More than a few years ago, a Tampa Homeowners Association sent a lawn crew to the home of one of their residents and the crew laid sod in the homeowner’s yard. The HOA then sent the homeowners a bill for $2,212. By the way, at the time the crew laid down the sod, there was a drought. The homeowners, Billye and Ed Simmons disputed the charges. The HOA placed a lien on the Simmons’ home and a lawsuit soon followed.
After nearly ten years of protracted litigation, Hillsborough County Circuit Judge James Barton, ruled in favor of the homeowners.
Unfortunately, this lawsuit had cost the Simmons over $220,000 in attorneys’ fees. With the Simmons prevailing in the litigation, hopefully the HOA statutes will allow them to recover some, if not all, of their attorneys’ fees. The judge also awarded the Simmons $145,000 in damages.
Among other things, Judge Barton found:
– The association replaced the Simmonses’ lawn when it was not the only yard affected by the drought.
– Three deed restriction committee members never inspected the property before the board authorized the work as required by governing documents.
– The person who installed the sod, Michael Meggison, was an officer and board member of the HOA. Governing documents prohibit board members from receiving remuneration without a unanimously adopted resolution, which did not happen.
– The fraudulent lien prohibited the Simmonses from selling their home, which they had purchased as investment property and rented out. At one point, when the home was valued at $215,000, they had an interested buyer. The property is now worth $100,000, according to the court order.
Judge Barton aptly characterized this litigation as “Anatomy of an HOA dispute run amok.” Indeed, the HOA should have decided to drop back and punt a long time ago. Instead, it will have to increase the assessments of its residents to pay for the damages and attorneys fees. I suggest that the HOA should refrain from taking action against the Simmons anytime soon. It makes no sense to aggravate an already horrible situation.