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Lucy, Esq.
Lucy, Esq., Lawyer
Category: Real Estate Law
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I live in ohio in a hoa. I have been getting fined 20

Customer Question

I live in ohio in a hoa. I have been getting fined 20 dollars aday for over a year because I do not have gutters on the back of my house. I was told to put them up in the front because thats what everyone sees. I did that n then they said i had to do the back. It does not say anywhere in our bylaws that homes have to have gutters and there is a house on my street that has no gutters at all n they have never been told to put some up. My fines are over 10,000 dollars n now they are threating me that they will shut off my water if i dont pay the fines. I pay my water bill every month and ive been told its illegal for them to shut my water off for unpaid fines. Is that true n what can i do ?
Submitted: 12 days ago.
Category: Real Estate Law
Expert:  Lucy, Esq. replied 12 days ago.

Hi,

I'm Lucy, and I'd be happy to answer your questions today. I'm sorry to hear about your situation.

There is nothing in the HOA statute that allows an association to turn off a homeowner's water because they owe the association money. If the water bills aren't paid by the HOA, the company that provides water shouldn't turn it off at their request. But even if they do, their recourse is to sue you for the unpaid fines. Unpaid fines constitute a lien on your unit, and they're allowed to bring an action to foreclose. They're also allowed to charge you with their attorney's fees if they win, so there's no reason for them not to sue you if they believe they're in the right. Ohio Rev. Code, Section 5312.13. That's the recourse available to them.

You have the ability to file a Petition for Declaratory Judgment, asking a judge to find that the fines are invalid, because the bylaws do not require homes to have gutters. There are two other options: pay the fines, write "Under protest" on the check and sue for reimbursement. Or you can wait and see what they do, then defend yourself if they try to foreclose your property. But it's not legal for them to shut off your water.

If you are a minority and the other homeowner is not, you may also be able to include a claim for violation of the Fair Housing Act. It's illegal for the board to target you for fines and fees because of your race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, family status, or gender. In that case, it might be worth having a local attorney send them a letter, because if you win a case against the HOA for discrimination, they'll have to pay your legal fees.

Also note that before they started charging you these fines, they were required by Ohio Rev. Code, Section 5312.11 to give you notice of the alleged violation and an opportunity to request a hearing. If they didn't do that, you have another defense to paying - and you could send them a copy of the statute via certified mail along with a letter explaining that all of the fines are void.

If you have any questions or concerns about my response, please reply WITHOUT RATING. It's important that you are 100% satisfied with my courtesy and professionalism. Otherwise, please rate my service positively so I am paid for the time I spend answering questions. If you are on a mobile device, you may need to scroll to the right. There is no charge for follow-up questions. Thank you.

Customer: replied 12 days ago.
We have our own water treatment plant in our association so we pay the association for our water and sewer so they are the ones to shut off. I always pay my bill just not the ridiculous fines. I had a meeting with them and thats when they told me to do the front and sides because thats what people see. I am a single mom with 5 kids. I put up the gutters in the time they gave me but as i said they then said i had to do the back of the house. I now way have 10,000 to pay them nor do i feel i should because other people do not have gutters n are not getting fined and its not in the bylaws that we have to so i dont see how they csn keep fining me
Expert:  Lucy, Esq. replied 12 days ago.

If they own the plant, then the water is a common element. The statute doesn't give them any authority to restrict your access to common elements for nonpayment of fines or other amounts. It just doesn't. Their recourse is to sue you. They can try to take your house, but they can't legally shut off your water.

If you can't afford to pay and sue for a refund, then your option is to sue for a Declaratory Judgment that you don't owe the money. When you file the case, you can include a Motion for Temporary Restraining Order, explaining to the judge that you will suffer irreparable harm if they're allowed to shut off your water (and they will suffer no harm from not being allowed to do it, since it's illegal). Once you have a judge saying they can't do that, you can have them held in contempt if they do it anyway.

A fourth option is to have a local attorney send them a letter, explaining the law and why they can't do that.

Customer: replied 12 days ago.
How do i go about suing for a declaratory judgment. I can file it myself ?
Expert:  Lucy, Esq. replied 12 days ago.

Essentially, a Complaint has to lay out the dispute and tell the judge what type of relief you're requesting. It should be phrased in a way that a reasonable person reading it would know they're trying to charge you $10,000, and would see the reasons they're not entitled to the money.

You can file yourself, but the courts don't make free forms available for this type of thing. You can try seeing if they have sample Complaints for Ohio on www.legalzoom.com or www.uslegalforms.com. If they don't, then you'd want to either visit a law library so you can see how to draft the complaint - and the motion for the restraining order - or hire a local attorney to draft the documents. It may be possible to find someone to draft and file the Complaint then withdraw from the case to let you handle it on your own.

Customer: replied 12 days ago.
Ok thank you very much for the advise. I will look into filing a complaint to stop the fines and harassment. They need to be stopped. The whole association is corrupt
Expert:  Lucy, Esq. replied 12 days ago.

You're welcome.

You may also want to read your bylaws to see if there's a provision in there for removing board members. Sometimes it can be done by a member vote, and that could also help avoid future problems.

Please rate my answer positively to ensure I get credit for the time I spend helping. If you are on a mobile device, you may need to scroll to the right. Thank you.

Customer: replied 12 days ago.
We tried that just in October. We got the votes n were trying to disban the whole association because our township wants to take over just like a regular neighborhood but once they found out they ruled that we only need 3 board members instead of 5 so they weren't able to be out voted n the votes are counted by the association so they will keep the members they want because nobody will really know the actual votes
Expert:  Lucy, Esq. replied 12 days ago.

If you know you had the votes and they're saying you didn't, you can all file a lawsuit together asking a judge to order them to produce the votes or hold a second meeting with a publicly counted vote (or a disinterested third party). Members who are NOT part of a lawsuit can be required to contribute to the legal fees spent, but if everyone except the board participates, then the board has to pay for the lawyer.

Expert:  Lucy, Esq. replied 7 days ago.

Do you have any other questions about this?

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