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.
Nearly 5 years after a condominium owner filed suit to challenge a condo association’s practice of towing owner’s vehicles of owners from the condominium common element parking lot and denying access to the swimming pool, the litigation is now before Maryland’s top appeals court in Elvaton Towne Condominium Regime II, Inc. v. Rose. The condo unit owner, who disputes that the assessments are in arrears, is also contesting the condo’s court suit and assessment lien.
The condominium contends that the board-approved rule for suspension of the use of parking lot and pool is permitted by the Maryland Condominium Act and the Condominium Bylaws which authorize the board to regulate the common elements. In contrast, the unit owner claims that the Board’s action is not merely regulation of the common elements but a prohibition on use not allowed by the Act or the condominium governing documents.
The Anne Arundel Circuit Court and the Maryland Court of Special Appeals–an intermediate appeals court–previously agreed with the homeowner and ruled that the condominium board of directors does not have the authority to adopt a rule to suspend the use of the common element parking lot and pool for non-payment of assessments, where the condominium declaration and bylaws do not provide that such action is allowed. Because the decision of the Court of Special Appeals is “unreported”, it is not a binding precedent applicable to other condominiums.
Concerned that the towing practice violates the Maryland Condominium Act and Maryland Consumer Protection Act, the Maryland Attorney General participated in the court appeal in support of the homeowner whose vehicle was towed.
The Court of Appeals heard oral argument in early January and its decision is expected by June 2017.
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.