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How to Deal with a Rule-Breaker

We represented a condominium in which a unit-owner had installed a non-conforming window and resisted the condominium board’s attempts to have the violation corrected. The level of obstinacy was unusual and ultimately resulted in fines and years of litigation. After motion practice, depositions, document discovery, and the unit-owner’s attorney changes, a trial finally took place. The court, as had been expected, ultimately ruled in favor of the condominium and ordered that the affected window be restored. However, the unit-owner, who was representing herself by that point, steadfastly refused to follow the court’s directions and eventually, after additional proceedings and hearings, was held in contempt of court. In the end, the violation was cured.

 

Takeaway

This very unusual situation shows how courts will generally uphold the covenants in most condominium bylaws against exterior alterations. It also reflects the difficulties and resistance boards may encounter in trying to enforce such covenants. When encountering violations of exterior alterations, condominium boards should be aware that although courts will usually rule in favor of the board, the effort can be time-consuming and expensive and a favorable ruling may still be difficult to enforce. With that in mind, I would suggest that condominiums consider amending their bylaws to provide for the reimbursement of attorneys fees to the prevailing party for non-monetary bylaw violations.

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