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.
The takeaway here is to know your documents. Know exactly what is the responsibility of the Association and what falls to the homeowner. A maintenance checklist would have avoided this issue and saved the Association from a disgruntled homeowner and the expense of a court battle; not to mention the adverse publicity of having lost in part of the homeowner – something homeowners love to throw in the face of their neighbors and the Board.
If you have any questions, please feel free to contact the Husch Blackwell LLP Condominium and HOA Law Team.