Case pits HOA against AirBnB

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Later today, a Union County magistrate will hear arguments in the case against two women, living in the New California Hills subdivision.
Elisabeth Herndon and Megan Dowdell each own homes in the subdivision.
In July, the subdivision’s homeowners’ association (HOA) filed suit against the women claiming they were in violation of the subdivision’s covenants and restrictions.
Herndon and Dowdell advertise their homes on AirBnB, an online service that allows private homeowners to rent some or all of their home to visitors.
The HOA is asking the court to require the women to stop allowing others to use their homes and to order the women to pay for the legal costs, interest and other penalties.
In its filing, the HOA said it has “received complaints from defendants’ neighbors, that the continued renting of the defendants’ residences is interfering with the quiet use and enjoyment of their properties.”
In letters sent separately to Dowdell and Herndon, attorney Faye Cox, representing the HOA, wrote that “your neighbors are now complaining that the property is no longer being used as a single-family residence but instead is being used as a motel and that your patrons are acting in an obnoxious and offensive manner.”
Both letters had the same wording but neither cited specifics.
Cox quoted the HOA regulations providing that “no obnoxious or offensive activity shall be carried out upon the property nor shall anything be done on the property which shall become an annoyance or nuisance to any of the other lots or property owners.”
Additionally, in the letters dated March 6 for Dowdell and April 22 for Herndon, Cox advised that the HOA was working to put an amendment in the deed restrictions, “to specifically exclude any rentals that are less than thirty (30) days in length.”
The amendment, which is now in place, specifies that “no portion of a lot may be rented for transient or hotel purposes, which shall be defined for purposes of this declaration as a rental for any period less than thirty (30) days.”
The HOA filed the complaint on July 2. The same day, the association asked the court for a temporary restraining order that would require the two women to stop renting the homes immediately. In the filing, the HOA argued that property values were decreasing based on the neighbors renting rooms in their homes. Cox said homeowners bought their property with an understanding that the neighborhood would be governed by a certain standard and allowing the women to “skirt those declarations would be detrimental to all other association members.”
Common Pleas Court Judge Don Fraser denied the initial request for a restraining order noting that allegations against Dowdell and Herndon “do not establish that immediate and irreparable injury, loss or damage will result before defendants can be heard.”
Additionally, the judge found that the HOA did not give the Dowdell and Herndon notice it was seeking the restraining order.
In a letter to the court, Herndon explained that she had experienced financial difficulty following a divorce and wanted to be able to keep her children in their childhood home. She said she allowed travelers to stay in the home on weekends the children were at their father’s home. She said some neighbors were supportive of the effort to make additional money. Herndon wrote that she prescreened renters and stayed in the home with them. She wrote that she used her home for almost a year, but in February she allowed an African American couple to stay in the home. Just weeks later she received the letter from the HOA.
The woman said she pays her HOA dues and has complaints about some neighbors but keeps them to herself or talks directly to the neighbor.
Herndon said it is really one neighbor upset.
“They are responsible for establishing this continual harassment, judgmental and ridiculous claims of ‘behaviors at my home,” Herndon wrote.
She said the neighbor “doesn’t like humans and wants everyone else to be miserable.”
The magistrate is set to hear arguments on the case today.



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