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REAL ESTATE 11: Homeowner association wins in paint color dispute.

This case arises from a dispute about the exterior paint color of Defendants’ home. In June 2015, Defendants hired a painter to repaint the exterior of their home. After checking the Association’s Bylaws and conducting some internet research, they determined that a light blue paint qualified as a “light earth tone” so as to be an acceptable exterior paint color. They did not, however, submit an application to change the exterior paint to the Association.

It is undisputed that the Association’s Bylaws require a homeowner to submit an application and receive approval before changing the exterior paint color of his or her home. The Association sent an e-mail to Defendants informing them that the paint color was not acceptable and explaining that they were required to have any changes to the exterior paint color pre-approved by the Association. Defendant thereafter submitted an application to change the exterior paint color, but the request was denied. Although they protested the denial and brought evidence of other homes that allegedly had similar exterior paint colors to the Association’s attention, the parties were unable to resolve the issue. Nevertheless, believing that the situation had been resolved, Defendant finished painting the exterior of their home.

Subsequently, in November 2015, the Association brought suit, asserting that Defendants’ house had to be repainted because the project was started before the exterior color was approved by the Association. The case proceeded to a bench trial. At trial, the trial court granted the motion for summary disposition. The trial court based its summary disposition decision on the fact that Defendants did not get prior approval for changing the exterior paint color of their home and because the color they selected was not an earth tone color. Thereafter, the court entered a stipulated order requiring Defendant to repaint their home by June 1, 2017.

The trial court based its summary disposition decision on two facts: (1) the color Defendant selected for the exterior of their home was not an earth-tone color and (2) Defendant failed to obtain the Association’s approval to change the color of the home before repainting their house.

The trial court did not err by granting summary disposition. With regard to exterior painting, Section 15 of the Association’s Bylaws states:

Exterior Painting. Any exterior painting of an owner’s dwelling or other structure must be approved by the Association prior to commencement of any preparation work. An owner desiring to paint the exterior of a dwelling must first submit to the Association the Alteration/Modification Form for Exterior Painting, except if the color chosen is the original color of the structure. Any requests must be accompanied by two color chips for each color to be applied. As a general guideline, only light earth-tone colors are permitted for exterior painting. If any owner violates this Section, the Association may request that the owner change his choice of exterior color(s) and re-paint the dwelling at the owner’s expense.

Under this section, a homeowner must seek prior approval from the Association before he or she can change the exterior color of his or her home. If that requirement is violated, the Association is entitled to have the color changed and the home repainted a different color at the homeowner’s expense. Defendant started their repainting project without first seeking prior approval of the new color from the Association. As such, even viewing the facts in the light most favorable to Defendant, it is clear that they violated the Bylaws and that the Association is entitled to have the color changed at their expense.

We understand that litigation can be costly and time-consuming. We are focused on helping our clients resolve disputes in the most efficient and cost-effective manner possible, consistent with their objectives. Our attorneys represent clients in all areas of real estate law, including commercial buildings, shopping centers, condominium development, apartment buildings, undeveloped land, cooperative apartments, condominiums and single-family homes.

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