Almanor Lakeside Villas reconfirms the power of an HOA under the Davis-Stirling Act, provides a solid outline of the discretion of the court to award attorneys fees, and reaffirms the inefficiencies of the civil litigation system.
The owner of a lodge within an HOA disputed certain fines assessed by the association. At trial, the HOA estimated that the owner owed $54,000.00 in dues, fees, fines, and interest. The judge in a court trial awarded the HOA $6,620.00. Both sides moved for attorney’s fees. The court concluded that the HOA prevailed and awarded the HOA $101,803.50 in attorney’s fees and costs.
The opinion provides a good summary of when courts do and do not have discretion to award fees and what goes into a determination of which side is the prevailing party. It recognizes, however, that the Davis-Stirling Act (California Civil Code 4000-6150) requires an award of attorney’s fees to the prevailing party.
The owner successfully whittled the claim down by almost 90%, but he ends up having to pay almost twice the amount claimed by the HOA, in addition to his own fees and costs. Sometimes, a good result yields a bad outcome for cases where attorney’s fees, as opposed to the merits, drive a lawsuit.