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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. A sad end to a prolific gadfly. Indiana has suffered a great loss in the journalistic realm.

  2. Good riddance to this dangerous activist judge

  3. What is the one thing the Hoosier legal status quo hates more than a whistleblower? A lawyer whistleblower taking on the system man to man. That must never be rewarded, must always, always, always be punished, lest the whole rotten tree be felled.

  4. I want to post this to keep this tread alive and hope more of David's former clients might come forward. In my case, this coward of a man represented me from June 2014 for a couple of months before I fired him. I knew something was wrong when he blatantly lied about what he had advised me in my contentious and unfortunate divorce trial. His impact on the proceedings cast a very long shadow and continues to impact me after a lengthy 19 month divorce. I would join a class action suit.

  5. The dispute in LB Indiana regarding lake front property rights is typical of most beach communities along our Great Lakes. Simply put, communication to non owners when visiting the lakefront would be beneficial. The Great Lakes are designated navigational waters (including shorelines). The high-water mark signifies the area one is able to navigate. This means you can walk, run, skip, etc. along the shores. You can't however loiter, camp, sunbath in front of someones property. Informational signs may be helpful to owners and visitors. Our Great Lakes are a treasure that should be enjoyed by all. PS We should all be concerned that the Long Beach, Indiana community is on septic systems.

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