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CCOC Decision Summary

#549-O, Kaplan v. Stonebridge Homeowners Association (April 2, 2003) (Panel: Hitchens, Guynn-Werking, Skobel)

The homeowners (HO) challenged a decision of their homeowners' association (HOA) to allow a portable basketball hoop to be placed in a parking lot which was part of the common elements of the HOA.The HO claimed that the decision to allow the hoop was an alteration of a common element that required the vote of the unit owners under the HOA bylaws.The HOA's defense was that its decision was a "business judgment" and properly made.

As a preliminary issue, the hearing panel dealt with defining who proper parties to the case were.Under Section 10B-8(7) of the CountyCode, a "party" could be either an owner or an occupant of a unit.E. Kaplan, who was listed as a co-complainant when the dispute was filed, had moved out of the HOA by the time of the hearing, and because she was then neither an owner nor an occupant of the HOA, the panel excluded her as a party.On the other hand, the panel allowed G. Verbitsky to join the case as a party and co-complainant, because she was the owner of a different unit in the HOA even though she was not a party to the complaint when it was originally filed.

The evidence at the hearing showed that an unknown person had placed a portable basketball hoop in one of the HOA's parking lot and that it had remained in place for several years with the permission of the HOA's board of directors.The board did not own it or insure it, but explicitly allowed it on condition that it not be used after 9 p.m.The testimony of the different witnesses was in conflict as to whether the use of the hoop by the neighborhood children caused any damage to the nearby units or cars, and also in conflict as to whether cars using the parking lot posed any risk to the children playing basketball.

The panel ruled that the board's decision to allow the temporary basketball hoop was not an alteration of the common elements because the board did not give up or add to the elements and did not make any substantial changes to them, nor did the use of the hoop affect the members' rights to use the parking lots or streets.

The panel further ruled that the board's decision to allow the basketball hoop to remain in place and be used by the residents was a "business judgment", and that under Maryland law (citing the case of Black v. Fox Hills North Community Ass'n., 90 Md.App.75 (1992)) it must be upheld so long as there is no fraud or bad faith involved.Therefore, the panel denied the relief requested, and dismissed the complaint.

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