Summary

The language and definitions in your governing documents reflect the intentions of the Association.  You need to either follow them or amend them, but NOT ignore them.

Facts

Sunnyside Resort Condominiums is a private resort property located on Lake Gogebic in Gogebic County, Michigan, and governed by the Sunnyside Resort Condominium Association, Inc. (SRCA).  In 2006, the Plaintiffs purchased vacant lots within SRCA with an individual value of $13,000.  Unlike other lots, the Plaintiffs’ lots, among other things, lacked improvements to the property, utilities, and septic systems.

Assessments on Vacant Lots.  Although the Plaintiffs’ lots were free from any structures, Plaintiffs were charged assessment fees despite the association documents essentially providing that the Plaintiffs were not required to pay association assessment fees until a structure was built on the lot.  In part this was due to the fact that the percentages of value for the units were calculated based on several factors including, market value, size, and allocable expenses for maintenance. Plaintiffs stopped paying the monthly assessment fees for their two units in July 2015.
Continue Reading Vacant Land Units Can Have a 0% Percentage Interest

Facts

Plaintiffs were two owners (Maples and Brown) at Compass Harbor Village Condominium Association in Maine (the “Association”) who had purchased their respective units sometime in 2007.  The Declarant was an LLC that held more than 50% of the votes (15 of the 24 units) and therefore controlled the board.  For many years the Association common areas were not property maintained in many ways.  In addition, the Association failed to hold meetings, take votes on Association matters, maintain banking or other records and refused to provide financial information to the owners.  The Declarant’s position was that “because it holds a majority of the voting power in the Association and therefore any dispute between it and any of the unit owners would ultimately be decided in its favor.”  Plaintiffs claimed to have lost about $53,000 in value in each of their units because of the actions of the Declarant.
Continue Reading Failing to Maintain and Properly Collect Assessments is a Breach of Fiduciary Duties

Does your homeowners association have a written collection policy?  What duties does the property manager and/or Board have under the policy?  Learn what role the property manager and/or the Board of Directors should have in the assessment collection process.

Want to learn more about Wisconsin condominium and HOA law from experienced condo and HOA

The law does NOT require a Board to extend additional time to owners to pay assessments just because of the COVID 19 pandemic.  While such policies may show a concern for members of a community, probably without realizing it, those policies may also have significant adverse effects on the Association, especially in 2020.  What

The law does NOT require a Board to extend additional time to owners to pay assessments just because of the COVID 19 pandemic.  While such policies may show a concern for members of a community, probably without realizing it, those policies may also have significant adverse effects on the Association, especially in 2020.  What

First, I want to thank Julie Howard and her firm NowackHoward in Atlanta, Georgia for much of this Blog (adjusted for Wisconsin Law and my commentary).  She is the former president of the College of Community Association Lawyers (“CCAL”), an excellent association attorney, and has been kind enough to allow Husch Blackwell to use much of their article.

The law does NOT require a Board to extend additional time to owners to pay assessments just because of the COVID 19 pandemic.  While such policies may show a concern for members of a community, probably without realizing it, those policies may also have significant adverse effects on the Association, especially in 2020.

With this background, Associations should first look to see which of their expenses are variable (those that can be cut or reduced because of the pandemic).  Secondly, the Board must ask can the Association really afford to extend the payment of assessments for some or all of its owners?  Associations faced this same challenge during the last financial crisis.  In an editorial published on February 5, 2008 in The Atlanta Constitution, George Nowack (another former president of the CCAL) explained that because many Associations had allowed members to not pay and suspended collection actions, the balances on unpaid accounts reached levels that members gave up trying to pay.  The lesson learned from that past is that a Board is not doing any member a favor if it allows an Association’s accounts receivable to go unaddressed.  That advice is equally true today.
Continue Reading Assessment Collections and COVID-19

Summary

A company that handled fee collections for an Association engaged in unlawful practices when it falsely indicated that a lien had been filed against two homeowners.

Facts

Plaintiffs Chad and Caitlin Truhn fell behind on their assessment payments to their Homeowner’s Association. In their agreement with the Association, the Truhns agreed to pay the cost of collecting their fees, a task the Association outsourced to EquityExperts.org, LLC (“the Collector”). The Truhns eventually settled their debt and brought suit alleging that the Collector’s practices violate the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (“FDCPA”). The Truhns claimed that the Collector’s collection letters contained incorrect and misleading information.
Continue Reading Debt Collectors Adherence to Generic Forms Were Inaccurate and Misleading

Facts

Diane Steele owned a home in the Diamond Farm development, which was managed by the Association. While in accordance with the Association’s declaration of covenants, conditions and restrictions, the Association must obtain at least two-thirds of the members’ total votes to increase annual assessments, assessment increases in 2007, 2011, and 2014 did not receive the requisite two-thirds vote for approval. Consequently, Steele ceased making payments. The Association brought suit seeking unpaid assessments and attorney’s fees. Steele’s defense was that she did not owe dues for the amounts of increases imposed without the supermajority required under the Declaration of Covenants.
Continue Reading Can Homeowners Sue an Association for Increasing Assessments Where the Association Did Not Receive the Requisite Votes Required?

Yesterday, Governor Ever’s signed Emergency Order #15 which reiterated the public health emergency relating to COVID 19.  It’s title: “Temporary Ban on Evictions and Foreclosures” also implies that foreclosure actions can not be filed or advance.  That is not the case.  Here is what the Order states relative to Foreclosures:

“7. Mortgagees are prohibited from commencing a civil action to foreclose upon real estate.

8. Mortgagees are prohibited from requesting or scheduling a sheriff’s sale of the mortgaged premises.

9, Sheriffs may not conduct sheriff’s sales of mortgaged premises nor may sheriffs act on any order of foreclosure or execute any writ of assistance related to foreclosure.

10. Nothing in this Order shall be construed to affect the ability to commence a civil action to foreclose upon real estate under Section 846.102 [abandoned premises] of the Wisconsin Statutes.

11. No provision in this order should be construed as relieving an individual of their obligations to pay rent, make mortgage payments, or any other obligation an individual may have under a tenancy or mortgage.”

The Order expires on May 26, 2020.
Continue Reading Wisconsin Governor Ever’s Emergency Order and Foreclosures