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

Summary

Earlier this year, I blogged on the case of Johnson v. Board of Directors of Forest Lakes Master Association, 454 P.3d 623 (2019) unpublished (Kansas) and explained how improperly passing and/or filing amendments can be VERY expensive. This is true in every state, and today we learn of another way that amendment errors can be costly.

The Facts

The developer created the condominium in 2008 that authorized the development of 109 units in a seven-year period.  The initial phase consisted of 33 units and through properly filed amendments the developer authorized another 18 units, for a total of 53 units.  Before the expansion time passed, the developer had sold 48 of the 53 units.  The day before the development period was to expire in 2015, the developer recorded two amendments to the deed to add 56 partially completed units.  In the initial 2018 case, the association argued and won, the court finding that “the final number of the units in the Condominium was fixed at 53 and that no additional units could thereafter be phased into the Condominium without the vote of the then existing 53 unit owners…” The association then argued that the unbuilt and partially completed units were part of the common area owned by the owners of the completed units, thereby significantly affecting the five mortgages that existed on these partially completed units.  The five mortgagees and developer took the opposite position, as otherwise the mortgages would be subordinate to the master deed and declaration of trust of the association.  It is undisputed that at the time of the sale of each of the 48 units, the mortgagees released its interest in all the common area.
Continue Reading Improper Amendments Are VERY Expensive

Summary

Your Association should ensure that the language and definitions in governing documents reflect the intentions of the Association.  If they don’t, amend them, don’t just pretend they say something they don’t say

Facts

Sunburst Farms East (the “Association”) is a residential community consisting of four sections with individual lots (Sections 2, 3, 4, and 7).  Each Section had its own deed restrictions embodied in their own Declaration of Covenants, Conditions and Restrictions (“CC&Rs”).  Every property owner in each Section automatically became a member of the Association, which was created to provide water to its members.  Under the CC&Rs the Association could impose assessments on its members, even if they didn’t use the services.  Over time, a majority of the owners in Sections 3, 4 and 7 voted to amend their CC&Rs to revoke mandatory payment obligations, and Section 7 also voted to revoke automatic membership.

Obviously, this created differences between the various Sections, since they now had different rules.  In 2007, all four Sections attempted to amend the existing CC&R’s and stated in the document that all four Sections seek to amend their CC&R’s and the prior CC&R’s are superseded.  After an election, the CC&R’s were recorded because they had been allegedly approved by a majority of property owners in each Section.  In response to a suit brought by owners, the Association filed a suit seeking a declaration that the 2007 CC&R’s were valid.  During the suit, the owners learned that the CC&R’s had not in fact been approved by a majority of the owners in Section 7.  Therefore, these owners argued the 2007 CC&R’s were invalid.
Continue Reading The Language Used in Documents, Amendments and Motions Matters

Facts

In 2016, Plaintiff sent Defendants a letter telling them that the dog-breeding building (“kennel”) they built violated the restrictive covenants of the Texas association.  The restrictions had been recorded in 1981.  The letter stated that the kennel constituted a “noxious or offensive activity.”  Defendants tried sound proofing the kennel in response.  Plaintiff’s then sued seeking a declaration that the restrictions were valid and enforceable.  Defendants pled waiver and abandonment.

Question/Issue for the Court to Answer

Whether or not the restrictions were enforceable.
Continue Reading GOOD BYE: Association Who Fails to Enforce Covenants Loses Right to ENFORCE

Facts

Plaintiffs were two owners (Maples and Brown) at Compass Harbor Village Condominium Association in Maine (the “Association”) who had purchased their respective units sometime in 2007.  The Declarant was an LLC that held more than 50% of the votes (15 of the 24 units) and therefore controlled the board.  For many years the Association common areas were not property maintained in many ways.  In addition, the Association failed to hold meetings, take votes on Association matters, maintain banking or other records and refused to provide financial information to the owners.  The Declarant’s position was that “because it holds a majority of the voting power in the Association and therefore any dispute between it and any of the unit owners would ultimately be decided in its favor.”  Plaintiffs claimed to have lost about $53,000 in value in each of their units because of the actions of the Declarant.
Continue Reading Failing to Maintain and Properly Collect Assessments is a Breach of Fiduciary Duties

Facts

Plaintiff, Harmony Haus and a resident, sued Defendant, Parkstone Property Owners Association (“Association”) under the Fair Housing Act (“FHA”) seeking an injunction and attorney fees for violation of the Civil Rights Act.  Association counter sued alleging breaches of deed restrictions.  Plaintiff is a sober living residence for individuals recovering from alcoholism and drug addiction.  Plaintiff residents come directly from an inpatient treatment center.  Association argued Plaintiff was violating its “single family residential use,” its noise and nuisance provisions and its unsightly vehicle provision.  The board of the Association can enforce any violation with a fine.  Plaintiff’s seek exceptions to the Declaration under the FHA by requesting reasonable accommodation, with the specific accommodation to allow 12 residents and 8 cars to be parked on the street.  The Association contends the 8 cars is unsafe and that 12 residents would create an imposition on community resources.  Plaintiff claims the need for 12 residents to reach “critical mass” for its phasing recovery system, so more established residents can mentor newer ones.
Continue Reading Can a Group Home be Built in a Single Family Association under the FHA – YES

Facts

Plaintiffs live in Ashbrooke Property Owners Association (“Association”) and missed their annual assessment payments of $115 for three straight years.  The Association hired Defendant, Equity Experts, to collect the past due amounts.  Under the Declaration the past due assessments accrued interest at the rate of 18% per annum, plus the Association could charge a late fee and the Owner was “liable to the Association for all costs and attorney’s fees…”  Equity Experts added fees for their constant contact package and their Pre-Foreclosure package in the amount of $750 and $1,495 respectively.  In December of 2013, Defendant advised Plaintiffs that their balance was $3,199.60, but that if they did not pay within 10 days the balance may be at least $6,644.60.  Plaintiffs filed suit seeking class certification because the interest rate charged exceeded the amount allowed under Georgia law and because the demands were in excess of sums allows under the Association documents.
Continue Reading Class Action Status Granted to Association Homeowners Alleging FDCPA Violations