This case involved a dispute between a homeowners association (Association) and the owner of a home situated within the common interest community governed by Association (Owner), over the material used by Owner in the construction of the driveway of Owners residence. The underlying action was commenced by Association in an effort to compel Owner to remove a crushed oyster shell driveway that was installed during the construction of Owners home in disregard of HOA construction approval of plans that called for an asphalt driveway.
The governing documents for Association include provisions that prohibit the construction of any improvements on any land within the community without the prior written approval of Associations Architectural Review Committee. Associations Architectural Review Application was a five page document that requires an applicant to provide detailed information regarding the intended project including, the proposed builder, architect, building dimensions, setbacks, square footage, siding, foundation, windows, doors, shutters, roof, patios, decks, front steps, walkways, driveway, landscaping and tree plan, fences and walls. The application also required an applicant to describe the materials and colors of any proposed driveway that was not to be constructed of concrete, asphalt, or brick, and to submit samples or pictures of the desired material for the Architectural Review Committee to review.
In his application to Associations Architectural Review Committee, Owner listed asphalt as the material to be used in the construction of his driveway. Following HOA construction approval of Owners project, which was to include the asphalt driveway, Owner proceeded to construct the house and, without HOA construction approval, Owner substituted the crushed oyster shell driveway for the asphalt driveway that had been approved. Owner subsequently requested a variance from the Association to permit Owner to retain the oyster shell driveway, but it was denied by Association. After Owner refused to replace the oyster shell driveway with a driveway constructed of the approved materials, Association proceeded with its lawsuit against Owner to compel compliance with Associations architectural standards.
The court ruled in favor of Association and directed Owner to comply with Associations governing documents stating that as long as Associations restrictive covenants serve a legitimate purpose and provide sufficient notice as to what constitutes appropriate conduct by a homeowner, they will be upheld. The court further stated that restrictive covenants that are vague and do not provide clear, precise, and fixed standards of application, may be deemed unenforceable because they are subject to arbitrary or capricious decision-making. The court found that, when Owner submitted his application to Associations Architectural Review Committee, he knew what was required by the restrictive covenants, including the requirement that driveways be constructed of concrete, asphalt or brickand his application indicated that the driveway would be constructed of asphalt. Because Owners oyster shell driveway did not conform, the court found Owner to be in violation of Associations restrictive covenant and ordered Owner to remove the oyster shell driveway and install a new driveway that is constructed with the approved materials. The court also awarded Association its reasonable costs and expenses, including attorney fees.
Delaware Court of Chancery decision (April 21, 2017).
See case decision: Canal_Corkran_Homeowners_Ass’n_Inc._v._Petrone_(Del._Ch._2017)1[4]