Facts

The parties to this suit both reside in a condominium association.  Each party owns a unit, and each has parking spaces.  The dispute is over the fact that when the Grudziecki parks their car in their parking spot, even within the lines, it is difficult, if not impossible, to access the ramp to the garage entrance and elevator area from the left side.  As a practical matter, unit owners who wish to access the elevator area must walk to the right side of the ramp when Grudziecki is parked there.  The Greenbergs, whose parking spaces are directly across from Grudziecki’s spot, wanted the court to order that that Grudziecki pull the car forward or move farther toward the left side of the parking space so that they could enter the elevator area from the left side, instead of being “forced to walk around the right side of the ramp, which is farther away from their parking spaces.”  Mrs. Greenberg is disabled and requires the use of a walker and entering from the left would save Mrs. Greenberg a few steps.  When the matter could not be resolved, the Greenbergs filed suit.
Continue Reading Just Because a Resident Has a Disability, an Accommodation May Not Be Reasonable

Facts

Developer subjected property to the condominium act in Massachusetts in 2008.  By the terms of the deed, it included all the “land and improvements at the property…”  There were to be six wings and up to 109 units built over a period of seven years.  When the deed was recorded, 33 units had already been constructed.  The additional wings were shown on the plans and noted on the master deed as “presently constitute common areas and … may be completed as additional phases.”  The declaration contained a reservation of developer rights that provided the developer seven years to “substantially complete the additional phases” and that a failure to complete them would constitute a waiver of development rights. The day before the developer rights were to expire, the developer recorded a series of documents to expand its ownership rights and extend the development rights an additional seven years.  Sixteen days after the documents were recorded the association filed suit.  The association sought declaratory relief that the developer’s rights had expired and that the developers attempts to extend those rights was invalid.  The developer answered and counter-claimed that it was in the right.
Continue Reading Expiration of Developer Rights – What Happens to the Land where Units were Not Constructed

Facts

Plaintiffs are property owners in what were originally three separate planned communities known as Mystic Lands.  Defendants are the developer/declarant and its sole shareholder, Shinitzky.  In October of 2006 the Plaintiff and his wife entered into a contract with declarant to purchase Lot 28 in Mystic Ridge.  The Property Information Sheet stated “the streets throughout Mystic Ridge are private and shall be maintained by the … Association.  The initial capital expense for the streets, including the asphalt, shall be bourne (sic) by the Developer.”  Shinitzky said this statement represented the intention of the Developer and that other similar representations meant “asphalt paved roads.”  However the deed described the lot by reference to the plat which stated “ALL INTERIOR ROADS ARE 14’ GRAVEL.”  Developer did pave some of the roads in Mystic Ridge as the development progressed, but in 2013, for the first time, Shinitzky stated in a Property Disclosure Statement that the roads “would be gravel.”
Continue Reading Developers/Declarants Breached Contract by Failing to Pave Roads

Facts

Defendant, Castletown Corner Owner’s Association, Inc. (“Association”), had a duty to maintain a lift station.  Specifically, the declaration imposed an obligation on the Association to pay “all Maintenance Costs in connection with” improvements constructed at the Association.  Maintenance costs are then defined as “all of the costs necessary to maintain the … sewers, utility strips, and other facilities … and to keep such facilities operational and in good condition, including, but not limited to, the cost of all upkeep, maintenance, repair, replacement … for the continuous operation of such facilities.”  Plaintiff, owner of one of the commercial units, sued the Association for failing to properly maintain the lift station after an incident where the sanitary lift station malfunctioned and flooded the building with human sewage, which allegedly caused Plaintiff’s tenant to terminate its lease.
Continue Reading Language in Declaration Makes Association Strictly Liable

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 single warranty date applies to each condominium building in a development.  Meaning that each unit does not have its own warranty date, and units in different buildings will likely have different warranty dates, unless they happen to be completed on the same date

The Facts

Village Lofts Condominium Association consisted of two buildings: A and B.  Building A was substantially completed in 2003 and Building B was substantially completed in November of 2004.  In 2014 the Association discovered various water leaks in Building A.  In June of 2015 they had also found similar leaks in Building B.  The Association repaired the leaks throughout both buildings.  In August 2015 the Association sued the developers and contractors for breach of warranty, breach of contract and negligence.  The defendants brought motions for summary judgment arguing that that the Association couldn’t bring a suit after 10 years based on the statute of repose (similar to a statute of limitations).
Continue Reading Investigate for Hidden Defects at Turnover or Pay the Price

Declarant/Developers of Community Associations love to reserve themselves rights within the Declaration that extend far beyond their Declarant control powers.  This is nothing new.  But when a Homeowners Association puts it foot down, who will end up on top?  It depends on how all the sections in the Declaration read together, and as this case shows, ambiguity does not favor the Declarant.

Facts

In a 2019 case, a court had to interpret the Declaration governing an HOA (subdivision) and determine who was right.  The Developer, after turning over control to the homeowners, sold the final lot to a buyer with a planned home that did not fit the specifications of the Declaration.
Continue Reading Post-Turnover Declarant Rights? Think Again…This One has a Happy Ending for the HOA

Summary

Each owner of a lot in a planned community with multiple subdivisions was required to be a member of the master association – Holly Lake Ranch Association (HLRA).  Some of the owners voted to amend their particular subdivision’s respective deed restrictions.  The effect of which was to add a voting requirement for assessments, mandatory waiver of duplicate fees for additional lots, and restricted HLRA’s lien rights.  In this particular Texas case, Roddy v. Holly Lake Ranch Association, Inc., __ S.E.2d __ (2019), the court found that the amendments were “illegal” and therefore void.  In addition, the court remanded the case to the trial court to determine the reasonableness and necessity of the attorney fees it awarded to HILRA.
Continue Reading Doing Things Wrong can be VERY Costly, Which is Why Using an Experienced Association Attorney Matters

Summary

Declarant owned nine of 10 units, controlled the board and association, failed to have an association bank account, intermingled the assessments that were paid into his business account, never held elections or annual meetings and kept no separate corporate records.  Yet, the Court held that these failures could not be used as an excuse for not paying assessments that were due under the condominium documents.  In other words, you bought into an association, pay your assessments.
Continue Reading Owners are Liable for Assessments, Even When Corporate Formalities Not Perfectly Followed