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

Under the law in most states, and certainly in Wisconsin, the Board of your condominium association controls any changes to the exterior appearance.  This is generally based on a statute that can’t be changed even by the governing documents.  However, things are changing.  Across the country many laws are being passed that require the Board of Directors of various condominium associations to approve certain changes to the exterior.  This can range from artificial turf to solar panels.  In addition, the world is changing relative to emotional support animals, sexual harassment and security.  Continue Reading 2018 Condo & HOA Issues

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

In Wisconsin condominium associations are required to insure all of the property (other than the personal property) of the unit owners. (See, Sections 703.17(1) and 703.02(14) Wis. Stat).  Many unit owners worry (needlessly I would contend) that their neighbors have improved their unit more than they have and then argue that they don’t want to pay the insurance for those improvements.  Ignoring for the moment that those improvements also likely increase the value of their neighbors unit and therefore increase the value of their unit, which they are more than happy to accept, this argument simply misses how insurance companies actually insure condominiums in Wisconsin.  The law requires all of the property to be insured.  The law requires that the insurance be paid as a common expense.  (Section 703.17(1) Wis. Stat).  Accordingly, arguing over who has to insure what, considering the clear language of the statute, wastes both the time and resources of an association.  However, there is something a board of directors can do to increase the insurance it provides unit owners without any material cost to the association.  To adequately explain where these savings can be obtained, I first need to explain how insurance companies currently charge premiums and pay condominium claims in Wisconsin. Continue Reading Free Money from your Association Insurer