Home associations are often far more powerful than many home owners realize. Part of the reason is that local governments have gradually given HOA's increasing regulation and authority over the sewers and streets in your neighborhood. This may help the city government save money, but it also leaves you at the mercy of the HOA, with fines, fees, and other punitive measures.
Purpose of a Home Owner Association (HOA)
Your HOA is meant to maintain the common areas of your community and enforce its rules. Its purpose is to keep your community safe, welcoming and clean. To accomplish this, it establishes a board to run the association and collects dues from you and other homeowners to run the HOA. This is all well and good until an HOA starts behaving like power mad despots.
There is no shortage of tales of woe when it comes to homeowner vs. HOA. One Northern California couple ran afoul of an HOA when they fell behind on their dues. The couple owed $120 in dues and when they failed to respond to the HOA's demands, they found that their $300,000 home had been foreclosed on. The home was auctioned off for a mere $70,000.
In another remarkable case, a home owner received a $400 fine from her HOA for debris and tree limbs in her yard. Normally, this would be understandable, but this happened to be one day after a hurricane had blown through the neighborhood. For good measure, the HOA also fined another home owner for their missing roof.
Some communities provide lots for parking. This is a convenient feature for many. But in one situation, the HOA decided it didn't like the look that a full car lot projected and began towing the cars that used what was meant to be a feature of the neighborhood. Other home owners have fought over home improvements, shrubbery, and whether their home even fell under the jurisdiction of the HOA at all.
HOA's will fight you tooth and nail over practically any dispute. They have the money, the clout, and the experience. Typically, litigation is the only way to achieve a fair outcome. Strategic litigation is a necessity. You must gather all available evidence for your attorney in order to prove your case. Clear documentation is essential. Always keep records of any dispute, with documentation of correspondence, phone calls, receipts and other evidence to support your claim.
HOA Boards are no strangers to litigation. They have the means to fight you aggressively, and bad boards certainly will. Don't advertise your intention to sue to your HOA. This may result in changes by the board that will be detrimental to your suit. It also gives them the opportunity to build a stronger case against you through means that are not always on the up and up. Sadly, this is frequently the case even when they know that they are in the wrong.
If you are fighting a losing battle with your California HOA, an experienced litigation attorney can help you with your legal battle and fight to protect your rights.
Sources: http://www.kansascity.com/news/special-reports/hoa/article92502962.html, http://www.wsj.com/articles/neighbor-disputes-turn-wealthy-areas-into-war-zones-1469713527, https://www.yahoo.com/style/10-homeowners-association-horror-stories-152142266.html