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Trial court erred in abrogating homeowner’s obligation to pay fees to HOA

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The Indiana Court of Appeals reversed a trial court’s ruling that changes in a gated residential vacation and retirement community were so radical as to abrogate a homeowner’s obligation to pay yearly fees to the homeowners association.

In 1998, Clarence Ray Meador and his wife bought a lot, which included a double-wide trailer and a 40-foot boat dock, in Country Squire Lakes Community in North Vernon. In 2006, Meador purchased an adjacent lot. The annual dues are $75 per lot and the current assessment is $300 per lot. As the economy fluctuated, investors purchased lots for rental or contract properties and the community shifted from owner-occupied to tenant-occupied. The rental property owners frequently stopped making payments to the HOA. Currently, 60 to 65 percent of these owners are delinquent on their fees and assessments, leaving the HOA with a $3 million to $4 million revenue shortfall.

As a result, dues and assessments are used on essentials such as payments on a $950,000 improvement loan, repairs to a dam, insurance and limited road maintenance, leaving insufficient funds to maintain the recreational amenities. Meador paid his dues and assessments and tried to influence the HOA board of directors in their budgetary decisions but he was ignored, and he has been unsuccessful at getting a financial audit of the HOA.

The trial court abrogated Meador’s obligation to pay dues and assessments, concluding the changes in the community had been so radical that the original purpose of the community and the deed restrictions had been defeated long ago. It also ruled that Meador could still vote at the HOA meetings because his obligation to pay had been abrogated.

In its appeal, the HOA argued the trial court’s decision “conflicts with long-established Indiana contract law.”

The COA agreed with the HOA, finding the lack of recreational facilities is not radical enough to justify the abrogation of a private contractual property covenant and that the HOA bylaws clearly state the financial obligations of homeowners.

Although the COA appreciated the trial court’s attempt to provide relief, the majority stated, “the relief provided is not one afforded under Indiana law, and thus we cannot affirm the judgment. The abrogation of Meador’s obligation to pay dues and assessments is not a remedy for these problems, but there are potential alternatives that Meador and the HOA can investigate.”

 

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  1. So that none are misinformed by my posting wihtout a non de plume here, please allow me to state that I am NOT an Indiana licensed attorney, although I am an Indiana resident approved to practice law and represent clients in Indiana's fed court of Nth Dist and before the 7th circuit. I remain licensed in KS, since 1996, no discipline. This must be clarified since the IN court records will reveal that I did sit for and pass the Indiana bar last February. Yet be not confused by the fact that I was so allowed to be tested .... I am not, to be clear in the service of my duty to be absolutely candid about this, I AM NOT a member of the Indiana bar, and might never be so licensed given my unrepented from errors of thought documented in this opinion, at fn2, which likely supports Mr Smith's initial post in this thread: http://caselaw.findlaw.com/us-7th-circuit/1592921.html

  2. When I served the State of Kansas as Deputy AG over Consumer Protection & Antitrust for four years, supervising 20 special agents and assistant attorneys general (back before the IBLE denied me the right to practice law in Indiana for not having the right stuff and pretty much crushed my legal career) we had a saying around the office: Resist the lure of the ring!!! It was a take off on Tolkiem, the idea that absolute power (I signed investigative subpoenas as a judge would in many other contexts, no need to show probable cause)could corrupt absolutely. We feared that we would overreach constitutional limits if not reminded, over and over, to be mindful to not do so. Our approach in so challenging one another was Madisonian, as the following quotes from the Father of our Constitution reveal: The essence of Government is power; and power, lodged as it must be in human hands, will ever be liable to abuse. We are right to take alarm at the first experiment upon our liberties. I believe there are more instances of the abridgement of freedom of the people by gradual and silent encroachments by those in power than by violent and sudden usurpations. Liberty may be endangered by the abuse of liberty, but also by the abuse of power. All men having power ought to be mistrusted. -- James Madison, Federalist Papers and other sources: http://www.constitution.org/jm/jm_quotes.htm RESIST THE LURE OF THE RING ALL YE WITH POLITICAL OR JUDICIAL POWER!

  3. My dear Mr Smith, I respect your opinions and much enjoy your posts here. We do differ on our view of the benefits and viability of the American Experiment in Ordered Liberty. While I do agree that it could be better, and that your points in criticism are well taken, Utopia does indeed mean nowhere. I think Madison, Jefferson, Adams and company got it about as good as it gets in a fallen post-Enlightenment social order. That said, a constitution only protects the citizens if it is followed. We currently have a bevy of public officials and judicial agents who believe that their subjectivism, their personal ideology, their elitist fears and concerns and cause celebs trump the constitutions of our forefathers. This is most troubling. More to follow in the next post on that subject.

  4. Yep I am not Bryan Brown. Bryan you appear to be a bigger believer in the Constitution than I am. Were I still a big believer then I might be using my real name like you. Personally, I am no longer a fan of secularism. I favor the confessional state. In religious mattes, it seems to me that social diversity is chaos and conflict, while uniformity is order and peace.... secularism has been imposed by America on other nations now by force and that has not exactly worked out very well.... I think the American historical experiment with disestablishmentarianism is withering on the vine before our eyes..... Since I do not know if that is OK for an officially licensed lawyer to say, I keep the nom de plume.

  5. I am compelled to announce that I am not posting under any Smith monikers here. That said, the post below does have a certain ring to it that sounds familiar to me: http://www.catholicnewworld.com/cnwonline/2014/0907/cardinal.aspx

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