Condominium associations and homeowner associations are sued every day. These suits can arise based on construction claims, contract claims, negligence claims and various alleged statutory violations – We all know about the Fair House Act!  Or the Wisconsin (or whatever state you are in) Consumer Act!  Associations seem to attract people who feel that they are entitled to something because they now live in an association.  Of course they are entitled to what the law and documents allow them, but for some that never seems to be enough.  Often these types of owners or residents make up stuff or read the internet until they find some article or statement that supports their point of view and then cite it as fact. Yes, we have all dealt with those people. However, despite the validity (or lack of validity) of any lawsuit, there are some basic steps that every association should follow once served or notified of a suit. Continue Reading Sued! What Should Our Wisconsin Condominium or Homeowners Association Do NOW?

In 2018 three separate acts amended Chapter 703 of the Wisconsin Statutes. Chapter 703 is Wisconsin’s Condominium Ownership Act.  The amendments mostly took effect on April 18, 2018, but some will go into effect later in the year.  (For an in-depth review of the actual laws: 2017 Senate Bill 131, 2017 Assembly Bill 518 and 2017 Assembly Bill 818.)

Only a few of the changes will affect most associations, but it never hurts to have an idea of what the legislature spent its time on. Continue Reading The Good, Bad & Boring – 2018 Amendments to Wisconsin’s Condominium Law

An association in southeast Wisconsin consists of plots of land upon which the various unit owners can park a mobile home or trailer. Under the association documents, unit owners cannot be in the trailer more than 60 days between October and April or a $10,000 monthly fine will be assessed.  A unit owner owed more than $13,000 in fines in addition to unpaid monthly assessments.  When the unit owner continued to refuse to pay, the association started foreclosure on its lien.  Continue Reading Collecting Large Fines

Noise coming from adjacent units is a common problem. It can be caused by many things, including music, instruments, appliances, running, jumping, or a myriad of other causes.  Our advice has almost always been that if you have a rule, you need to enforce it uniformly against all.  However, with noise, it is often difficult to determine what is too loud and what is simply an over-sensitive neighbor.  To combat some of the noise issues, many associations require second floor and above units to have carpeted floors.  For those who want hardwood or tile, it is sometimes permitted provided the plans are pre-approved by the board.  These plans then often require soundproofing to be placed between the two floors. Continue Reading Is Your Upstairs Neighbor Noisy? – Floor Covering Restrictions

A condominium association in the Milwaukee area was owed more than $2,000 in fines by one unit owner. For more than a year, the unit owner had been fined numerous times due to the same violations of the bylaws which the unit owner refused to correct.  While the unit owner paid assessments monthly, the unit owner ignored the fines and the association’s attempts to demand that the unit owner correct the violations. Continue Reading Unit Owner Bad Behavior – When Fines are Ignored

A condominium association had an owner that was uncooperative, didn’t like following rules and paid assessments on her own timeframe for more than 10 years. In the spring of 2009, another law firm started collection against the unit owner for unpaid assessments by filing a lien on the property.  During the next year and a half, the lien was foreclosed and judgment entered.  In November 2011, the property went to sheriff’s sale. At the sheriff’s sale the attorney for the association opened the bidding at $1 and the property was purchased by a third party for $2.  When the third party spoke with the unit owner, he felt sorry for her and sold the property back to her. Although the association’s attorney sought and was granted a deficiency judgment, the judgment was not collectible because the unit owner was retired and had no assets.  As a result, the association’s debt had increased to more than $22,000, which the association lost due to the purchase of the unit by the third party for $2.  Continue Reading Why Hire an Attorney Who Specializes in Condominium & HOA Law

This is an all too common phrase uttered by members of associations. It is most uttered when the Board is enforcing its condominium documents, including its rules.  The chant increases in volume when the violating owner is able to find some other violation of some other rule that they believe the Board is not enforcing.  Frequently it has this ring to it: “this is discrimination.”  For many reasons that argument fails to hold water.  However, courts do listen to owners who can show that an association is only enforcing or selectively enforcing its rules.  Continue Reading You Can’t Do That

You might think that when a tenant breaks a rule, that you can simply fine him like you would fine an owner-occupant. Or, you might think that you can just notify and fine the owner/landlord for his tenant’s violation, since he’ll ultimately be responsible for the fine anyway, right? These assumptions are intuitive; however, anyone who has been around condominiums and HOAs long enough can tell you that the laws governing them are not always intuitive. In fact, sometimes it seems like the legislators threw common sense right out the window! Continue Reading Fining for Tenant Violations? You Might be Doing it Wrong.

It has been said that insurance is the only product that both the seller and buyer hope is never used. That certainly rings true when it comes to community Associations’ insurance policies, but it does not diminish the need for Associations to protect themselves and their unit owners from an ever-widening array of damages they could suffer. Wis. Stat. § 703.17 requires Condominium Associations to obtain insurance against potential hazards, but only discusses scope by saying that the Association must acquire insurance “for not less than full replacement value of the property insured against.” Continue Reading It’s Never Too Late to Ensure Your Association is Properly Insured

Governing Documents for Condominium and Homeowner Associations don’t age well. They are not like a fine wine.  They are more like cheap cheese.  Remember, they were likely written by a developer who really only cared about them until it had sold all of its units or lots (assume 10 years or less).  So if your documents were written before 2008, it is unlikely that they have anything in them to deal with:

  1. Emotional Support Animals;
  2. Drones;
  3. Short Term Rentals (AirBnB was founded in 2008 in San Francisco);
  4. Medical Marijuana; or
  5. Unit or Lot Owners buying insurance to cover a large insurance deductibles that could be assessed against them if their actions cause an insured loss.

Continue Reading Our Governing Documents Have Aged Nicely