HOA fines homeowner $12K because windows didn’t match her neighbors

CHARLOTTE — A woman facing thousands in fines from her Homeowners Association (HOA) sued the board and has been winning.

Sherry Loeffler’s windows are white. Her neighbors’ windows are beige. But it’s not about the color. Both sides say the HOA plans to paint them. It’s about the number of windows.

Loeffler put in four windows. Her neighbors have eight windows. Her HOA wanted her to have eight too, so they match.

She submitted a plan and the HOA said no. The board says it told her she needed eight windows.

Loeffler submitted another plan that clearly says four windows. Her board sent her a letter, saying “approved.”

It’s not clear why, but it wanted her to change them.

“So I’m like, ‘OK, you guys approved the windows. If you want to switch them, I am happy to do that, but then you guys need to pay for it,’” she said.

Loeffler says the board refused. The HOA says, no, it made offers she rejected.

“It’s been very stressful because this is my home,” Loeffler said.

Then the fines started — $100 per day for months — until her bill was over $12,000. She didn’t pay the fines and the board put a lien on her home, which included a threat to foreclose.

“I couldn’t sell my house. I couldn’t refinance,” she said. “It went from like a great place to not such a great place because I’m fighting this battle.”

So Loeffler sued her HOA. She won at arbitration and then in court. No more lien, no more fines. The windows can stay. Plus, the HOA has to pay her more than $12,000 in attorney fees.

But the case isn’t over. The board plans to appeal. Loeffler is suing the HOA over another issue -- water damage -- that’s part of same lawsuit.

The board’s lawyer emailed Action 9′s Jason Stoogenke:

“HOAs often get a bad rap and appear to be evil entities. As a firm that represents hundreds of HOAs, I can tell you for the most part they just handle business and go about their days. The Yachtsman community is one of those HOAs. If you search the public record you won’t see a high number of liens or attempts to foreclose on homeowners. There are a few communities that can be somewhat aggressive in collections and attempting to foreclose on homeowners but most are not, and the record for the Yatchsman community shows that is not a part of their history. This matter really did just start from a miscommunication and circumstances that went further than what I am sure neither side intended. This is not a case of the ‘evil HOA’ trampling on its owners. The Plaintiff is aware of this as it was provided through discovery, a few of the neighbors in her building also requested to change their windows and the HOA denied these requests in an attempt to keep them uniform. Hers were approved believing she was installing the same windows. However, because litigation is still pending, we will have to reserve detailed comments until the case is finally decided by a Court of law.”

Advice for both homeowners and HOAs when it comes to plans for changes on homes:

- Make sure the proposals are as specific as possible so there’s no misunderstanding.

- A lot of times, not necessarily in Loeffler’s case, both sides will go back and forth on a plan until they agree on something. They should make sure they have one document at the end that spells out the final plan.

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