Case No. 776-G, GreencastleLakes Community Association v. Dawit Abeje,(June 26, 2006) (Panel: Sample, Oxendine, Smith)
The homeowner (HO) was charged with three violations of the Architectural Guidelines by the homeowner association. (HOA), namely: that the storm and front door colors did not match the approved colors, there was exposed cable at rear of home, and siding needed to be cleaned.
After the HOA first notified the HO of the violations, the HO promised to make the repairs but he took no corrective action. A "final request" certified letter was signed and received by an agent of the HO. The inaction by the HO resulted in a complaint to the Commission. Notice of the complaint was sent to the HO. Included in the body of the letter was a recommendation that both parties consider mediation of their dispute. No response was made by the HO. A second certified letter was received by the HO, but no response was made. The complaint thus was referred to the Commission. Notice of acceptance of jurisdiction and a scheduled hearing was mailed to the HO by certified mail. The HO did not appear at the hearing in person or by a representative. After a hearing, the Panel determined that the Guidelines were valid and the HO was in violation; the Panel ordered the HO to correct the violations.
The HOA then requested that the Panel order the HO to pay its attorney's fees.
The HOA's Architectural Guidelines specifically provide that "[a]ny costs for [HOA] legal action during pursuit of its right to remove or correct violations shall be charged to the affected homeowner."The Panel noted that the Montgomery County Code, Section 10B-13(d), provides an award of attorney fees against the losing party if the panel finds that the party has maintained a frivolous dispute, unreasonably failed to participate in mediation, substantially delayed the dispute resolution process, or if the HOA's own rules require them. The Panel noted that the respondent never answered the complaint, did not respond to the offer of mediation, did not appear at the hearing, and never offered any justification for his failure to comply with the Architectural Guidelines. Therefore, the Commission held that the HO must pay the HOA fees of $767 and refund the HOA's filing fee of $50 in accordance with the provision in the Architectural Guidelines.