The Commission on Common Ownership Communities
Frequently Asked Questions
awaiting approval from Goetzinger 10/19
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  1. What associations come under the CCOC’s authority?
  2. Do "civic associations" come under the CCOC's authority?
  3. What power does the CCOC have?
  4. How can I get on the CCOC?
  5. I have: no heat/no hot water/no air conditioning/a water leak/pest infestation/other emergency! Can the CCOC help me?
  6. Can the CCOC prevent my association from adopting a rule that I think is wrong?
  7. Can I complain to the CCOC about my association's community manager or employees?
  8. Can I complain to the CCOC about my neighbor who is breaking the rules?
  9. Do I (or my association) need to have a lawyer in a Commission case?
  10. Can several people join in filing a single complaint?
  11. Is there anything I need to do before filing a complaint with the CCOC?
  12. I received a "notice of violation" from my association. Can I appeal that to the CCOC? What should I do?
  13. I received a “final notice” from my association that I am in violation of the rules and that I can appeal that decision to the CCOC. What does this mean?

What associations come under the CCOC’s authority?

Only cooperative housing associations, condominium associations, and homeowner associations (known collectively as common ownership communities or “COC”s) come under the CCOC's jurisdiction. These organizations are regulated by State law, and have legally-binding rules applying to all members. In particular, a homeowner association or common ownership community as defined by State law, is one that has its basic covenants filed in the land records and whose covenants give it the right to charge mandatory fees or assessments against every member lot. One becomes a member simply by buying a unit or a lot that is part of the association.

Do "civic associations" come under the CCOC's authority?

No. Civic associations or neighborhood associations are usually purely voluntary organizations. If they have covenants filed in the land records those covenants do not give them the right to charge mandatory fees or assessments against the member lots. There is no State law that specifically regulates civic associations.

What power does the CCOC have?

The Commission acts as an administrative agency with many of the powers of a court. When hearing a dispute, the decisions of the Commission's hearing panels have the force of law. They are legally binding on the parties and are not mere recommendations. If a party does not obey an order of a hearing panel, the party is in violation of County law, and the Commission's staff can initiate a lawsuit in court to enforce the order and to obtain fines of $500 per day as a penalty. Commission decisions can be appealed to the Circuit Court, which will not hold a new trial but will review the record that was before the hearing panel to determine if the panel correctly applied the law and had sufficient facts to support its decision.

The Commission is also authorized to advise the County, State and Federal governments on legislative issues affecting common interest communities, and to help educate members of these communities in good governance and best practices.

How can I get on the CCOC?

Commissioners are usually appointed to a 3-year term and may serve a maximum of 2 full terms. Terms expire in January of each year. Therefore, in the third or fourth quarter of the year the County Executive publicly advertises for applications to fill the upcoming vacancies. The Commission interviews the applicants and makes recommendations to the County Executive, who then makes his own recommendations to the County Council for approval. Applicants must either live in a common ownership community, or work for such communities on a professional basis as managers, attorneys, developers, or realtors. If you are interested you should either watch for the annual announcements by the County Executive, or notify any Commissioner or the Commission staff of your interest so you can be contacted when vacancies arise.

I have: no heat/no hot water/no air conditioning/a water leak/pest infestation/other emergency! Can the CCOC help me?

If you are currently suffering from an emergency like those listed above which is caused by your neighbor or your association, your best course of action is to either contact your Board of Directors, your community manager, or to file a complaint with the Office of Housing Code Enforcement by calling 311. Housing code inspectors have the ability to visit properties on short notice, and if they can confirm the existence of a housing code violation, they can issue legal notices to require that they be fixed promptly. There is no charge for this service.

The CCOC does not have such powers. The CCOC cannot issue orders to correct a code violation without notice and a hearing. The CCOC process is aimed at problems that are important but are not emergencies immediately affecting health or safety.

Can the CCOC prevent my association from adopting a rule that I think is wrong?

No. If the association is following the proper legal procedures for adopting rules, the CCOC will not get involved in any disagreement over the wisdom or validity of those rules. However, after a rule or decision is adopted, a member then can file a complaint with the CCOC if the member thinks the rule was not properly adopted or violates some law or governing document of the association. If you disagree with a proposed rule or how the board is going about adopting it, you should notify the Board of Directors in writing of your concerns and speak out at any open meeting at which the proposed rule is on the agenda for discussion.

Can I complain to the CCOC about my association's community manager or employees?

No. The law says that the only people who can be parties to a CCOC complaint are members, residents, and the association's governing body. Therefore, community managers and employees cannot be parties. Management companies, their employees, and the employees of your association work at the sole direction of the association's board of directors. If you think they are acting improperly, you should bring your complaints to the attention of the board. If a manager's or employee's actions violate the law or the association's own documents and the board refuses to do anything about them, you might be able to file a complaint with the CCOC against the board for violating its rules or the law.

Can I complain to the CCOC about my neighbor who is breaking the rules?

No. All CCOC complaints must involve an official action of the governing body. Purely private disputes between residents are therefore not within the CCOC's jurisdiction. If you have a dispute with your neighbor and you believe the neighbor is in violation of a rule of your association, you should first discuss it with the neighbor because he or she might not realize that they are creating a problem. If that does not get results, you should then file your complaint with your association's board of directors and ask the board to enforce the rules. (Be sure you specify what rules are being violated.) If the board does not exercise its judgment in good faith in response to your complaint, you can then file a complaint with the CCOC about the board's failure to act.

Do I (or my association) need to have a lawyer in a Commission case?

No. The Commission does not require members or associations to be represented by lawyers. Members can represent themselves, and associations can be represented by their officers or directors but not by their managers or employees. Either party can be represented by a Maryland-licensed attorney if he or she so wishes. The Commission's rules of procedure are fairly simple and Commission hearings are conducted similar to trials in small claims court. Although attorney representation is not required, many people can benefit by obtaining legal advice or by being represented by a lawyer.

Can several people join in filing a single complaint?

No. The CCOC accepts complaints filed only in the names of the owners of a single unit or lot who pay their own filing fee. If other members want to file similar disputes, each member must file his own complaint and pay his own filing fee. However, if several people do file separate complaints involving the same issues and arising from the same set of facts, the Commission might decide to consolidate the cases and deal with them all at the same hearing.

Is there anything I need to do before filing a complaint with the CCOC?

Yes. Chapter 10B of the County Code requires a party to "exhaust its remedies" before filing a complaint with the CCOC. For members, this means that they must follow whatever procedures the association has for that particular problem if there are any.

For example, the architectural committee denies an application for a shed. If the rules allow for an appeal to the board of directors, the member must appeal to the board and await their decision before coming to the CCOC. If the association has no relevant rule, then at the very least the member must give written notice of the problem to the board and allow them a reasonable amount of time (at least 2 weeks) to respond.

Associations must also follow their own rules before filing CCOC complaints against members. This usually means giving the member a written notice of any alleged violation and of the member's right to ask for a hearing with the board. After the opportunity for a fair hearing, the board must then make a formal decision on the alleged violation before filing with the CCOC to enforce its decision.

If a person files a CCOC complaint without exhausting association remedies the staff will reject the complaint.

I received a "notice of violation" from my association. Can I appeal that to the CCOC? What should I do?

A "notice of violation" is usually not a final decision of your association and cannot be appealed to the CCOC. If you get such a notice, you usually have either a grace period during which you can either remove the violation without penalty or ask for a hearing with the board of directors to defend yourself. As a member of your association, you should exercise those rights. If the board refuses to give you a hearing, or if the board gives you a hearing but rules against you, you can then file a complaint with the CCOC.

I received a “final notice” from my association that I am in violation of the rules and that I can appeal that decision to the CCOC. What does this mean?

County law states that if your association has made a final decision finding that you have broken a rule and must pay a fine or take some other action, or rejecting your architectural application, you can dispute that decision by filing a complaint against the association. The association must inform you of this right. The CCOC complaint form can be found on this website.