SIDE STREETS: Hatred of HOA could cost man a bundle

BILL VOGRIN Updated: February 1, 2009 at 12:00 am • Published: February 1, 2009

Bob Robella doesn't like being told he can't raise dogs at his house, or to keep his garage door closed and his trash cans out of sight, or that his fence must be an approved color.

He really doesn't like the Village Seven Homeowners Association, and claims its board of directors abuses its 843 homeowners, especially retirees like himself.

Robella hates the HOA so much, he vows to fight until it drains his life savings.

The HOA says it is the victim, not Robella.

The board and its attorney describe him as a guy who doesn't think rules apply to him: He moved into a covenant-controlled community but ignores the rules and won't pay HOA dues.

Now, a Colorado Springs judge has weighed in. In a Jan. 29 ruling on a small claims lawsuit filed by Robella against the HOA, Magistrate Daniel Winegrad slammed Robella, calling him "frivolous and vexatious" in his dealings with the HOA.

Even worse for Robella, Winegrad ordered him to pay the HOA $2,400, including attorneys fees and court costs.

"Mr. Robella chose to pay our attorney, his attorney, court filing fees, late fees, interest, fines and sanctions instead of paying his assessment of $96.30," said Art McDonnell, an HOA board member. "This all could have been avoided."
Get out your popcorn. It's not over.

A related suit is proceeding in district court that could cost thousands more and ultimately cost Robella the house he bought in 2006 on Congenial Place. (See photos of Robella, his fence, maps and more on my Side Streets blog.)

Robella said he didn't know Village Seven had an HOA, and he balked when billed for dues in May 2007.

Confusion over the amount owed led Robella to suspect he was being cheated. Things quickly deteriorated.

Soon he was being warned about his dog-breeding operation, his dogs running off leash, his fence paint, his garage door, his trash and other issues.

In December 2007, he transferred title of his home to a friend in Florida and wouldn't reveal her address. The HOA said it was a transparent attempt to dodge paying dues and adhering to rules by claiming he was no longer the owner.

Then, in February 2008, he filed the small claims suit seeking $350, the amount he said it cost him to paint 100 feet of fence. It had become faded by HOA sprinklers watering a nearby greenbelt and common area.

The HOA counter sued for $571 in back dues, fines, interest and administrative costs. But the HOA offered to waive all the fines if Robella simply paid $96.30 in back dues and agreed to restain his fence an HOA-approved color. At trial, Robella took the offer and settled the case.

Sounds like a reasonable result. Not quite. Robella tried to withdraw his settlement, but Winegrad refused.

Robella responded by dropping off a "few" paint chips for the HOA to consider when he repainted the fence - a "few" as in 251 chips.

As for the back dues and annual assessment, he sent the HOA a check for $155. Except the back dues totaled $96.30 and annual dues are $250. He still owed $191, the HOA said.

Robella insists he has been reasonable. And he's furious the HOA had its attorney respond to his lawsuit and countersue in district court.

"They are trying to run the price up until I can't afford it," he said. "But they didn't expect me to put my life savings into fighting this. I'm already $6,000 into this. I can't stop now. It's going to stay in court forever."

Pass the popcorn.


Tell me about your neighborhood: 636-0193 or bill.vogrin@gazette.com

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