Representing Texas Homeowners Associations & those aggrieved by them

Attorney Trey Wilson handles lawsuits and pre-litigation disputes involving enforcement of restrictive covenants/deed restrictions, Homeowner Association member voting/ballot/proxy issues, HOA Board elections, collection of assessments/dues, placement and removal of liens, CCR/Declaration disputes, developer HOA control/turnover, ACC approval, HOA Board governance, Abuses by Homeowners Associations and drafting/amendment of HOA documents including By-laws.


Austin, Texas Homeowner group sues man over metal roof


Joe Sigel put a metal roof atop his West Austin house in 2007 to cut energy use and improve the home's look. Now it has landed Sigal in court, facing a suit by a homeowners association that says he violated its rules.

Sigel, who owns the Art on 5th gallery, had lived in his house for more than five years when he decided to replace the composition roof with a metal one. "It's energy-saving; it looks better; it improves the neighborhood," said Sigel, who lives alone in the house, which has about 3,900 square feet and was built in 1998.

But the Treemont Homeowners Association, which filed suit against Sigel in September in Travis County District Court, says Sigel did not ask its permission before erecting the roof, which it says violates a rule barring "galvanized steel sheet" on roofs. No court date has been set.

"The Architectural Committee has determined that the roof reflects light in an unacceptable manner," the filing says. It says Sigel finished the roof after being given notice by the homeowners association.

The conflict comes as lawmakers again wade into whether homeowners associations should be able to prevent their members from trying measures that would cut their energy use.

"It's not just an environmental question; it's also a covenant question," said Larry Parks, the attorney for the homeowners association, which represents homeowners just south of Bee Cave Road and west of MoPac Boulevard (Loop 1). "He neglected to meet his obligation to his neighbors by not obtaining the approval of the homeowners association."

At least one of his next-door neighbors said he supports Sigel. The roof "looks great. It adds to the style of the neighborhood. It's something we as a neighborhood should look to going forward," said Todd Davidson, the neighbor. "He didn't get permission in the first place, and he should have, but the homeowners association is being petty about this."

Many houses in Austin have metal roofs. They were common in Austin in the 19th century after railroads began shipping the material, said John Mayfield, an architect who sits on the board of the Heritage Society of Austin.

Many barns also had roofs of corrugated metal, "with a crimped look, kind of like a potato chip," Mayfield said. Old metal roofs, which were susceptible to rust, were typically painted. They began going out of fashion in the mid-20th century as cheaper materials, such as shingles, began to supplant them, he said.

Sigel said he replaced the original shingle roof because it was developing black algae. The new roof, made from steel coated with an aluminum-zinc alloy marketed as Galvalume, cost Sigel $30,000, according to Jason Snell, Sigel's lawyer. (Sigel said he does not want to paint the roof to cut down on glare because the paint will peel and leave the roof looking chalky.)

Sigel, who said he was not asked to stop the construction of the roof until it was near completion, said his energy use from May through October 2007, under the old roof, was 11,265 kilowatt-hours. During the same period in 2008, under the new roof, he said he used 7,952 kilowatt-hours of electricity.

Putting a metal roof on a house is "the most energy-efficient approach you can implement," said Ed Clark, a spokesman for Austin Energy, which oversees the city's Green Building program. "It reflects heat back out, reduces heating and cooling, and encapsulates heat within during the wintertime," he said.

Peter Pfeiffer, an architect specializing in green building, said metal roofs can cost three times as much as their more conventional counterparts. The roof "minimizes excess gain of solar radiation," said Pfeiffer, whom Sigal paid to make a presentation about the metal roof to the homeowners association's architectural committee this year. "You want as light a roof as possible, just as a white or silver car sitting in the sun will be less hot inside than a black car or a brown car."

Several lawmakers have made proposals this session to bar homeowners associations from preventing members from putting solar panels atop their houses.

A 2003 state law prevents property owners associations from prohibiting water-saving measures such as installing rain barrels or implementing efficient irrigation systems.

"We're running into this more and more," Pfeiffer said, "where a lot of these subdivision restrictions were written before people understood the effects of dark roofs or by people who don't understand building science."