This case involved a dispute between a homeowners association (Association) and an Owner (Owner) over exterior changes that Owner made to her property without the approval from Associations Board of Directors and Architectural Review Committee (ARC).

Factually, Owner sought permission from AssociationsArchitectural Review Committee to construct a fence on her property that was only 6 from the property line when the ARC guidelines required that fences be set back one-foot from the property line. Owners request was denied, and she was informed by the ARC that it would be approved if the fence was set back one foot from the property line. In disregard of the ARCs denial of her request, Owner proceeded to have the fence erected on her property with the 6 setback and not the required one-foot setback from the property line. Association thereafter demanded that Owner relocate the fence to comply with the required setback rules and informed Owner that her failure to comply would result in the filing of a lawsuit against her seeking to compel compliance and a recovery of attorneys fees and costs. When Owner failed to comply, Association filed a lawsuit for injunctive relief and obtained summary judgment in its favor, but the trial court did not award Association its attorneys fees. Thereafter, Association filed an appeal of the portion of the trial courts judgment that denied an award of attorneys fees.

On appeal, Association contended that Owners violation of Associations governing documents by making unapproved exterior changes caused Association to file suit to enjoin the violations and enforce its rights under the governing documents. Association further contended that, since it prevailed on its request for injunctive relief, it was entitled to recover reasonable attorneys fees and court costs. In defense of Associations claims, Owner contended that the filing of the lawsuit against Owner by Association had not been properly approved in writing by 75% of Association members as required by the governing documents and therefore, the filing was improper and no fees were recoverable.

Because the provision in Associations governing documents that Owner was citing also included language stating that member approval was not required for a civil proceeding commenced by Association to collect an assessment, or enforce or foreclose a lien, or otherwise to enforce Associations rights or another persons obligations under the governing documents, it did not apply to the suit Association commenced against Owner. Accordingly, the appellate court found that Association and Architectural Review Committee was not required to obtain approval of its members before filing suit and, since Association prevailed on its claim for injunctive relief, Association was entitled to an award of attorneys fees. The appellate court reversed the trial courts judgment and remanded the case back to the trial court for a determination of the proper amount of attorneys fees to be awarded to Association.

UNREPORTED Maryland Appellate Court decision (November 20, 2019).

See case decision: New_Colony_Vill._Homeowners_Ass’n_v._Shaw