I recently returned from the Annual CAI Law Seminar in Tucson. As is the norm at these gatherings, attorneys (and some managers) from across the country assemble to take part in a three-day forum on cases of interest from the past year, and breakout sessions for legal seminars on a variety of topics.
From my point of view, one of the more beneficial facets of the Law Seminar is the morning sessions for case updates. Two speakers provide a synopsis of reported cases in various areas of community associations (such as restrictive covenant issues, assessment collections, etc.). These are always good to hear (and have copies of the cases) as it provides a reference for those issues that I may have to deal with in New Jersey. It certainly provides a starting point for issue recognition in certain cases.
Of course, there are always cases discussed that leaves one shaking one’s head and saying to oneself, “Are you kidding me?” One thing community association living does not have is a shortage of good stories that makes one smile. A sample of the best of 2009 (none of these are from New Jersey, proving sanity did rule for the most part in New Jersey this past year):
Lake Charleston Maintenance Association, Inc. v. Farrell, 16 So. 3d 182 (Fla. App., 2009. A homeowner submitted an application to the development review board of the homeowner’s association requesting permission to repaint her house. She received a letter stating that her application was pending and requested additional information. She then attended a meeting of the development review board where she was advised that her application had been denied. A couple of weeks later, the homeowner painted her house in the color she originally submitted in her application. The association filed suit. The court found that the defendant had violated the declaration by painting her house without first obtaining approval of the design review board. The court found that she was informed of the denial of her application when she attended the meeting of the design review board which was held within the 30 day period within which the design review board was to approve or disapprove an application.
Schwartz v. Banbury Woods Homeowners Association, Inc., 675 S.E. 2d382 (N.C. App., 2009). A homeowner’s association assessed fines against a lot owner for violating the parking restrictions in the recorded covenants. The covenants stated that owners of lots shall not be permitted to park boats, trailers, campers and all similar property on the streets in the development. The homeowner claimed that his motor home did not fall within the definition of “campers and all similar property” as stated in the covenants. The court held that although the term “motor home” was not expressly listed in the covenants, based on the natural meaning of the term “camper” at the time the covenants were drafted and recorded, the court concluded that it would defeat the plain and obvious purposes of the restriction to exclude plaintiff’s motor home.