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

The plaintiff, Jody Goldstein, was beaten and robbed, resulting in serious, permanent injuries while staying as a guest at the Chateau Orleans, a combination hotel, timeshare, and condominium facility located in the French Quarter in New Orleans.  The defendant, Leisure Management, Ltd. maintained and operated the Chateau.  Upon arriving at the Chateau, the plaintiff informed management that there was a large crack in the center of the door to his unit.  The manager on duty told Mr. Goldstein that the door would be replaced, but it never was.  Further, there were no staff members or security personnel present at the Chateau at the time of the break-in.  The only security measures the management company had in place were cameras, a gate to access the property, and spike-topped gates around the Chateau.
Continue Reading Managers of Condominiums Who Know or Should Know of Security or Safety Concerns May be Required to Engage in Enhanced Security Measures

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

In 2014, Kato purchased a unit at an association, thereby becoming a member of the association. Kato also joined the board and became its President/Treasurer.  Later that year, Kato’s unit, and two other units in the association were destroyed by fire.  The association collected the insurance proceeds from the loss, but decided not to rebuild.  Kato was the president was president at the time and remained president until 2020.  Three years later the association entered into a “Confidential Settlement Agreement” (“CSA”) with the three units for their fire losses, and as part of that agreement was obligated to pay Kato $30,500.  The payment was to be made in installments and until the last payment was made Kato would:

“maintain all rights detailed in the By-Laws of [the Association]. On the other hand, the Members shall omit any responsibilities related to fees (such as maintenance fees) detailed by the By-Laws of [the Association]. When the settlement amount for each Member [has] been paid in full, the Members shall forfeit all rights and responsibilities[ ] granted by the By-laws, related to the units mentioned in the foregoing.”

Two years later, in 2019, while Kato was still president, the association sued Kato for allegedly stealing “hundreds of thousands of dollars from the Association.”  In January of 2020 Kato was removed as an officer and director of the association.

Six months later, Kato sued the manager, board members, attorney for the association, and the association claiming the officers and directors had breached their fiduciary duties, that the attorney had engaged in deceptive trade practices and seeking an order prohibiting the association from paying the management company or allowing the management company to take any action on behalf of the association.

Two months later, on September 10, 2020, the association tendered to Kato the last of the payments due him under the CSA.  “Kato refused to deposit the check.”
Continue Reading Former Association Member Can’t Sue for Breach of Fiduciary Duty

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

This case involved a dispute between the owner/operator of a golf course and the owners of adjacent property in a residential community.  Originally all the land was owned by one entity, that then sold lots overlooking the golf course at a premium.  The deed for the property in the residential community described the property by reference to the lot and the recorded subdivision plat that included a map of the subdivision depicting a golf course.  The plat map was recorded with the county.  The developer later transferred the golf course to another entity.  The purchaser, CE, was losing money on the golf course and proposed to develop the land.  The adjacent property owners sued.  The property owners and CE filed cross motions for summary judgment.
Continue Reading Implied Easements – Can You Prohibit a Neighboring Property Owner from Changing the Use of its Property?

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

In 2015, Unit Owner’s dog, Maggie, was an 11-year old golden retriever.  Maggie bit another dog living at the Association and had previously “displayed aggressive behavior or injured another dog” at the Association.  After the latest bite, the Association issued a notice of violation that Maggie had to be removed from the Association.  The Unit Owner complied.  But, in April 2016, 11 months later, the Unit Owner snuck Maggie back into his unit.  The Unit Owner alleged that the return of Maggie “significantly” improved his depression for which he claimed the need of an emotional support animal.  In 2017 the Association sent the Unit Owner another notice to remove Maggie or face eviction.  Unit Owner sued claiming the Association refused to accommodate his disability in violation of the Fair Housing Act (“FHA”).

Suit 1

At trial the jury found (yes it went all the way to a jury so this was not cheap):

  1. The removal of Maggie made the residence unavailable to the Unit Owner;
  2. The Unit Owner was disabled under the FHA;
  3. The Association would not have taken adverse action against the Unit Owner but for Maggie; and
  4. Maggie alleviated one or more of the symptoms of the Unit Owner’s disability.

However, the jury also found that Maggie “posed a direct threat to the health or safety of other individuals and no reasonable accommodation would have eliminated or acceptably minimized the risk Maggie posed.”   As a result, the jury found in favor of the Association.
Continue Reading Emotional Support Animals – If It’s Aggressive, It’s Not Reasonable

Facts

In May of 2016 the Association implemented a rule that allowed owners to bring furniture to the pool area for their use “but they must remove these items daily when they leave the pool area.”  Unit Owner claimed he needed a reasonable accommodation to leave his orthopedic lounge chair at the pool for medical reasons.  The Association initially allowed the chair to be left at the pool, but also requested further clarification of the request, specifically seeking: 1) a doctor’s recommendation that the chair was medically necessary for the owner’s physical disability, 2) confirmation that the chair he was using was in fact an orthopedic lounge chair, and 3) the weight of the chair.  The unit owner submitted three doctor letters:

  • Doctor 1 stated the Unit Owner’s “disability required the “use of an appropriate chair to accommodate his disability.”
  • Doctor 2 stated that he recommended that the Unit Owner “use an orthopedic lounge chair for his neck and back issues and also that he not lift ‘equipment or materials over 15 pounds.’”
  • Doctor 3 stated that the Unit Owner’s “anti-gravity chair helps his prostate condition.”

The Association took the position that the doctor letters did not clearly address the Unit Owner’s situation or the need for a certain type of chair, and then rescinded the initial accommodation.  The Association did state that it would reconsider the matter if the Unit Owner submitted all requested documents.
Continue Reading Residents are Not Owed Preferred Accommodations for Disability