Family battles homeowners association over fence installation

Article Courtesy of Channel 6 News -- Orlando

By Adrianna Iwasinski

Published July 7, 2017

Homeowners associations have all sorts of rules and regulations in their covenants, many of which are backed up by Florida state law.

But one Daytona Beach couple tell News 6 all they want is install a small 4-foot wooden fence to protect their property and their family from strangers cutting through their lawn.

"Absolutely it's become a safety issue," Gina Frazier said, "and has been a safety issue since 2013."

Frazier is beyond frustrated. She says her mom used to own the home and land in the Fountain Lake Subdivision, but she died before the 4-foot fence could be erected around her property.

Now Frazier, who has inherited the house and property, is trying to get permission to finish the fence, so she can keep people from cutting through their yard.

"People cutting through the property-- you tell them to stay off the property and they threaten your life," Frazier said.?

Frazier and her husband even have home surveillance video showing person after person walking, even riding through their yard, including the lawn crews hired by the homeowners association.

"I've asked for a meeting with the owner of the lawn care company numerous times and nothing gets done about it," Frazier said.

Frazier says some trespassers have even threatened to shoot her and her husband when they confronted them. Frazier says they've called Daytona Beach police, but it hasn't helped.

"By the time they get here the person's gone," Frazier said Frazier. "And even though we have it on video they won't accept that and they can't do anything about it."

Frazier thought the picket fence could be the solution to the trespassing problem. Little did she know it would create a whole new set of expensive problems.

Frazier says first, the neighbors had an issue over the placement of the fence, causing them to have to deal with a stop work order from the city of Daytona Beach until they got the proper permits. Frazier says they then had to call the city for the actual property surveys and move the fence back 1 inch.

"While all this was going on (while) my mother was dying," Frazier said.

Several weeks and almost $200 later, Frazier says she was contacted by the Fountain Lake Home Owners Association, stating they hadn't followed the proper protocol with the Architectural Review Committee.

Then this month, they received a letter from the attorney representing the HOA stating they were being asked to take part in a mandatory pre-suit mediation to try to resolve the dispute.

The letter noted the mediator has no authority to make any decisions determining who is right or wrong, and merely acts as a facilitator in the matter.

The letter goes on to say if the Fraziers fail or refuse to participate in the entire mediation process, they will not be entitled to recover attorneys' fees, even if they prevail. Not only that, they were asked to split the cost of the mediator -- which could cost anywhere from $250 to $575 per hour. The letter states an average mediation may require three to four hours of the mediator's time, including prep time.

"Unfortunately with my husband's medical condition and all the medical bills," Frazier said, it's something they can't afford. "And my mother unfortunately wasn't able to leave me a lot of money behind because she was on Medicaid."

Frazier says she even called the homeowners association before even buying the fence materials and asked if it would be OK to put up the fence. She says she was told by a woman who no longer works there that it would be fine and no permission was needed. As it turns out, that was not the case.

According to the laws and regulations that govern this particular HOA, the Fraziers needed to get permission from the Architectural Review Committee before erecting their fence, even though all they are trying to do is create a little protective barrier around their property. The attorney's letter states the ARC denied the couple's permit on April 12, and that installation of the fence after ARC denial was in direct violation of the covenants and restrictions of the homeowners association.

"I just want the fence put up and the HOA to acknowledge that they were wrong and that we do need this fence up," Frazier said. "It's for the safety of my family."

News 6 went to Southern States Management Group for answers, since it helps run the Fountain Lake Homeowners Association. The company referred us to its attorney, who in turn referred us to the laws that govern Florida HOAs.

The Fraziers say their mediation hearing has been scheduled for July 12.