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!