A Texas couple who feed ducks should lose their home, HOA’s lawsuit says

A Texas couple has put their home up for sale after the Homeowners Association sued and threatened to foreclose on their home.

Her crime, according to the lawsuit, was feeding ducks that roam her subdivision outside of Houston.

Kathleen Rowe, 65, and her husband George moved into the home across a waterway in Cypress, Texas, about a decade ago, shortly after their only child died. She found feeding the ducks therapeutic and has continued ever since, according to her attorney, Richard Weaver.

In June, the Lakeland Community Homeowners Association decided it was fed up with the Rowes feeding the waterfowl, despite repeated warnings not to do so. The association filed a lawsuit against the couple in Harris County Civil Court, asking a judge to issue a “permanent injunction requiring the defendants to stop feeding wildlife” in the neighborhood and up to $250,000 in damages, the standard Texas minimum for such wildlife Complain.

In a community of million-dollar homes, a dispute over a $500 mailbox ends up in court

Feeding the ducks “violated the general plan and scheme of the subdivision” and caused the plaintiff “direct harm and irreparable harm,” the lawsuit states. The lawsuit is asking the court for permission for the HOA to mortgage the property if the Rowes continue to feed the ducks.

A homeowners association lawyer did not respond to requests for comment Saturday.

Weaver said this lawsuit stands out among others he has defended against.

“I’m a board-certified real estate attorney, and this litigation is truly the dumbest litigation I’ve ever seen in my practice,” Weaver said. “This attorney essentially claimed that feeding ducks is either harmful or offensive – I think that’s an incredible statement.”

Weaver said ducks are common in the neighborhood and even appear on the Google Maps street view in front of the Rowes’ home. Kathleen decided to feed the ducks because many of them were raised in pet stores and bought by families for events like Easter and then released into the wild, Weaver said.

“You’ve never had a mother,” Kathleen said Houston Chronicle. “I feel like I’m just going to intervene.”

Pet ducks released into the wild often struggle to survive and can harm native species, the Oregonian reported. According to the New York City Department of the Environment, feeding ducks can cause nutritional problems for the waterfowl and cause them to lose their natural fear of humans.

The lawsuit alleges the Rowes violated four HOA rules, including one prohibiting “any harmful or objectionable activity” that might disturb other residents and another prohibiting any activity that harms wildlife in the area could “materially disturb or destroy” the community.

Weaver said he will “put the HOA’s feet in the fire” and force them to prove the Rowes are breaking the rules by feeding the ducks.

“I understand that some people in the neighborhood might want these ducks not to be in their community, but just from a human perspective, we have worse things in the world,” Weaver said.

Weaver said it’s common for homeowners’ associations to file lawsuits threatening foreclosure, and he’s seen families lose their homes over fines as little as $3,000. Usually, however, these lawsuits include allegations that a home was built in violation of charter restrictions or painted the wrong color without feeding wildlife, Weaver said.

“They used a combined threat against an unusual situation,” he said.

Several squabbles between residents and homeowners’ associations trying to enforce strict aesthetic standards have garnered attention in recent years.

In 2017, a Maryland man won a seven-year court battle against his HOA over a requirement that every home in his community install a $500 monogrammed mailbox.

Later that year, after a Colorado HOA ordered a resident to remove decorations from his yard, the man instead installed a sign criticizing the HOA.

In a community of million-dollar homes, a dispute over a $500 mailbox ends up in court

Weaver said he’s confident the Rowes will prevail and has already filed a motion to dismiss the lawsuit, but Kathleen Rowe decided to proactively put the home up for sale, just in case.

“As you can imagine, as a homeowner and a defendant in the lawsuit, she was scared of that number, with the threat of foreclosure and the loss of her home,” Weaver said. “So she decided to forestall the HOA by hurrying and selling her house before anything bad could happen to her.”

Weaver said he thinks the couple would like to stay indoors if they win in court.

“I think she would like to continue living there and take care of those ducks,” he said.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/nation/2022/07/09/hoa-ducks-foreclosure/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=referral&utm_campaign=wp_national A Texas couple who feed ducks should lose their home, HOA’s lawsuit says

James Brien

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