Maryland Appeals Court Voids Condominium Parking Rule

A Maryland condominium Rule which barred delinquent condo owners from using the common property parking lot and swimming pool has been struck down by the Maryland Court of Appeals–the highest state appellate court.

In Elvaton Towne Condominium Regime II v. Rose, the appeals court decided that a condominium board of directors can not rely on general rulemaking authority to adopt a Rule which interfered with the owner’s statutory property right to use the common elements. However, the court ruled that the Maryland Condominium Act permits a condominium Declaration to provide that an owner’s  parking and pool privileges may be suspended where the owner is in arrears in payment of condo assessments.

Although recognizing a condo board may adopt reasonable Rules regarding the use of the common elements, the court noted that such Rules must be consistent with the condominium Declaration and Bylaws and with the Maryland Condominium Act. Continue reading

Maryland Top Court to Review Condo Towing Rule

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

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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Know Before You Tow–Montgomery County Adopts New Towing Law

Towing from private property in Maryland has come under increased scrutiny in recent years as some towing companies and property owners engaged in “predatory” towing to immediately remove unauthorized vehicles.  In response, statewide towing procedures were enacted in 2012 to provide additional protections to vehicle owners. Maryland towing law, for instance, requires signs with specified information and requires a photo of the vehicle before towing.

 

In some counties and municipalities, towing is also regulated by local laws which impose more stringent procedures. Both state and local towing laws govern towing from the common area parking lots of condominiums, homeowner associations and co-ops.

 

In Montgomery County, towing has been regulated by County law for many years.   However, new restrictions apply to towing from private parking lots beginning November 30, 2015.   Requirements which affect towing from community association property include:

  • Each tow must be specifically authorized in writing in person, by fax or email on a form approved by the County Office of Consumer Protection, except for tows between 2 a.m. and 9 a.m. and tows from a fire lane or vehicles blocking access to another vehicle, the property or building.

 

  • For towing solely for failing to display a vaild registration, a violation notice must be placed on the vehicle at least 72 hours before towing.

 

  • In addition to signs at the entrance, there must be additional signs for each 45 spaces.  However, if  a violation notice is placed on an unauthorized vehicle at least 48 hours before towing, only an entrance sign is required by County law but the signage must still comply with the State towing law which requires one sign for every 7500 square feet of parking area.

 

  • Photographic evidence of the violation which is the basis for the tow must be provided to the vehicle owner and must be available for inspection for one year.

 

  • Towing contracts must specify the responsibilities of the property owner and towing company, state that the contract does not provide express authorization to tow, provide that the property owner and towing company are jointly liable for violations by the towing company, with a right of contribution or indemnification,  and include certain other provisions.

 

 

With parking spaces in short supply in many communities, parking and towing disputes are often contentious.  To help avoid these disputes, condo and HOA boards should carefully review all parking restrictions and contracts, and adopt a written towing policy in coordination with the association manager, attorney and towing contractor.

POSTED BY:  Thomas Schild Law Group, LLC

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