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

Facts

Owner sought records from a Michigan association (the “Association:”).  The Association refused to produce records presumably on the grounds that the requests were long, difficult to follow and failed to state a proper purpose.  The requests, clarified in the complaint, consisted of the following:

  1. Bills or invoices showing the cost of past litigation;
  2. Records relating to orders for wrist bands for access to the pool;
  3. Work orders or invoices for light bulb replacements in Owner’s building;
  4. Board minutes from April 2019 until September 2019;
  5. Records relating to when Owner’s checks from approximately June 2019 through September 2019 were received by the Association and posted to Owner’s account;
  6. Board minutes for 2018; and
  7. Financial statements for 2017 and 2018.

The Association largely ignored the Owner’s requests, which led to the Owner suing the Association.
Continue Reading Record Requests – Even if Lengthy and Difficult to Follow, They Need to Be Produced if Sought for a Proper Purpose

Facts

The Spagenskis (“the Homeowners”) lived in a community in San Diego County with their German shepherd Kato.  The community was governed by Sunset Greens Homeowners Association (the “Association”) in accordance with a declaration of covenants, conditions, and restrictions (“CC&R’s”). From February 2019 to May 2019, Kato attacked three dogs in the community.  In the first incident, Kato injured a resident and her dog, and after the incident, Kato was placed in home quarantine by the Humane Society.  The Association ordered the Spagenskis to comply with the CC&R’s to ensure that Kato would be kept under control.  Three months later, Kato attacked two other dogs and other residents in the community.  One of the injured dogs died while undergoing surgery.  The Humane Society, once again, placed Kato in-home quarantine for another 10 days.  Following the second incident, the Association directed the Spagenskis to remove Kato from the community and filed suit, seeking injunctive relief for breaching the CC&R’s and nuisance clause.
Continue Reading Association’s Vested Discretion in Declaring an Aggressive Dog a Nuisance

Facts

Association Board adopted a resolution that unit owners in the Association who self-rented but did not join the rental pool would need to pay 20% of their rental income to the Association because the self-renters “did not contribute financially for the extra expense of their leasing activity or for the beneficial services provided by the rental pool.”  The resolution also 1) disallowed future self-rentals; and 2) grandfathered in the current self-renters.

The Suit

Claims

The Association sued the self-renters seeking a declaration that its resolution disallowing future self-rentals and imposing a rental fee was enforceable.  The self-renters counterclaimed alleging: a) breach of contract; b) injunctive relief; c) that the resolution was arbitrary and unenforceable; and d) that the Association was improperly allocating certain fees on the self-renters.
Continue Reading Fees for Self-Renters Who Don’t Enter the Rental Pool are Legal

Thank you to all who attended our virtual Association Academy on September 17 – If it Weren’t for the People, Association Living Would be Perfect.  No need to worry if you missed it, we recorded it for you, and you can access at any time.

To access the recording click HERE. We outline some

The Garrett’s purchased their property in the HOA in 2001.  The CCR’s required an owner to obtain the approval of the architectural control committee (“ACC”) before doing any construction on the property.  The Garrett’s submitted plans to build a pool in their backyard, but the original plans were rejected by the ACC because the plans “were too vague and because professional plans are required for such a large project.”  The Garrett’s then resubmitted professional plans for the pool only which the ACC approved.  When the Garret’s built the pool, the pool equipment was on the common element and they built far more than just a pool.  The Board sent the Garrett’s a cease-and-desist letter, and after an executive session advised the Garrett’s to move the pool equipment within their property and return the common element to its original condition (they had lowered the height of a fence).  Although Mr. [Brett] Garrett attempted to engage a board member in a conversation, the board member advised that “he would not meet with the Garretts … [and that he] would discuss the matter only in the company of the board at a proper meeting.”  In reality, the Garret’s project “had blossomed into a complete backyard renovation with retaining walls, stairs, a drainage system, patio pavers, and planter beds,” none of which were part of the approved plan.
Continue Reading Building in HOA Common Area – MUCH More Costly Than Owner Thought (Because of Association Attorney Fees)