Harbour Island Condominium Owners Association, Inc. v. Alexander, No. B285755 (Cal. Ct. App. Jan. 24, 2019)

Summary

In Harbour Island, the Court of Appeals of California held that tenants renting a unit that was part of a condominium association did not have standing before the board concerning meeting attendance and fines imposed for violations. The association did not have to give the tenants an opportunity to be heard, unlike the rights of actual unit owners.
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IMPRESSION: Unit owners who initiate litigation over common elements do not necessarily recoup attorney fees from the association—even when their lawsuit is successful, and benefits the association as a whole.

DETAILS: A shared sewer system in Adams County, Wisconsin, was the focus of a recent dispute between the Sunset Condominiums at Northern Bay Owners Association (“Sunset Condo Assoc.”), and a unit owner of the Sunset Condominiums. Larson v. Castle at the Bay, LLC, 2018 WI App 71, 384 Wis.2d 633, 2018 WL 5307100.  Prior to 2013, the area’s local sewage system was mutually utilized by neighboring developments Timber Shores and Castle at the Bay—despite being considered a common element of Sunset Condominiums.  In 2013, Castle at the Bay declared partial ownership of the sewer system, and proceeded to impose a usage fee upon Sunset Condo Assoc. Rather than respond by threatening litigation, the Sunset Condo Assoc. chose a two-tiered amicable and less expensive approach: (1) agree to shared ownership of the sewer system; and (2) consent to Castle at the Bay’s obligatory usage fees. 
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This issue arises more than one might suspect. Because of association apathy, many committees go unfilled and often even boards don’t have members.  The results of this apathy could be much different than you would expect.

Facts.  In a 2017 case, the relevant property “was subject to a 1996 restrictive covenant that required the approval by an architectural control committee [‘ACC’] before any building … could be erected.”  The ACC consisted of two named persons within the documents, one of which was dead and the other refused to act.  The owner of the property filed a declaratory judgment action seeking to have the court declare the covenant unenforceable based on impossibility of performance.  Other property owners objected, claiming the covenant could be made enforceable by modification.  The documents did not provide a means by which new members could be added to the ACC.
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