Recent Court Rulings

Homeowner’s Retaliation Claim Against Association Failed

Facts: A homeowner in a planned community that was situated on a lake witnessed an employee of the community’s hired landscaping company spraying fumes without wearing protective clothing or a face mask. The homeowner complained to the association and also made a report to the state’s department of agriculture, regarding “an environmental and public health incident.” According to the homeowner, the board of directors and management staff had willfully failed to take any safety precaution to prevent this incident.

Association Couldn’t Rely on Declaration to Cut Down Berm

Facts: Two homeowners with a townhouse in a planned complex sued the association for making alterations to and performing work on a protective berm located in the complex’s common area near their lot. They alleged that the alterations to the berm resulted in a loss of seclusion and privacy for their lot, thus lowering its value. The homeowners asserted six causes of action for: breach of contract, breach of fiduciary duty, intentional damage of property, negligence, trespass pursuant to state law, and an accounting.

Court Didn’t Find Pervasive Pattern of Discrimination

Facts: A woman moved into a condominium with her mother, who was handicapped, to help with her daily activities. The woman asked the condominium association to provide an unobstructed path between the member’s front door and driveway.

Evidence Showed Association Removed Member’s Trees

Facts: The owner of property in a planned community sued the homeowners association under Oregon’s timber trespass statute, after several trees were cut down and removed from his land without his permission. The association claimed that an adjacent golf club with an easement on the owner’s land had removed the trees. A trial court determined that the association was responsible, it ruled in favor of the owner, and it tripled the damages award that the association had to pay, which was allowed for violations of the statute.

Member’s Settlement with Association Precluded Subsequent Lawsuit

Facts: An association member complained to the community’s management company on three separate occasions that an unauthorized car was parked in his assigned parking space at the property. The manager told the member to call a towing company, but when the member contacted the company, he was told that an “authorized” representative of the community would have to request that the car be towed. However, the manager refused to call the towing company on the member’s behalf.

Statutory Snow and Ice Liability Protection Didn’t Apply to Association

Facts: A condominium member suffered injuries after slipping on the sidewalk outside her building. She sued the association and the association’s management company for negligence, alleging that a defective drainage condition and negligent maintenance of the premises where the defective drain led to pooling of water and an unnatural accumulation of ice caused her fall. The trial court ruled in favor of the association and the management company; it said that the Illinois state’s Snow and Ice Removal Act provided immunity to the defendants.

Adult Supervision Rule for Playground Was Discriminatory

Facts: A married couple who owned a home in a planned community sued the homeowners association and its property management company for housing discrimination, negligence, and unfair business practices. They alleged that the overly broad community rules requiring adult supervision effectively prohibited their children from playing outside in the common areas, apart from a small playground onsite at the complex.

Decision: A California trial court ruled in favor of the members.

Property Manager Wasn’t Personally Liable for Alleged FHA Violation

Facts: A condominium owner sued the property manager of the building’s association, alleging violations of the Fair Housing Act (FHA) because the manager had attempted to enforce rules regarding the owner’s emotional support dog. Despite the association’s rule that no unit owner may appropriate the common elements for her own use, the owner had installed an underground invisible fence within the common elements of the condominium to dispense with the need to walk or constrain her emotional support dog while it was outside her home.

State Laws Determined Validity of Amendment to Declaration

Facts: A planned community was developed in the 1990s. Prior to development, the developer recorded declarations and covenants that provided for the formation of a homeowners association. It stipulated that certain owners of multiple lots would be required to pay dues on only one lot. Several years later, a dispute arose concerning whether the association acted within its authority when it amended the declaration in 2012.

Allegedly Fraudulent Condo Sales Didn’t Excuse Assessment Nonpayment

Facts: A condominium unit owner was obligated to pay a percentage of the condominium common area expenses. The condominium association sued the owner, seeking collection of unpaid condominium assessments. The owner claimed the association did not have the legal authority to require him to pay the assessments. He alleged that the condominium developer and real estate agents made misrepresentations and errors of omission, and as a result, the initial sale of units was a fraud.