A Judge’s Answer To Some of Those Tiny Garden Oaks Question Marks

A JUDGE’S ANSWER TO SOME OF THOSE TINY GARDEN OAKS QUESTION MARKS Garden Oaks Deed Restrictions Signs, Garden Oaks, Houston, 77018Erin Mulvaney writes in the Houston Chronicle this week that a county judge has issued a decision regarding the Garden Oaks deed restriction lawsuit that spurred editorial changes to some neighborhood signage earlier this spring. The Garden Oaks Maintenance Organization sued neighborhood couple Peter and Katharine Chang several years ago for building an oversized garage; a jury found earlier this year that the couple had violated the deed restrictions, but that the GOMO wasn’t consistently enforcing its own rules on all properties — including some properties owned by GOMO board members. Mulvaney writes that the recent ruling denied the Changs’ request for $80,000 in legal fees, but did confirm that GOMO doesn’t have the power to enforce the restrictions — at least, not in the specific case of the Changs’ property. It’s still unclear what the impact of the decision will be on GOMO’s authority over the rest of the neighborhood. [Houston Chronicle; previously on SwamplotPhoto of question-marked Garden Oaks sign: Swamplot inbox

17 Comment

  • It appears that most Garden Oaks residents do not yet realize the huge impact that this new ruling has on the neighborhood. Been sued by GOMO? You could now sue to for damages because you were sued by an improperly formed organization? Purchased a home in GO since GOMO was formed in 2002? You can sue for your transfer fee (.75% of the home’s purchase price) to be returned, because it was collected by an improperly formed organization. Class action lawsuits, anyone? Seems that would be just around the corner. Hope the board members have some really good personal liability insurance…

  • I live in Garden Oaks and have been following this whole fiasco for a while. The ruling basically indirectly indicates that the Garden Oaks HOA has no authority what-so-ever over ANY property. Will the board or even the individual board member be liable for MILLIONS of dollars the HOA has collected over the last decade? How long has the board know about it’s questionable status anyway? What is even more fraustarting is that the entire community didn’t even know about any of this until a few months ago when some neighbors started doing some digging of their own. I feel like Garden Oaks needs one of those reset bottom and start all over!

  • Sounds like someone shot themselves in the foot by coming down hard on the Chang’s to me. I would not be happy if I lived there and saw how much money GOMO lost on this.

  • Corrected punctuation from prior post 6/16 at 8:40 a.m.:
    It appears that most Garden Oaks residents do not yet realize the huge impact that this new ruling has on the neighborhood. Been sued by GOMO? You could now sue for damages because you were sued by an improperly formed organization. (not a question mark as shown in prior post). Purchased a home in GO since GOMO was formed in 2002? You can sue for your transfer fee (.75% of the home’s purchase price – not an insignificant amount!) to be returned, because it was collected by an improperly formed organization. Class action lawsuits, anyone? Seems that would be just around the corner. Hope the board members have some really good personal liability insurance…

  • Couldn’t have happened to a nicer neighborhood. So sad!

  • The issue of improper/illegal formation being brought to light by this ruling can be traced backed to other GOMO lawsuits in the early/mid 2000s, i.e. shortly after the original formation of GOMO. If you read through some of the documentation posted on the Harris County Court’s website from lawsuits filed by the Garden Oaks Maintenance Organization (GOMO), you will see that many of the defendants asserted GOMO was not legally/properly formed and had no authority to enforce the deed restrictions, assess the transfer fee, etc. Several of these cases were dismissed or settled. So what Judge Hinde has ultimately ruled in the Chang case is something GOMO has known for years was lurking in the background. Like most HOA Boards, it appears GOMO is run by a bunch of arrogant egoists who are prepared to spend every penny of the neighborhood’s money to preserve their base of power and control. I hope GOMO and the individual board members have good insurance because once those residents who have paid a large transfer fee and/or had to defend themselves against lawsuits or make structural modifications to their homes because they were cited by GOMO figure out they can seek monetary damages, then its going to get ugly in a hurry.

  • One of the Chron’s articles also mentioned the judge’s concern that GOMO and its bylaws were not ‘properly formed.’ Does anyone know the procedure for ‘properly forming’ an HO and writing bylaws? I’m wondering about the HO where I live.

  • I don’t think it was the Judge’s “concern”, but instead his ruling that GOMO was not properly formed. Based on what I have seen, the best advice is to get a good attorney experienced in HOA matters. Clearly, the counsel GOMO received early on was not good and they are paying for it now. I’m sure there is a statue of limitations on legal malpractice, but it appears the counsel GOMO received during its formation was sub-par.

  • why didn’t the judge have the gomo to pay for their legal fees?
    .
    that’s got to be the most expensive garage in Houston.

  • I’m sure if GOMO decides to appeal, the defendants will too and ask for full recovery of attorney’s fees. Maybe it was an attempt to throw Gomo a bone as a deterrent to seeking an appeal. Who knows? Been a rough week for GOMO. They lost another case in the appellate court last week. The only winner is their attorney. He is raking in the fees whether GOMO wins or loses.

  • I previously owned a home in Section 4 of Garden Oaks. I recall on several occasions GOMO members coming to my door asking me to sign petitions to have our section join. They seemed stunned that I wasn’t interested. I explained my fear that HOA’s typically don’t do much but give money to lawyers for nonsensical (usually petty) litigation. And…. here you have it.

    I don’t suspect anyone in Section 4 is lining up to join GOMO now! And thank goodness I never had to pay a transfer fee to them.

  • If they are deemed completely improper there’s no way they can get enough signatures to authorize a new one. I already can imagine the slogan “NO GOMO!”

  • Ms. Mudbug, it apppears that you probably don’t live in GO. Most of the people I’ve met on the board are not egotistic. But, people who care about their neighborhood and just want to help make sure that it stays a nice place. They are volunteers doing a job that apparently most don’t want to do, since no one runs for the job.
    Also, they are not your typical HOA. They dont come out with a ruler and measure your grass, or tell you to take down a door wreath that’s inappropriate in their opinion. (There are nearby HOAs that do this).
    It sounds like some of the homeowners are just selfish, and don’t think the rules apply to them.
    GO has stayed a desirable place because there was a board working for that. Has anyone asked how many businesses were moved out. One resident ran a painting company out of the house, and the street was full of work trucks morning and night. Nobody wanted that, and that’s what the Board fought against. Nobody likes rules, but they like a wild, “anything goes” place even less.

  • Commonsense, you are almost correct. The slogan should actually be NOMO GOMO.

  • I feel like We got screwed-twice! We moved from one home to another within the neighborhood. Now, I want our hard earned money that was stolen from us back!where do we go from here??

  • Mama_P, I agree whole heartily that we need a competent neighborhood organization that enforce a modern, up to date deed restriction and not a poorly written one from 1935. I also salute those unpaid, tireless volunteers who are trying to do the right thing, however if the judge said they have no proper license or documentation to collect funds or sue people then they should stop and dissolve – unpaid, tireless volunteer or not. Would you schedule yourself for a life saving brain surgery if you learned that your brain surgeon does not even have a license to practice medicine? Would you go on board on an airplane if you realize that Bob the pilot has never graduated from the aviation academy?
    Lastly, I believe that only few runs for the board because the board has always been secretive about its business. like I mentioned previously if it was not for a concerned few we would not have known about this $120,000 lawsuit. Would you run for the board if all they boast about is their “WAR CHEST” of $400,000 that they can use to sue people? I’m not fabricating any of this Mama_P, it came from the mouth of the same volunteer/bully extraordinaire that you speak so highly of. My husband and I certainly don’t have $400,000 to fight the board for anything – guilty or not, and neighbors around me are all wondering how long has this bullying being going on. No, they don’t come with rulers, just lawsuits. Again, just because they are volunteers it does not give them a license to act like jerks – no, no, wait a minute… judge said DON’T have a license all!! Mama_P you are more than welcome to go on that “flight of doom”, we would rather stay home and eat popcorns.

  • If I was on the GOMO board, I would be praying that the D&O insurance was in force and paid up, since someone, at some point, is going to sue the Board for wasting money. And that’s ignoring the fact that GOMO does not appear to be a tax exempt non-profit – it doesn’t appear on any of the databases I’ve seen.

    I’ve read just about all of the documents on the District Clerk’s site from this case, and all I can do is shake my head that GOMO pursued this in court.