Valley attorney pushes new way to settle HOA disputes

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SCOTTSDALE, AZ (3TV/CBS 5) -

A lot of homeowners feel helpless, when they have a dispute with their home owners association, but it doesn't have to be that way.

A Scottsdale attorney has created a new program designed to settle community conflicts in a more neighborly fashion.

Adam Buck just launched a new website called, "Homeowner Legal Services," that Buck hopes will change the way HOA disputes are resolved.

It's basically an arbitration system, where homeowners and HOA boards agree to resolve their differences through a retired judge.

"Homeowners will like it because it gives them an easy way to have their voice heard and to challenge something that their HOA is doing, but without breaking the bank, either their savings or the HOA funds," said Buck.

The cost for the homeowner is $250, with the HOA board spending $1,500, plus a $250 filing fee.

Buck claims it is far less expensive than the potential cost of litigation through Superior Court.

It's also less than the $750 fee a homeowner would pay to have the case heard through the state's Department of Fire, Building and Life Safety.  

"The problem really is that once you get attorneys involved and attorneys fees go up to a certain point, it's almost past the point of no return," said Buck. "Their case becomes about attorney fees and the recovery of attorney fees."

Dave Russell is the community manager for the Circle Tree Association, a Mesa condo complex.

Russell said he seen some cases where a $200 dispute over the color of a house has snowballed into $60,000 in legal fees.

"Sometimes it's the unreasonable homeowner that doesn't understand the contract they entered into, and sometimes it's the rogue HOA board member that lives next door, who may have a personal ax to grind," said Russell. "It's a flawed system where if you sue your HOA, you're not only the plaintiff, you're also the defendant, essentially suing yourself because you are a member of the association."

Russell believes that having a third party settle HOA disputes, can save homeowners and HOAs thousands of dollars a year.

Circle Tree's HOA board is now considering whether to adopt the new HOA arbitration dispute program.

But getting HOA boards to agree to the arbitration process could be a challenge.

Valley attorney Curtis Ekmark's firm represents more than 3,500 home owner's associations.

"In some cases arbitration is good, however, I can't see corporations agreeing to enter the arbitration process without legal council," said Ekmark. "I don't see this catching on."

Buck disagrees, insisting that once HOA boards see how much money they can save, they'll be more willing to stop using their high-priced attorneys.

"Communities need to be able to resolve these issues in a more neighborly manner and bring some common sense to these disputes," said Buck. "They seem to be spiraling out of control."

For more information the new HOA dispute resolution program visit http://www.homeownerlegalservices.com/about-hls/

Copyright 2015 KPHO/KTVK (KPHO Broadcasting Corporation). All rights reserved.

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