Even though most private residential Associations are not subject to the Americans with Disabilities Act (the “ADA”), the Fair Housing Act (the “FHA”) still applies and protects owners who have service animals. In some cases, the Association has the right to ask the owner for documentation supporting the need for a service animal, but not always…and the case below illustrates how pressing for documentation when the Association is not entitled to it can end up being quite costly for the Association.
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Yes! Thankfully, if the association has not been doing so, there is a way to reduce your back-tax liability, interest and penalties.

  • Do you have parking that is rented out by the Association?
  • Do you charge different monthly assessments for those with a parking spot?
  • Do you charge a fee for a boat dock or storage of a boat, canoe or similar water craft?

Of course you do. No worries, the Wisconsin Department of Revenue, like most states, would be happy to perform an audit for you.  Unfortunately, they will then also seek to collect all of the taxes due. 
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A Wisconsin condominium association was built as many condominium projects are — with privately owned roads. The difference with this development is that it was part of a larger development plan — one that forced it to share its private thoroughfares with neighboring associations and an apartment complex.

Over time, as residents purchased units in the development, the traffic on the Association’s private streets increased greatly, and numerous speeding cars became a safety issue. The City was less than helpful with traffic enforcement, claiming that since the streets were private, it was not the City’s problem. 
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It is well known that Association Board members (directors) have fiduciary duties to their unit owners and associations. It is almost as commonly known that the officers have the same fiduciary duties.  Yet associations, directors and officers are often sued for failing to meet their duties. Unfortunately, directors and officers often contribute to their risk by doing things that enhance the likelihood of suit. For fun I thought I would write this post from that standpoint.
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A fiduciary duty creates an obligation to act for another’s benefit. A board of director’s fiduciary duty is to the association and its members.  So what are the core duties of an association director?  Individual loyalty, good faith and fair dealing in conducting the association’s business, care, and obedience to follow and enforce the association’s documents.
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My points below exaggerate problems that I commonly see, but the advice is sound:

  1. “Are your three brain cells still talking to each other?” Knowing how to deal with difficult people is a prerequisite to property management. Don’t aggravate a situation by making a challenging person even more difficult to deal with – this won’t solve the problem. Attempt to always maintain a professional, positive attitude. We all fail or become less than we want to be at times. Forgive yourself and others, but even in forgiveness bad actions by unit owners have consequences.
  2. “This is the insurance company/policy you should approve.” Property managers are usually not licensed insurance brokers or agents, and their recommendation may be wrong. Does your association insurance cover you for those types of opinions if they are wrong? Property managers can certainly identify options.  However, the Board, ideally on the advice of an insurance committee, should be deciding on the amount and types of coverage purchased.
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