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)

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

Facts

David Bagwell was the developer of three homeowners’ associations (HOAs).  David and his wife Susan (the Bagwells), acted as directors of each of the HOAs.  Sister Initiative, LLC (the LLC) loaned money to the HOAs and was owned by Bagwells’ daughters.  Susan Bagwell was the manager of the LLC.  The Bagwells also owned several other businesses that interacted with the HOAs.  In 2010 the LLC loaned the HOAs $120,000, allegedly because of the downturn in the economy.  In 2011 the Bagwells were ousted as directors, and the LLC sued to recover on the loans.  The use of the funds is the heart of the case, as the HOAs argued that the funds were funneled to improper uses.
Continue Reading Association NOT Liable for Loans Made By Developer Related Entity

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

Summary

When faced with the question of how much is too much for a “reasonable fee” the US Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit held that it could not answer the question because the right parties were not before the court.

The Facts

Keith Horist owned a condominium in downtown Chicago building’s condominium association. Joshua and Lori Eyman also owned a condominium in Chicago, but at a difference association. Both associations hired Sudler Property Management to manage their day-to-day operations.

In 2017 Horist and the Eymans put their units up for sale and found buyers.
Continue Reading How Much Can an Association Charge for Providing Disclosure Documents as Part of a Sale?

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.

Eith v. Ketelhut, — Cal.Reptr.3d — (2018)

The Facts

Homeowner bought home in 2003.  In 2005 they planted a vineyard consisting of 600 plants on around .4 acres after obtaining approval of the Board’s Architectural Committee to their landscape plan that included the grape vines.  The CC&R’s (Covenants Conditions and Restrictions) specifically prohibited that “No lot shall be used for any purpose (including any business or commercial activity) other than for a residence of one family…”  The first wine harvest was in 2008 and the owner began selling the wine in 2009.  In a good year he would produce 720 bottles of wine.  Neighbors objected and when the Board did nothing, they filed suit seeking declaratory and injunctive relief claiming that the Board breached its fiduciary duty and to prohibit the owner from operating their business.  At trial the owner admitted that “the sale of wine is a business,” that the vineyard “operates like a business” and that “this was a hobby.”  The owner also testified that he filed IRS Schedule C for the vineyard, which is entitled “Profit or Loss of Business (Sole Proprietor).”  Under the IRS rules you would not file Schedule C if the business was only a hobby 
Continue Reading When is a Business NOT a Business?

Facts: The facts in the case of Forrest v. The Ville St. John Owners’ Association, Inc., No. 2018-CA-0175 (La. Ct. App. Nov. 7, 2018) are straightforward.  In March of 2016 there was a fire.  It damaged common element and the Forrest unit.  The Association had two insurance policies: one for Property and one for Community Association Management Liability Coverage.  The Property policy was issued by Lloyd’s of London. Lloyd’s paid on its policy, for both the common element and unit damages, but the funds were insufficient to repair the common elements and the unit.  So the Association repaired the common elements.

Trial Court: The unit owner, Forrest, filed suit against the Association alleging breach of fiduciary duty and various other claims under state law. 
Continue Reading Insurance is NOT all the Same-Another Case Proving Why You Need an Insurance Committee

A unit owner, who is also an attorney, was renting his unit to his mother and believed that the condominium association board, the association, the property manager and the association’s attorney didn’t like him because of his Russian nationality. His mother, who allegedly had asthma and could not tolerate smoking, was upset because her Armenian neighbor would smoke inside her own unit and on her limited common element patio and the smoke would seep through the mother’s open windows. The unit owner demanded that the association board prohibit smoking inside of all of the units. When the board refused, he brought a 200-paragraph lawsuit alleging seven various causes of action, including discrimination, breach of fiduciary duty, and breach of various alleged laws.
Continue Reading Smoking and the Unreasonable Unit Owner Attorney