Battles between luxury homeowners drain both pockets and spirits


It’s the type of tale reminiscent of the famed Hatfield and McCoy saga. While feuding neighbors are nothing new, these days it seems tiffs between adjacent residents have been turned up a notch — especially when the neighbors in question have deep pockets. The Wall Street Journal recently highlighted an array of sorted tales involving never-ending and costly lawsuits between owners of luxury properties.

Take, for example, the battle between two luxury homeowners in Delaware over something as seemingly benign as untrimmed hedges. When one homeowner refused to trim his hedges, the other claiming the slight has affected his view, years of costly litigation ensued based on the rules of their homeowner’s association stating landscaping must not obscure the neighbor’s view or exceed a height of five feet.

The defendant, Mr. Jenney, cited the drama as “an emotional ordeal” as well as “a cautionary tale for homeowners that choose to participate in a community with a HOA without strict governance over its litigation pursuits.” He ultimately had to trim his foliage.

HOA’s (Homeowner’s Associations) — comprised of an elected volunteer board — are corporations typically created by real-estate developers to collect fees from homeowners and maintain common areas. They also get involved in disputes to enforce community rules.

However, many take umbrage with HOAs themselves. In fact, when one homeowner discovered his neighbors’ homes had not been included in the HOA when it was originally established, he stopped paying his dues and sued for reimbursement. As a result, pending trial, his 4,000-square-foot home is now emblazoned with a banner reading, “Rancho Bel Air sanctioned $10,000 for ‘sandbagging’ me.” The eyesore certainly can’t be good for property value!

Even those sans HOA can fall prey to vicious disagreements. Glenview, KY, a tony suburb of Louisville, was the scene of a battle between three homeowners of multi-million dollar estates that shared the same driveway. Sadly, in this case, sharing was not caring. When one owner wanted to keep the driveway for himself and build an additional one for the others to use, when none could agree all hell broke loose. In addition to two property owners filing an injunction, some other noteworthy theatrics ensued — one neighbor blocked areas off with cones; the two others hired security; and ultimately one sold his property. The litigation continues.

It seems there are usually no winners in these battles which cost time, money and stress for all participants (except for the lawyers, of course.) And often in cases such as these, even bystanders feel the effects, including a loss of a sense of community and difficulties with resale ease and value.