JOHNSON COUNTY, Ind -- A Johnson County, Ind. homeowner is selling her home and moving out amid a spat with the homeowner’s association over goldfish ponds in her driveway.
Carol Hanquier has lived in the Silver Springs neighborhood for 20 years and uses the fish to sooth her anxiety and other health problems.
However, the Silver Springs HOA says the ponds are considered above ground pools and are a violation of the neighborhood’s declaration of covenants and restrictions.
Records show on May 16, the HOA filed a lawsuit against Hanquier, saying she has violated and continues to violate the HOA’s declaration.
The lawsuit says it’s a violation to maintain two large pond structures in the driveway “that are visible from the street, which reasonably tends to detract from or diminish the aesthetic appearance of the real estate and the homes around her lot.”
The HOA has asked Hanquier to remove the ponds or install them elsewhere on her property, so they are not visible from the street, but she has failed to do so, according to the lawsuit.
Hanquier said she’s worked with the HOA for a year now, but they’ve refused to work toward a solution.
“We are being forced out of our home, and they want us gone by August 10,” said Hanquier. “They have done nothing but harass by coming to our home four times a week to inspect.”
Scott Tanner, attorney for Silver Springs HOA, said no one is forcing the family to move.
“August 10, 2018, is simply the date they need to file their response to the lawsuit,” said Tanner in an email. “No one has asked them to move. The Association’s lawsuit is simply challenging their ability to keep the fish tanks in their driveway.”
Hanquier was seriously injured in a 2008 car crash and is now on permanent disability, with anxiety and other health problems.
“The fish are extremely soothing,” said Hanquier in 2017. “It’s something I look forward to. I’m by myself all day long.”
Hanquier claimed the fish provide emotional support for her disability.
“I have chronic pain, strokes, epilepsy, headaches,” said Hanquier in 2017.
Hanquier said she can’t move the fish to her backyard because she uses the space for her service animal, a miniature horse.
“She’s for mobility,” said Hanquier. “She helps me walk.”
Tanner pointed out the HOA accepted her request for the service animal.
“While your neighbors aren’t happy about you keeping a pony on your lot in a housing subdivision, the board as stood behind your right to have the pony as a reasonable accommodation under the (Fair Housing Act),” read Tanner’s letter. “Hence, the board is obviously willing to work with you to provide reasonable accommodations that would allow you support so that you can enjoy your property.”
A recent Call 6 Investigation found most complaints about HOAs filed with the Indiana Attorney General’s office are closed because of insufficient evidence, no violation found, or the agency does not have jurisdiction, records show.
Community associations are private entities, not government, and assessments paid by association members cover the costs of common area maintenance, insurance, landscaping, as well as savings for future needs, according to the Community Associations Institute.
To avoid an HOA nightmare:
• Research the HOA before you move in
• Get educated by reading the covenants, bylaws, and attending HOA meetings
• Elect board members or run for a position yourself
• Get approval before you make changes to your home
• Pay your dues on time