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Rapoport v. Martin

Court of Appeals of Utah

August 23, 2018

Jean A. Rapoport and Richard N. Rapoport, Appellants,
v.
Judy Martin and Four Lakes Village Homeowners Association Inc., Appellee.

          Third District Court, Silver Summit Department The Honorable Kara Pettit No. 150500281

          Jean A. Rapoport and Richard N. Rapoport, Appellants Pro Se

          Eric P. Lee and Justin J. Keys, Attorneys for Appellee Judy Martin

          Matthew B. Hutchinson and Joelle S. Kesler, Attorneys for Appellee Four Lakes Village Homeowners Association Inc.

          Judge David N. Mortensen authored this Opinion, in which Judges Jill M. Pohlman and Diana Hagen concurred.

          OPINION

          MORTENSEN, Judge.

         ¶1 Good fences make good neighbors, [1] but apparently deck extensions do not. Jean A. Rapoport and Richard N. Rapoport petitioned their Homeowners Association (the HOA) to order Judy Martin to remove a deck extension from a common area in the neighborhood. When the HOA approved the deck extension instead, the Rapoports filed an action in the district court to order its removal. The district court ruled that the HOA had the power to approve the deck extension. The Rapoports filed this appeal, arguing for reversal of the district court's ruling. We affirm.

         ¶2 The Rapoports and Martin live in the same development, governed under the same Covenants, Conditions, and Restrictions (the CC&Rs). The CC&Rs state, "No Owner shall, without the prior written consent of the Association, make or permit to be made any structural alteration, improvement, or addition in or to his lot or to the Common Areas." The CC&Rs further provide, "There shall be no obstruction of the Common Areas by any Owner. Owners shall neither store nor leave any of their property in the Common Areas, except with the prior written consent of the Association."

         ¶3 One day the Rapoports noticed that Martin was extending her deck. The Rapoports reported the extension to the HOA, which ordered Martin to cease construction until the HOA could consider the Rapoports' objection. Unbeknownst to the Rapoports, Martin had submitted plans and received approval from the HOA's Architectural Review Committee (the ARC) prior to construction. The HOA's board eventually ratified the ARC's approval of the deck extension and construction recommenced.

         ¶4 The Rapoports filed a complaint against Martin and the HOA, seeking a declaratory judgment that the deck extension violated the CC&Rs. At the close of discovery, the Rapoports moved for summary judgment on their claim. The HOA filed a cross-motion for summary judgment, seeking an order declaring that the HOA had acted within the scope of its authority when it approved Martin's project and seeking attorney fees. Martin joined in the HOA's argument regarding the scope of the HOA's authority to approve the deck extension.

         ¶5 After considering the various motions and arguments, the district court ruled against the Rapoports and in favor of the HOA and Martin. In its order, the district court reasoned that, under the CC&Rs, "the Board is not precluded from allowing improvements to the common area," specifically relying on the CC&R provisions stating that there shall be no obstruction, alteration, improvement, or addition to the common areas without the "prior written consent of the Association." Upon that reasoning, the district court denied the Rapoports' motion for summary judgment and dismissed their complaint with prejudice. The court also awarded the HOA attorney fees and costs in the amount of $19, 302.10. The Rapoports appeal.

         ¶6 On appeal, we must determine whether the district court erred in its denial of the Rapoports' motion for summary judgment and grant of the HOA's motion for summary judgment. Summary judgment is proper if "there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Utah R. Civ. P. 56(a). We review a district court's legal conclusions and grant or denial of summary judgment for correctness, viewing the facts and all reasonable inferences in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party. See Orvis v. Johnson, 2008 UT 2, ¶ 6, 177 P.3d 600.

         ¶7 First, the Rapoports argue that disputed facts exist that prevent summary judgment on the HOA's motion. However, the Rapoports fail to demonstrate how any of the alleged factual disputes are material. A dispute is material only if it matters for the resolution of the case. See Horgan v. Industrial Design Corp., 657 P.2d 751, 752 (Utah 1982). The Rapoports argue that they disputed the following facts asserted in the HOA's motion: (1) "The board prepared and adopted an authorization for the ARC to approve changes to the exterior of units," and (2) "That a similar deck project had been approved in the past." Aside from pointing out their dispute, the Rapoports do not explain how or why these disputes are material to the district court's decision. These statements appear to be examples only of the HOA's asserted authority to approve a project like Martin's deck extension, but they have no bearing on whether the HOA actually has the authority to approve the project. Therefore, these disputes are immaterial.

         ¶8 Next, the Rapoports argue that the HOA does not have the authority to approve a project that obstructs a common area without the consent of all homeowners. In support of that argument, the Rapoports cite examples of prior HOA interpretations of the CC&Rs as well as a CC&R provision that states, "Except as otherwise provided in this declaration, the percentages appurtenant to each lot as shown in Exhibit A shall have a permanent character and shall not be altered without the unanimous consent of all Owners expressed in an amendment to this declaration duly recorded." These arguments are also immaterial; the prior interpretations do not affect our analysis of the plain ...


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