Homeowner, HOA Disagree on Fire Pit
Because she didn't pay the fine, her HOA privileges have been suspended for nearly three years. Video by kmir6.comvideo
A Palm Desert homeowner is in a disagreement with her homeowner's association over the right to use an open-pit fire barbecue.
Because she didn't pay the fine, her HOA privileges have been suspended for nearly three years.
Many viewers email or call us with concerns or complaints about their homeowner associations, or HOAs.
Here's a look at one woman's struggle, and some advice from an attorney who represents many HOA's.
Kay Phelps has lived in Desert Falls Country Club for more than 20 years, but she has to use the guest entrance.
"I can't even get into my own club that I'm paying 500 dollars a month."
The story starts three years ago with a barbecue pit.
Kay says the HOA sent a letter telling her to stop using it because a neighbor complained of offensive odor.
"I went to the HOA manual, and looked up, and nowhere in here does it mention barbecues."
Kay says she moved the barbecue farther away down by the lake, but was cited by security.
She refused to pay the fine, and had her HOA rights taken away.
Kay says other neighbors barbecue.
"I pointed out to them the majority of the unit owners closest to me, are in favor of it, the minority is not."
Desert falls villas sent us a statement saying "...she has been informed of the process for architectural review and consideration with regards to her desire to have a wood burning fire pit whereby she would have the opportunity to discuss current specifications with an Architectural Review Committee."
We spoke with attorney Robert Gilliland, Jr. -- he does not represent Desert Falls -- but works with hundreds of HOAs in Southern California.
"Living in a homeowner's association has a lot of pro's, and it also has some cons, and one of the things when you live in a homeowner's association is you have to give up some of your property rights," said Gilliland, with Guralnick & Gilliland, LLP.
Kay says she understands some property rights are forfeit in an HOA.
"If someone is putting a sofa out on their front yard, you have to have the HOA to say no, I agree with that totally, but when you've been using a barbecue for twenty years, and two people say it's bothering them, and then you're supposed to stop," said Kay.
Attorney Gilliland has advice for homeowners if they do receive a complaint.
"Sit down and try to work it out informally, and all homeowner's associations have internal dispute resolution processes to try to resolve informally complaints or disputes so that they can hopefully avoid the court of law," said Gilliland.
Just recently, Kay met with board members, trying to find an end to this three-year saga.
Kay expects a letter next week with the board's decision on whether to give her back her HOA privileges.