Owner Is Liable for Previous Owner’s Violations

This week, we dig into a landmark case out of Michigan. The state Court of Appeals ruled that a condo association could hold a unit owner liable for the previous owner’s bylaw violations, even though the association had let them go unabated for at least two years. The case is full of good news for community associations in Michigan and possibly other states, too.

The owner purchased her unit in 2013. In late 2015, the association learned that several alterations had been made to the unit’s entrance door without the permission required by the master deed and bylaws. Specifically, no permission was given to:

  • Install a square door lock,
  • Install a pewter-colored lever door handle,
  • Install new, larger address numbers on the door, or
  • Re-paint the door in a color that wasn’t the mandatory shade of white.

The owner had installed the new lever door handle, but all of the other alterations had been made by the previous tenant. Over the next several months, the association sent the owner letters about the violations and assessed fines when she failed to make the requested changes to her door.

“There was a very common sense solution, and it was presented at various points in time,” says Kevin Hirzel of Michigan-based Hirzel Law, PLC, who represented the association in the case. “The association even offered to make the fixes itself, and she refused out of principle, so it just kept escalating.”

To learn more about the case and what it means for community associations and their managers, read our new article Court Puts Owner on the Hook for Previous Owner’s Bylaw Violation.

Best regards,
Matt Humphrey
President