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)

Most condominiums and homeowner associations (HOAs) are nonstock corporations under Wisconsin Chapter 181.  As such their members can make decisions one of three ways:

  1. Holding a meeting;
  2. Action by written consent (181.0704 Wis. Stat.). This may be used unless “limited or otherwise provided in the articles of incorporation or bylaws…”  For an association to act by written consent, the action must be “approved by members holding at least 80 percent of the voting power, or a different percentage, not less than 50 percent, specified in the articles of incorporation or bylaws.”  The written consents must be signed and dated after the date of the last meeting of the members and kept with the minutes
  3. Action by written ballot (181.0708 Wis. Stat.) This may be used “if permitted by the articles of incorporation or bylaws, any action that may be taken at an annual, regular or special meeting of members may be taken without a meeting if the corporation delivers a written ballot to every member entitled to vote on the matter, the ballot sets for the proposed action and provides an opportunity to vote for or against the proposed action.”  “Approval by written ballot … valid only when the number of votes cast by ballot equals or exceeds the quorum required to be present at a meeting authorizing the action, and the number of approvals equals or exceeds the number of votes that would be required to approve the matter at a meeting at which the total number of votes cast was the same as the number of votes cast by ballot.”


Continue Reading Condo and HOA Virtual/ZOOM Meetings in Wisconsin – How Legal Are They?

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)

Does your homeowners association have a written collection policy?  What duties does the property manager and/or Board have under the policy?  Learn what role the property manager and/or the Board of Directors should have in the assessment collection process.

Want to learn more about Wisconsin condominium and HOA law from experienced condo and HOA

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?

Summary

A 79-unit condominium association held a meeting to remove the directors from office and elect new ones. The president objected to the meeting, the procedure and the notice, but since the association followed the documents and had more than half of the unit owners vote for the removal, the directors were removed.
Continue Reading Directors Removed from Office – Just Follow the Documents

As Condominium and HOA attorneys, we often receive questions from our clients dealing with all the issues that can get in the way of conducting a successful annual meeting. Most often, it is the issue of not being able to achieve a quorum of owners in attendance—which stymies the Association’s ability to hold Board member elections, approve the budget, and take other important actions to further the HOA’s business for the coming year.  So what happens if an Association’s Bylaws calls for annual board elections, but the Association does not hold elections for a number of years?  Is there a Board? Does the Board have any authority? A recent case addressed these issues, and the court’s findings might surprise you.
Continue Reading If Your Association Fails to Hold Board Elections at an Annual Meeting, Do You Still Have a Board? The Answer May Surprise You…

The Board of Directors always has the power to make and amend Rules and Regulations on its own, without owner approval…right? Wrong.  The Board’s rule-making power and authority completely depends upon what authority is given by the Declaration and Bylaws, and as we know, all associations’ Declarations and Bylaws are different!  This is true in Wisconsin and in many other States.  Knowing what is in your governing documents will keep you out of troubling lawsuits.
Continue Reading Know What is in Your Documents—The Board Might Not Have the Authority You Think it Does…

The Business Judgment Rule can be a great protection for condo and HOA boards—but only if the board is following the documents.

Facts.  The Declaration for an HOA stated that the Board had the discretion to raise the “maximum annual assessment” without a vote of the homeowners as long as it was “in an amount equal to 150% of the rise, if any, of the [CPI] for the preceding month of July.” Higher increases required the vote of the homeowners. The Association’s Bylaws contained a formula for calculating this “maximum annual assessment” raise, but the formula allowed the Board to accumulate the CPI increases year over year in calculating the maximum assessment. The Board followed the Bylaws formula, and owners sued, contending (1) that the increase to the maximum annual assessment was higher than the Board had authority to do under the Declaration; and (2) that the Bylaws formula conflicted with the Declaration. The HOA Board argued that it exercised good Business Judgment in following the Bylaws formula.
Continue Reading How is the Business Judgment Rule Applied to Board Actions?

A defense owners can raise if the Board claims the owner has violated the rules is “selective enforcement,” meaning the Board arbitrarily picks on some violators and not others. In addition, owners oftentimes like to rely on approval given by one board member, taking that as “Board approval” of the owner’s actions.  The case below tackles both of these issues, in the context of a dispute over an owner’s installation of hard-surface flooring.

Facts.  In a 2017 case, an owner who lived in an upper-level condominium unit replaced her carpeting with laminated flooring.  The problem is, the Association’s Declaration prohibited the installation of any flooring other than carpet, without prior Board approval. The owner had not received approval from the Board prior to installation of the flooring, but she did allegedly have an email exchange with the Board president wherein he said it would be ok.
Continue Reading Hard-Surface Flooring in Upper Units—A Lesson in Selective Enforcement and Officer’s Authority