A Board’s blatant mishandling of an emotional support animal request led to the owner not only having a Fair Housing claim against the Association for wrongful failure to provide a reasonable accommodation, but also a claim for third-party harassment when the Association failed to step in and stop other unit owners from blasting the owner publicly on a blog.

Facts.  In a 2017 case, an owner that lived in a no pets community applied to the Board requesting an emotional support dog, providing a doctor’s letter prescribing the dog. The Board didn’t want to deal with the request and kept putting it off, hoping it would go away. Meanwhile, a Board member told another owner about the emotional support animal request, and the owner, who was an active blogger and upset by the presence of a dog in their community, started blogging about the situation, naming the owner and poking fun at her need for an emotional support dog using cruel and chastising language. Continue Reading Can an Association’s Denial of a Valid Emotional Support Animal Request Create a Hostile Environment?

In New Jersey, the United Stated Bankruptcy Court held in In re. Smiley, 569 B.R. 377 (2017) that a Unit Owner/Debtor can modify the Association’s lien and strip off all but the six month super lien allowed under the state’s condominium act.  The facts at the time were that the Association was owed $9,000 for filed liens and another $4,700 that it recognized as unsecured.  At the time of the bankruptcy filing, the monthly assessment was $250.  The fair market value of the property according to the bankruptcy schedules was $142,000, but it was under water because of a $174,000 first mortgage on the property.  Based on these facts the Unit Owner/Debtor claimed, and the court found, that despite the proper lien filings, the Association only had security for $1,500 ($250 x 6 months). Continue Reading Chapter 13 Bankruptcy – Can the Association’s Lien for Unpaid Assessments be Stripped Off? YES

Most states, including Wisconsin, follow the American Rule when it comes to attorney fees.  In simple terms, it provides that each side in a lawsuit is responsible for their own attorney fees (win or lose) unless:

  1. A statute or law provides otherwise; or
  2. A contract provides otherwise.

Because the law recognizes your Association documents as contracts between the Association and it owners or members, a provision allowing attorney fees may be found there. Continue Reading Attorney Fees – How Do I Get a Court to Award Them to My Association and What is a Fee Shifting Provision?

In Welsh v. McNeil, 162 A.3d 135 (2017) a board member and unit owner (“Board Member”) sued another unit owner (“Landlord Unit Owner”) for violation of the Association documents claiming that the Landlord Unit Owner violated the leasing provisions by allowing someone (the “Tenant”) to occupy the premises who was not on the lease.  The lease was only to an unincorporated entity, and did not name who would be occupying the premises.  Before suit was filed the Landlord Unit Owner and Tenant asked the Board to waive the bylaw provision as a reasonable accommodation under the Fair Housing Administration (“FHA”) to afford recovering alcoholics an equal opportunity to use and enjoy a single family dwelling of their choice. Continue Reading Can Your Association End a Unit Owner’s Suit by Post-Suit Filing Actions?

In a 2017 New York case, a dispute arose over what authority the Association had to perform landscaping maintenance on an individual homeowner’s lot (Minkin v. Board of Directors of Cortlandt Ridge Homeowners’ Association, Inc., 149 A. D.3d 723 (2017)).  When the owner refused to pay the assessment for the landscaping services, the Board started assessing fines.  The owner sued the Board.  The New York Supreme Court (the lowest level court in New York) decided that the Board did have the authority to perform the landscaping services on the front lawn and the homeowner was required pay the assessment as well as the fines.  Unfortunately for the Association, there was also a larger issue dealing with the work performed and assessed on the side and rear of the house.  The problem was that the Board and managing agent could not provide backup or evidence for exactly what work was done in each area, and accordingly, the assessments and fines were not upheld in those areas. Continue Reading Know Your Governing Documents

A recent New York Court dealt with an issue on leasing (Olszewski v. Cannon Point Association, Inc., 148 A.D.3d 1306 (2017)).  The Board adopted rules and regulations that placed restrictions on leasing that contradicted relevant portions of the Association’s Bylaws.  The Association then fined the owner for violating these restrictions and the owner sued.  The owner won at the circuit court level and the Association appealed.  On appeal, the Court again ruled in favor of the owner, upholding the trial court’s decision.  Why? Continue Reading Can the Association’s Documents be Contradictory and Still Enforceable?

A Court in Colorado recently dealt with a developer who placed a provision in the declaration of a condominium association prohibiting amendment of the declaration – ever – without the declarant’s written consent, and requiring that all construction defect claims be resolved through arbitration (Vallagio at Inverness Residential Condominium Association, Inc. v. Metropolitan Homes, Inc. (395 P.3d 788)). Continue Reading Developers Sometimes Draft Documents for Their Own Benefit

A Court in Louisiana recently tackled the issue of short-term rentals (New Jax Condominium Association, Inc. v. Vanderbilt New Orleans, LLC, 219 So.3d 471). A Condominium Association adopted an amendment to its bylaws during its annual meeting prohibiting short term rentals. When a Unit Owner continued to engage in short-term rentals, the Association sued and received a permanent injunction, preventing the Unit Owner from continuing to engage in short-term rentals. The Unit Owner appealed, alleging that the amendment to the bylaws was invalid because certain board members had conflicts of interest, and because one board member changed his vote during the voting. Continue Reading Banning Short-Term Rentals

A Maryland Court recently ruled on the extent of powers a Condominium Board had in dealing with a unit owner who was delinquent in assessments (Elvation Towne Condominium Regime II, Inc. v. Rose, 162 A.3d 1027). The Association at issue adopted a policy by which delinquent unit owners would be deprived of their right to enjoy certain common elements – namely the pool and parking of the Association. When they suspended those rights for the delinquent unit owner, the unit owner filed suit alleging the policy was unlawful, since the Association’s declaration did not provide for the Board to withhold common element use rights. Continue Reading Delinquent Owners – Withholding Access to Common Elements

In a recent case out of North Carolina, Rash v. Waterway Landing Homeowners Association, Inc. 801 S.E.2d 375 (2017), a unit owner in a condominium complex sued the Association for negligence after she slipped and fell on a moldy wooden walkway in the complex after a night of rain.  The unit owner stated that she had no knowledge that it had rained or of the slippery condition of the walkway when it was wet.  She also admitted that she did not look down at the walkway as she was walking.  As the unit owner admitted that she did not look down at the walkway, the trial court found she did not exercise reasonable/ordinary care or a “common sense duty” and was contributory negligent, granting summary judgment in favor of the Association.

The appellate court reversed, ruling that there was a “genuine issue of material fact as to whether the [unit owner] exercised ordinary care to protect herself from injury.” Continue Reading Negligence and the Association