Montgomery County CCOC To Require Negotiation of Association Disputes

After a year-long examination of the operations of the Montgomery County Commission on Common Ownership Communities (CCOC), the County Council has enacted a new law which makes changes in the CCOC dispute resolution process.   More than 340,000 Montgomery County, Maryland residents live in over 1,000 condominiums, homeowners associations, and housing cooperatives.  The CCOC was created in 1991 to provide a forum for certain disputes between association residents and the board which govern the association to be resolved without going to court, and to provide educational resources for associaiton residents and leaders

Where the CCOC staff determines that there are reasonable grounds to conclude that a violation of law or association documents has occurred, the new law requires the staff to attempt to resolve disputes filed with the CCOC through informal negotiation and possibly mediation.

If the party who filed the CCOC dispute does not attend the mediation, the dispute must be dismissed.  If the party who is alleged to violation applicable law or the association documents does not attend the mediation, the matter must be set for a hearing and that party is prohibited from appearing at the hearing to present testimony and evidence. Previously, there was no requirement for active staff negotiation, and mediation was voluntary.

The new law also requires all members of the CCOC  to take the same CCOC training on community association governance which association board members are required to take, and any other training provided or approved by the County Attorney.   Additionally, volunteer arbitrators who chair CCOC hearing panels will be prohibited from representing any parties in disputes before other hearing panels.

Separately, the annual community association registration fee was increased from $3 to $5 per dwelling unit beginning July 1 to allow the CCOC to provide more staff and and educational resources. The CCOC is now part of the Montgomery County Department of Housing and Community Affairs.

Posted by Thomas Schild Law Group, LLC, attorneys for condominiums, homeowner associations, and housing cooperatives in  Maryland Counties of  Montgomery County, Prince George’s County, Howard County, and Frederick County; and in Washington, D.C.

 

Board Training Required for Condo and HOA Association Directors

Mid-way through 2016, hundreds of directors of condos, HOAs and coops in Montgomery County, Maryland have successfully completed the online training program now required by County law for directors elected, re-elected or appointed since January 1.  The training program, Community Governance Fundamentals, is provided by the Montgomery County Commission on Common Ownership Communities (CCOC).

The required education program is intended to promote more knowledgeable and responsible management of common ownership communities.  Topics include the roles and responsibilities of board members and homeowners, community governing documents, financial management, meeting procedures, and covenant and rule enforcement procedures.

The online training takes about 2 hours to complete, may be taken in phases over time, is interactive and includes short quizzes which must be passed to move on to the next section.  The program is also offered in a live format by community association attorneys and managers in conjunction with the Community Associations Institute.

A director who does not complete the training is not prohibited from continuing to serve on the board.  However, a CCOC dispute resolution panel may consider failure to complete the training in deciding a dispute between the association and a homeowner.

There are more than 1,000 common ownership communities in Montgomery County, which include over 130,000 dwelling units and 5,000 board members.

Posted by:  Thomas Schild Law Group, LLC, attorneys for Maryland condominiums, homeowner associations, and housing cooperatives in Montgomery County, Prince George’s County, Howard County and Frederick County.

Maryland Condominium Rule May Not Suspend Use of Common Elements by Delinquent Owner

A Maryland condominium’s policy of towing vehicles of unit owners who are delinquent in payment of condominium assessments was recently struck down by the Maryland Court of Special Appeals–an intermediate appeals court.

In an effort to get owners to pay the condominium assessments, the Board of Directors of an Anne Arundel County condominium passed a rule which prohibited parking in the condominium common element parking lot if an owner was in arrears in payment of condominium assessments and other charges for more than 45 days.  The rule was enforced by towing vehicles from the condominium property.  The condominium Board also enacted a rule to prohibit use of the community pool by owners who had not paid their assessments.

When the owner filed suit challenging the suspension of the right to use the parking lot and pool, the appeals court concluded that the Board was not authorized to take such action unless the condominium declaration or bylaws were amended to allow suspension of use of the common elements a tool for the collection of delinquent assessments.

The court relied on a prior decision of the Maryland Court of Appeals–the highest state appeals court–and a provision in the Maryland Condominium Act which recognize that the right to use the common elements is a property right which can only be limited by the condominium declaration.  Although the Court of Special Appeals ruled that the use of the of common elements could not be restricted by Board rule, it concluded the declaration or bylaws could be amended to allow suspension of the common element parking lot and pool for non-payment of condo assessments.

The court decision in Elevaton Towne Condominium Regime II v. Rose is an “unreported” decision which is not a binding precedent applicable to any other condominium.  However, it is instructive on how Maryland courts view limitations on the authority of condominium boards to restrict the use of common elements by owners who are delinquent in paying assessments.

Posted by Thomas Schild Law Group, LLC, attorneys for condominiums, homeowner associations, and housing cooperatives in Maryland counties of Montgomery County, Prince George’s County, Howard County, and Frederick County; and Washington D.C.

 

 

Maryland Appeals Court Upholds Enforcement of Association Truck Covenant

A homeowner association restriction on trucks has been determined by a Maryland appeals court to be enforceable against the owner of a large military-style vehicle.

The 3-axle camouflaged vehicle was taller than the first story of the home and as wide as the driveway. The Maryland Court of Special Appeals agreed with the trial court that the truck covenant had not been waived by allowing other smaller Sport Utility Vehicles built on a truck chassis.  It was appropriate and reasonable to distinguish between “consumer vehicles” and a “massive army-surplus truck”.

Although the appeals court noted that restrictive covenants may become invalid and unenforceable if the original development plan has been abandoned, or the character of the neighborhood has changed so much as to defeat the purpose of the restriction, those factors were not applicable to the community of single family homes in Harford County where the over-sized military truck was parked.

The court also rejected the homeowner’s contention that suit to obtain an injunction to enforce the truck covenant could not be filed before complying with the dispute resolution procedure in the HOA bylaws.  The bylaws required notice of the alleged violation and an opportunity for a hearing before the HOA Board of Directors before imposing a fine, suspend voting rights or infringe on other rights of a homeowner.

The appeals court concluded that the right to enforce the covenants by court action was provided for in the Declaration without conditions and, therefore, the dispute resolution procedures in the HOA Bylaws did not apply.  Even if the suit was deemed to be an attempt to “infringe” on the rights of the owner, the terms of the Declaration which had no pre-conditions to litigation prevailed over the notice and hearing provisions in the Bylaws.

Although the decision in Maloney v. Fountain Glen Homeowners Association, Inc. is an “unreported” decision and, therefore, not a binding precedent, it is instructive on how courts view enforcement of homeowner association covenant restrictions.

Posted by Thomas Schild Law Group, LLC, attorneys for condominiums, homeowner associations, and housing cooperatives in Maryland and the District of Columbia.

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2016 Maryland Condo & HOA Legislative Scorecard

The Maryland legislature has passed legislation which affects the management and operation of condominiums and homeowner associations.  New laws which take effect October 1, 2016 include:

Resale Disclosures.   Homeowner associations will be required for the first time to provide resale disclosure information to an owner selling a home in an HOA.  For condos which have long been required to provide resale disclosures, the disclosure requirements have been clarified or changed on matters such as assessments, replacement reserves, pending litigation, unit alterations, and violations of health or building codes.  And, the amount which condos, HOAs and management companies may charge for providing resale disclosure information is capped by the new law.

Tax Sale Procedure.  The purchaser of property at a tax sale will be required to notify condos and HOAs when a court suit is filed to prevent owners of property in those communities from keeping ownership of property.  The new law also provides that when a tax sale is approved by the court,  the tax sale purchaser is responsible for payment of condominium and homeowner association assessments from the date of the court judgment, whether or not a tax sale deed to the property is recorded in the land records.

Assessment Collection.  A court suit will not be permitted for any unpaid assessments where the time for filing suit has expired. Any subsequent payment on the debt, or written or oral affirmation of the debt will not revive or extend the statute of limitations. This applies to all suits involving consumer debt, not just association assessments.

Home Gambling.  Card games and mah jong games hosted in a residence not more than once a week will now be allowed where the total gambling bets for all players is no more than $1,000 in a 24-hour period.  In senior communities with age 55 restrictions, these games will also be allowed in the common areas.

Legislation considered but not enacted would have required state registration of all condos, co-ops and HOAs, and would have made it easier to amend association governing documents by allowing an owner’s failure to vote on a proposed amendment to be counted as that owner’s approval of the proposed amendment.

Also rejected was a bill to prohibit provisions in condominium sales contracts and bylaws which limit the ability of condo associations to file suit to enforce construction warranties on the common elements.

Posted by: Thomas Schild Law Group, LLC, attorneys for condominiums, homeowner associations, and housing cooperatives in Maryland and Washington, D.C.

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2016 Maryland Condo and HOA Legislation—What’s Hot and What’s Not

As the Maryland General Assembly heads to the end of the 2016 session on April 11, some bills regarding community association governance are still under consideration.  Others have been killed in committee.  To become law, a bill must be passed by the Maryland House and Senate and signed by the Governor.

Here’s What’s HOT!

Resale Disclosures. A bill to cap the amount which an association or management company can charge for providing resale disclosure information has passed the House and is headed to the Senate.  If enacted, it would also create a new obligation for homeowners associations to provide resale disclosure information to an owner selling  a home in an HOA.

Annual State Registration.  Legislation to require each condo, co-op and HOA to register with the state was passed by the House after it was scaled back to limit the information required.

Foreclosure and Tax Sale Notices.   Where condos and HOAs have recorded assessment liens, a bill passed by the House would require lenders to notify the association of any proposed, postponed or canceled foreclosure sale.  Another bill passed by the House and Senate would require tax sale purchasers to notify condos and HOAs when a court suit is filed to prevent owners of property in those communities from retaining ownership of property purchased at a tax sale.

 

….and Here’s What’s NOT!

Condo Construction Warranty.  House and Senate committees rejected proposed changes in the Maryland Condominium Act to prohibit provisions in condo sales contracts and bylaws which limit the ability of condo associations to file suit to enforce construction warranties.

Amendment of Governing Documents.   A House committee also killed legislation to make it easier to amend the governing documents of condos and HOAs by allowing an owner’s failure to vote on a proposed amendment to be counted as that owner’s approval of the proposed amendment.