Facts

A unit owner stopped paying assessments.  The condominium association properly recorded and perfected a lien against the unit for those assessments.  Under the applicable Oregon statute, the condo association lien is prior to all other liens, except tax liens and a first mortgage or deed of trust.  An exception exists, such that the condominium association can gain priority over the first mortgage if (among other things) “the association gives the first lienholder formal notice of the unpaid assessments, and the lienholder ‘has not initiated judicial action to foreclose the mortgage * * * prior to the expiration of 90 days following the notice[.]’”  In this case, five days after the association recorded its lien, the bank filed a judicial foreclosure action against the unit, but did not name the association as party, and therefore the foreclosure suit would not have terminated the lien rights of the association.  To correct this issue, the bank filed an amended complaint naming the association as a party.  Five months later the trial court issued a dismissal of the claim against the association, without prejudice, for failure to prosecute.  Five months after that the association sent the bank notice of the unit owner’s default on assessments.  The bank took no action in the next 90 days to reinstate the dismissal or file a new action against the association.
Continue Reading Lien Priority Statutes and Why They Make Sense

Facts

Plaintiff, O’Donnell, bought his condo in 2012 and sold it in 2019.  Beginning in 2013, O’Donnell missed various assessment payments.  In late 2013 the association filed a lien, and in 2018 the association commenced a foreclosure action.  To bring the lawsuit to an end, O’Donnell sold his unit.  The sale allowed O’Donnell to pay off the claimed past due assessments and attorney fees.  At the time of sale, he paid $23,342 to the association and $22,234.94 to the attorneys which brought the case to an end.  Plaintiff then filed suit against the association’s law firm alleging violations of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (“FDCPA”) by filing a foreclosure suit without legal authority.  Specifically, O’Donnell alleged the law firm failed to satisfy several of the prerequisites to proceed with a foreclosure suit against him.  Both parties moved for summary judgment.
Continue Reading Attorney Fees – FDCPA Violation – Failure to Follow Association Document Procedures

Please join Husch Blackwell’s Condominium & HOA Law Team on February 5, 2021, as we outline the NEW 2020 Robert’s Rules, how parliamentary procedure should be used to run meetings more efficiently, some case examples of fine issues that arise and how to solve them, some basic collection reminders relating to death, trusts and mortgages and why your Rules matter more than you think. We hope this will be both interactive and fun while we share the latest information that homeowner associations (HOAs), condo boards and managers need to know. Looking forward to 2021 and making things as straightforward as possible.
Continue Reading Association Academy: Your Rules, Robert’s NEW Rules and Court Rules Relating to Fines

Summary

A company that handled fee collections for an Association engaged in unlawful practices when it falsely indicated that a lien had been filed against two homeowners.

Facts

Plaintiffs Chad and Caitlin Truhn fell behind on their assessment payments to their Homeowner’s Association. In their agreement with the Association, the Truhns agreed to pay the cost of collecting their fees, a task the Association outsourced to EquityExperts.org, LLC (“the Collector”). The Truhns eventually settled their debt and brought suit alleging that the Collector’s practices violate the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (“FDCPA”). The Truhns claimed that the Collector’s collection letters contained incorrect and misleading information.
Continue Reading Debt Collectors Adherence to Generic Forms Were Inaccurate and Misleading

Summary

If your Association excessively fines an owner, expect a court to find a way to penalize the association.

The Facts

In 2004 Mr. and Mrs. Mills (“Mills”) bought a home in the subdivision called Galyn Manor.  In 2007 Galyn Manor began fining Mills for a commercial work vehicle parked in their driveway in violation of the association rules.  Galyn Manor advised Mills that the fines would be $50 for each day that the commercial vehicle was parked on their property.  By the end of 2007, the fines amounted to $645.  In January of 2008, the association hired the Andrews Law Firm (“Law Firm”) to collect the fines.  Between 2008 and May of 2015 many demands for payment were made, and many payments were made.
Continue Reading Excessive Fines Cause Courts to Find Liability – A Lesson in Fair Debt Collection Practices

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

The United States District Court held that a prior recorded condominium lien had priority over a federal tax lien but only to the extent of the amount stated in the lien notice. SO make sure you get everything you should in your lien filing.

I want to thank attorney William Z. Kolobaric and Hirzel Law, PLC in Michigan for bringing this case to my attention and for allowing me to reprint large portions of their blog on this subject.

The Facts

Defendant Pamela Norwood (“Norwood”) bought a condominium unit in March 2015 in the Yarmouth Commons Condominium project (“Condominium Unit”).  On April 6, 2015, the IRS made an assessment of past due income taxes against Norwood for the 2009 tax year she failed to pay but it was not until February 8, 2016 that the IRS recorded a Notice of Federal Tax Lien with the Macomb County Register of Deeds against Norwood’s property in Macomb County, which included the Condominium Unit.  About 10 days earlier, on January 28, 2016, Yarmouth Commons Association (“Association”) recorded a notice of lien with the Macomb County Register of Deeds in the amount of $1,490.00 for unpaid assessments, exclusive of interest, costs, attorney fees and any future assessments which may become due.
Continue Reading Your Condo Lien can be Prior to a Federal Tax Lien if you File it Correctly, Timely & for the Full Amount Due

Issue

When association documents require funds from owners to be applied in a certain order, can a unit owner alter how the funds are applied by writing in the memo portion of a check that it is for the monthly assessment only?  The Answer, at least in this Ohio case, is “No.”
Continue Reading Court Upholds Association Decision to Return Checks Containing Restrictive Language

Castilian Hills Homeowners Association v. Chaffins, (Wash. Ct. App. Oct. 22, 2018)

The Facts

Homeowner bought home in 2004. In 2016, the homeowner failed to pay his $147 assessment.  The homeowners association (“HOA”) assessed a $20 late fee. The homeowner still did not pay, despite the normal language in the HOA governing documents about interest, the right to lien and reasonable attorney fees. After more notices, the HOA filed a lien for $525.52 and then a complaint against the homeowner seeking the $525, plus interest and attorney fees.   The homeowner argued to the court that the HOA was “required by statute to provide notice and an opportunity to be heard” prior to filing a foreclosable lien.
Continue Reading How to Turn $147 into $10,000 – the WRONG Way

The Fair Debt Collection Practice Act (FDCPA) was enacted to protect consumers from unscrupulous debt collectors; as a shield against prohibited acts. However, it is now often used as a sword, by attorneys who are part of a “cottage industry” that simply look for even the smallest of violations and then claim thousands of dollars of attorney fees and damages in their first letter to the alleged violator.
Continue Reading Foreclosing on a Unit When Owner Discharged in Bankruptcy