This case involved a dispute between homeowners (Owners), their homeowners association and other property owners (collectively Association) over who had the responsibility for maintenance ofa private gravel and dirt road that ran through the parties subdivision.
Over a period of years, Owners, at their own expense, used asphalt grindings, oiling, and other dust control methods to abate the dust on the stretch of the private road that runs adjacent to their property in an effort to minimize the effects of the dust from the road on one of Owners asthma condition. During this period, disputes arose between Owners and Association over the payment of maintenance costs pertaining to the road that Association contended were created by Owners utilizing their own dust control methods and the repair of potholes.
In response to a demand by Association that Owners cease their own dust control measures pertaining to the road, Owners filed a suit for declaratory relief seeking a declaration from the court of the parties rights and responsibilities concerning the road and in particular, a determination of the parties rights to use and maintain the road.
The lower court found that Associations CC&Rs were ambiguous with regard to the maintenance obligations relative to the road and Owners appealed said decision. The appellate court reversed the lower courts judgment and found that Association had no right to maintain the road and that it had no right to assess lot owners for the cost of expenditures relating to the road. The appellate court also ruled that Owners were the prevailing party in the lawsuit, thereby entitling them to an award of attorney fees by the lower court. When the case was remanded back to the lower court, the court ruled that, even though Owners were the prevailing party, the enforcement provision contained in Associations CC&Rs did not provide for an award of fees and costs in a declaratory judgment action. Owners then appealed that ruling.
In reviewing the lower courts judgment that Owners were not entitled to recover attorneys fees, the appellate court found that Owners were entitled to an award of attorneys fees because the declaratory judgment action brought by Owners was, in part, to enforce the CC&Rs and prevent Association from maintaining the road with compliance with the CC&Rs. The appellate court ruled that Owners action was brought to require strict compliance with the unambiguous terms of the CC&Rs and make it clear that Association had no authority to either maintain the road or demand contributions from property owners for its expenditures in maintaining the road. Thus, the appellate court ruled that Owners action was an action to enforce the CC&Rs and, by prevailing in the action, Owners were entitled to an award of attorneys fees for both the lower court action and the fees incurred in connection with the appeals.
Idaho Supreme Court decision (November 13, 2019).
See case decision: Fletcher_v._Lone_Mountain_Rd._Ass’n