The COVID-19 Pandemic has created a global economic crisis impacting individual unit and home owners, and the associations they comprise.  An unfortunate result will be an increase in bankruptcy filings.  Learn how to prepare and protect your Association now.

Want to learn more about Wisconsin condominium and HOA law from experienced condo and HOA attorneys? Read all about condo and HOA law at Association Alert and click here to learn more about lawyer Daniel J. Miske.

Does your Association have rules that target children?  Does your Association have rules that apply differently to children and adult residents within the community?  The following case is a cautionary tale for Condominium Associations and HOAs—repeal those rules now, or potentially face a losing battle pursuant to federal law.

Facts

In a federal district court case from early 2020, a homeowner brought suit against his HOA alleging that the Association’s rules with respect to use of the tennis courts, the pool, and clubhouse were discriminatory.  The tennis court rules stated that adults had court privileges over children after 3:00 PM on weekdays and any time on weekends and holidays.  The pool rules stated that residents 14 through 18 years of age were limited to one pool guest per person, while adult residents were permitted to have up to 6 pool guests at a time.  The clubhouse rules stated that it was reserved for adult use only during summer months while the pool was open.  The homeowner claimed that these three rules discriminated against families with children (also known as “familial status”), which is prohibited by the federal Fair Housing Act (FHA). Continue Reading Rules that Target Children Really Target Your Association (for Discrimination Lawsuits)

We’ve reached the point in the COVID-19 pandemic where states are starting to reopen.  So now what?  What does this mean for your Association?  Find out what your Association needs to do to reopen its common elements in this Vlog.  (Don’t mind the videography, it’s a work in progress!)

Want to learn more about Wisconsin condominium and HOA law from experienced condo and HOA attorneys? Read all about condo and HOA law at Association Alert and click here to learn more about lawyer Daniel J. Miske.

I recently read an article on the difference between condominium and homeowner association officers and directors by an attorney out of Ohio, Jennifer B. Cusimano of Kaman & Cusimano, LLC.  It was well written, clarified a subject that is often confused, and inspired me to do my best to explain the difference to our readers.

In simple terms, directors are elected by the owners, officers are NOT.  Officers are elected by the Board of Directors annually.  Continue Reading What is the Difference Between Community Association Directors and Officers?

Facts

David Bagwell was the developer of three homeowners’ associations (HOAs).  David and his wife Susan (the Bagwells), acted as directors of each of the HOAs.  Sister Initiative, LLC (the LLC) loaned money to the HOAs and was owned by Bagwells’ daughters.  Susan Bagwell was the manager of the LLC.  The Bagwells also owned several other businesses that interacted with the HOAs.  In 2010 the LLC loaned the HOAs $120,000, allegedly because of the downturn in the economy.  In 2011 the Bagwells were ousted as directors, and the LLC sued to recover on the loans.  The use of the funds is the heart of the case, as the HOAs argued that the funds were funneled to improper uses. Continue Reading Association NOT Liable for Loans Made By Developer Related Entity

FACTS

David Jensen, a longtime municipal judge, respected civil servant, and owner of an insurance company embezzled more than $40,000 from his homeowner’s association (HOA) in the last three years.  This is the second case of this nature in Wisconsin that I have seen in the last four years.  How did the HOA discover the thefts?  According to the Lake Geneva Regional News, Jensen had been treasurer of the HOA for 11 years and after his death on February 8, 2020, the new treasurer found a number of financial discrepancies.  The HOA contacted the police, who investigated the facts and after speaking with Jensen’s wife determined that Jensen “acted alone in the thievery.”  Because of Jensen’s death, no criminal charges will be brought. Continue Reading Director & Officer Theft of Funds–Your Community Association Needs Fidelity Insurance

First, I want to thank Julie Howard and her firm NowackHoward in Atlanta, Georgia for much of this Blog (adjusted for Wisconsin Law and my commentary).  She is the former president of the College of Community Association Lawyers (“CCAL”), an excellent association attorney, and has been kind enough to allow Husch Blackwell to use much of their article.

The law does NOT require a Board to extend additional time to owners to pay assessments just because of the COVID 19 pandemic.  While such policies may show a concern for members of a community, probably without realizing it, those policies may also have significant adverse effects on the Association, especially in 2020.

With this background, Associations should first look to see which of their expenses are variable (those that can be cut or reduced because of the pandemic).  Secondly, the Board must ask can the Association really afford to extend the payment of assessments for some or all of its owners?  Associations faced this same challenge during the last financial crisis.  In an editorial published on February 5, 2008 in The Atlanta Constitution, George Nowack (another former president of the CCAL) explained that because many Associations had allowed members to not pay and suspended collection actions, the balances on unpaid accounts reached levels that members gave up trying to pay.  The lesson learned from that past is that a Board is not doing any member a favor if it allows an Association’s accounts receivable to go unaddressed.  That advice is equally true today. Continue Reading Assessment Collections and COVID-19

Facts

The dispute in this case centered on what rights owners of lots that did not have frontage on a lake (“Non-Lake Lot Owners”) had to place a dock in the lake based on the restrictive rights for their homeowner’s association (“HOA”) which were recorded in 1922.  The HOA consisted of 146 lots.  All Non-Lake Lots were granted a perpetual easement over and across seven lakefront outlots for their use and enjoyment, including access to the lake.  Some of the Non-Lake Lot Owners construed this broadly enough that they installed a dock and used one of the outlots for activities unrelated to the water (picnics and such).  Plaintiff, a “Lake Lot Owner”, had a letter sent to the Non-Lake Lot Owner Defendants demanding that they stop using the outlot and remove the dock.  The parties disagreed.  Plaintiff sued. Continue Reading HOAs & Riparian Rights-Can I Put a Dock Here?

Today Gov. Tony Evers extended the Safer at Home Order from April 24th to May 26, 2020, while allowing some businesses to start up again.  The starting spot though for any review of the order is paragraph 3, which identifies prohibited activities.  Here is what is says:

Prohibited activities. All public and private gatherings of any number of people that are not part of a single household or living unit are prohibited, except for the limited purposes expressly permitted in this Order. Nothing in this Order prohibits the gathering of members of a single household or living unit. Landlords or rental property managers shall avoid entering leased residential premises unless emergency maintenance is required. Continue Reading Governor Evers Extends Wisconsin’s Safer at Home Order

Summary

A company that handled fee collections for an Association engaged in unlawful practices when it falsely indicated that a lien had been filed against two homeowners.

Facts

Plaintiffs Chad and Caitlin Truhn fell behind on their assessment payments to their Homeowner’s Association. In their agreement with the Association, the Truhns agreed to pay the cost of collecting their fees, a task the Association outsourced to EquityExperts.org, LLC (“the Collector”). The Truhns eventually settled their debt and brought suit alleging that the Collector’s practices violate the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (“FDCPA”). The Truhns claimed that the Collector’s collection letters contained incorrect and misleading information. Continue Reading Debt Collectors Adherence to Generic Forms Were Inaccurate and Misleading