... a cease and desist letter with a threat to sue. The homeowner is unclear if there was a clause in the original contractor specifying that you’re not permitted to rebuild the same design on the same property, since it “burnt to a crisp”. ...

So this is an interesting civil case that was posted on /r/legaladvice. 1

Copy and paste text:

This is in cookie cutter suburbia, in California.

The overall story is a bit messy, so I will keep this as short and to the point as possible. 

My homeowners insurance is helping me out here, so I "have a lawyer" but I wanted to see what you folks thought of this, as I have a phone meeting with my insurance company's lawyer tomorrow.

Here's what's going on:

  • My house burnt down early this year. Total loss. No one was injured, but all my personal belongings are just gone.
  • The source of the fire was electrical related (not my fault). The fire department said it was likely a charging lithium battery (my homeowners insurance is dealing with that situation) 
  • The house is only 3 years old. 
  • I purchased the house brand new, had some semi-custom things done to it, and actually had a great time with the home builder

Two months ago, once the dust settled, I reached out to the home builder (who is well known) to see how we could acquire the blueprints for my home...or at a minimum, the blueprints for my model. I also inquired about how I could engage them to rebuild my home as I am not planning on moving out of this neighborhood (I really like it here). 

They took my info and said that they would get back to me. A few days later I heard from them regarding me/my insurance hiring them to rebuild. They said they are not set up for that and would like to help, but could not...bummer, but no big deal. I once again inquired about the blueprints. They said they would have to get back to me.

Eventually they got back to me after several days and said that they would not release the blueprints to me as they are their intellectual property. Serious bummer, but whatever...

My insurance company found a local reputable home builder and they started the rebuild 5 weeks ago. 

Last week I got a cease and desist letter (with a threat to sue) form the original home builder saying that I/we were infringing on their intellectual property, they specifically called out the design of the house. Basically they know (due to the home being in an HOA) that the house will be designed back to the exact way it was before the home burned down.

Soooooo, I have a meeting tomorrow with my homeowners insurance lawyer regarding this situation. 

Have any of you ever heard of such a crazy situation? What can I expect out of this situation? My agent said she has never encountered anything like this before and she's dealt with tons of total losses for homes that get rebuilt.

Does the original home builder have any legal legs to stand on here?

I highly recommend clicking through to the original post and reading through the discussion. Basically, the builder who constructed the subdivision created the HOA and detailed that all homes in the neighborhood meet very specific guidelines--meaning basically OP's house can only be the one that was originally constructed. The builder is now refusing to build OP's house, which is their right. But in addition, they aren't allowing anyone else to build it either claiming it's their intellectual property. That leaves OP in a situation where they can't rebuild at all. 

They can't even sell at this point because the new buyer of the land will be in the same predicament. Because of the HOA, nothing can be built that isn't the intellectual property of the builder and the builder refuses to give it up. I suspect a judge will see the ridiculous situation the homeowner is in and side with them, but it's an interesting case!