Facts: The facts in the case of Forrest v. The Ville St. John Owners’ Association, Inc., No. 2018-CA-0175 (La. Ct. App. Nov. 7, 2018) are straightforward.  In March of 2016 there was a fire.  It damaged common element and the Forrest unit.  The Association had two insurance policies: one for Property and one for Community Association Management Liability Coverage.  The Property policy was issued by Lloyd’s of London. Lloyd’s paid on its policy, for both the common element and unit damages, but the funds were insufficient to repair the common elements and the unit.  So the Association repaired the common elements.

Trial Court: The unit owner, Forrest, filed suit against the Association alleging breach of fiduciary duty and various other claims under state law.  The Association brought a third party complaint against Travelers when it refused to defend the Association on Forrest’s claims.  Traveler’s claimed that the policy included an “unambiguous exclusion precluding coverage for any claim … arising out of … or in any way involving property damage.”  The Trial Court agreed and granted Traveler’s motion for summary judgment.

Appeal: Despite a number of arguments by the Association that the policy did not exclude coverage, including that the quoted language only applied to “construction defects,” that coverage was illusory if Traveler’s position was believed, and that the exclusion was ambiguous, the Appellate Court affirmed the Trial Court’s Decision.

Lesson:  Despite the Association having both property coverage and management liability coverage, they ended up in two lawsuits and insufficient funds to repair the unit.  What was needed was an insurance committee that understood what it was actually buying and what would and would not be covered.  Because they either didn’t understand what they bought or thought that they had enough insurance, they not only had less insurance than needed, they got to spend lots of money defending both the lawsuit by the unit owner and being involved in the suit and appeal against its insurer.  Unfortunately, the phrase penny wise and pound foolish comes to mind.

Castilian Hills Homeowners Association v. Chaffins, (Wash. Ct. App. Oct. 22, 2018)

The Facts

Homeowner bought home in 2004. In 2016, the homeowner failed to pay his $147 assessment.  The homeowners association (“HOA”) assessed a $20 late fee. The homeowner still did not pay, despite the normal language in the HOA governing documents about interest, the right to lien and reasonable attorney fees. After more notices, the HOA filed a lien for $525.52 and then a complaint against the homeowner seeking the $525, plus interest and attorney fees.   The homeowner argued to the court that the HOA was “required by statute to provide notice and an opportunity to be heard” prior to filing a foreclosable lien. Continue Reading How to Turn $147 into $10,000 – the WRONG Way

Davis v. Echo Valley Condominium Association, No. 17-12475 (E.D. Mich. Nov. 7, 2018)

Summary

The Eastern District of Michigan court held that a smoking ban demanded by a disabled owner was an unreasonable accommodation for purposes of the Fair Housing Act since the measure was not approved by the owners, and the Association was powerless to impose a ban without an owner vote.

The Facts

Plaintiff owned a Unit in the Echo Valley Condominium Association (the “Association”). Plaintiff complained to the Association that her neighbors smoked tobacco. She alleged that she could regularly smell it and that it exacerbated her existing respiratory health conditions.

Plaintiff informed the Association about her medical issues and asked the Association to address the smoking by creating a rule that all smokers in the Association should be required to seal gaps around doors and windows to prevent smoke from escaping. The Association declined to enforce a rule because neither the Association documents nor state law prohibited people from smoking in their homes. Continue Reading Smoking Ban Was An Unreasonable Request

Some states have statutes that require that Associations provide a notice and opportunity to be heard to a resident before the Association can fine them for a violation of the governing documents. Even though Wisconsin does not have such a statute, providing residents a notice of the alleged violation and opportunity to give their side of the story is an important component of providing due process—which will help make your fines ultimately enforceable. Continue Reading The Importance of Due Process—What is a “Notice and Opportunity to be Heard?”

IMPRESSION: The ruling in Great Am. Ins. Co. v. State Parkway Condo. Ass’n, No. 17-cv-3083 (N.D. Ill. Sept. 11, 2018), should serve as a cautionary tale to Condo and HOA boards.

DETAILS: In Chicago, a unit owner of a condominium located at 1445 North State Street filed an Illinois state discrimination claim in 2007 against the State Parkway Condominium Association (“SPCA”) for failure to accommodate his hearing disability during SPCA Board meetings.  The SPCA defended the claim under its 2006-2007 Non-Profit Management and Organization Liability Insurance Policy (“policy) issued by Travelers Casualty and Surety Company of America (“Travelers”).

A settlement between parties was reached in September 2007; but six months later, the SPCA sued the same unit owner in an entirely unrelated matter. Continue Reading “Related Wrongful Acts” Can Exhaust an Association’s Liability Insurance Policy Limit

In New Jersey, the United Stated Bankruptcy Court held in In re. Smiley, 569 B.R. 377 (2017) that a Unit Owner/Debtor can modify the Association’s lien and strip off all but the six month super lien allowed under the state’s condominium act.  The facts at the time were that the Association was owed $9,000 for filed liens and another $4,700 that it recognized as unsecured.  At the time of the bankruptcy filing, the monthly assessment was $250.  The fair market value of the property according to the bankruptcy schedules was $142,000, but it was under water because of a $174,000 first mortgage on the property.  Based on these facts the Unit Owner/Debtor claimed, and the court found, that despite the proper lien filings, the Association only had security for $1,500 ($250 x 6 months). Continue Reading Chapter 13 Bankruptcy – Can the Association’s Lien for Unpaid Assessments be Stripped Off? YES

A big thank you to all that attended our recent Spring 2018 Association Academy and made the event a success. For those of you who were unable to attend, don’t worry, you can still catch us on YouTube!

We’ve made our Association Academy available for viewing. Click on the links below to learn more.

As always, if you have questions on any of these topics, do not hesitate to contact the Husch Blackwell LLP Condominium and HOA Law Team.

A recent case in Colorado (Tyra Summit Condominiums II Association, Inc. v. Clancy, 2017 COA 73) held an Association trying to amend its Declaration to the strict standards for timing and details contained in state statute. The law in question required a Condominium Association attempting to amend its declaration to send out notice of the meeting at least 10 days in advance, along with the general nature of any amendments to the declaration.

In this case, the Association sent out one notice a month prior to the meeting, but only mentioned that an amended declaration was being drafted. Continue Reading Compliance With State Laws is Important