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)

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)

Facts

Plaintiffs were two owners (Maples and Brown) at Compass Harbor Village Condominium Association in Maine (the “Association”) who had purchased their respective units sometime in 2007.  The Declarant was an LLC that held more than 50% of the votes (15 of the 24 units) and therefore controlled the board.  For many years the Association common areas were not property maintained in many ways.  In addition, the Association failed to hold meetings, take votes on Association matters, maintain banking or other records and refused to provide financial information to the owners.  The Declarant’s position was that “because it holds a majority of the voting power in the Association and therefore any dispute between it and any of the unit owners would ultimately be decided in its favor.”  Plaintiffs claimed to have lost about $53,000 in value in each of their units because of the actions of the Declarant.
Continue Reading Failing to Maintain and Properly Collect Assessments is a Breach of Fiduciary Duties

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…

Facts

When you are headed down the wrong path – TURN BACK.  This applies to owners and associations when they act on their belief of what their documents say, but then learn that their understanding may be wrong.  Often parties who make a mistake, or learn that they might have made a mistake, refuse to reevaluate their situation and at least allow turning back to be an option.  Such appears to have been what happened in the recent case of Fritz v. Lake Carroll Property Owners Association, Inc., (2019 unreported case out of Illinois) where the association passed a rule that required inspection and pumping of the owners privately owned septic system every four years and that if an owner failed to follow the rule they would be fined $250 and $25 per day. 
Continue Reading Wisconsin Condominium and Homeowner Association Owners Need to Follow their Rules Even When they Are Not Recorded.