The Garrett’s purchased their property in the HOA in 2001.  The CCR’s required an owner to obtain the approval of the architectural control committee (“ACC”) before doing any construction on the property.  The Garrett’s submitted plans to build a pool in their backyard, but the original plans were rejected by the ACC because the plans “were too vague and because professional plans are required for such a large project.”  The Garrett’s then resubmitted professional plans for the pool only which the ACC approved.  When the Garret’s built the pool, the pool equipment was on the common element and they built far more than just a pool.  The Board sent the Garrett’s a cease-and-desist letter, and after an executive session advised the Garrett’s to move the pool equipment within their property and return the common element to its original condition (they had lowered the height of a fence).  Although Mr. [Brett] Garrett attempted to engage a board member in a conversation, the board member advised that “he would not meet with the Garretts … [and that he] would discuss the matter only in the company of the board at a proper meeting.”  In reality, the Garret’s project “had blossomed into a complete backyard renovation with retaining walls, stairs, a drainage system, patio pavers, and planter beds,” none of which were part of the approved plan.
Continue Reading Building in HOA Common Area – MUCH More Costly Than Owner Thought (Because of Association Attorney Fees)

Does your condominium or homeowners association (HOA) have owners who don’t pay their assessments?  Owners are finding more excuses to avoid paying their assessments.  Filing multiple bankruptcies, submitting payments with conditional language, NSF payments, claiming they don’t owe since they don’t use the common elements. . .  The list goes on and on.

So how does your association handle these “Sophisticated Debtors”?  Does your Association have a strong written collection policy?  Are your governing documents updated and in compliance with current law?  If not, your association will spend more than you should be in trying to collect unpaid assessments.

To ease the pain and headache of collecting unpaid assessments, make sure your association has:
Continue Reading Dealing with Sophisticated Debtors

Facts

Plaintiff, O’Donnell, bought his condo in 2012 and sold it in 2019.  Beginning in 2013, O’Donnell missed various assessment payments.  In late 2013 the association filed a lien, and in 2018 the association commenced a foreclosure action.  To bring the lawsuit to an end, O’Donnell sold his unit.  The sale allowed O’Donnell to pay off the claimed past due assessments and attorney fees.  At the time of sale, he paid $23,342 to the association and $22,234.94 to the attorneys which brought the case to an end.  Plaintiff then filed suit against the association’s law firm alleging violations of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (“FDCPA”) by filing a foreclosure suit without legal authority.  Specifically, O’Donnell alleged the law firm failed to satisfy several of the prerequisites to proceed with a foreclosure suit against him.  Both parties moved for summary judgment.
Continue Reading Attorney Fees – FDCPA Violation – Failure to Follow Association Document Procedures

Please join Husch Blackwell’s Condominium & HOA Law Team on February 5, 2021, as we outline the NEW 2020 Robert’s Rules, how parliamentary procedure should be used to run meetings more efficiently, some case examples of fine issues that arise and how to solve them, some basic collection reminders relating to death, trusts and mortgages and why your Rules matter more than you think. We hope this will be both interactive and fun while we share the latest information that homeowner associations (HOAs), condo boards and managers need to know. Looking forward to 2021 and making things as straightforward as possible.
Continue Reading Association Academy: Your Rules, Robert’s NEW Rules and Court Rules Relating to Fines

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

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

Facts

Diane Steele owned a home in the Diamond Farm development, which was managed by the Association. While in accordance with the Association’s declaration of covenants, conditions and restrictions, the Association must obtain at least two-thirds of the members’ total votes to increase annual assessments, assessment increases in 2007, 2011, and 2014 did not receive the requisite two-thirds vote for approval. Consequently, Steele ceased making payments. The Association brought suit seeking unpaid assessments and attorney’s fees. Steele’s defense was that she did not owe dues for the amounts of increases imposed without the supermajority required under the Declaration of Covenants.
Continue Reading Can Homeowners Sue an Association for Increasing Assessments Where the Association Did Not Receive the Requisite Votes Required?

Summary

Even where homeowners characterize their claims against an Association as civil rights violations, the claims involved in the parties’ rights under the declaration, and the declaration’s attorney’s fees provisions applied.

Facts

In 2011, David Merritt, a former HOA board member, and his wife, Salma, sued their Sunnyvale HOA, Classics at Fair Oaks (Classics), as well as three of its board members. The dispute centered on the Association’s covenants, conditions, and restrictions (“CC&Rs”) involving parking restrictions at the Classics. The HOA’s parking policy requires residents to pay for and obtain a permit for each vehicle parked on the street versus in the garage of each residence. The Merritts had a two-car garage, but only parked one car inside it. They argued that they can only park one car in the garage, because Salma is disabled, and needs additional space to enter and exit the vehicle when it is parked inside the garage.
Continue Reading Owners Pay High Price of Litigation Against Association

Summary

If your Association excessively fines an owner, expect a court to find a way to penalize the association.

The Facts

In 2004 Mr. and Mrs. Mills (“Mills”) bought a home in the subdivision called Galyn Manor.  In 2007 Galyn Manor began fining Mills for a commercial work vehicle parked in their driveway in violation of the association rules.  Galyn Manor advised Mills that the fines would be $50 for each day that the commercial vehicle was parked on their property.  By the end of 2007, the fines amounted to $645.  In January of 2008, the association hired the Andrews Law Firm (“Law Firm”) to collect the fines.  Between 2008 and May of 2015 many demands for payment were made, and many payments were made.
Continue Reading Excessive Fines Cause Courts to Find Liability – A Lesson in Fair Debt Collection Practices