Facts

Plaintiff, Brooktree Village Homeowners Association, Inc. (“Association”), filed suit “on behalf of itself and on behalf of its members” in May 2017 against the second developer, Brooktree Village, LLC (“Developer”).  Developer had acquired the remaining undeveloped portions of the development, other than the common areas.  “A construction company affiliated with Developer, Rivers Development, Inc. (“Builder”), completed construction of the development.  Developer sold all the newly constructed townhomes to individual homeowners.”  The Association sought damages for the cost of repairs.  The claims asserted by the Association were breach of implied warranty, negligence, and negligence per se.
Continue Reading Developers/Declarants are Liable for Implied Warranties to Association for Construction Defects

Facts

Defendant, Castletown Corner Owner’s Association, Inc. (“Association”), had a duty to maintain a lift station.  Specifically, the declaration imposed an obligation on the Association to pay “all Maintenance Costs in connection with” improvements constructed at the Association.  Maintenance costs are then defined as “all of the costs necessary to maintain the … sewers, utility strips, and other facilities … and to keep such facilities operational and in good condition, including, but not limited to, the cost of all upkeep, maintenance, repair, replacement … for the continuous operation of such facilities.”  Plaintiff, owner of one of the commercial units, sued the Association for failing to properly maintain the lift station after an incident where the sanitary lift station malfunctioned and flooded the building with human sewage, which allegedly caused Plaintiff’s tenant to terminate its lease.
Continue Reading Language in Declaration Makes Association Strictly Liable

Facts

Plaintiff, O’Donnell, bought his condo in 2012 and sold it in 2019.  Beginning in 2013, O’Donnell missed various assessment payments.  In late 2013 the association filed a lien, and in 2018 the association commenced a foreclosure action.  To bring the lawsuit to an end, O’Donnell sold his unit.  The sale allowed O’Donnell to pay off the claimed past due assessments and attorney fees.  At the time of sale, he paid $23,342 to the association and $22,234.94 to the attorneys which brought the case to an end.  Plaintiff then filed suit against the association’s law firm alleging violations of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (“FDCPA”) by filing a foreclosure suit without legal authority.  Specifically, O’Donnell alleged the law firm failed to satisfy several of the prerequisites to proceed with a foreclosure suit against him.  Both parties moved for summary judgment.
Continue Reading Attorney Fees – FDCPA Violation – Failure to Follow Association Document Procedures

Mental health issues can impact community associations in a myriad of ways.  Often Associations become the “reluctant care provider” (owners have no family/next of kin, or the family “dumped” the owner in the Association rather than in a care facility).  This can be true of older residents (“aging-in-place”) as well of younger residents.  The COVID pandemic, and the corresponding year of lockdowns, has added extra stress and increased isolation, exacerbating existing mental health conditions.  This has led to an increase of emotional distress, substance abuse, and suicides.

Because community associations are communities, issues that arise with one resident can interfere with another resident’s use and enjoyment of their property.  Mental health issues don’t always stay “contained” within the affected owner’s property – noise, shouting, threats, trespassing, damage to property, physical violence – all can interfere with other residents’ quiet enjoyment of their property.  While these issues can manifest themselves as harassment and hostilities, they can also lead to dangerous situations.  [To read more on dealing with harassment and hostile environment, click HERE.]

While it is not the Association’s responsibility to determine if someone has a mental disability, it is the Association’s responsibility to help ensure that all residents live harmoniously. 
Continue Reading Tackling Mental Health and Aging Issues in Your Community Association

Did you know that homeowners have the right to request reasonable modifications to the common area if they are disabled and the proposed modification helps them use and enjoy the property as it is meant to be?  The federal Fair Housing Act provides as much, and protects disabled condominium and HOA owners who may require such modifications.  How should a Board handle these requests to modify the common area?  A recent case out of the Sixth Circuit provides some guidance.
Continue Reading Reasonable Modifications and the Fair Housing Act—Knowing the Law Can Help Your Association Proactively Avoid Lawsuits

Facts

A dispute arose between four condominium associations within a master association as to obligations to pay for the maintenance, repair and upkeep of a roadway easement.  The road connected the four condos and other properties.  The master deeds for each association were recorded in the 1970s.  In 2013, Plaintiff, Bayberry Group, Inc. (“Bayberry”) sought an agreement to share the costs of the road.  As a result, a Common Area Maintenance Agreement (“CAM Agreement”) was created.  The CAM Agreement covered the road and the “lawns and entirety of any … landscaping in the roadway easement.”  A majority of the associations in the master association executed the CAM Agreement, but the four defendant associations did not.  The defendants also refused to pay their share of the fees under the CAM Agreement.  Bayberry filed suit alleging the road easement is a general common element of each of the associations.  Defendants answered denying any road easement as a common element.
Continue Reading Road Maintenance – Who Pays? (Duties under Association Documents and Case Law)

Facts

Defendant, Acacia on the Green (“Association”), is a 273-unit condominium in Ohio.  The Association has a common grilling area because the Association bans grills on patios and balconies because of, among other things, the fire code.  Weiss and Phillips, two Unit Owners, wanted grills on their patios: Weiss asked for a grill and demanded a grill repeatedly over a five-year period and was denied.  Weiss was then diagnosed with lymphoma, had to undergo chemotherapy, and learned he had an immune deficiency.  Weiss took medication for his lymphoma, but did not use a cane or other mobility aid.  Despite his ability to walk, Weiss claimed he had episodes when he was only able to walk a few steps within his unit.  In 2018 Weiss sent a letter from his doctor to the Association Board which stated:

The accommodation for Mr. Weiss to have a grill on his patio is necessary due to his disability from cancer and CVID.  These two diseases substantially affect Mr. Weiss’s ability to walk.  The accommodation will give him full use and enjoyment of his unit.

Phillips also claimed to be handicapped and in need of having a grill on her patio.

When both Unit Owners’ requests were denied, they sued alleging that their requests to have gas grills on their patios was reasonable and imposed little, if any, burden on the Association.  The complaint also alleged that the denials caused a “disruption to their full enjoyment and use of their respective dwellings,” as well as emotional distress.
Continue Reading YES Associations Can Deny a Request for a Reasonable Accommodation Under the FHA and WIN!!!

Facts

Plaintiff, Ms. Carmichael, is on the board of directors of Commerce Towers Condominium (“Association”).  On the board with her is Mr. Frese and Mr. Vickers.  Mr. Vickers, Mr. Frese and Mr. Tarantino are the officers of the Association. (collectively “Officers”).  All three are also the officers of Tarantino Properties, Inc. (the “Management Company”). Carmichael and other unit owners (collectively “Owners”), individually and on behalf of the Association, sued the Officers and the Management company for breaches of fiduciary duties and for unjust enrichment because the Officers caused the Association to provide for the maintenance and preservation of property that was not part of the Association (the retail space of the buildings).  The Officers and Management Company asserted that the Owners did not have standing to sue on behalf of the Association (a derivative suit).
Continue Reading Self-Dealing by Director is a Breach of Fiduciary Duty (Case 2)

Facts

Plaintiff, Coley, owns a home in an HOA, the Eskaton Village (“Association”).  Two other Eskaton named entities (“Eskaton”) develop and support HOAs.  A five-member board runs the Association, subject to the Declaration.  Eskaton has always controlled three of the five directors on the Association Board because it owns 137 of the 267 units.  The three directors are always employees of Eskaton and are “financially incentivized to run the Association for the benefit of Eskaton.”  In short, the better Eskaton performs the higher their compensation, which is directly related to the expenses of the Association.  Coley, one of the other two directors, filed suit because of various acts by the other directors to benefit their employer at the expense of the Association, including disclosing attorney client privileged communications.
Continue Reading Self-Dealing by Director is a Breach of Fiduciary Duty (Case 1)

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