Facts

Seaside is an 80-acre development in Florida.  In the 1980’s the developer recorded declarations for nine separate neighborhood associations.  The language in each of the declarations are identical, providing the association with “the right to enforce, by any proceedings at law or in equity, all restrictions, conditions, covenants, reservations, liens and charges now or hereafter imposed by the provisions of this Declaration.”  In 1991 the nine neighborhood associations amended their declarations and formed the Seaside Town Council (“Manager”) to “[a]ssume management of the administration and operations of the Association.”  Sometime thereafter the developer amended the Manager’s code and acted unilaterally to operate the architectural review committee of the associations in violation of the Manager’s code.  In 2011 the nine associations then voted to have the Manager file a lawsuit against the developer to protect their rights and to “assign “to Manager” the right to otherwise prosecute this lawsuit on their behalf.”  The Manager then sued the developer for various alleged violations of the declarations.  The developer answered the complaint.
Continue Reading Association Can Assign Enforcement Authority to a Manager

Facts

The plaintiff, James Schnurr, and his wife were riding their bicycles in the Jonathan’s Landing community when Mr. Schnurr struck a bollard that was installed just before the promenade they were riding along crossed a roadway.  Mr. Schnurr fell off his bicycle and fractured his neck.  He became a quadriplegic as a result of the accident.  At trial, several experts testified that the bollards were difficult to see because the Association had painted them beige, so they blended into the background. There were also no pavement markings to warn pedestrians on the promenade that they were approaching the bollards.  Mr. Schnurr and his wife sued the Association, which had a duty to maintain the promenade in its governing documents.  The Schnurrs did not sue Jonathan’s Landing, Inc., the developer of the community.
Continue Reading Condominium Association Liable for Construction Defect it Had a Duty to Maintain

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

Plaintiff, Brooktree Village Homeowners Association, Inc. (“Association”), filed suit “on behalf of itself and on behalf of its members” in May 2017 against the second developer, Brooktree Village, LLC (“Developer”).  Developer had acquired the remaining undeveloped portions of the development, other than the common areas.  “A construction company affiliated with Developer, Rivers Development, Inc. (“Builder”), completed construction of the development.  Developer sold all the newly constructed townhomes to individual homeowners.”  The Association sought damages for the cost of repairs.  The claims asserted by the Association were breach of implied warranty, negligence, and negligence per se.
Continue Reading Developers/Declarants are Liable for Implied Warranties to Association for Construction Defects

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

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

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

Developers of condominium communities and HOAs often reserve access easement rights within the Declaration/Deed Restrictions for the subdivision, especially when the Developer owns yet-undeveloped neighboring property. But what happens if the Developer forgets to reserve such easement rights specifically within the Declaration or Deed Restrictions? A recent case explores this dilemma, and at least in this case, the HOA owners come out on top.

Facts

In a 2019 case, some lot owners within a subdivision, which had been advertised as a private, gated community, sued the Developer for trying to enforce an access easement he had for the main road within their subdivision. The Developer claimed he needed access to that main road in order to develop the neighboring lots behind the gated community.  The Developer also believed he could grant access to the owners of the neighboring lots through the gated community. 
Continue Reading HOAs Unite! Developer’s Easement Rights are Not Never-Ending

Even the best and most established real estate developers can face hard times, especially in the aftermath of recession and economic downturn, as we experienced a few short years ago. Many condominium and subdivision developments found themselves half completed, both in terms of units and homes built, and common area improvements (like streets and curbs) left undone.  Where a new developer comes in to build upon the remaining lots, what responsibilities does he take on?  As related in a recent 2019 case, the answer may be found in the original development agreements with the municipality.
Continue Reading Did Your Developer Go Bankrupt and Leave your Association Holding the Bag? Your Remedy May Lie Within the Developer Agreement