This case involved a dispute between a condominium owner (Owner) and his condominium owners association (Association) over Owners right to inspect and copy HOA books and records pertaining to a special assessment in the amount of $165,000 that Association proposed to repair roof leaks, maintain the sprinkler system, and perform other necessary repairs.
After receiving notice of the proposed special assessment from Association, Owner attempted to obtain various corporate and accounting records from Association which included itemized estimates for the proposed phases of work, warranties, and emails. Being dissatisfied with Associations responses to his requests for documents, Owner filed suit against Association and its management agent seeking an order allowing Owners inspection and copying of the requested HOA books and records as well as reasonable attorneys fees and costs incurred. In its defense to Owners suit, Association contended that it had offered Owner the opportunity to inspect and copy documents, but Owner ignored the offer, and that Owner was demanding that Association produce some confidential documents and personal information that Owner was not entitled to review.
The trial court issued an order stating that Owners demand was made in good faith and for a proper purpose, and that Owner was entitled to inspect and copy the records that he had requested. Despite said orders, the trial court denied Owners request for attorney fees, which the trial court said was within the discretion of the trial judge under the applicable statute. Dissatisfied with the trial courts denial of his request for attorneys fees, Owner filed an appeal.
The appellate court stated that a review of a trial courts ruling on the recovery of attorneys fees would be based on a determination as to whether there was an abuse of discretion on the part of the trial judge in denying the recovery of attorneys fees. The reviewing court further stated that, An abuse of discretion occurs when a decision is either manifestly unsupported by reason or so arbitrary that it could not have been the result of a reasoned decision.
In evaluating the trial courts findings, the appellate court found that they were supported by competent evidence which showed that Association had acted in good faith and that it had a reasonable basis for doubt about Owners right to inspect the demanded HOA books and records.
Thus, because the trial courts decision was supported by reason, the appellate court would not conclude that the trial courts denial of attorneys fees was an abuse of discretion. Accordingly, the trial courts decision was affirmed by the appellate court.
Unpublished North Carolina Appellate Court decision (October 1, 2019)
See case decision: Almason_v._Southgate_on_Fairview_Condo._Ass’n