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CCOC Decision Summary

#29-11, Glenn v. Park Bradford Condominium Association (November 30, 2012) (Panel: McCabe, Henderson, Weinstein)

The unit owner filed a complaint with the CCOC listing as many as 67 different issues.  The CCOC rejected most of these issues on the grounds that it lacked jurisdiction over them.  For example, many of the issues involved the alleged actions of the condominium's attorneys or the employees of the attorneys, or of the manager, or of individual members of the board of directors.  The CCOC rejected such complaints because it had jurisdiction only over the authority of the governing body to do certain things or failure to meet certain legal obligations; and also because the applicable law says that only members, residents, and governing bodies can be parties to CCOC disputes.

The CCOC accepted jurisdiction of 7 issues; and the assigned panel held three nights of hearings on them.  The claims, and the rulings on them, are summarized below.

1. The Complainant alleged that the association caused damage to the unit and personal injury to the unit owner.  The facts showed that the association repainted the unit door.  The owner argued that the association had, at some point, painted the door improperly, requiring it to be done over.  The repainting was done at no charge to the unit owner and he did not produce any evidence of other costs he had to pay, or of any physical injury to himself.  Instead, he attempted to argue, repeatedly and in spite of warnings from the panel, that other management decisions of the association, such as its attempts to collect allegedly unpaid assessments or to have repairs done elsewhere in the building, caused him emotional stress.  The hearing panel ruled that Chapter 10B of the County Code, which governs the CCOC, does not grant the CCOC jurisdiction over claims of "intentional infliction of emotional distress", and that claims of personal injury or property damage must be shown to be caused by physical defects in the common areas, and not by management decisions with which the owner disagreed.

2. The Complainant alleged that the association allowed the manager to vote proxy ballots.  The facts did not show that the manager exercised any discretion on how to vote a proxy ballot.  On the contrary, the facts only showed that the manager collected ballots and that the ballots were used, as allowed by law, to establish a quorum.  The hearing panel concluded that there was no improper use of proxy ballots.

3. The Complainant alleged that the association allowed the manager to vote on board decisions although the manager was not a member of the board.  The owner failed to show that the manager ever voted.  At the most, the owner could only claim that the board asked the manager to vote.  Both the board and the manager denied the claim.  The hearing panel concluded that the owner failed to prove his claim.

4. The Complainant alleged that the association failed to have an annual audit performed within 3 months as required by its rules and failed to have an independent audit performed.  The hearing panel found that the association did in fact fail to meet this deadline; however, the undisputed testimony was that the association had requested the audit, and the audit was completed while the case was pending.  There was no evidence about when the audit was requested, or why it was delayed.  The hearing panel concluded that the matter was moot and that it could not order any additional relief.

5. The Complainant alleged that the association did not make its books and records available on request.  While the case was pending, all books and records that the owner desired to see were made available for his inspection and he did inspect them.  The hearing panel concluded that the matter was now moot and that it could not order any additional relief.

6. The Complainant alleged that the association's board of directors approved contracts exceeding $25,000 without the approval of the membership.  The facts showed that the rule in question only required approval of the membership for contracts over $25,000 which were for "additions" or "improvements."  All but one of the contracts cited by the owner were for repairs to existing elements.  The panel ruled, citing the case of Lee v. University Towers Condominium Association, #52-08, that repairs to existing property did not constitute additions or improvements and that therefore it was not necessary for the board to obtain the approval of the membership for such contracts.  However, one series of contracts, which totaled over $25,000, were for studies to investigate the possibility of adding a new central heating system to the building.  The hearing panel ruled that this study should be considered part of an "addition or improvement" because it involved adding something that did not already exist.  Therefore the board should have obtained membership approval for the study once the board knew that the total cost of the study would exceed $25,000. 

7.  The Complainant alleged that the association improperly held the owner in violation of the rules by ordering him to remove a business sign from his door and by telling him he could not post papers expressing his views on association issues in the common areas.  The evidence showed that the association had issued written warnings to the owner, but had not taken any further action against him.  The hearing panel noted that under the Condominium Act, the association must follow certain procedures before it can penalize a member, and that the association had not yet begun such a process.  The hearing panel ruled that neither party had yet "exhausted its remedies" against each other, as required by Chapter 10B, and that the matter was not yet ripe for the panel to consider.

The hearing panel went on to order the owner to pay $2065 to the association to reimburse the association for a part of its attorney’s fees.  The panel did so because it concluded that the owner persisted in attempting to prove that the decisions of the association caused him mental anguish after the panel had repeatedly warned him that such claims did not fall within the CCOC's subject matter jurisdiction, which in this case, was limited to claims that the failure to maintain the common elements caused personal injury or property damage.  The award was calculated based on the number of hours that the owner took up by trying to prove those claims after he knew or should have known he could not do so.

(Note: The owner appealed the CCOC decision to the Circuit Court, and the Circuit Court upheld the CCOC decision on all counts and dismissed the appeal.  #371273V.)

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