| Case #04-06, Longmead Crossing Community Services Association v. Adrienne Venson, June 14, 2006 (Fleischer,Gannon,Gramzinski)
The homeowner association (HOA) alleged that the respondent (HO) was in violation of the HOAs architectural control guidelines (Guidelines) in that the HOs front railing needed to be scraped and painted and that some front window screens needed to be restored.The HOA sent numerous notices of these violations to the HO, and it tried to contact the HO personally, all to no avail.It then filed a complaint with the Commission and the Commission sent several notices to the HO, including a notice of the hearing itself. The HO did not reply to any of the notices and did not make the repairs, and she did not come to the hearing to defend herself.
The Panel found that it had jurisdiction over the HO in spite of her failure to reply and to show up for the hearing, because she had been sent the proper notices, and the notices sent by regular US Mail had not been returned.It then found that the HO was in violation of the Guidelines. The Panel ordered her to correct the violations and to refund to the HOA the $50.00 filing fee that it paid to file this complaint.
The HOA also asked the Panel to order the HO to pay its attorney fees and the costs of its management agent for the dispute, pursuant to Montgomery County Code Sec. 10B-13(c) and (d).The Commission held that the management agent fee qualifies as damages, and therefore ordered the HO to pay $303 for these fees also
However, the Panel denied the request for attorney fees.The HOA's rules do not require that an HO pay attorney fees if the HOA has to take legal action against the HO.The Panel ruled that Section 10B-13 required evidence of misconduct or unreasonableness on the part of the HO, and in this case all that the evidence showed was that the HO ignored the process.The Panel held that Code Sec. 10B-13(d) requires some affirmative misconduct on a partys part in order to award attorney fees; mere inaction is not enough.