To tow or not to tow…with apologies to William Shakespeare, that is the question at the heart of long-running litigation between an Anne Arundel County condominium and owners whose vehicles were towed from the condo parking lot. The Maryland Court of Appeals will soon resolve the dispute over a condominium association’s authority to suspend a condo owner’s use of the common elements when the owner is in arrears in payment of condominium assessments. Continue reading
Outside the glare of worldwide attention to the inauguration of Donald Trump as the President of the United States, the Maryland General Assembly began its 2017 90-day legislative session in mid-January.
Some bills considered–but not enacted–in 2016 will be examined again by legislative committees in the Maryland House of Delegates and Maryland Senate. This includes legislation to establish a state registry for common ownership communities, to require lender notice to condominiums and homeowner associations when a lender postpones or cancels a foreclosure sale, and to make it easier to amend the governing documents of condominiums and homeowner associations.
Other proposed legislation would require Maryland community association managers to obtain a state license to provide management services and establish a State Board of Common Ownership Community Managers. Several bills would limit the authority to prohibit or regulate uses such as electric vehicle charging stations and backyard gardens. Also under consideration is a bill to require condos and HOAs to obtain an independent reserve study of the condition of the common areas every 5 years to determine future costs of major repairs and replacement.
A legislative committee will receive comments on each bill and make a recommendation on whether the bill should become law. Only legislation which is passed by both the House and Senate, and approved by the Governor becomes law.
For updates and details on legislation affecting Maryland condos, co-ops and homeowner associations, sign up for the Maryland Condominium & HOA Law Blog to receive the latest blogposts by email.
Posted by Thomas Schild Law Group, LLC, attorneys for condominiums, homeowner associations and housing cooperatives in Maryland–including Montgomery County, Prince George’s County, Howard County, Frederick County, and Baltimore County; and in Washington, D.C.
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.
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.
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.
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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