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.
Continue Reading

Facts. The documents required the consent of the first floor unit owner if the second floor unit owner wanted to erect a terrace above a first floor unit.  When the first floor unit owner refused to give consent, the Board waived the consent requirement and allowed the second floor unit owner to construct a terrace, after determining that it would have no impact on the value of the first floor unit.  The first floor unit owner sued to annul the board’s decision.
Continue Reading

A Milwaukee association took possession of a unit through foreclosure, but could not rent out the unit because of its condition and could not sell it because of a large mortgage. After the property is vacant for several months and the lender did not start a foreclosure, The Husch Blackwell Condominium & HOA Law Team brought a quiet title action against the lender. The purpose of this is to either get the lender to take a deed for the property or have the court order the mortgage to be quieted (wiped out) on the title.
Continue Reading

Condominium associations and homeowner associations are sued every day. These suits can arise based on construction claims, contract claims, negligence claims and various alleged statutory violations – We all know about the Fair House Act!  Or the Wisconsin (or whatever state you are in) Consumer Act!  Associations seem to attract people who feel that they are entitled to something because they now live in an association.  Of course they are entitled to what the law and documents allow them, but for some that never seems to be enough.  Often these types of owners or residents make up stuff or read the internet until they find some article or statement that supports their point of view and then cite it as fact. Yes, we have all dealt with those people. However, despite the validity (or lack of validity) of any lawsuit, there are some basic steps that every association should follow once served or notified of a suit.
Continue Reading

An association in southeast Wisconsin consists of plots of land upon which the various unit owners can park a mobile home or trailer. Under the association documents, unit owners cannot be in the trailer more than 60 days between October and April or a $10,000 monthly fine will be assessed.  A unit owner owed more than $13,000 in fines in addition to unpaid monthly assessments.  When the unit owner continued to refuse to pay, the association started foreclosure on its lien. 
Continue Reading

Water leaked through a bedroom ceiling in a downstairs condominium unit causing a small amount of damage and a significant amount of inconvenience for the owner. Approximately one year earlier, a similar event took place as a result of a frozen condensate line in the upstairs unit owner’s air conditioner, which caused water to back up and drip down through the floor into a common area between the floors and then through the ceiling of the lower unit, causing some of the ceiling drywall to fall. When part of the ceiling fell a second time, the association installed a drip pan that would automatically shut off the air conditioner if the pan filled. The total cost was less than $300. When the association sought to recover the $300 from the upstairs unit owner, he denied liability and claimed that the problem did not arise from his air conditioner, but from the duct work that ran between the floor of the upper unit and the ceiling of the lower unit, and that responsibility for the problem fell on the association.
Continue Reading

Noise coming from adjacent units is a common problem. It can be caused by many things, including music, instruments, appliances, running, jumping, or a myriad of other causes.  Our advice has almost always been that if you have a rule, you need to enforce it uniformly against all.  However, with noise, it is often difficult to determine what is too loud and what is simply an over-sensitive neighbor.  To combat some of the noise issues, many associations require second floor and above units to have carpeted floors.  For those who want hardwood or tile, it is sometimes permitted provided the plans are pre-approved by the board.  These plans then often require soundproofing to be placed between the two floors.
Continue Reading

A condominium association in Milwaukee has historically faced heavy delinquency issues. Through The Husch Blackwell Condominium & HOA Law Team’s assertive collection methods, the firm collected more than $290,000 in assessments, interest and legal fees for the association since 2013. A substantial portion of the $290,000 resulted from the sale and/or rental of 10 units that became owned by the association.
Continue Reading

Husch Blackwell’s Condominium & HOA Law and Construction & Design teams defended a condominium association in a mold and water intrusion jury trial in Milwaukee County.  The plaintiffs consisted of a family of four who alleged that they had to move out of their condominium unit because of significant health injuries caused by the water and mold to the father and one of the children.  The plaintiffs’ complaint asserted claims of negligence and breach of contract.  
Continue Reading

Those of us involved in condominium management, whether as board members, officers, property managers or attorneys, know that VRBO and AirBnB have changed the way units are rented. Short term rentals are viewed by many associations as a problem that should be solved.  Specifically, these associations and managers would prefer that short rentals (most often defined as less than six months or one year, but I have seen it defined as less than 30 days) be prohibited.  The problem is getting enough people to agree on the various issues:
Continue Reading