Litigation is a common way to resolve disputes, but is a legal action neither party wants to have to take. Litigation against homeowners’ associations (“HOAs”) and condominium associations most frequently filed by association members. Each lawsuit is unique but can often be categorized as one of the six most common types of HOA litigation filed against an association.
1. The “You Should Have Fixed It!” Litigation
This is the most common type of case filed against a community association. An owner will file a lawsuit seeking to have the association fix, repair, or replace something broken or damaged that they believe the association is responsible for fixing, but the association disputes that it is its responsibility. These claims often deal with leaking roofs, leaking pipes, sewage backups, drainage issues, and other maintenance.
2. The “You Should Pay for It!” Litigation
These cases involve owners filing a lawsuit against the association to pay for property damage or personal injuries allegedly caused by the community association. These claims are often filed in tandem with “You Should HaveFixed It!” Litigation. This is usually the most serious, and costly type of HOA litigation.
3. The “You Can’t Do That!” Litigation
This litigation ensues when an owner files a lawsuit challenging an association’s act or omission. These claims of litigation often involve board actions, which can include requests to invalidate budgets or special assessments, requests to stop the association from acquiring a loan, or requests to force the board to follow a specific procedure. A judge will be able to issue a declaratory judgment ordering the association to comply with the requests or will decide the association does not need comply with the requests based on the association’s bylaws, covenants, and/or current law.
4. The Mirror Image Litigation
This type of HOA litigation is filed as a counterclaim in response to an association’s claim against an owner for a violation (i.e., collection of assessments or covenant enforcement). These claims are handled in the context of the pending litigation filed by the association. Often, the association is required to prove their case to be successful in both its claim and the counterclaim, or the Mirror Image Litigation.
5. The Preemptive Strike Litigation
The inverse of Mirror Image Litigation is Preemptive Strike Litigation. Instead of filing a counterclaim in an action taken by the association, here an owner will sue before the association files suit. This type of HOA litigation by owners often seeks to stop fines, approve an architectural control application, allow use of amenities, or similar injunctive relief. The Preemptive Strike Litigation will often necessitate a counterclaim from the association.
6. The “I was elected to the Board!” Litigation
In this type of litigation, owners will sue and ask the court to invalidate an election or force a new election. These disputes arise when an owner believes an election for association board members did not comply with the processes laid out in the association’s bylaws.
Three things to do when you are dealing with any type of HOA Litigation
Get the Lawsuit to Your Attorney ASAP
All litigation, including HOA litigation, are subject to strict filing deadlines required by the court. Typically, an answer to a lawsuit must be filed within thirty (30) days of service. As a result, it is extremely important to get any lawsuit to your attorney as soon as it is received.
Submit the Lawsuit to Insurance
Next, it is very important that the association notify its insurance carrier immediately upon service of the lawsuit. Some types of HOA litigation are covered by one or more types of insurance the association carries. The sooner the insurance receives the lawsuit, the sooner insurance can make a coverage decision. Not providing timely notice can also prejudice the association and its defense.
Start Gathering Information
The 30-day period between receiving a lawsuit and filing the answer is very important. The association must evaluate its defenses and potential counterclaims. As a result, the association should immediately start gathering information relevant to the litigation. Likewise, when an association is planning to file suit, it should gather all information and documents relevant to the dispute. This usually will include the governing documents, correspondence and communication between the parties, transaction history of the litigant, and other relevant documents.
By taking these necessary steps, you can better protect the interests of your association and work towards a favorable resolution. For more information on HOA litigation and legal assistance, contact our team and take the first step towards safeguarding your association’s rights.