Condo's owner gets new trial
Article Courtesy of Houston Chronicle


Lawsuit over air conditioner dropped by homeowners group

Posted November 25, 2002

More than $60,000 in legal fees later, a Houston homeowners association decided Monday to drop its fight against a condo owner who wanted to keep his air conditioner. 

But the resident intends to keep fighting with a counterclaim seeking monetary damages. 

Lawyer Brad Wilder, representing the Palm Gardens Homeowners Association, told Judge Lynn Bradshaw-Hull of Harris County Court at Law No. 3 Monday that the association has dropped its four-year case against Mohammad Hashmi. 

The association represents a small community of a little more than 100 units in the 8900 block of Beechnut. Wilder said the fight "has been a financial burden," on the association. 

But Hashmi's lawyer, David Kahne, said he will pursue damages for the four years the association has taken his client to court. 

Hashmi said he placed an air conditioning unit in his window after a doctor prescribed it to help relieve an allergy condition from mold and dust. He wants unspecified damages and a promise from the association not to sue him again on the matter, Kahne said. 

The association prohibited window units, saying they have a negative impact on the aesthetics of the complex. Other central air units in the complex that were built into the wall and not installed through windows were allowed, according to court records. 

In June, the judge ordered Hashmi to remove the air-conditioning unit, restore the window and pay more than $100,000 in damages, penalties and legal fees. 

But Kahne, along with Daniel Bustamante of the Greater Houston Fair Housing Center, won a new trial that had been set to begin in December before the association took its action Monday. 

Posted Aug. 15, 2002

A judge who previously ruled a Houston man violated condominium deed restrictions when he installed an air-conditioning unit for health reasons granted him a new trial Thursday. 

Judge Lynn Bradshaw-Hull of Harris County Court at Law No. 3 decided to grant Mohammad Hashmi the new trial after he appeared with a lawyer instead of representing himself as he had earlier. 

Even though Hashmi followed doctor's orders four years ago when he installed a window-unit air conditioner to help relieve a severe allergy condition from mold and dust, the Palm Gardens Homeowners Association in southwest Houston sued, saying he violated deed restrictions. 

The association said window-unit ACs would have a negative impact on the aesthetics of the complex and would not be allowed. Other window units in the complex were grandfathered because they were in use before installation of central air, according to court records. 

In June, the judge ordered Hashmi to remove the air-conditioning unit, restore the window and pay more than $100,000 in damages, penalties and attorney's fees. Thomas Pickford, a Palm Gardens Homeowners Association representative, said homeowners and neighbors are disappointed with the judge's latest decision. "It continues to be our feeling that the judge did nothing wrong in her original judgment. We will vigorously defend our position," he said. 

A new trial date hasn't been set. 



Man's AC could cost him $100,000
Article Courtesy of Houston Chronicle

Posted Aug. 6, 2002

How can anyone in Houston, Texas, the AC capital of the entire world, be on the verge of losing his home for following a doctor's advice to put a little unit in the bedroom window? 

About four years ago, Mohammad Hashmi's doctor told him he needs a window-unit air conditioner to filter the air he breathes because central systems put out too much mold and dust. 

But the homeowners association at Palm Gardens Condominiums in southwest Houston said window-unit ACs would have a negative impact on the aesthetics of the complex and would not be allowed. 

After Hashmi followed his doctor's advice anyway, the association sued and a couple of months ago won a judgment for penalties and legal fees that now total more than four times the $25,500 value of Hashmi's condo (as set by the Harris County Appraisal District). 

Disability makes life difficult

Hashmi, 47, went to court Tuesday afternoon with a motion for a new trial. His lawyer, David Kahne, who only recently got involved in the case, contends Hashmi's disability rights and fair housing issues were given short shrift in the previous legal wranglings. 

The case originally was on the morning docket, but Kahne asked the judge to reset it for the afternoon to accommodate Hashmi's health problems. 

You know how sometimes it's hard to wake up and even after sleeping all night you are so tired you can barely function? Well, that's apparently as good as it ever gets for Hashmi. 

According to documents provided by Kahne, one doctor said Hashmi's condition of central nervous system hypersomnolence "makes it difficult and dangerous for Mr. Hashmi to try to schedule meetings in the morning. I schedule my appointments with Mr. Hashmi in the afternoon, always after 2:30 p.m." 

A letter from a doctor at Baylor College of Medicine's Sleep Disorders and Research Center described the sleep disorder as incurable and said it causes Hashmi "to have unpredictable and irresistible sleep attacks especially in the morning." 

In addition to the sleep disorder, a third doctor certified that Hashmi's severe allergies "cause him so severe and debilitating fatigue and body ache that, for several days to several weeks at a time, he becomes totally disabled and remains confined to his bed 24 hours a day. This condition also aggravates his sleep disorder. ... Since the primary source of dust and mold circulation and regrowth is air ducts of (the) central air conditioning and heating system, Mr. Hashmi has been advised that he must use a window air conditioning and heating unit." 

Hashmi said he moved here from his native India as a young man and has since become a U.S. citizen. He said he had a good job with Continental Airlines but lost it a few years ago when growing health problems caused him to miss too much work. 

Homeowners spat tops others
I dropped by his place Monday evening and called him from the locked complex entrance at the arranged time. Took him quite awhile to get there. He walked as though he didn't feel well. When he talked he sounded as though he didn't feel well. An approaching thunderstorm had taken the hot edge off the day, but Hashmi was sweating like a lunchtime jogger. 

We went around back of his place for a look at the $100,000-plus window unit. Nothing unusual. A metal box sticking out a few inches, much like other metal boxes jutting out from the brick wall. Hashmi said those other boxes housed individual ACs before the complex installed central systems. Removing them would mean major work filling in the brick. 

Maybe you have read about other incredible battles between individual homeowners and the associations that rule over them -- expensive legal fights sparked by such insignificant infractions as an oil stain on a driveway or the location of an outdoor gas lamp. 

This one may top them all. 

After meeting for well over an hour with lawyers from both sides in her chambers, Judge Lynn Bradshaw-Hull reset the hearing for Aug. 15. The two sides will meet in mediation before then to try to resolve this bizarre dispute. And, by the way, that Aug. 15 session is set for 2:30 in the afternoon. 

Another homeowners association battle could cost a man his home
Article Courtesy of 11 News
"This is one of the furthest fights I've ever seen"

By Carolyn Mungo / 11 News
Posted August 6, 2002 

HOUSTON (KHOU) -- The legal battle has been going on for nearly five years. It's all over a piece of equipment that can fit in a bedroom window. But when the battle pits an angry homeowner against his homeowners association some say its no wonder the sparks are still flying. 

For the past four years Mohammed Hashmi has been battling the Palm Garden Homeowners' Association in southwest Houston. He says that it's a group so powerful that it's rendere! d him helpless. 

"It has caused me so much stress that not only I have become bitter," says Hashmi, "I have lost half my hair." 

What in the world did he do wrong? He installed a window air conditioner in his condo even though the association said no. 

"Without window air conditioner I would be exposed to so much molds that I would be even sicker," says Hashmi. 

Hashmi has been diagnosed with severe allergies. In court last year a doctor even wrote, "Based on my examinations I have concluded that he must use a window air conditioning unit." 

But it didn't matter. The judge ruled against Hashmi. He was ordered to pay $68,000 in fines, $27,000 in attorney's fees and had to allow the association to f! oreclose. 

"I've seen hom eowners associations go pretty far," says Hashmi's attorney, David Kahne. "This is one of the furthest fights I've ever seen." 

Hashmi is getting help from Kahne who was in court Tuesday trying to get him a new trial. The basis for retrial is that Hashmi is disabled and it's against the law to take his air conditioning away. 

"It could not possibly destroy the aesthetic value of the condominiums," said Kahne. 

"There are other ways of treating the problem. There are gas masks or air filters you place over your face," says Palm Garden attorney, Brad Wilder. "You have dust sprays." 

It's been four years and there is still no resolution. 

Tuesday the judge delayed hearing a motion for a new trial! and sent both parties back to mediation. 

Meanwhile the attorney for the homeowners group says it doesn't want money or the house, they just want that window unit gone.