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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