or if it spends recklessly, the homeowners have a right to sue for breach of fiduciary duty, breach of covenant, negligence, or a combination of these.

Negligence generally refers to the HOA’s inattention to maintaining common facilities. If an elevator in a condominium is out of service for weeks, burdening residents with walking up many floors with heavy bags of groceries, this could be cause for a negligence lawsuit against the HOA. Likewise, if a common swimming pool or recreational room is not maintained in proper working order, a lawsuit for negligence could be initiated.

The HOA members and board of directors have a fiduciary duty and are required to act on behalf of the association in good faith and with skill, care, and caution. When there is a breach of fiduciary duty for failure to manage the affairs of the HOA for the common good, homeowners may take legal action.

Furthermore, the rules and regulations of an HOA are legally binding for members of the association. Homeowners may have a basis for a breach of covenant lawsuit against the HOA for not following the CC&R's rules and regulations.

Keep in mind that HOAs usually have the power to issue fines if a homeowner breaks any rule or regulation. You don’t want to go too far without seeking legal counsel.

How to Seek Competent Legal Counsel

In 2018, Washington updated laws governing HOAs with the passage of the Washington Uniform Common Interest Ownership Act. This Act provides for the transparency of HOA activities and resources, including financial documents. In some cases, it also requires a nonbinding alternative dispute resolution before going to court over disputes with the HOA.

Issues and disputes with one’s Homeowners’ Association can be tricky and challenging. At Curiale Hostnik PLLC, we pride ourselves on personalized, attentive service that will seek the most effective legal strategy available for your situation. If you’re in Tacoma, Washington, or surrounding communities throughout Pierce County, contact us immediately if you have an HOA or homeowner issue needing attention. We’ll listen carefully and walk you through your best options.