Hello. I am going to small claims court against my HOA for illegally towing my vehicle. The vehicles were authorized to be parked in the parking lot, both displayed valid parking stickers, both are completely operable.
The initial reason the HOA gave, along with the documents I received from the tow company stated the vehicle was towed because no commercial vehicles are allowed on the property. I've had a problem with this HOA since I moved in. They don't like my work van being parked in the parking lot but the bylaws state that "no vehicle under 3/4th tons shall be considered a commercial vehicle". Also, State and Federal law states that two elements must be met to classify a vehicle as commercial. 1 - it must be used for commerce and 2 - it must be over 3/4th tons. My vehicle is a half ton and not classified a commercial vehicle.
Once I brought this to their attention they stated the vehicle is inoperable and parked in the same spot. The bylaws state that a vehicle is considered inoperable when it has "not moved by it's own propulsion system for more than 14 days". My vehicle is in perfect condition, and I even took a video of me driving around with the sticker they placed on my window.
They stickered my vehicle multiple times since I've lived here. First time, they couldn't figure out why. THey said it didn't display a valid parking sticker. When I explained it did, they said that's impossible because they hadn't issued me one yet. I explained that I have the letter in which they sent it with post marked a month ago. Then they changed their story to say that it was parked in a handicap spot, then it was double parked and the story kept changing. I demanded they send someone to remove the sticker but they told me to "take them to court" for the damages.
They again stickered my vehicle for no reason. I took the video and send it to them. They told me simply "driving the vehicle" isn't enough and that it had to be parked in the street and "not allowed on the property". I asked them to legally prove their position and they refused.
A month later, without notice, sticker or anything, the vehicle was towed. The bylaws state that in the event a vehicle is deemed inoperable, they are to HAND DELIVER a notice to the owner, describing the vehicle to be towed and IF they cannot "reasonably ascertain" the identity of the owner, then they can sticker the vehicle. However, my vehicle is displaying valid parking passes which are uniquely numbered, so there is no reason to believe they could not "reasonably ascertain" the identity of the owner, particularly since they stickered the vehicle on multiple occasions unjustly.
I sent them a cease and desist letter about 90 days prior to the towing, barring them from "marring my vehicle" in any way, which is the legal definition of vandalism. They just ignored it.
Since I filed the lawsuit they have let me live in peace, which is all I really wanted besides recovery of the expenses to tow the vehicle. They decided to hire an attorney to represent them in SMALL CLAIMS court and they are threatening to countersue for legal fees if I don't "walk away". I would add intimidation to the list, at least in my book. The attorney also encouraged me to "move", so they are trying to bully me out of the complex. I have a great relationship with everyone around me so there is no reason for me to leave me home because they refuse to follow their own bylaws.
They have refused to settle this matter in almost a year so now we're going to court in the next few weeks. I am sueing them for the max amount the law will allow for recovery of my damages plus punitive damages for harassment and discrimination. I am the only owner who has a vehicle parked on the property in full compliance with a valid sticker who is "not allowed to park his vehicle on the property". Stickering the vehicle for no legal reason, multiple times are systematic acts against me, so I am suing them for harassment. They also stated that they have people "watching me" which is the legal definition of stalking.
I sued the HOA who supposedly "gave the order" to tow, even though they refuse to give me a copy of the towing order, the Property Management company who initiated the towing order and also the person who is acting agent and president of both because she was the one who physically picked up the phone and ordered the tow. So all in all I'm suing 1 person but in three capacities. My theory is if the judge doesn't allow me to sue in one capacity, I can at least win in the others. Furthermore, my argument is this. When she failed to follow the bylaws set forth by her own company, she was acting upon her own accord so this matter ceased to be "normal business practices".
From my research, I have been unable to find any legal basis for the counter-suit for attorneys fees. This is a small claims case. They CHOOSE to hire an attorney, so they did that on their own free will.
So, can I get some opinions on the matters? I have recorded phone calls from the towing companies and everything documented. I know I will have to have the people on the other end validate the phone calls in court, so I plan to call them to court. I have the bylaws which they violated and a witness who states the vehicle is 100% operable and witnessed me move the vehicle on multiple occasions.
Any advice or comments would be greatly appreciated.