Monday, July 13, 2015

It can be done - homeowner beats HOA on free speech case

Posted by CotoBlogzz

Rancho Santa Margarita, CA - Janet Linn, from Albany, California, challenged the Gateview Homeowners Association and its president in Alameda County Small Claims court ( Case #RS14743221) because she was fined by the HOA for posting announcements on the public bulletin boards that the HOA said were critical of association decisions.  The HOA alleged the postings violated the association rules and regulations.

While the case against the HOA president Edel Alon was dismissed without prejudice based on lack of evidence to support individual liability, The court found no evidence to justify the fines and "The court finds that the fine was an improper attempt to curtail plaintiff’s exercise of her rights to free speech guaranteed by the state and federal constitutions.”

The court awarded her $4482.79 in damages plus court costs.

While the ruling can be viewed as victory against repressive homeowners associations, a warranted assumption is that this would not happen in Orange County Superior Court with an Association such as Coto de Caza's CZ master Association.  In this case, neither the HOA president, nor a HOA representative appeared in court to defend him or itself against the Ms. linn's lawsuit.  As the most litigious HOA in Southern California, the CZ and its property management company and legal counsel have master the art, from making extremely difficult to be served, to being able to have the various judges' ears.

In stark contrast with Orange County, the Alameda County judge took the time to prepare a detailed ruling after examining all the evidence. The ruling includes the following:

Unlike other HOA members, Ms Linn was not allowed to have packages and large piece mail deliveries from UPS, FedEx and other parcel services left for her at theHOA office.

The HOA assessed $100 fine agains Ms Linn for having allegedly violated the rules and evaluations of the HOA governing the use of public bulletin boards by the HOA members.  Ms Linn paid the fine under protest while no evidence was presented to justify the HOA board's action

The judge found  that the fine was an improper attempt curtail Ms Linn's exercise of her rights to free speech guaranteed by the state and federal constitutions.

It should be noted Ms Linn took the action in part because

•   The HOA refused to provide records she requested, specifically invoices for legal services and engineering reports, and

•   The HOA’s legal counsel, Berding & Weil, refused her repeated written requests for alternative dispute resolution.

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1 comment:

JL "Buzz" Aguirre said...

CZ Master Association, Keystone Properties, Coto de Caza CZ Master, Keystone Properties and Dwelling Live are robbing us blind!!! Trabucco Canyon, California