Condominium and homeowners associations were once heralded as an expression of grass roots democracy, allowing neighbors with common interests to act in a democratic way to protect their property values and maintain their chosen lifestyles. More recently, due to the large number of lawsuits involving such associations and unreasonable restrictions imposed on homeowners, they are more often seen as emotionally charged neighbor disputes played out in court.
Homeowners and condominium associations are intended to provide a means for the owners to elect a board of directors, that usually hires a management company. The board is generally responsible for determining and collecting assessments, maintaining the common elements and ensuring the non-common elements are used in such a fashion as not to damage or harm the property or property values of other members. Usually only a few members of the association get involved, and board members are elected with minimum votes. The powers of the board, either directly or through its manager, can be somewhat draconian, assessing fines or taking other action to the detriment of a particular homeowner. Some association declarations (rules) impose restrictions on property ownership, architecture, guests, pets, property usage and other matters. In office or commercial settings, condo declarations can restrict or compel the hours of business operation, signage, public access, parking and other matters that could be critical to the success of your business.
When purchasing property subject to a homeowners or condominium association, obtain current copies of all of the declarations, by-laws, rules, regulations and recent board minutes. Also get budgets and financial information regarding the association so that you can evaluate it reserves for repair and maintenance of common elements, such as roofs, parking lots and landscaping. As owner obligations and restrictions can impact your use and occupancy of the premises, be sure they are acceptable before you buy.
Adherence to the declarations and board resolutions is generally enforced, with most courts giving the board broad discretion in operating the association, even when you may think you have been unfairly targeted. Some courts believe that your remedy for board oppression is to elect new board members rather than fight in court.
Condominium and homeowners associations have become an important aspect of real estate ownership, and being properly advised before you purchase and after you own can save you substantial money. Brooks, Tarulis & Tibble, LLC has experience in representing homeowners and condominium associations, and advising owners of the rights, duties and obligations imposed on their property. If we can be of assistance to you, please do not hesitate to contact me.
Douglas C Tibble