Homeowners’ association challenges judge’s ruling

Article Courtesy of The Tampa Tribune

By Laura Kinsler

Published April 10, 2014


DADE CITY — The Bayhead Landings Property Owners Association, which battled one of its members in court over wheelchair access, has appealed a judge’s ruling that its deed restrictions expired more than three years ago.

County Judge William Sestak agreed with three Bayhead Landings homeowners that the association board failed to follow its own procedures for extending the neighborhood deed restrictions in 2010. He issued a court order March 24 ruling that the deed restrictions and covenants expired on Jan. 1, 2011.

The association’s board appealed the ruling to Circuit Court. Their attorney, Gary Schaf, also filed an emergency motion to stay, or delay, Sestak’s ruling pending the appeal, but the court determined the motion “did not qualify as an emergency” according to the court docket.

Schaf could not be reached for comment.

If the association loses the appeal, it would have no legal authority to assess homeowners to pay its outstanding legal bills. Board members contend the association owes its lawyers more than $100,000.

The board assessed homeowners $1,250 each in 2013, and approved a $2,300 special assessment for this year.

John Whitt, who lost his lawsuit over wheelchair access to association meetings, said he already paid $20,000 in court-ordered legal fees to the association. His case prompted state Sen. Wilton Simpson, R-Trilby, to introduce SB 1450, which would require homeowner associations to meet in locations that are handicap accessible if a member requests such access. 

The bill is headed toward approval in the Senate but has yet to find a sponsor in the House.