On March 5, 2009, on behalf of a homeowners association (who requested not to be named in this article), the Law Firm of Peters & Freedman, L.L.P., took a homeowner to trial for Contempt for violating a Civil Restraining Order the Association had previously obtained on behalf of its manager. Contempt trials are quasi criminal proceedings.
The Association obtained a restraining order against this owner to prevent the relentless harassment of the manager by the owner. The facts demonstrated that the owner was on a mission to either have the manager terminated or to force the manager to quit to avoid the abuse. The harassment included keeping the manager under surveillance.
After two days of trial the Court found the owner in contempt. The owner was sentenced to five (5) days in jail. The court agreed to suspend the jail time if the Owner paid a fine and adhered to three (3) years strict probation, which included severely limiting the Owner’s rights. The probation also included an affirmative requirement that the owner stay a substantial distance away from the manager at all times and that the owner lost the rights to use common area recreational facilities or to visit the office of the manager, etc. The owner was also obligated to reimburse the association substantial legal fees incurred.
Too many mangers have experienced a situation where an over-the-top owner harassed the manager so much that the manager was genuinely afraid and/or forced to endure severe harassment. Some managers simply quit. The question has been whether there are limits to the amount of abuse and harassment that managers are forced to endure from an owner. The answer is yes! Moreover, in cases in which the harassment is severe, the remedy for that harassment can be equally severe.