HOA, Celina homeowner battle over fines for roof color

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by BYRON HARRIS

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WFAA

Posted on September 13, 2013 at 10:52 PM

Updated Saturday, Sep 14 at 11:34 AM

Carter Ranch

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CELINA -- Most homeowners don't replace their roofs more than once in their lifetimes. They've got one shot to get it right.

David and Melinda Hawkes of Carter Ranch in Celina didn't get it right after their roof was destroyed by hail last year, according to their homeowners' association. And for a year, they've been fighting the HOA over how much of a fine they should pay.

It didn't seem that complicated.

The shingles had to be a color called "weathered wood," and had to be approved by the HOA architectural committee. The Hawkes thought they'd jumped through those hoops, hired a contractor, and work began.

Then, there was a knock on the door. It was the roof police.

David Hawkes said the president of the homeowners' association and the HOA's management company actually told them to stop construction.

"''The roof you're putting on is not going to match,'" Hawkes recalled the pair saying. "'It's not going to match the code. It's not going to be accepted here.'"

The Hawkes' roof was "too brown," they said.

The color choice doesn't bother Mariana Noriega, who lives across the street from the Hawkes. She said the roof is pretty, and the whole controversy is weird.

But not to the Hawkes, who started getting fines from the HOA.

"First off, they started fining us $25 a day," David Hawkes said, "and then that increased to $50 a day, and that increased to a maximum of $500 a day."

The fines reached a peak of more than $6,000, records show.

Judd Austin, whose law firm represents several HOAs in North Texas -- including Celina Carter Ranch -- said shingles are not a trivial matter.

"Architectural standards are really intended to protect the value of the investment the homeowners have in their homes," he said.

He politely pointed out that if the Hawkes had any doubt of what color their roof was supposed to be, all they had to do was look around. They're surrounded by gray roofs, even though a Google search of "weathered wood shingles" yields several shades, from grays through beiges.

After last year's storms, lots of Carter Ranch homeowners had to replace their roofs, Austin said.

"About 25 of them got it right. They got the (gray) weathered wood. No problem," Austin said. "There were a couple that didn't. Four or five that didn't."

The rogue roofs all got letters from the HOA, Austin said, ordering them to pay a fine, now reduced to $500, or ultimately face the HOA nuclear option: foreclosure.

"[The HOA] would be within their right to ask them to replace the roof," Austin added. Foreclosure, he said, is unlikely.

"You can pay the fine now, or you can pay it under a payment plan, if it's a hardship," Austin said. "My understanding is, everybody is under that agreement, except for the Hawkes."

Not exactly, it turns out.

Dave and Kristen Buchanan's brown roof is clearly visible upon driving into the neighborhood. Months after their roof was replaced, the started getting fines, too.

They have not yet paid the $500 fine. But they say they will, because they don't have enough money to fight the roof police in court.

The Hawkes haven't knuckled under yet, but the power is on the HOA's side, which can put a lien on their house. They still say it's all unfair, and point up the street to a home whose owner has painted his sidewalks white, standing out from his neighbor's, whose sidewalks are gray.

It belongs to the president of the homeowners' association. He declined to be interviewed by News 8.

E-mail bharris@wfaa.com

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