Six Steps to Take before suing a homeowner’s association at the Small Claims Court

It is necessary to know the steps you should pursue before suing a homeowner’s association. In some states, one must pursue Alternative Dispute Resolution mechanisms such as negotiation or mediation before initiating a lawsuit against a homeowners association (HOA).

In this article, I briefly discuss precautionary steps to take before suing a homeowner’s association in the small claims courts.

What Steps should I Take before suing a homeowners association in the Small Claims Court?

Are you a condo owner? Do you feel like your respective homeowner association has infringed on your rights?

If yes, then, the following steps are important before suing a homeowner’s association.

The following 6 steps can help you successfully prepare to file a small claims lawsuit:

Six Steps to Take before suing a homeowner's association at the Small Claims Court

Step 1: Reach out to the homeowners association

This step is necessary as it can help to settle the problems without involving the court.

If you fail to agree with the HOA, then you should initiate a legal case against them.

Always remember that it is up to the judge to decide who is legally responsible for the case. Therefore, in the case that the judge finds the board innocent, you will have to pay for the legal fees of your lawyer and the homeowners association. Divergently, if you win then the judge will order the HOA to reimburse you and, or pay you any further damages plus your legal costs.

Step 2: Peruse through the HOA by-laws and the covenants, conditions, and restrictions (CC&Rs)

Before you initiate the lawsuit against your homeowner association, you should read and understand the association’s by-laws and the CC&Rs.

Narrowing down to your specific violation strengthens the case that you are building.

Although some State statutes require ADR before one decides to file a legal claim at the small claims courts, the homeowner’s CC&Rs may also have such clauses.

Therefore, it is important to find out what specific alternative dispute resolution methods have been recommended by the HOA.

A HOA’s bylaws or CC&Rs may also limit who can be liable for certain damages. For example, some bylaws may state that, in the course of their work, HOA board members cannot be held personally liable for damages they suffer because of a violation or negligence.

Ultimately, it is up to a judge to decide who is responsible for your damages.

Step 3: Review the Appropriate Federal or State laws on the operations of homeowner associations

It is important to read through the Statutes governing how homeowner associations should operate. For example, in Florida, the rights of condo owners are regulated by the Florida Condominium Act.

In addition, one should also read the respective rules governing the lawsuit such as the federal Statute of Limitations, and compare it with your State’s respective statute of limitation. For example, the State of California has its own rules concerning the time of commencing actions other than for the recovery of real property.

Perusing the Federal and your state’s specific laws can reveal the type of action which one can bring against an HOA and what type of relief you can ask for in court.

For Federal laws, the Fair Housing Act can help as it outlines the rights of members of an association as against the homeowners association. For example, the Fair Housing Act restricts HOAs from violating someone’s federal right to buy, rent, or enjoy the use of their property.

Step 4: Gathering All Evidence

Once you have exhausted all the mechanisms to resolve your conflict with the homeowners association, checked the HOAs by-laws and CC&Rs, and the, Federal and federal laws, you need to gather all the evidence.

Gathering evidence is a simple process.

You should save all evidence of your interactions with the Homeowners Association. For example, you can collect any necessary photographs or videos.

In addition, you should also print copies of the specific sections or clauses of the laws that have been violated.

If your case concerns an election dispute, you should have the relevant minutes of the homeowners association meetings.

Also, one should keep all written correspondence between them and the HOA. these may include:

  • Notices or violation notices that you have received from the HOA.
  • Evidence that proves the amount you are seeking to recover, such as receipts or repair estimates for your damaged property.
  • Written communications with the HOA, its board members, and property managers, including any email, text message, letter, and other documents.

Strong evidence helps to support your case and provide documentation for the claims that you are making against the HOA.

Step 5: Send a Demand Letter

Though not compulsory, one can address a demand letter to the HOA. In any case, the association’s by-laws, the small claims court rules, and the state laws recommend sending any written notice to the respective HOA informing them that you intend to take legal action.

A demand letter also informs the courts of your good faith attempt to resolve the dispute outside of court.

Step 6: Consider consulting with an Attorney

After handling the 5 steps, you must consult with an attorney.

This is because an attorney has the recommended experience and expertise to polish up your case.

However, an attorney does not come cheap, and you can look for an alternative such as a legal document assistant who will help with the necessary preparation.

Always take note that an attorney is the only person allowed to give professional legal advice by their respective state bar association.

Conclusion

Before initiating a lawsuit against an HOA, it is crucial to try and solve the conflict outside of the court.

If all out-of-court settlements are exhausted, then you can initiate a lawsuit against the HOA.

To have a stronger case against the HOA, follow these six simple steps before suing a homeowner’s association

Hope the article has been of help.