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Wildberry Homeowners Association, Inc. v. Schuffert

Court of Appeals of Ohio, Ninth District, Lorain

May 8, 2017

WILDBERRY HOMEOWNERS ASSOCIATION, INC. Appellee
v.
WILLIAM SCHUFFERT, et al. Appellants

         APPEAL FROM JUDGMENT ENTERED IN THE COURT OF COMMON PLEAS COUNTY OF LORAIN, OHIO CASE No. 14CV184344

          APPEARANCES: KENNETH R. RESAR, Attorney at Law, for Appellant.

          MICHAEL R. STAVNICKY, Attorney at Law, for Appellee.

          DECISION AND JOURNAL ENTRY

          JULIE A. SCHAFER, Judge.

         {¶1} Defendant-Appellant, William Schuffert, appeals the judgment of the Lorain County Court of Common Pleas granting summary judgment in favor of Plaintiff-Appellee, Wildberry Homeowners Association, on its complaint for foreclosure. For the reasons set forth below, we reverse and remand this matter for further proceedings.

         I.

         {¶2} Wildberry Homeowner's Association, Inc. ("Association") is a homeowner's association incorporated under the laws of Ohio and governed by the Declaration of Covenants and Restrictions of Wildberry, Avon Lake ("Declaration"). In October 2005, Schuffert purchased real property on Waterberry Court in Avon Lake, Ohio, which is subject to the Declaration. As relevant to this appeal, the Declaration requires all members of the Association to pay annual assessments and maintenance fees, which are collected periodically over the course of a calendar year. Additionally, the Declaration allows the Association to levy special assessments when certain requirements are met. In addition to the monetary obligations, the Declaration includes covenants and restrictions upon the subject properties and Association members. The Declaration also permits the Association to pursue legal action against the responsible owner for a delinquent assessment and to foreclose the lien against the property.

         {¶3} It is undisputed that beginning on July 1, 2012, Schuffert stopped paying all assessments and fees to the Association. Schuffert states that he stopped paying the fees and assessments due to a $437.00 bill from the Association for "legal fees" dated November 11, 2011, which he disputes. Ultimately, on November 27, 2013, the Association filed a Notice of Lien against Schuffert's Waterberry Court property. Despite receiving the Notice of Lien and multiple letters from the Association concerning the delinquent assessments and fees, Schuffert failed to pay the full amount due and owing. Thus, on August 26, 2014, the Association filed a complaint for foreclosure in the Lorain County Court of Common Pleas. The complaint named Schuffert, JPMorgan Chase Bank, N.A., and the Lorain County Treasurer as defendants. Each named defendant filed an answer in response to the Association's complaint. As relevant to this appeal, Schuffert denied the allegations set forth in the Association's complaint. The matter then proceeded through the discovery process.

         {¶4} On March 31, 2015, the Association filed a motion for summary judgment arguing that no genuine issues of material fact exist concerning Schuffert's liability and that it is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Specifically, as a lienholder on Schuffert's Waterberry Court property, the Association argued that it is entitled by law to foreclose on the property in question and have it sold at sheriffs sale. Schuffert subsequently filed a brief in opposition to the Association's motion for summary judgment, to which the Association filed a brief in support of its summary judgment motion. On July 24, 2015, the trial court granted the Association's motion for summary judgment and issued a decree in foreclosure.

         {¶5} Schuffert filed this timely appeal and raises one assignment of error for our review.

Assignment of Error
The trial court was in error when it issued the judgment entry and decree of foreclosure on July 24, 2015[, ] granting the Wildberry Homeowners Association's motion for summary judgment as there existed genuine issues of material facts and the Wildberry Homeowners Association was not entitled to judgment as a matter of law.

         {¶6} In his sole assignment of error, Schuffert argues that the trial court erred by granting Wildberry Homeowners Association's motion for summary judgment. Specifically, Schuffert challenges: (1) the trial court's determination that the Association was entitled to assess attorney fees prior to obtaining a judgment; (2) the trial court's determination that the Association was entitled to attorney fees since the record was devoid of any evidentiary materials from which it could have concluded that such fees were reasonable; (3) the trial court's determination that Schuffert could not raise the Association's failure to comply with and enforce the Declaration as a defense to the foreclosure action; and (4) the trial court's failure to consider Schuffert's argument that the attorney fees at issue were unreasonable because the Association had acted in bad faith.

         {¶7} We review an award of summary judgment de novo. Grafton v. Ohio Edison Co., 77 Ohio St.3d 102, 105 (1996). Summary judgment is only appropriate where (1) no genuine issue of material fact exists; (2) the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law; and (3) the evidence can only produce a finding that is contrary to the non-moving party. Civ.R. 56(C). Before making such a contrary finding, however, a court must view the facts in the light most favorable to the ...


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