forced to abide by list of rules
Associations make sure residents in group play by the bylaws or pay the price in court
|By Marisa Schultz
Article Courtesy of the Detroit News
Published Tuesday, June 13, 2003
STERLING HEIGHTS -- As the number of homeowners and condominium associations have spiked with waves of new development in Macomb County, disputes over their rules are playing out in court.
Associations in Metro Detroit from West
Bloomfield to Shelby Township have sued residents over issues ranging from
dog feces to playground equipment, according to court records.
Lincoln, 28, of Mount Clemens said his brother's neighbors' complaints were valid.
"I know if I were living in the complex, I would be upset," he said. "There was a lot there."
Lawsuits and strict enforcement of associations' regulations are not likely to ease, said Richard Smutek, an attorney who represents a Mount Clemens homeowners association and is president of his association in Rochester Hills.
Associations are important to developers who want to ensure their complexes are sales showcases for future business, Smutek said.
"You are going to see more enforcement of the restrictions and more head-butting between associations and members," Smutek said. "I don't think individuals realize they have limited use of their property, and that the association has the right to dictate use."
Homeowner associations in Oakland County have been aggressive in pursuing good neighbor policies. They're increasingly against allowing bigfoot homes -- the practice of knocking down smaller structures and replacing them with much larger houses.
The reason: "You can diminish the value of my home by building an exceedingly large brick wall right next to me," said Paul Reagan, past chairman of the Birmingham president's council of homeowner associations.
First-time homeowner association members are often annoyed by restriction on a home they own, said Pat DiVitto, a spokesman for the Mark F. Makower and Associates law firm.
The firm represents about 300 homeowners associations in Michigan, DiVitto said, and the business continues to grow as new neighborhoods are built in growing communities.
In Shelby Township, the wrought-iron fence that Charles and Angie Love constructed around their walk-out basement door was supposed to be an eye-appealing way to keep their three dogs in the back yard.
But their homeowners association wanted the fence removed and sued to make it happen.
Five years and more than $100,000 in legal bills later, the Loves lost their battle when the state Court of Appeals ruled in favor of the association. The court affirmed a previous judge's order to take down the fence.
"If we could have only seen this coming, we would have never moved into this neighborhood," said Angie Love, 57.
Other people in the neighborhood have put up fences and private property signs, they said, but none has been taken to court.
"It's discrimination," Angie Love said.
One of the selling points for the couple on the 4,200-square-foot home was that it was homeowners association-free -- or so they thought. They specifically didn't want to have restrictions on fences and the like because of their dogs, they said.
They filed a lawsuit in 1997 against the previous homeowner, former Detroit Red Wing Dino Ciccarelli, for not disclosing information about the association and maintenance issues. They are appealing a judge's decision that ruled in favor of Ciccarelli.
"We went through a lot," Angie Love said. "It's just a matter of justice being done. ... We are not going to give up."