Franklin TN HOA: $156K Fine over treatment of Disabled Children

guest blog by Deborah Goonan

When Charles and Melanie Hollis purchased a home for their family in 2011, they probably didn’t expect to run into difficulty getting approval from their homeowners’ association for a sunroom addition. The sunroom was needed for two of their children, who happen to have physical and mental disabilities. It was intended to provide space for exercise equipment and physical therapy for the children.

After four attempts at getting a modification plan approved by the Architectural Review Committee, their reasonable request was essentially denied. Reading the September 2014 District Court decision, linked below, in December 2011, Chestnut Bend HOA attorney wrote a letter to Mr. and Mrs. Hollis, making approval of the sunroom conditional upon the agreement to install a more expensive shingle roof rather than a metal roof. The main reason for that condition was apparently to enhance the addition’s appearance.

The Hollis’ attorney replied that the owners would like to proceed with the metal roof, because of its lower cost, the fact that other homeowners also have additions with metal roofs, and the Property Manager had already acknowledged in writing that a metal roof would be acceptable. Attorney Tracey McCartney, Tennessee Fair Housing Council, provided a deadline date for response from the HOA Attorney, who never did issue a definitive approval.

So the Hollis family sold their home in Chestnut Bend, at a loss, and moved to another nearby home in a different community.

Four years later, the HOA has agreed to compensate the Hollis family $156,000 to cover damages.

Incredibly, the HOA Board still won’t admit any wrongdoing. After all, the rules are the rules, and they must be followed, according to the Board President. According to the Tennessean, Mr. Vaughn blames the Hollis’s for “hurting” their Association by creating the impression that the HOA is not a welcoming place. Call it Reputation Management.

And Westwood Property Management company was able to wiggle out of the lawsuit by agreeing to train its employees about Fair Housing laws, and to create a written policy for the company to use in the future.

But isn’t it rather disturbing that a professional management company would not already provide sufficient training to its staff? After all, it’s not as though requests for accommodation or modification by disabled residents are a rare occurrence.

And why does it take four years and several appeals to get to a resolution? I wonder how many HOA residents simply move out and give up on pursuing the matter, just to avoid the stress?

Maybe that’s part of an unscrupulous HOA Board’s playbook —  perhaps even encouraged by the Association Attorney and/or Manager. Say it isn’t so!

(link to news release regarding legal settlement)
(link to Sept 2014 District Court decision)

 

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About

Ward Lucas is a longtime investigative journalist and television news anchor. He has won more than 70 national and regional awards for Excellence in Journalism, Creative Writing and community involvement. His new book, "Neighbors At War: the Creepy Case Against Your Homeowners Association," is now available for purchase. In it, he discusses the American homeowners association movement, from its racist origins, to its transformation into a lucrative money machine for the nation's legal industry. From scams to outright violence to foreclosures and neighborhood collapses across the country, the reader will find this book enormously compelling and a necessary read for every homeowner. Knowledge is self-defense. No homeowner contemplating life in an HOA should neglect reading this book. No HOA board officer should overlook this examination of the pitfalls in HOA management. And no lawyer representing either side in an HOA dispute should gloss over what homeowners are saying or believing about the lawsuit industry.

3 thoughts on “Franklin TN HOA: $156K Fine over treatment of Disabled Children

  1. AngelaB

    I never laughed so hard when that HOA didn’t want to appear to be “unwelcoming.” It is all about appearances isn’t it?

    Reply
  2. Nila Ridings

    I haven’t discovered an HOA yet that isn’t unwelcoming. All the flowers at the entrance and the phony sales pitch is just like cheese in a mouse trap. Once you’re all moved in you’ll find they will snap your neck (as in destroy your health, happiness, and bank accounts) while finding pleasure in doing so. The smartest thing to do is run like your hair is on fire when homeowners association is mentioned!

    Reply
  3. Dave Russell

    What I still can’t understand is why property management companies like Westwood would need to “train its employees about Fair Housing laws, and to create a written policy for the company to use in the future.” Every management company should already have their employees trained in Fair Housing and the HOAs should already have policies and procedures already in place.

    As homeowners have such a limited arsenal of weapons to fight back against their HOA, Fair Housing is probably becoming the weapon of choice. Thanks to all the HOA Warriors, we’re getting the message out to homeowners about their rights under Fair Housing.

    Reply

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