I don’t watch NASCAR, in spite of my vaguely southern roots. I prefer sports with more action and bloodshed – like homeowners association meetings. Todd Bodine is a NASCAR driver, an HOA member, and apparently a fan of tiki huts and pool houses. Bodine constructed a tiki hut and pool house on his property, and after four years of dispute and litigation, the North Carolina Supreme Court sided with his Association. The Association claimed the hut and house were not approved, and had to be removed.
Bodine argued that the Association’s president had given him verbal permission for the construction; the Association argued that the president never gave permission, and any permission was contingent on Bodine submitting additional drawings and information.
We see this kind of problem all the time. The title "President" can make a homeowner think the Board member has the authority to bind the Association alone. If the President has not received specific authority to bind the Association, his approvals may not be valid. A Board member can get into trouble personally if he attempts to bind the Association without permission, so this situation should be avoided at all costs.
Board members and managers need to be extremely careful to follow the procedures outlined by the Association’s governing documents when dealing with owner architectural review requests. When an owner verbally asks the manager or a Board Member for approval, the owner should be directed to submit a written request for approval. When discussing community matters with neighbors outside of meetings, managers and Board members must avoid making statements that could appear to bind the Association or suggest that the request will be viewed favorably.
I hate to think of the money and effort wasted on Bodine’s project, all of which could have been saved if Bodine and the Board had followed the procedures set forth in the governing documents. Something tells me the two sides – with their hundreds of thousands of dollars in attorneys fees – are not going to be sitting down to a pina colada together any time soon.