$400K Lawn Sign

The below commentary was based on a fact pattern where a home owners association was involved in a dispute with a home owner. At issue was the size of a yard sign which was placed on the front lawn of the homeowner’s property. The sign was four inches wider that what was allowed by the HOA.

I agree that HOA members might stray from the purpose of their HOA mandate to “overstep the boundaries of property and individual personal rights that have to do with someone else’s property within the HOA Community.” Far too often it seems that people in positions of authority might begin to allow personal quests to interfere with the proper functioning of the organization. I thought about the fact pattern. The issue of the lawn sign being four inches beyond what the HOA allowed was such an easily resolvable issue. It seemed atrocious that instead of the HOA simply ignoring the four inches or offering to replace the sign with a copy of the sign that fell within the HOA’s guidelines, the HOA opted to allow such a minor dispute to escalate to the point where their legal expense liability landed in the $400K area. What do you think? Do you think the issue could have been resolved much more efficiently and amicably? For instance, where the HOA decided impose fines on the homeowner, they could have simply amended the covenant to allow for the four-inch excess. Then, one must question the HOA’s competence in not realizing that there was a cog in its machinery that was broken and that broken cog was leading them towards bankruptcy. While the situation should have never escalated to the point where the HOA needed to raise the HOA fees to cover the legal expenses, the fact that they were asking to raise HOA fees because of the events surrounding a sign which was four inches larger than their guidelines certainly should have sent up millions of red flags telling the HOA that they were not handling the situation properly.