Seder & Chandler, LLP
Worcester 508-471-3018
Westborough 508-709-0024

When can you sue your homeowners' association?

For many Massachusetts residents who live in condos, townhouses and certain communities, homeowners' associations can sometimes feel like the bane of our existence. They can tell us how high we can grow our trees, what color blinds we can hang, how many pets we can have and much more.

These rules are included in a document that may be the size of the Boston phone book titled "Covenants, Conditions, and Restrictions." By signing this document when you purchase your home, you agree to abide by all of the CC&Rs. Failure to do so could result in a lawsuit or even eviction.

However, under the CC&Rs, the HOA also has a responsibility to do what's in the best interests of the owners or their tenants. If an HOA fails to do that, it can be subject to a lawsuit.

There are a number of circumstances in which homeowners can sue their HOA. Following are some common ones:

-- Misappropriation of funds: If you're paying hundreds of dollars a month in HOA dues and none of it seems to be used to keep up the common areas or on other costs involved in maintaining the community, you have a right to determine how the money's being spent. If it's being misused, you may be able to sue. Further, if the HOA fails to make necessary repairs in a timely manner, you may be able to file a lawsuit.-- Contract violations: If the HOA doesn't live up to its responsibilities under the CC&Rs, you may be able to hold it liable. This could include something like spending money on something not approved by the board and then requiring homeowners to foot the bill. It could also include allowing tenants such as businesses into the community when it's prohibited under the CC&Rs.-- Discrimination or harassment: Senior communities can designate that occupants must be of a certain age. However, in general, HOAs aren't allowed to refuse to allow people to live there or to harass them based on "protected characteristics." These can include race, marital status and other characteristics protected under Massachusetts housing discrimination laws.

If you believe that you have cause to bring civil legal action against your HOA, you should seek the guidance of an experienced Massachusetts real estate attorney. He or she can advise you on whether you have grounds for a suit and, if so, help you pursue it.

Source: FindLaw, "5 Reasons to Potentially Sue Your HOA," Andrew Lu, accessed April 28, 2016

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