TOWNHOMES AT FRENCH CREEK, etc. Appellant
CHRISTOPHER G. WOODS Appellee
FROM JUDGMENT ENTERED IN THE AVON LAKE MUNICIPAL COURT COUNTY
OF LORAIN, OHIO CASE No. CVI 1700068
A. BARRETO and LINDSEY A. WRUBEL, Attorneys at Law, for
CHRISOPHTER G. WOODS, pro se, Appellee.
DECISION AND JOURNAL ENTRY
A. SCHAFER, PRESIDING JUDGE.
Appellant-Plaintiff, the Townhomes at French Creek Reserves
Homeowners Association, Inc. ("HOA"), appeals the
judgment of the Avon Lake Municipal Small Claims Court. For
the reasons that follow, we reverse and remand.
The Townhomes of French Creek Reserve is a planned community.
Pursuant to the community's amended declaration of
restrictions, reservations, and covenants, each lot owner
within the HOA is required to pay monthly maintenance fees
for each owner's share of the common expenses.
Defendant-Appellee, Christopher Woods, is a lot owner within
the HOA. Woods opted to allow the HOA's property
management company, Carlyle Management ("Carlyle"),
to automatically withdraw the monthly maintenance fees from
his checking account on the tenth of each month through the
Automatic Clearing House ("ACH"). Woods was current
with payment of his maintenance fee to the HOA until April
2015. On April 10, 2015, Carlyle attempted to withdraw the
$175 maintenance fee from Woods' checking account,
however, the attempt was returned due to insufficient funds
in the account. Subsequent to the failed withdrawal attempt,
Carlyle sent monthly statements to Woods with his outstanding
balance. However, Woods never responded and never paid his
The HOA subsequently filed a complaint in the Avon Lake
Municipal Small Claims Court, seeking unpaid maintenance
fees, assessments, and late fees due and owing to the HOA in
the amount of $1, 083.00, plus continuing maintenance fees,
late fees, and legal fees in the amount of $325.00.
A small claims hearing was held on May 17, 2017. The HOA
appeared represented by counsel. Charles Shulman, president
of Carlyle testified on behalf of the HOA. Although duly
served, Woods did not appear at the hearing. Following the
hearing, the trial court issued a judgment in favor of the
HOA. However, the trial court determined that the HOA was not
entitled to legal fees incurred due to Woods' delinquency
and continued non-response and that the HOA's collection
policy of monthly late fees on any unpaid balance was of no
effect. Consequently, the trial court only awarded the HOA
$215.00 for the single unpaid assessment, one late fee, and
the returned check fee from April 2015.
The HOA filed this timely appeal, raising two assignments of
error for our review. Woods did not file a merit brief in
this matter. Thus, we may accept the HOA's statements of
the facts and issues as correct and reverse the judgment if
its brief reasonably appears to sustain such action. App.R.
18(C). For ease of analysis, we elect to consider the
assignments of error out of order.
of Error II
trial court erred in finding [the HOA] was not entitled to
recover monthly late fees on the unpaid balance due to
In its second assignment of error, the HOA contends that the
trial court erred when it determined that it was not entitled
to recover monthly late fees on the unpaid balance due to
Woods' delinquency. Specifically, the HOA argues that its
"Rules and Regulations are permitted by the [HOA]'s
Declaration and are enforceable."
In this case, the trial court made several findings of fact
before determining that the HOA was "estopped from
recovering * * * the additional late fees" and that
"[a]n award for these charges would be patently
unreasonable, unjust[, ] and inequitable." Specifically,
the court found that Carlyle "controlled the amount that
could be credited to them for HOA fees" and
"[b]ecause of Carlyle's decision to not credit the
April 2015 fees, the late fees accumulated * * *"
However, in making its determination, the trial court made no
mention of the HOA's declaration, bylaws, or rules and
regulations nor did the trial court provide any legal support
for its conclusion in its journal entry.
A "[p]lanned community" is defined as "a
community comprised of individual lots for which a deed,
common plan, or declaration ...