Facts

Montana Developer of three condominium-hotels at Big Sky Ski Resort sold units subject to Declarations that required “all unit owners to use [Developer], or an agent designated by [Developer], as their exclusive rental agents,” when renting out their condominiums.  The Declarations also provided that “Unit owners may decline to renew the rental management contract with [Developer] after three years, but only if 75% of unit owners vote to end the contract with [Developer].”  Of course, Developer also owned all of the commercial units, which constituted 22% of the voting units, and several residential units, practically making it impossible for 75% of the unit owners to do anything that the Developer didn’t want.

Continue Reading Claims for When Developers Have TOO Much Control of Association

Facts

Developer recorded a Declaration in 2001 for the 260 Jamie Lane Condominium Association (“Association”) consisting of nine units in what seemed to be one building, with an allocation of the percentage interests based on the square feet of each unit.  Like most Declarations, it provided that “[e]ach Unit Owner shall pay his proportionate share of the Common Expenses … in the same ratio as his percentage of ownership…” with corresponding lien rights if the payment was not made.  The Developer sold five of the units in 2001 upon apparently completing a building within the Association.  The Developer filed an amendment to the Declaration and Plat which stated that the building where the five sold units were, was complete and describing “the proposed units for a different building to be constructed on Lot 1.”  The Developer continued to own the four uncompleted units.  The Association at some point began assessing the Developer for the four unbuilt units, and when the Developer refused to pay, the Association placed a lien on the unbuilt units. 

Continue Reading Developer Liable for Assessments on Unconstructed Units

Issue

Does a homebuilder need Association approval of its plans?  NO, unless the condominium documents require it.

Facts

The plaintiff was the builder, Canyon Custom Home Builders (“Builder”).  The defendant was Somerset Condominium Association, Inc. (“Association”).  The Builder wanted to construct on eight vacant lots/units.  The entire Association consisted of 37 units.  Although some units could have single family homes on them, the Builder lots/units were designated for multi-family buildings.  Under the condominium documents the Board was empowered to take various actions, including “to create certain rules for the ‘maintenance, conservation and beautification’ of the Condominium property and the health, comfort, safety, and general welfare’ of the Condominium property’s occupants.”  In 1997 the Association approved an Architectural Control Committee (“ACC”), with the minutes of the meeting reflecting an intent to amend the declaration.  The Board did not amend the declaration to reflect the ACC’s adoption.  In 2012 the Association amended the ACC Guidelines.  The Builder, because the declaration had not been amended, argued it could build whatever was not expressly prohibited by the declaration.  The Association argued that the Builder was seeking to construct multi-family buildings and the 2012 Guidelines are entitled “Guidelines For Single Family Homes and Lake Front Condominium Remodeling and New Construction.”  Builder was not looking to build either single family homes or lake front condominiums.
Continue Reading Architectural Control Through Rulemaking Authority is Proper IF YOUR DOCUMENTS ARE PROPERLY WRITTEN

Many condominium and homeowners associations (HOAs) have an architectural control committee (ACC).  Oftentimes, the Board of Directors assumes the role of the ACC rather than having a separate committee.  Where the governing documents give the Board/ACC discretion over proposed architectural/exterior changes within the association, what are the limits to that discretionary power?

Facts

In a recent court of appeals case from the fall of 2021, intervening homeowners who were neighbors to a home subject to years-long litigation with the HOA appealed a trial court’s dismissal of their attempt to intervene.  These homeowners were disgruntled because they did not like the settlement that was ultimately reached between their neighboring homeowners and the HOA.
Continue Reading Architectural Control and your Community Association—Limits on the Discretion of the Board

Facts

Seaside is an 80-acre development in Florida.  In the 1980’s the developer recorded declarations for nine separate neighborhood associations.  The language in each of the declarations are identical, providing the association with “the right to enforce, by any proceedings at law or in equity, all restrictions, conditions, covenants, reservations, liens and charges now or hereafter imposed by the provisions of this Declaration.”  In 1991 the nine neighborhood associations amended their declarations and formed the Seaside Town Council (“Manager”) to “[a]ssume management of the administration and operations of the Association.”  Sometime thereafter the developer amended the Manager’s code and acted unilaterally to operate the architectural review committee of the associations in violation of the Manager’s code.  In 2011 the nine associations then voted to have the Manager file a lawsuit against the developer to protect their rights and to “assign “to Manager” the right to otherwise prosecute this lawsuit on their behalf.”  The Manager then sued the developer for various alleged violations of the declarations.  The developer answered the complaint.
Continue Reading Association Can Assign Enforcement Authority to a Manager

Facts

The plaintiff, James Schnurr, and his wife were riding their bicycles in the Jonathan’s Landing community when Mr. Schnurr struck a bollard that was installed just before the promenade they were riding along crossed a roadway.  Mr. Schnurr fell off his bicycle and fractured his neck.  He became a quadriplegic as a result of the accident.  At trial, several experts testified that the bollards were difficult to see because the Association had painted them beige, so they blended into the background. There were also no pavement markings to warn pedestrians on the promenade that they were approaching the bollards.  Mr. Schnurr and his wife sued the Association, which had a duty to maintain the promenade in its governing documents.  The Schnurrs did not sue Jonathan’s Landing, Inc., the developer of the community.
Continue Reading Condominium Association Liable for Construction Defect it Had a Duty to Maintain

Facts

Developer subjected property to the condominium act in Massachusetts in 2008.  By the terms of the deed, it included all the “land and improvements at the property…”  There were to be six wings and up to 109 units built over a period of seven years.  When the deed was recorded, 33 units had already been constructed.  The additional wings were shown on the plans and noted on the master deed as “presently constitute common areas and … may be completed as additional phases.”  The declaration contained a reservation of developer rights that provided the developer seven years to “substantially complete the additional phases” and that a failure to complete them would constitute a waiver of development rights. The day before the developer rights were to expire, the developer recorded a series of documents to expand its ownership rights and extend the development rights an additional seven years.  Sixteen days after the documents were recorded the association filed suit.  The association sought declaratory relief that the developer’s rights had expired and that the developers attempts to extend those rights was invalid.  The developer answered and counter-claimed that it was in the right.
Continue Reading Expiration of Developer Rights – What Happens to the Land where Units were Not Constructed