Expressing opinions about HOA management

The following article is posted for educational purposes:

From HomeOwnersAssociation — member services

This case involved a dispute between a homeowners association (“Association”) and a homeowner member (“Owner”) over:

(i) The imposition of fines against Owner for the purpose of penalizing him for expressing his opinions about Association’s management practices;

(ii) Claims by Owner that Association had violated applicable state statutes by denying Owner a copy of a tape recording of the meeting at which Association’s board of directors considered the imposition of the fines against Owner;

(iii) Further claims on the part of Owner that Association’s board members breached their fiduciary duties owed to Owner by refusing to provide him with the opportunity to review the evidence that allegedly was the basis for the claims brought against him that resulted in the imposition of the fines.

The basis for Association bringing disciplining proceedings against Owner stemmed from claims by Association employees that Owner yelled profanities at the employees and engaged in conduct towards them that was characterized as “rude and disrespectful.”  Based on the complaints from the employees, Association notified Owner that his conduct towards the employees was in violation of Association’s governing documents which prohibit “obnoxious or offensive activity from being carried on in any unit or in the common elements.”

After receiving Association’s notice, Owner requested a hearing before Association’s board of directors, which was subsequently held. Owner attended the hearing with his attorney. At the hearing, Owner’s attorney asked to review “all underlying evidence, information, and/or documents relating to the allegations” against Owner. After Association’s board denied the request of Owner’s attorney, the attorney sent Association’s attorney a letter in which he formally demanded a copy of the video and audio tape recording of the hearing and the evidence against Owner. Association did not comply with the demand and proceeded to impose penalties in the form of fines against Owner for his violations of Association’s governing documents. Owner paid the fines and then filed suit against Association and the board members.

The trial court granted Association’s motion to dismiss some of Owner’s claims, and then subsequently granted Association summary judgment on Owner’s remaining claims. Owner then appealed the trial court’s judgment.

On review, the appellate court found that Owner could state a cause of action for violation of his first amendment right to free speech by alleging that Association precluded him from expressing his political opinion or that Association penalized him for expressing his opinions. The appellate court further found that, since the video and audio recordings of the hearing on the claims against Owner were the only record maintained by Association of the proceedings, the recordings constituted “minutes” of the meeting, and because the applicable state statutes unambiguously grants members the right to inspect and copy minutes, Owner had a right to receive a copy of the video and audio recordings. Finally, the appellate court found that Association’s board members have a duty to treat association members “with the utmost candor, rectitude, care, loyalty, and good faith. When investigating charges of misconduct against a unit owner, the duty of candor imposes on the board members an obligation of “full, fair, complete, and timely disclosure of material facts concerning all allegations against the owner that may provide a basis for imposition of a penalty.”

In reversing the trial court’s judgment, the appellate court held that:

(i) Owner stated a valid claim against Association when he alleged that Association’s board members violated state statutes by penalizing him for expressing his personal opinion about Association’s management.

(ii) Owner stated a valid claim against Association when he alleged that Association’s board violated state statutes when they denied his request for a copy of the tape recording of the hearing at which the board considered the imposition of fines against Owner.

(iii) Owner stated a valid claim against Association when he alleged that Association and its board members breached their fiduciary duties owed to Owner by failing to disclose the evidence relied upon by Association in deciding to impose fines against Owner.

Illinois Appellate Court decision (June 14, 2018).

¶ 64 Boucher sufficiently alleged a violation of
section 18.4(h) of the Act by alleging that the
board fined him for expressing his opinions
about the management of the condominium…..

see case decision

See case decision:  Boucher_v._111_E._Chestnut_Condo._Ass’n_Inc.

3 thoughts on “Expressing opinions about HOA management

  1. I wonder how they would handle an owner asking the association for 2 years why a common ground area next to owner’s house was not maintained as the others are in the same complex? Association telling owner that the owner is insane for continuing to ask the same question about the same common ground area over and over. The owner is never given an answer. Association telling neighbors that this owner is “the crazy one at the end of the street”.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Debra, was that one or more board members who spoke about “the crazy one in the end of the street”? And is that one board member or board members still on the association hoa board? — let me know in a private e mail — thanks, hank

      Liked by 1 person

  2. they will do exactly what they have tried to do with 1xx cypress pond….run you off your property. that is why it is important for those who have been hassled and maligned by the hoa board stand together. they have everyone devided and we are all fighting umongst ourselves instead of holding the few who have the POWER


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