Steps to fight false covenant violations.

I am not an attorney, this is not legal advice, it is intended as helpful
information and is my opinion and beliefs from my experience fighting false covenant violations charges by Surfside HOA in Ocean Park, WA.

  1. Your HOA is fining you but you dont believe you are violating the covenants. You would like an inexpensive way to take it to court.
    Always respond to everything they send you, in writing, within 10 days or whatever is required by the CCRs.
  2. Make SURE you are right. Read your covenants cover to cover, read your bylaws, ask the HOA, in writing, to tell you what specific covenant you are violating, in writing. Email is acceptable and may be better because there is a documented record that you sent it and the other person received it.
  3. If it isn’t in writing it didn’t happen.
  4. Pay whatever fines they send you, so they don’t have a reason to get an attorney involved. The attorney’s fees can be much more than the fines.
  5. File an appeal with your HOA Board and ask them in writing to stop the fines until they hear and decide on your appeal.
  6. If they drop the complaint, ask for it in writing. Then immediately after the meeting, send the HOA a letter or email stating your understanding that they agreed you were not in violation and request a letter or email from them stating so.
  7. Document EVERYTHING that happens.
  8. If they don’t drop the complaint, as long as the fines are less than your the maximum amount allowed by your small claims court, you can take the matter to small claims court. The court fees are usually under $20, you can usually serve the paperwork to HOA by registered mail, or have a friend do it. The friend must sign a court document stating when and where they delivered the court notice. Check with your small claims court to get all the rules right.
  9. No attorneys are allowed in court, so it is you against an HOA manager or board member. Bring all the written evidence you have. The judge believes written information. It can include emails or letters you wrote, or the HOA wrote you. It can also include notes you kept, photos, receipts, etc. Even testimony from witnesses is better if in writing and the person comes to court to testify.
  10. If you win, the HOA can appeal your case to Superior Court. You will need an attorney. I understand the costs are generally about $2500 and if you are right, you will win. Make sure your attorney files for attorney fees. I understand that appeals from Small Claims court rarely reverse the Small Claims judgement.

Patrick Johansen, former property owner of Surfside HOA, Ocean Park, Wa.

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