Some people think they might be able to save money in litigation with their community association by representing themselves, without an attorney. In legal terms, they appear in propia persona, or “pro per”.

A recent unpublished appellate court decision, Brock v. Winding Creek Homeowners Association, et al. (Not Reported in N.W.2d, 2017 WL 1488994), is a glaring example of what can go wrong when an individual foregoes expert legal advice.

The pro per plaintiff brought an action against the homeowners association regarding alleged accounting issues and fence/shed construction, relying on provisions in the Michigan Condominium Act (MCA) which, as our readers are likely aware, does not apply to homeowners associations. Homeowners associations / subdivisions usually see claims pursued under contract law (as the governing documents constitute a contract) or the Michigan Nonprofit Corporation Act.

The plaintiff was allowed to amend the complaint, which was done with assistance from an attorney, but the amended complaint still relied on the MCA. The court noted:

“Plaintiff’s counsel admitted… that he was mistaken as to the MCA’s application and agreed that there was no legal claim under the MCA. Counsel’s explanation for the error was that he ‘was retained the day before’ the amended complaint was due.”

What a train wreck! The appellate court went ahead and considered whether the documentation submitted would be sufficient to establish any proper claim, but the appellate court found it lacking and affirmed the trial court’s decision to dismiss.

By Mark Petrie, Legal Assistant