Upcoming Webinars

Coronavirus and Michigan Community Associations: Best Practices Wednesday, April 8 at 12 p.m. The coronavirus pandemic has caused an upheaval of community association life along with life in general. Attend this webinar for tips from Michigan’s most experienced attorney in condominium and community association law, Robert Meisner, about how to weather the storm. We will…

HB 5260 is a Good Start, Needs Expansion for HOAs

At the end of 2018, our Michigan government experienced a “lame duck” session when many of the representatives and senators, as well as the governor, would not be returning to office the following year. During these times, there tends to be a flurry of legislative activity, as certain individuals may no longer be concerned about…

Backyard Chickens – Fowl or Fair?

Most community associations will have a provision in their Bylaws or Declaration that effectively prohibits chickens from being kept in a backyard, such as “No farm animals, livestock, reptiles or exotic animals are allowed…” But some associations located in municipalities which do not ban chickens have been considering a change to their restrictions in light…

HB 4676 – Prohibited Restrictive Covenants Act

Unfortunately, you can still find shocking examples of racism in recorded real property restrictions, including condominium master deeds or subdivision declarations. A restriction might state that only “members of the white race” may own property in the development, for example. While they were likely recorded many years ago and are no longer enforceable under current…

Just. Follow. The. Rules.

Ob-sti-nate. adj. Stubbornly refusing to change one’s opinion or chosen course of action, despite attempts to persuade one to do so. We might add to the above definition a picture of the defendant in Fox Pointe Association v. Ryal, where summary disposition in favor of the plaintiff condominium association was recently confirmed by the Michigan Court…

Directors Serve Until Someone Else is Elected

Occasionally, we work with boards of directors that have not held an election for some time, usually because nobody else has ever expressed an interest in running as a candidate. A recent decision from the Michigan Court of Appeals makes clear that the board’s decisions are not invalidated just because elections have not been held.…

Making Sure HB 4219 Helps Community Associations

Recently, new state legislation was introduced that would significantly change property tax foreclosures. Right now, counties get to keep everything. So even if you owe just $1 and your house sells for thousands, it’s a big windfall for the county. However, if HB 4219 becomes law, it would ensure that owners of real estate are…

Court of Appeals Affirms Public Policy in Favor of Adult Care Facilities

Just about every condominium’s or subdivision’s bylaws has them – restrictions on “commercial” activity and the requirement that a home/unit be used only for “residential” purposes. However, litigation regularly erupts over whether certain activities are commercial or residential in nature. With regard to adult foster care facilities and whether they constitute commercial or residential activity…

Botsford Commons Lawsuit Against Beaumont Health in the News

Many thanks to the Farmington Observer and Farmington Press for their stories about our condominium association client’s suit against Beaumont Health. The suit alleges dangerous conditions exist because Beaumont has not properly executed its responsibilities for maintenance and repair of the common elements in the development, of which Beaumont-Botsford hospital is a part. The suit also…

Collection Agency Agreements: What You Don’t Know Can Hurt You

Instead of retaining experienced legal counsel, some community associations contract with a collection agency to pursue delinquent assessments without an understanding of the major differences between the two approaches. One purported benefit offered by collection agencies is a “no upfront fees” approach where fees and costs are deferred and only added to the delinquent account…

Dept. of Veterans Affairs Makes Site Condo Approval Easier

“Effective immediately, site condominiums in the state of Michigan will be processed in the same manner as a single family detached residence. VA will no longer review legal documentation for site condominiums. Lenders will be responsible for ensuring that any site condominium proposed as collateral for a VA-guaranteed loan meet requirements for the state of…

Senators Push for Federal Housing Administration Certification Reform

“FHA’s current condominium rules place significant restrictions on the purchase and sale of condominiums, even though they are the most affordable homeownership option for first-time buyers, small families, urban and older Americans. Importantly, condominiums also offer residents access to the amenities, services, and public transportation that build stronger communities and promote sustainable homeownership.” The above…

Stay on Top of Co-Owners’ Obligation to Insure

Unfortunately, we have witnessed a recent spate of fires that have occurred in various condominiums throughout Michigan. This has reminded us, and the associations that we represent, how important it is to have appropriate provisions in the condominium bylaws requiring co-owners to insure their units, and to enforce those provisions consistently. Some co-owners mistakenly assume…

Be Careful With Your Bylaw Restrictions

We recently wrote about some homeowners who plainly violated the restrictive covenants in their association’s governing documents when they painted their home blue without submitting an application for approval. Another case involving a blue house from Nebraska recently caught our attention, Estates at Prairie Ridge Homeowners Association v. Korth, 904 N.W.2d 15 (Neb. 2017). However,…

Commercial Use Prohibitions Mean No Short-Term Renting

The Michigan Court of Appeals has published a 2-1 split decision, Eager v. Peasley, Mich App N.W.2d, 2017 WL 5907310, confirming that short-term rentals (generally understood to be for a term less than one month) constitute violations of “commercial use” prohibitions in deed restrictions. Previously, there were unpublished decisions to this effect, but a published…

Massachusetts Gets it Right Regarding Anti-Litigation Provisions

We have previously written about Michigan HB 4446, advocating for removal of the exemption for developers in the bill, or in the alternative, abandoning it. Now, a new Massachusetts Supreme Court ruling in Trustees of the Cambridge Point Condominium Trust vs. Cambridge Point, LLC has been published, where the court found an anti-litigation provision in the…

Homeowners Try to Defend Themselves, Association Brings Them Back to Earth

This one had us shaking our head. Why do some people refuse to seek professional legal guidance when it is obvious that they need it? Few attorneys with any experience in community association law would have advised these homeowners to fight the association in this matter. In Hawthorne Ridge Homeowners Association v. Wang, Not Reported…

California Gets Aggressive With Solar Power in Community Associations

In what may be interpreted as an overreach by California’s state government through legislation (AB 634) enacted in October 2017, community associations in that state (including condos) now have significantly less control over installation of solar systems by owners, including installations on roofs that are part of the “common area” (what we know here in…

Priority Amendments to Governing Documents

Many Michigan condominium and homeowner association directors want to know how their governing documents might be improved. In our experience, it’s highly likely that just about any community association’s governing documents would benefit from full amendment and restatement. This holds true even for newer developments because developers that draft the governing documents have little incentive…

View Our Recorded Webinar – Pets in the Community Association

On December 12, 2017, we hosted a webinar, “Pets in the Community Association.” It’s everything you need to know about creating and enforcing pet restrictions in your Michigan condominium or subdivision. Are your current restrictions actually enforceable if challenged, and what accommodations might you have to make to comply with fair housing laws? Follow this link…

Are You Sure You’re Insured? Read Your Condo Policy Carefully

Condominium insurance policies can be incredibly confusing to the average board member. Even though there may be no “fine print” and everything is typed the same size, the many definitions, endorsements, and cross references can create a forest of exceptions that make it difficult to know exactly what you’re paying for or getting. Sometimes, even…

Guns in the Condominium: Rights and Restrictions

We recently examined an interesting question – can an association prohibit co-owners from bringing firearms to meetings of members held in the common elements? There is no case law specifically confirming the answer to this question, but this kind of rule or restriction would likely be defensible if challenged in court. The published legal scholarship…

Special Ethics Considerations for Community Association Lawyers

In the practice of community association law, attorneys face special ethical considerations with respect to representation of community association clients and the attorney’s relationship with community association management companies. Certain attorneys may receive a large portion of their business through referrals from one or two management companies, and if a dispute arises between one of…

Robert Meisner on FOX2 News “Let it Rip” With Charlie Langton

Mr. Meisner discussed a condominium smoking complaint that was recently filed in federal court, notable because it not only alleges a nuisance but also alleges violation of the federal Fair Housing Act by the condominium association. Mr. Meisner appears on a panel with the plaintiff’s attorneys and opines that neither the association nor the management…

Foreclosure by Advertisement and the FDCPA

In most circumstances, we at The Meisner Law Group have found that the best recommended option to pursue foreclosure on a property for delinquent assessments is a judicial action as opposed to nonjudicial foreclosure by advertisement. Now, there is even more reason to prefer judicial action, as a recent decision concerning the federal Fair Debt…

Board Members Expected to Have Thick Skin

Contentious elections of an association’s board of directors can result in some serious allegations against candidates being communicated to an association’s members. “The board is wasting our money!” “He’s lazy and doesn’t want to do anything!” “She’s horrible at this!” While board members and candidates may feel wronged by inaccurate or false statements, they should…

Appeals Court Confirms Subdivisions Not Subject to Michigan Condominium Act

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…

Don’t Forget Which Months Have 31 Days

Your condominium’s or subdivision’s governing documents likely contain many provisions setting forth certain windows of time or deadlines by which certain actions must be taken, for example, giving notices of member meetings, taking action without a meeting, or responding to architectural modification requests. These deadlines will be enforced strictly by the courts in litigation, so it’s…

Defining “Replacement”, “Addition”, and “Maintenance”

A new unpublished Michigan Court of Appeals decision provides an instructive example of how courts will sometimes use a simple dictionary in order to determine what words mean. In MJ Development Company, Inc. v. Inn at Bay Harbor Association (Not reported in N.W.2d, 2017 WL 726591), the decision was based on the following bylaw provisions: (a) Should…

It’s a Bird, It’s a Plane, No, It’s a Drone!

With the exponential rise in the popularity of drones (technically referred to as “Unmanned Aerial Vehicles”) over the past few years for personal use, as well as current testing by businesses like Amazon for commercial delivery to residences, the federal government and many states, including our state government in Michigan, have taken the first steps…