guest blog by Nila Ridings
Bad actors in HOAs never want to be exposed. They’re like termites, living in dark places, scurrying and hiding when light hits them. The big difference is: Exterminators can get termites out of your life. Board members and property managers…well, they’re not so easy.
With eighty-one years of life experiences, Jim Schutt feels he’s a pretty good judge of character. And he has a keen sense of smell for all things rotten. When he openly expressed his concerns about his own HOA, the Fiddlers Creek Homeowners Association in Naples, Florida, he was hit with a SLAPP lawsuit. SLAPP stands for Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation. And some HOA officers are learning to use them against any homeowner who criticizes them.
Theoretically, Americans have the right of free expression and free speech. Yet, some HOAs and property managers use lawsuits to keep critics silent as if their mouths were wired shut and their tongues cut out. Why not criticize your HOA, if your criticism is 100% true and provable in court? Being dragged through court should not cost you your life savings.
81 year old Jim Schutt took that risk and got hit with a SLAPP lawsuit. So even if he wins the suit, he will lose. In Jim’s case, the HOA Developer is using neighborhood dues to shut Schutt up.
If I were the judge and the law allowed me, I would level the playing field. If Jim Schutt is found to be telling the truth I would reimburse him 100% of his legal fees plus double that amount for his pain and suffering. And for his bravery.
And that my friends, could possibly put an end to HOA SLAPP lawsuits. Just one case with a ruling like that could set the precedent, at least in Florida. Maybe Jim Schutt’s case is the one?