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Eagle Springs Homeowners Association, Inc. v. Rodina

Supreme Court of Idaho

November 7, 2019

JAN RODINA, Defendant-Appellant.

          Appeal from the District Court of the Fourth Judicial District, State of Idaho, Ada County. Lynn G. Norton, District Judge.

         The decision of the district court is affirmed.

          Neal Colborn PLLC, Boise, for appellant. Gary Neal argued.

          Vial Fotheringham LLP, Boise, for respondent. Christopher Tingey argued.


         This appeal involves a dispute between the Eagle Springs Homeowners' Association ("the HOA") and Jan Rodina, a homeowner in the HOA. After a dispute over a fence project, the HOA filed a complaint seeking injunctive relief in Ada County district court. Rodina asserted, among other defenses, that the HOA approved his project and waived the right to enforce certain provisions of the subdivision's Covenants, Conditions, and Restrictions ("CC&Rs"). The district court awarded summary judgment in favor of the HOA and granted injunctive relief. We affirm, finding that the HOA did not approve his project as built and that Rodina failed to show that a genuine issue of material fact precluded the award of summary judgment against him.


         The Eagle Springs Subdivision.

         Located in Boise, Idaho, the Eagle Springs Subdivision consists of 230 residential lots and is governed by the CC&Rs. The CC&Rs are enforced and administered by the HOA through a Board of Directors ("the Board"). The CC&Rs' purpose is to "protect, enhance and preserve the value, amenities, desirability, and attractiveness" of the subdivision.

         Under the CC&Rs, homeowners must obtain approval from the HOA's "Architectural Committee" to "improve" the exterior of their property. The Architectural Committee is tasked with "us[ing] its judgment to see that all Improvements conform and harmonize as to external design, quality and type of construction, architectural character, materials, color, location . . . height, grade and finish ground elevation, natural conditions, landscaping and all other aesthetic considerations . . . ." An "Improvement" is broadly defined as "any structure, facility or system . . . which is erected, constructed or placed upon . . . any portion of the Property." The CC&Rs specifically list fences, walls, and landscaping within the definition of "Improvements". The CC&Rs provide precise requirements for specific alterations. For example: the Committee may only approve fences that are "in general conformance" with aesthetic models; fences and walls may not sit closer than 20 feet to any street; and no fence may exceed 6 feet in height.

         To obtain the Committee's approval, a homeowner must fill out and submit a "Review and Approval Form". This form references the CC&Rs' guidelines and asks for "a detailed description" of the desired changes. Once submitted, the Committee reviews the application and will either approve, deny, or delay its decision on the application. Once a decision is reached, the Committee's decision is "conclusive and binding on all interested parties." The CC&Rs state that the Committee's prior approval does not waive its right to deny "any similar proposal" in the future.

         In addition to approving and denying applications, the CC&Rs authorize the Architectural Committee to grant "variances from compliance with any of the architectural provisions of the Project Documents, including restrictions upon height, size, floor area or placement of structures, or similar restrictions, when circumstances such as topography, natural obstructions, hardship, aesthetic or environmental considerations may require." A variance excuses any violation for which it is granted. The CC&Rs specifically declare that granting a variance "shall not operate to waive any of the terms and provisions of the [CC&Rs] for any purpose except as to the particular Building Lot and particular provision hereof covered by the variance." The CC&Rs also provide that "[t]he failure to enforce any of the provisions herein at any time shall not constitute a waiver of the right to enforce any such provision."

         Rodina's Project.

         Rodina's property is a corner lot within the Eagle Creek subdivision located at the intersection of Big Springs Blvd. and N. Cayuse Way. Rodina's house faces north and meets Big Springs Blvd, a residential street running east to west. The east side of the property abuts the north-to-south N. Cayuse Way.

         In May 2016, Rodina submitted a "Review and Approval Form" with the Architectural Committee (the "First Application"). Rodina described his project as follows:

Fence Repair: Fence will be repaired and extended on the east side facing N. Cayuse Way to cover the full length of the house.
Landscaping: In order to repair the fence and to level the fence with the house, some landscaping will be needed at the backyard and the east side of the house.

         Nick Barber, the President of the HOA and member of the Architectural Committee, conditionally approved the application by writing "* - Fence to be stained to match - All repairs to be in compliance w[ith] CC&Rs and all applicable municipal, county, and state codes."

         At the end of May 2016, Rodina began constructing a three-foot retaining wall "to level the severe slope of the parcel." Rodina also constructed a new fence, placing it atop the retaining wall, which placed it closer to N. Cayuse Way. In August 2016, the HOA asked Rodina to submit a second Review and Approval Form (the "Second Application"). Rodina did so, writing:

As per our previously approved request by the HOA, we are planning to level the property by using retaining wall blocks. In addition, to avoid the continued trespassing, and to provide better privacy and security for our family, we are moving the fence on the east side slightly forward, closer to N Cayuse Way.
All work will be done based on Ada county building codes. In addition, the construction site has already been visited and the plans were approved by the Sheriff that stopped by today.

         After additional back and forth with Rodina to discern the full scope of the project, the Committee denied the second application and stated that the project, as built, violated the CC&Rs. The HOA communicated to Rodina its conclusions that: Rodina's project exceeded the scope of the First Application; his fence exceeded the 6-feet limit because it was atop the 3-foot retaining wall; the fence was too close to the street; and the retaining wall could negatively impact how the property drains to adjacent properties. Lastly, the HOA told Rodina that it would consider a new application for the proposal if the fence dimensions were fixed and Rodina obtained assurances that grading and drainage changes would not burden other properties. The HOA offered to hold a meeting with Rodina to discuss the project further.

         A few weeks later, after Rodina failed to make any changes to his property, the HOA informed Rodina that they would be holding a formal meeting to determine whether it would take legal action to enforce the CC&Rs and invited him to attend. In October 2016, the HOA sent a formal cease-and-desist letter to Rodina, explaining that the Board was considering legal action and invited him to submit a less ambitious project. In response, Rodina told the Board he was working with the county on receiving approval for the project. The HOA explained that compliance with the county codes was only part of the requirements and that Rodina also needed to comply with the CC&Rs. In November 2016, Rodina attended the Board meeting and informed the Board that the fence and wall were in compliance with relevant county codes. The Board reiterated that the construction nevertheless violated the CC&Rs and that it planned to proceed with legal action.

         Legal Proceedings

         In June 2017, the HOA filed a complaint against Rodina seeking injunctive relief. The HOA asked the district court to order Rodina to restore the property to its previous condition, or, alternatively, permit the HOA to restore the property and seek reimbursement from Rodina. In his answer, Rodina asserted the equitable defenses of waiver, laches, and estoppel. He also argued that the Association's action violated its good faith and fiduciary duties under Idaho Code section 30-29-830 and section 30-29-842 and the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing. Specifically, he argued that the HOA waived its ability to deny his improvements because it had "approved the construction of similar improvements" with "similar fences" atop "similar landscaping and retaining walls."

         In January 2018, the HOA filed a motion for summary judgment. The HOA argued that Rodina's waiver defense failed because the CC&Rs contain multiple no-waiver provisions and that Rodina failed to request approval for his actual project. In response, Rodina contended that genuine issues of material fact precluded summary judgment on the issues of waiver and the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing. In support, Rodina submitted emails from the Board discussing two fence variances and some HOA Board meeting minutes which discussed fence variances. In response, the HOA argued that its approval of allegedly similar projects was "irrelevant" in light of the CC&Rs' non-waiver provision on enforcement and non-waiver provision for Architectural Committee approval. The HOA also argued that Rodina failed to produce any evidence of bad faith.

         After the summary-judgment hearing in February 2018, the district court granted the HOA's motion. In its written decision, the district court determined that Rodina exceeded the scope of the First Application and, as finished, his project violated a number of the CC&R's. Rejecting Rodina's waiver defense, the court ruled that the plain language of CC&R section 9.5 "clearly states the 'committee/[HOA] does not waive the enforcement of the [CC&Rs] simply because it has previously approved similar proposals.'" In addition, the district court ruled that Rodina failed to submit sufficient evidence to support a finding that the HOA had approved similar projects. Next, the district court ruled that no genuine issues of material fact precluded an award of summary judgment on Rodina's allegation that the HOA violated its duty of good faith and fair dealing. The district court reasoned that the Board did not breach its duty of good faith and fair dealing by approving other variances before denying Rodina's project because the HOA's decision and actions were within its discretion. The district court ordered Rodina to remove the unapproved construction and to restore the property to compliance with the CC&Rs. The court also awarded attorney's fees to the HOA under section 8.1 of the CC&Rs.

         Rodina promptly filed a motion to reconsider. With it, Rodina filed a copy of a memorandum decision and order issued in Eagle Springs HOA v. Herren-an earlier Ada County district court case involving the HOA-and a personal declaration. Rodina's personal declaration stated that the HOA's enforcement action against him "has not been made in good faith" and was, Rodina believed, "premised in part on my national origin, based upon derogatory statements made by one of Plaintiff's board members." Rodina also declared that "the enforcement of the covenants has [sic] and is not uniform." He attached seven photographs to the declarations which were "examples of violations that have not been enforced by the [HOA]." Rodina stated that he took the attached photographs "which show those violations by other members of the Association, including the HOA President." The attached photographs show various fences and driveways with no identifying information other than one photograph indicating "HOA President". Several of the photographs appear to be of the same home. Rodina argued that the HOA had waived its right to injunctive relief by failing to uniformly enforce the covenants. This, Rodina argued, should preclude summary judgment because the district court found that there were similar improvements in its decision granting the HOA's motion.

         The district court denied Rodina's motion for reconsideration. The court declined to consider much of the evidence submitted on reconsideration for various reasons, including insufficient foundation, relevancy, or that it contained a legal conclusion. The court also corrected Rodina's assertion that it had found that there were other similar projects:

For clarification, this Court found there was not sufficient evidence to support a finding that the Committee had approved similar projects. Rodina has failed to present any additional evidence to support reconsideration of its finding that the record is insufficient to find a material issue of fact remains that the Association approved substantially similar projects.

         Recognizing that the Herren decision was not binding, the district court nevertheless took its analysis into consideration but found it distinguishable. Rodina timely appeals.


         A. Summary Judgment

         "This Court reviews a grant of summary judgment under the same standard of review the district court originally applied in its ruling." Johnson v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., 164 Idaho 53, 56, 423 P.3d 1005, 1008 (2018) (citing Conner v. Hodges, 157 Idaho 19, 23, 333 P.3d 130, 134 (2014)). The movant carries the burden to show "that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." I.R.C.P. 56(a); Wattenbarger v. A.G. Edwards & Sons, 150 Idaho 308, 317, 246 P.3d 961, 970 (2010). To determine whether the record contains genuine issues of material fact, the trial court "must liberally construe the facts, and draw all reasonable inferences, in favor of the nonmoving party." Johnson, 164 ...

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