CALIFORNIA – Natomas couple settle long, bitter dispute with homeowner association
The parties signed the settlement earlier this month, two years after Allen and Cynthia Campbell filed a complaint with the state Department of Fair Employment and Housing saying the Sonora Springs Homeowners Association had illegally discriminated against Allen Campbell by not fixing the pool’s broken chairlift despite his complaints starting in 2011.
The case was a rare instance in which residents successfully challenged a homeowners association, which tend to have inordinate power compared to individual homeowners, experts said. HOA boards can levy fines and assessments, seize property and take other measures against homeowners who don’t pay or disobey the rules.
While HOA dues pay for law firms and professional property managers, homeowners who want to fight the board’s authority usually have to hire and pay for their own lawyers, which is prohibitively costly for most. In this instance, state housing officials intervened, and the Campbells won $109,0000 as part of a mediated settlement.
“Homeowners should be encouraged by the DFEH ruling and the size of the damages in this case,” said Marjorie Murray, president of the Center for California Homeowner Association Law in Oakland, an advocacy group for HOA residents. “Both the ruling and the penalty send a clear message to homeowner associations like Sonora Springs … that they have a legal obligation to comply with state and federal fair housing laws protecting the disabled.” Read more: