We have written previously on the litigation of homeowner association cases. Generally, homeowner associations can file a lawsuit in the General District courts to enforce collection of assessments.
However, If an HOA needs to enforce a covenant, seeking an injunction to require a homeowner to comply with the restrictive covenant, as of 2011, the HOA must file a lawsuit in the Circuit Court can now file a lawsuit in the General District Court, as well. Virginia Code sections 55-79.80:2, and 55-513 give jurisdiction for those matters to the General District Court. Those lawsuits can be expensive and time-consuming.
For example, prior to the statutory change, we resolved a case in which the HOA had to enforce a covenant. A homeowner had installed an unapproved fence in the common area. We had to file suit in the Circuit Court because part of the relief sought was for an injunction, a remedy not available in the General District Court. Even though the litigation was resolved in a fairly timely manner–because the homeowner agreed to relocate the fence–attorneys’ fees were still much higher than if the case were brought in the General District court.
On the other hand, boards for homeowner associations cannot ignore their responsibilities. Enforcing restrictive covenants ensures that all homeowners are treated fairly, and that the property rights for all members is respected. Although these decisions are difficult for boards, board leadership on these issues is important for your community.
Tarley Robinson, PLC, Attorneys and Counsellors at Law, Williamsburg, VA
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