Entries in Homeowners Association (2)


Homeowners' Association Sues Texas Army Captain Over Swing Set

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(MINEOLA, Texas) -- Bill Fry never expected to come home from Afghanistan to find himself embroiled in a war with his neighborhood homeowners' association over a swing set for his kids.

Fry, 45, a captain with the Texas Army National Guard, and his wife, Candi, are being sued by the homeowners' association (HOA) of their small Mineola, Texas, neighborhood for building a swing set in their yard without submitting a proper application.

Candi Fry was granted what she thought was verbal approval in 2010 to begin construction of the swing set from the chairman of the architectural committee of the Spring Lakes HOA. The couple hired a contractor to build the $1,200 swing set, but while construction was underway, Fry said, Harold Lemmon, the senior trustee of the HOA, began questioning the couple about the project.

Fry said Lemmon, along with the head of the architectural committee, then cautioned the couple that neighbors might complain and if so, they might have to move the swing set. But the Frys were not told that they needed to submit plans, Fry said, and the construction proceeded.

Meanwhile, Fry was deployed to Afghanistan. When construction was nearly done, Candi Fry received a letter from Lemmon explaining that neighbors had complained about the swing set, which was built too close to the next door neighbor's property, and that it would have to be moved since it was visible from the street.

Candi Fry agreed to move the swing set if the HOA would cover half the moving costs, but the HOA refused, Bill Fry said, and Candi Fry was told that she would need to submit drawings of the swing set to the homeowners association.

But when both she and the contractor submitted the requested drawings, according to Bill Fry, the HOA said they weren't sufficient, and after a few rounds of letters between them, in which Candi tried to compromise, the HOA filed a lawsuit against Candi.

In the lawsuit, the homeowners association is demanding that the swing set be removed and that the Frys pay for the association's legal fees, according to Lemmon, the senior trustee of the HOA. Lemmon said the Frys forged ahead with construction after they had been told to halt. The family also had asked the HOA to cover the entire cost of moving the swing set, he said, not half of that cost, as the Frys contend. In addition, he said that the Frys brought the lawsuit on themselves by hiring an attorney and routing communication through him.

"If you break the rules, you broke the rules. You can't break the rules for your own personal reasons,” Lemmon said. "We don't have anything against a swing set. We don't have anything against the Frys. Hell, they're our neighbors."

Fry, however, doesn't see this as anything like neighborliness. He is steamed that the initial HOA lawsuit was filed against only his wife in what he sees as a way to get around the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act, which prevents service members from being sued while deployed. The suit, Fry said, was later amended to include Fry.

If a lawsuit over a swing set sounds like a rare occurrence, think again, says Evan McKenzie, a political science professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago and author of the book Privatopia: Homeowner Associations and the Rise of Residential Private Government.

Homeowners associations often find themselves at odds with individual owners over what may seem like private matters to the individuals, but become public issues in the tightly managed communities.

"The moral of the story on this is: the owners really have to know what's in their (homeowners association) declaration," McKenzie said. "You cannot act like the rules and regulations are to be taken lightly. You have to read them, you have to understand them. If you don't like it, then you don't want to live in this type of housing."

Meanwhile, the Frys are still hoping to iron out a compromise so their kids can swing in the yard this summer.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Retired New York Firefighter Prevails in 9/11 Flag Flap

John Foxx/Thinkstock(CORAL SPRINGS, Fla.) -- A retired New York City cop and firefighter who helped pull people from the wreckage after the World Trade Center collapsed on 9/11 will now be allowed to fly a commemorative flag in front of his home, ending a one-week battle with his homeowner's association.

"I am really shocked," said Richard Wentz, who seemed nearly speechless after hearing the news Monday afternoon from ABC News.

He was initially warned by his Florida homeowner's association to remove flag or be fined. Wentz's Coral Springs, Fla., neighborhood allows homes to display one flag, but Wentz has two: an American flag and a flag with the names of the nearly 3,000 people who died during the worst terrorist attack in American history.

"It's not even about me. It's about the people who died that day and their families," said Wentz, 47. "They need to be remembered, not just one day of the year."

Wentz was prepared to pay a fine that could have been as much as $1,000. But on Monday ABC News received a call from Bill Sugarman, president of Benchmark Property Management, the company that manages Wentz's subdivision. He said Benchmark asked the homeowner's association to review their policies.

"They have concluded it's not their obligation to enforce the 'one flag' rule. Therefore, Mr. Wentz will be permitted to fly his flag," Sugarman said. "It's really not their duty to encourage that restriction."

As a result, he said, "They won't be taking any enforcement action."

Wentz, a veteran of both the New York police and fire departments, retired after 20 years and moved to Florida in 2005. On 9/11, he told ABC News, he lost 43 friends and he says he wants the flag to keep memories of the fallen alive.

"I fly it not just for my friends who were killed that day, but for the families, and the voices who can't speak anymore," he said.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio