For better or worse, living in a neighborhood with a Homeowners' Association (“HOA”) is becoming a way of life for many Americans. While there are some perks, there are also drawbacks. When my wife and I moved into our new home, we decided to bring with us our playset from our previous home. I knew in the back of my mind that our new neighborhood had an HOA and that we probably needed approval to have this in our backyard, but we proceeded anyways. The letter from the HOA arrived about two weeks later. Indeed, we needed board approval. Not sure who ratted us out on this one. I submitted the application replete with distances from property lines, photos, and descriptions and eagerly awaited the result. It was approved, but what a pain.
It is not uncommon for an HOA agreement with accompanying declarations, amendments, and exhibits to run over the one-hundred page mark. These documents, chockful of awful legalese, are perfect for lulling you to sleep, but are a contract nonetheless. If you have issue with an HOA, like putting a playset on your property, contacting an attorney to help you analyze the agreement might be your best course of action. It could be the difference between a delightful time or an empty yard with heartbroken children.
It is December in Ohio, and naturally the snow is starting to fall. Many homeowners, myself included, are thinking to themselves “do I really need to shovel the sidewalk”? As you can imagine, this issue has been litigated and surprisingly the Supreme Court of Ohio has dealt with this issue head on.
In Brinkman v. Ross, 1993-Ohio-72, (1993) the Court held “that a homeowner has no common-law duty to remove or make less hazardous a natural accumulation of ice and snow on private sidewalks or walkways on the homeowner's premises, or to warn those who enter upon the premises of the inherent dangers presented by natural accumulations of ice and snow.”
There is actually an impetus here not to shovel- note the use of the term “natural accumulation.” Arguably, if you shovel you might create an unnatural accumulation that could open you up to a negligence claim. In plain English, if you don’t shovel at all and someone falls on your property, you are probably not going to be found negligent for the fall. However, in the court of public opinion, your neighbors are probably going to think you're a jerk.
There is a caveat here- depending on where you live, your city might have an ordinance requiring you to shovel and if you don’t, then you might get a fine. You’ve got to love the law.
This information is intended to provide broad, general information about the law and is not intended to be legal advice. Before applying this information to a specific legal problem, readers are urged to seek advice from a licensed attorney.
Attorney Jesse Bowman