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Piano teacher's conflict with HOA offers lesson in homeowner resources

Stacy Gery piano Medium.jpeg
Posted at 11:22 PM, Nov 27, 2022

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colorado — Millions of Americans switched to working from home during the pandemic, and for some the change was permanent. But what should you do if your home-business conflicts with the rules of your HOA?

Stacy Gery has been dealing with just such a conflict for months with her Colorado Springs area homeowners association.

Gery teaches piano lessons to children from her home for four hours per day, four days per week. She started the small business in 2016 after being injured in a bad car accident.

"In the recovery from my brain injury, it was a long arduous struggle," Gery recalled.

She worked with the Pikes Peak Small Business Development Center to start the business. She filed all the proper paperwork, took out an insurance policy, and received the blessing of the HOA board at the time.

"I don't have any children of my own so my piano students become my kids. And taking away my piano business was not only trying to take away my livelihood, and the business I worked so hard to create, but it was also taking away my kids."

In August, the president of the HOA board told Stacy that her business must stop. That board president lives in the adjacent unit.

"The HOA board along with the management company created a new home business policy that prohibits any clients from coming on the premises for business purposes," she explained.

Stacy didn't know where to turn. So, after spending some time googling she found the Colorado HOA Information and Resources Center.

"Our goal is to help educate so that the party, whatever position they're in, understands what their rights and responsibilities are," said David Donnelly, the HOA Information Officer for the Colorado Division of Real Estate.

The center falls under the state's Department of Regulatory Agencies. Homeowners associations in Colorado are structured as private, non-profit corporations. They are not required to hold a state license.

Donnelly explained the HOA Information Center serves an educational role rather than compliance.

"We are not an advocacy organization, and we're not allowed to provide legal advice by statute," he explained. "We are able to help people understand what their next steps might be."

For Gery, that meant studying Colorado's HOA law, the Colorado Common Interest Organizations Act (CCIOA.)

"I have read these documents in and out," Gery said.

Her reading paid off. For example, she learned the $500 per day penalty that her neighbor warned her about was not enforceable.

State lawmakers passed new amendments to CCIOA this past session that capped fees and interests that HOA boards and management companies can charge for covenant violations.

A bigger discovery was learning of the notification requirement for the special board meeting where the new home-business policy was enacted.

"Homeowners need to receive notice in advance of the agenda to be discussed, they are allowed to attend these meetings and allowed to make their voices heard on whatever is on the agenda and our board and management company absolutely did not do that," Gery said.

Gery said she questioned the HOA about the missing notification for the meeting and was told the notice had been posted in an online calendar. She claims it wasn't posted there.

Gery then shared her story with her neighbors and circulated petitions asking them to overturn the new home-based businesses rule, and to recall the two sitting board members. More than 70 percent of her neighbors signed the petitions.

HOAs are required to respond to petitions. However, Gery's petitions show that a majority of her neighbors either support the business or oppose the new policy.

She has yet to have a formal hearing before the board about her alleged violation, which is also required under CCIOA.

News 5 contacted the HOA management company for comment and we are waiting to hear back.

The HOA's annual board meeting is scheduled for Tuesday, November 29.
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