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Monday, June 15, 2015

Ind. Decisions - "Rule violation may prove costly for St. John homeowners association"

The June 11th Court of Appeals decision in Michael R. Bixeman and Doreen Bixeman v. Hunter's Run Homeowners Association of St. John, Inc. was the subject of this story Saturday in the NWI Times, reported by Dan Carden:

INDIANAPOLIS | A St. John homeowners association that failed to follow its own rules in seeking to punish a property-use violation may be forced to pay thousands of dollars in damages and attorney fees.

The Indiana Court of Appeals last week ruled 3-0 that the Hunter's Run Homeowners Association slandered the property title of Michael and Doreen Bixeman by placing an invalid lien on their home.

The dispute began in 2012 when the Bixemans moved to Iowa. That October, they rented their Hunter's Run home to another person, but did not abide by the rental procedures detailed in the homeowners association rules.

After the association's board of directors discovered the violation, they notified the Bixemans and scheduled a hearing on the matter for one week later — even though their rules required at least 10 days between the notice and hearing.

According to court records, the Bixemans were unable to travel from Iowa for the hearing, and the homeowners association refused to allow them to participate over the phone.

Following additional written communication, the association's directors imposed a $250 sanction on the Bixemans, which they did not pay.

Hunter's Run then recorded a $2,525 lien against the Bixeman home and asked a court to foreclose.

Lake Superior Judge Diane Kavadias Schneider instead determined the sanction and lien were invalid, because the association did not follow its own rules and procedures for assessing them.

As a result, the judge said, the Bixemans countersuit for slander of title was moot.

The appeals court disagreed.

It found the actions taken by the homeowners association met the standard for slander of title because they involved false statements (the invalid lien), made with malice (the association's refusal to release the lien), and caused a financial loss for the Bixemans (they could not sell their lien-encumbered home).

The three-judge appellate panel ordered Kavadias Schneider to calculate the Bixemans financial losses, including their attorney fees, and require Hunter's Run to pay damages for slandering the title to the Bixeman home.

Posted by Marcia Oddi on June 15, 2015 08:55 AM
Posted to Ind. App.Ct. Decisions