Condominium and Homeowners Associations

A recent Pennsylvania case has again confirmed that a unit owner in a condominium or homeowners’ association is required to pay their assessments, regardless of whether they think the association has failed to provide some service. In Logans’ Reserve Homeowners’ Association v. McCabe, some unit owners believed that the association was not adequately mowing the area behind their units.  They complained that the overgrown common areas caused snakes and ticks to plague the unit owners.  Because of this, the unit owners decided to stop paying their assessments until the association mowed the common areas the way they wanted them to.

The Commonwealth Court held that unit owners are required to pay assessments “regardless of any alleged inadequacies in the association’s performance.”  The Court said that any breach of the association’s duties does not allow a unit owner to withhold their payments.  Unit owners are required to pay all assessments when due and they have no right to withhold payment of assessments for an alleged non-provision of services.

This case is nothing new.  Pennsylvania Courts have made and upheld this decision since 1990.  It is a good reminder that unit owners cannot withhold payment of their assessments, even if they are dissatisfied with the job of the association.

Aaron Marines is an attorney at Russell, Krafft & Gruber, LLP, in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. He received his law degree from Widener University and practices in a variety of areas including Commercial Real EstateLand Use, Land Planning and Zoning matters.

A recent case, Serota v. London-Towne Homeowners Association, dealt with an association trying to alter the voting rights of a unit owner.  More broadly, the case gives some instruction on how to amend the governing documents of a community that was created before the passage of the Pennsylvania Uniform Planned Communities Act (the “UPCA”).

The facts of the case are straightforward.  London-Towne Homeowners Association is a community with 70 townhouses.  Serota owned 12 of these.  The Declaration of Covenants, Conditions and Restrictions (the “CCR’s”) was recorded in 1979, before the UPCA was enacted.  The CCR’s provided that each unit received one vote.  This means Serota had 12 of the 70 votes of the Association.  The CCR’s provided that they could be amended with the vote of 75% of all unit owners.  The Executive Board of the Association amended the bylaws to provide that each unit owner receives only one vote, regardless of the number of units they own.  The UPCA provides that no amendment can change the ownership percentages or the voting strength of any unit owner without that unit owner’s approval.

Even though the CCR’s were recorded before the UPCA, some of its sections apply retroactively to communities created before the Act.  One of these sections deals with amendments to the declaration or CCR’s. Section 5102(d) of the UPCA provides that an amendment may be made either in accordance with the law at the time of the declaration, or be using procedures in the UPCA.  This means that if the old CCR’s do not have any way to be amended, then the Association can use the process in the UPCA. However, all amendments to a need to comply with the procedures and requirements in the document being amended, as well as the procedures and requirements of the UPCA.  Continue Reading Association Cannot Change Voting Rights of Unit Owner Without the Unit Owner’s Consent

I have written a number of times on this blog about providing reasonable accommodations for “service animals” and “emotional support animals.”  This legal battle continues to affect condominium and homeowner association communities.  A recent case shows a new way that a condominium association could get in trouble for refusing to provide a reasonable accommodation: because of a neighbor’s blog post.

Estate of Walters v. Cowpet Bay West Condominium Association, begins with the “usual” issue.  Two condominium unit owners sought to keep “emotional support dogs” in the condominium.  The condominium’s rules absolutely banned pets.  In this case, the Court determined that the unit owners were disabled, and that the support animals were necessary to allow them the use and enjoyment of the condominium unit.  Because of this, the condominium association was required to make a reasonable accommodation under the Fair Housing Act.

The concerning part of this case arises from the blog of some disgruntled neighbors.  The opinion from the United States Court of Appeals, Third Circuit, quoted a number of blog posts from residents of the community that opposed the emotional support dogs.  One neighbor replied on a blog post “isolate them [the unit owners] completely to their little “dog patch” on the beach and ignore them at every venue or occasion!” Continue Reading Could a Condominium Face Legal Trouble Because of Residents’ Blog Against Emotional Support Animals

It may be strange to think about slipping on ice now that the weather is finally warming up.  But a recent court ruling decided the question of who is responsible when a resident slips on an icy spot on a community walkway.  Is it the Builder who installed the walkway, or the Association who failed to treat the ice?

In Davis v. NVR, Inc. a homeowner attempted to sue the developer, builder, snow removal contractor and architect for a slip and fall injury. Davis was walking on the homeowners’ association walking path when she slipped on ice and injured herself.  The ice was present at a low spot in the walkway where the walkway crossed through a wetlands area in the homeowners’ association property. Apparently, many owners pointed out to the homeowners’ association that water puddled up at this spot on the walkway. It sounds like this icy spot was a pretty regular occurrence. Continue Reading Is the Builder Responsible When a Homeowners’ Association Doesn’t Treat Ice?

We have written a couple of posts about the Lancaster County-wide Property Tax Reassessment.  In this post, we want to focus specifically on commercial and industrial properties.  This includes any sort of income producing properties, including apartments and other rental properties.

As we explained before, the aim of the 2018 Reassessment is to make the assessed value of property equal to the actual fair market value of that property.  That is relatively easy to do with residential property – the County can see what properties of a similar size and location have sold for, and compare that to your residential property.  But for commercial property, that is much more difficult.  Your commercial property is different from most other properties.  Continue Reading Lancaster County Reassessment – Commercial and Industrial Property Assessment Appeals

What did you do on your snow day? I woke up, got a cup of coffee, and brushed up on the changes to Pennsylvania’s Mechanics’ Lien Law in my pajamas. Anything to put off several hours of snow shoveling and to stave off the regret of not investing in a snow blower.

Anyway, back to why you’re here: mechanics’ liens. What is a mechanics’ lien? It’s a legal claim, technically a security interest, against property that has been remodeled or improved, and is typically held by subcontractors and suppliers to ensure that they get paid for the work, services or supplies that they contributed to the project.

Pennsylvania’s Mechanics’ Lien Law recently underwent some fairly significant changes. Act 142 of 2014 modified Pennsylvania’s Mechanics’ Lien Law and required the creation of a standardized online directory called the State Construction Notices Directory. For projects over a certain dollar amount, Act 142 also provides property owners the ability to limit subcontractors’ mechanics’ lien claims if they don’t comply with certain requirements. Continue Reading Questions and Answers on Pennsylvania’s New Mechanics’ Lien Law and the State Construction Notices Directory

If you own property in Lancaster County, you probably have heard a lot about the County-wide property reassessment.  You should have received your Preliminary Assessment Notice in the mail.  If you suffered from a bit of shell shock after opening the Notice, take a breath, there are things you can do if you feel the value attributed to your home is incorrect. Continue Reading So I Received My Preliminary Property Assessment Notice. Now What?

The United States Golf Association (the USGA)and the Royal and Ancient Gold Club of St. Andrews (the R&A) generally write the official rules for golf for the world.  Last week, they announced sweeping proposed changes to the Rules of Golf.  I think that condominium and homeowners’ association boards can learn something from the proposed rules changes. Continue Reading What Homeowners’ Associations Can Learn from Golf

Aaron Marines was a recent contributor to the January/February 2017 issue of Community Assets bi-monthly magazine for the Pennsylvania and Delaware Valley Chapter of Community Associations Institute.

“Associations are often faced with the question of whether they need to ignore their dog rules for an “emotional support animal.”  Many boards are surprised to learn that they DO NOT need to alter pet rules…”

If you are a member of Community Associations Institute, you can read the full article in print or online.  You may also wish to learn more about other issues relating to Condominium and Homeowners’ Associations by reviewing some of Aaron’s blog posts on the Lancaster Law Blog.

Aaron Marines is an attorney at Russell, Krafft & Gruber, LLP, in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. He received his law degree from Widener University and practices in a variety of areas including Commercial and Residential Real EstateLand Use, Land Planning and Zoning matters.

Recently a property management company was charged with wire fraud for its actions in managing a San Diego, California association.  The property manager was directed to obtain bids for a construction project. According to the criminal indictment, the property manager concealed all of the lowest bids.  Because of this, his affiliated company turned out to have the lowest bid on the project.

According to the indictment, the property manager’s actions get worse.  During the construction, the property manager discovered asbestos that needed to be removed. He negotiated a change order from his Association Board – and an increased amount for the project – for this asbestos removal.  He then concealed the presence of asbestos from the people doing the job. That way, the property manager collected all of the extra asbestos removal fee, while the construction workers removed the asbestos without following the proper procedures.

The property management company and its principal have been charged with four counts of federal wire fraud.  This indictment carries a maximum penalty of twenty years in prison and a $250,000.00 fine.  In addition, the indictment seeks the recovery of $247,000.00, the cost of the construction project. Continue Reading Property Manager Charged with Wire Fraud in HOA Construction Project