Todd Bodine loses battle with HOA
NASCAR driver tearing down his pool house; association says he didn't get OK to build.
Tuesday, Jun. 28, 2011
Todd Bodine is accustomed to the sound of winning.
The NASCAR driver has won the sport's truck series twice, most recently last year.
But earlier this month, if you were to pass by a well-kept home in the Harris Village neighborhood of Mooresville, you would have heard the sound of Todd Bodine losing.
In particular, it was the sound of Bodine and his helpers tearing down his prize pool house and tiki hut, the result of a four-year battle with his homeowners association.
More than half of the state's owner-occupied homes are governed by so-called HOAs.
But few of those homeowners sue their HOA and appeal all the way to the state Supreme Court, only to lose and have to tear down a structure - plus pay opposing attorneys' fees and fines in the hundreds of thousands of dollars.
The Bodines did.
"I think I've been done wrong," Bodine said, sitting in shorts by his pool, remnants of his poolside bar covered with a tarp. "And it's incredible how unjust it is."
The disagreement started in July 2007 when the HOA board president - who the Bodines say they had entertained over beers as they built their pool - abruptly told them the pool house was not approved.
"The president never said, 'It's OK for you to start building,' " said Keith Black, the Greensboro attorney who represented the Harris Village HOA.
Todd Bodine insists the HOA president had told him verbally to go ahead and build. "Everything was always, 'Fine, OK, looks good,' " Bodine said.
The issue came to a head at an emergency HOA meeting in the Bodines' driveway. Bodine said he was upset.
"It was on then. I got in his face," he said.
He and his wife, Janet, went inside their home while the board members talked things over. The board members signed a "Request for Architectural Approval" and checked "approved" pending the approval of the Town of Mooresville Codes Department, which the Bodines quickly secured.
But the dispute continued. The board's attorney contends that the document was conditional on the Bodines submitting final drawings with dimensions and that the board never realized how large the structure would be.
"They ignored the phone calls, the email and built the thing," Black said.
When the Bodines returned home after several weeks on the NASCAR circuit, they faced threatening letters and the prospect of fines from the HOA. The Bodines filed suit.
Bodine insists the HOA targeted him, knowing he could afford the fines. "I was gouged pretty hard because of who I am," Bodine said.
But Black, the HOA's attorney, says the lawsuit had nothing to do with Bodine's status, adding that the HOA tried to settle.
"They said, 'No. We're not gonna do it. You're wrong. Kiss our rear end. We'll see you in court,' " he said.
The Bodines lost at every level, culminating with the state Supreme Court's refusal to hear the case.
In the whole four years, no one said the Bodines' pool house hurt Harris Village.
"Hell, it was nice looking," Black said. "That wasn't the issue. Nobody said 'It's ugly and you have to take it down.' "
Instead, the HOA said if it let the Bodines build a pool house without HOA permission, what next?
"They open the door for anybody and everybody else to say, 'Well, I want to paint my house purple and have pink toilet seats all over the front yard,' " Black said.
The Bodines were left with their own attorney's fees, the HOA's attorney fees and almost $40,000 in fines. The HOA put a lien on their home for the unpaid fines. Bodine was fed up. "I told 'em, 'Take it. Take the house,' " he said.
Having exhausted their appeals, the Bodines would like the state legislature to rein in the powers of HOAs, a group of almost 18,000 neighborhood governments in North Carolina run by neighbors.
"A lot of time their power is just way too strong," Bodine said.