August 30, 2022

Court Affirms Homeowners Association's Decision to Grant Fence Variance

The Washington Court of Appeals ruled earlier this month that a homeowners association committee properly exercised its authority under real estate covenants to grant owners a variance for a boundary fence made of cedar. The covenants bestowed on the committee the sole and exclusive authority to consider and grant variances from any restriction and stated that the committee's decision is final. The committee visited the property at issue and determined that the replacement fence was more attractive than the original fencing, well-harmonized with the surrounding environment, matched many other solid cedar style fences in the community, did not significantly block light to the neighbors' property, and likely improved the value of neighboring properties. The Court upheld the committee's decision to grant a variance, pointing out that:

"The Washington Supreme Court recently emphasized that homeowner association decision-makers are due significant deference in these situations: '[W]hen a homeowners' association makes a discretionary decision in a procedurally valid way, courts will not substitute their judgment for that of the association absent a showing of 'fraud, dishonesty, or incompetenance (i.e., failure to exercise proper care, skill, and diligence) [citation omitted].'"