Ballwin, MO asked in Real Estate Law for Missouri

Q: Can a neighbor sue the HOA for them putting a lien on the property over tree trimming in this case?

My HOA president is verbally saying that townhouse owners are responsible for tree trimming. The "community handbook" I was provided when I purchased the townhome 3 months ago very clearly says the HOA is responsible if the tree is 5' away from the unit. The covenants are vague and say the HOA has the power "to exercise at its sole discretion any or all of the following powers.... (d) to furnish grass cutting and grounds maintenance for the Lots as part of its services with funds available under the assessments provided..." They are talking about putting a lien on a neighbor's house for him not hiring a tree trimming company. Since the covenants are vague with "grounds maintenance", but the community handbook is very clear that the HOA trims trees, would that neighbor be able to sue for an illegal lien? I have a tree on my property that I just purchased, so I want to have an idea how hard I need to push back when they ask me to trim the tree.

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1 Lawyer Answer
Ronald J. Eisenberg
Ronald J. Eisenberg
  • Chesterfield, MO
  • Licensed in Missouri

A: Anyone can sue for anything. The neighbor could sue for slander of title regarding the lien. There is no guaranty that the neighbor will win, however, and I have a hunch that the HOA's declaration has a one-sided attorneys' fee provision. That means if the HOA wins in litigation it can recover its attorneys' fees. Have an attorney review the relevant documents.

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