Recent Court Rulings

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.

Board Members Were Liable Under Section 1983 Claim

Facts: A homeowner in a planned community sued an association and some of its board members, claiming that they violated her constitutional rights by prompting the police to harass her. Specifically, the homeowner claimed that the board members reported that her son was involved in something illegal and encouraged the police to arrest him. As a result, eight police officers came to her house, drawing their guns and threatening to come inside. The association and board members asked a trial court to dismiss the claims.

Association Had Authority to Fine Member for CC&R Violations

Facts: A homeowner who violated the rules in an association’s governing documents was fined. He sued the association, claiming that it couldn’t lawfully impose fines on its members. He argued that: (1) only a government can impose fines; (2) the restrictive covenants do not authorize the imposition of fines; (3) the bylaws’ provisions concerning fines are not the equivalent of a liquidated damages provision in a contract but rather constitute unenforceable contractual penalties; and (4) the association’s imposition of fines violates public policy.

Association Didn’t Have Right to Assess Litigation Costs Against Members

Facts: Two condominium unit owners sued the association for claims associated with alleged mold contamination in their unit and common area. A trial court ruled in favor of the association. The association also asked the trial court to allow it to collect as an assessment against the owners the litigation fees and costs. The trial court dismissed the claim. The association appealed.

Decision: A Georgia appeals court upheld the trial court’s decision.

Manager Had Duty to Enforce Pet Rules, Not Make Them

Facts: A condominium unit owner was attacked by another resident’s dog in a common area. The owner sued the association and manager. She claimed that the association and the manager of the condominium were negligent because the condominium association failed to enact and/or enforce rules relating to dogs, failed to enforce the regulations that were in place, and failed “to perform regular inspections of all buildings to ensure compliance” with the rules and regulations.

No Requirement to Produce Records for ‘Improper Purpose’

Facts: A homeowner became treasurer of an association board. After looking at the association’s finances, he wanted to conduct an independent audit of the association’s books and records. The homeowner sent an email with the request for certain documents to the board’s president and the association’s management company. He claimed that the association refused to give him the documents he needed. The homeowner sued the association and the management company.

Trial Necessary to Determine Whether Parking Easement Includes Wall

Facts: A partition wall separated from a common walkway a grouping of three parking spaces in the parking lot of a condominium building. This created an enclosed garage space separate and distinct from the other parking spaces within the common garage.

Two members who owned a unit in the building held an easement for the exclusive use of the parking spaces enclosed by the wall.

Subsequent Notices Not Required to Specify Rule Violation

Facts: Homeowners in a planned community installed a lattice attached to the top of a fence in their backyard to provide additional privacy. The association sent the homeowners a violation notice demanding that they remove the lattice. The homeowners were advised by an association representative that they were not entitled to a hearing concerning the violation. They removed the lattice and installed a privacy screen that, according to the homeowners, was built in accordance with specifications given to them by the association representative.

Covenants Include Hens as “Recognized” Household Pets

Facts: Several homeowners in a planned community kept hens on their lots. The association informed them that this violated the association’s covenants. The covenants disallow “animals, birds, or poultry” on residents’ lots unless kept as “recognized household pets.” The owners claimed that their hens met the recognized household pet exception. The association argued that the term “recognized household pets” isn’t defined in the covenants, which were, therefore, ambiguous.