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Commission on Common Ownership Communities

Minutes of the Monthly Meeting

November 6, 2013

(Approved)

The monthly meeting of the Commission on Common Ownership Communities was called to order at 7:07 pm by Chairperson Elizabeth Molloy.

Present: Commissioners Molloy, Zajic, Alkon, Stone, Ethier, Winegar, Brandes, Weinstein and Fishbein (9).

Absent: Commissioners Whelan, Dubin, Kabakoff, Cromwell, Coyle and Fonoroff. (6)

Also attending: Associate County Attorney Walter Wilson; Volunteer Panel Chair Greg Friedman; CCOC staff Ralph Vines and Peter Drymalski; Larry Dorney; Trevelyan D’Souza, Barbara Braswell.

            1. MINUTES.  The minutes of the October, 2013 meeting were approved as drafted.

            2. COMMUNITY FORUM.

            None.

            3. NEW CASES PRESENTED FOR REVIEW:

            The Commission voted unanimously to accept jurisdiction of #17-12, Norbeck Hills HOA v. Villareal and Martinez, and to issue an order of default.  The Commission also voted unanimously to accept jurisdiction of #28-13, Kim v. Montrose Woods Condominium, to set it for a hearing December 12 (panel: Kernan, Fishbein and Winegar).  The Commission voted unanimously to accept jurisdiction of #41-13, D’Souza v. Cinnamon Woods HOA, and to refer it to a hearing panel (Ethier, Weinstein and Whelan) for decision on the cross motions for a default and to dismiss the complaint.  Mr. Wilson agreed that the Commission had jurisdiction of this dispute because it raised claims of the authority of the governing body to impose fines, fees, or assessments and whether the association properly adopted a rule.

            4. REQUESTS TO THE COMMISSION: Mr. Drymalski presented a request from former CCOC member Jacquie Simon that she and the CCOC should go to the regional Federal Housing Administration Office in Philadelphia to meet with FHA staff and show them how the FHA rules on delinquency rates and reserves are hurting the condominiums most in need of Federal assistance.  The consensus of the Commission was that the FHA rules were a national issue over which Montgomery County has little influence by itself, and that therefore attempting to meet with the FHA by itself would be unproductive.

            5. DECISIONS AND ORDERS ISSUED; OTHER LITIGATION:

The staff summarized the recent decision in #04-13, Jenkins v. Rosewood Residences Condominium.  The hearing panel dismissed the case without a hearing for lack of personal jurisdiction.  The panel found that at the time the complainant filed her complaint with the CCOC, she was neither a member nor resident of the community; therefore she could not be a party to a CCOC complaint under Chapter 10B.  Two appeals from CCOC decisions pending in the Circuit Court were dismissed.

            6. COUNTY ATTORNEY'S REPORT:

            In response to a question about the effective date of Bill 19-13, reducing the CCOC’s authority to award attorney fees to those instances where it finds one party acted in bad faith, Mr. Wilson stated it would take effect 91 days after it was signed.  It was signed by County Executive Leggett November 4, 2013; and therefore will take effect February 4, 2013.  It only applies to new cases filed on or after that date.

            7. STAFF REPORTS:

            Staff reported that it had made 3 public presentations to a total of 260 people about the CCOC.

            Staff reported that the County Council unanimously approved “Option D” of Bill 19-13, and that the result will be that the authority of CCOC hearing panels to award legal fees is reduced to those instances where the panel finds that a party has engaged in “misconduct” during the CCOC dispute.

            Staff submitted the draft Fall 2013, newsletter for comments; and also requested comments on Ms. Manougian’s draft chapter on Insurance for the CCOC Manual & Resource Guide.  Upcoming issues will feature articles by Nicole Williams on election disputes and Ron Bolt on proper rule enforcement procedures.

            8. COMMITTEE REPORTS:

            Mr. Alkon reported for the Legislative Committee.  Commissioner Zajic brought to the committee’s attention a proposal recommended by a committee at Leisure World to change two provisions of the Maryland Condominium Act.  The first provision, Section 11-104(e)(2), requires a two-thirds majority of all the members for any vote to amend the Bylaws, which the committee finds makes it almost impossible to amend the Bylaws.  Mr. Zajic believes that this requirement hurts communities and that a simple majority of those present and voting is sufficient.  Mr. Zajic said that the Leisure World committee’s proposal would be something like the bylaws could be changed on a two-thirds vote of the members present in person or by proxy, provided that at least 50% of all members were present. The second provision, section 11-102(a)(3) prohibits the banning of a member’s right to rent his unit. The Mr. Zajic believes the prohibition on rental restrictions hurts communities and would like to see the laws changed to allow associations to adopt a different voting method to ban or limit rentals.  Mr. Zajic said that the committee was hoping the CCOC would support these proposals.

            Ms. Molloy directed the Committee to explore the issue further to determine how widespread the problem is and to ascertain what our communities want.

            Ms. Ethier reported that the Annual Forum Committee has settled on a date (April 26, 2014) and location (North Creek Community Center in Gaithersburg).  It will run from 10am to 1pm.  The topics to be covered will be Reserve Studies, the legal consequences of failure to perform a reserve study, Audits, Investments, and Preventive Maintenance.  The Committee is looking for speakers and would appreciate recommendations from the Commission.

            9. OLD BUSINESS:

            Panel Chair Greg Friedman presented to the CCOC his and other panel chairs’ concerns regarding the Council’s passage of Bill 19-13.  He noted that he had exchanged emails with Councilmember Leventhal and Council staff and he has concerns with certain legal interpretations that the Council staff has expressed including the  Council’s attorney’s opinion that an association filing a complaint with the CCOC automatically waives its rights to the legal fees for such a case; and he reported that leading attorneys have told him that instead of filing with the CCOC, they will file in the courts, instead, which will honor governing document provisions that award legal fees to associations.

            Mr. Friedman proposed that the individual members of the CCOC, acting as private citizens, join with the panel chairs to sign and send a joint letter to the Council and to Mr. Leggett to reconsider the issue and to show that the new law will not prevent “intimidation” by associations of their members; on the contrary it will make it harder for the CCOC to deal with that issue.  The consensus of the CCOC was in support of this proposal, and Mr. Friedman agreed to draft a letter for consideration.

            10. NEW BUSINESS:

            Ms. Molloy reported that she had met with OCP Director Eric Friedman to discuss the CCOC and its projects.  She updated him on the CCOC’s plans for the upcoming year, thanked him for his support of the CCOC’s video project, arranged with him for the CCOC to receive a copy of this year’s approved budget and next year’s proposed budget, and discussed with him the need for additional staff to support the work of the CCOC.

            11. NEXT MEETING:  The next meeting will be Wednesday, December 4, 2013, and the following meeting is set for January 1, 2014 (which will need to be rescheduled as the 1st is a holiday).

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