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Appeals court affirms rejection of HOA ‘abusive junk fee’

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A Morgan County man who took no action to defend a judgment in his favor nevertheless prevailed in the Indiana Court of Appeals on Friday. The judges upheld a trial court ruling that rejected a homeowners association charge it called an “abusive junk fee.”

The housing development in Camby sued in small claims court a homeowner who had fallen behind on homeowner association dues. In Heartland Crossing Foundation, Inc. v. Chris M. Dotlich, 55A01-1203-SC-119, Heartland Crossing Foundation sought to collect $795 in attorney fees and a $50 “administrative fee” in addition to a nearly 33 percent penalty for a late payment.

The trial court found in Chris Dotlich’s favor, holding that it was a cost not incurred and without basis and was “nothing more than an abusive junk fee.” The trial court also rejected Heartland’s plea for attorney fees because they were based on the administrative fee.

“Initially, we observe that Dotlich did not file an appellee’s brief,” Judge L. Mark Bailey wrote in a unanimous six-page opinion. “Under such a circumstance, we do not undertake to develop an argument on his behalf, and we may reverse upon Heartland’s prima facie showing of reversible error.”

The court ruled that a declaration of covenants, conditions, easements and restrictions of Heartland Crossing did not contain language allowing it to collect an administrative fee.

“The evidence most favorable to the judgment discloses that Heartland, by recovering late fees and attorneys’ fees from Dotlich, already recovered the ‘costs of collection’ and ‘reasonable attorney’s fees and paraprofessional fees actually incurred[.]’ … Therefore, under the terms of the Declaration, nothing remains for Heartland to recover,” the panel ruled.

“Dotlich does not owe Heartland the $50 ‘administrative fee,’ costs, or $795.10 in attorneys’ fees. Therefore, the trial court’s judgment for Dotlich is not clearly erroneous,” Bailey wrote.

 

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  1. Just an aside, but regardless of the outcome, I 'm proud of Judge William Hughes. He was the original magistrate on the Home place issue. He ruled for Home Place, and was primaried by Brainard for it. Their tool Poindexter failed to unseat Hughes, who won support for his honesty and courage throughout the county, and he was reelected Judge of Hamilton County's Superior Court. You can still stand for something and survive. Thanks, Judge Hughes!

  2. CCHP's real accomplishment is the 2015 law signed by Gov Pence that basically outlaws any annexation that is forced where a 65% majority of landowners in the affected area disagree. Regardless of whether HP wins or loses, the citizens of Indiana will not have another fiasco like this. The law Gov Pence signed is a direct result of this malgovernance.

  3. I gave tempparry guardship to a friend of my granddaughter in 2012. I went to prison. I had custody. My daughter went to prison to. We are out. My daughter gave me custody but can get her back. She was not order to give me custody . but now we want granddaughter back from friend. She's 14 now. What rights do we have

  4. This sure is not what most who value good governance consider the Rule of Law to entail: "In a letter dated March 2, which Brizzi forwarded to IBJ, the commission dismissed the grievance “on grounds that there is not reasonable cause to believe that you are guilty of misconduct.”" Yet two month later reasonable cause does exist? (Or is the commission forging ahead, the need for reasonable belief be damned? -- A seeming violation of the Rules of Profession Ethics on the part of the commission) Could the rule of law theory cause one to believe that an explanation is in order? Could it be that Hoosier attorneys live under Imperial Law (which is also a t-word that rhymes with infamy) in which the Platonic guardians can do no wrong and never owe the plebeian class any explanation for their powerful actions. (Might makes it right?) Could this be a case of politics directing the commission, as celebrated IU Mauer Professor (the late) Patrick Baude warned was happening 20 years ago in his controversial (whisteblowing) ethics lecture on a quite similar topic: http://www.repository.law.indiana.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1498&context=ilj

  5. I have a case presently pending cert review before the SCOTUS that reveals just how Indiana regulates the bar. I have been denied licensure for life for holding the wrong views and questioning the grand inquisitors as to their duties as to state and federal constitutional due process. True story: https://www.scribd.com/doc/299040839/2016Petitionforcert-to-SCOTUS Shorter, Amici brief serving to frame issue as misuse of govt licensure: https://www.scribd.com/doc/312841269/Thomas-More-Society-Amicus-Brown-v-Ind-Bd-of-Law-Examiners

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