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Community Assocation Law


Makower Abbate Guerra Wegner Vollmer PLLC maintains a highly respected community association practice group. Our attorneys have more than a combined 220 years of combined experience with community association law. The firm is well known in Michigan as a premier law firm that can guide community associations through a whole host of legal issues. Our attorneys have experience giving lectures on various issues community associations face, and have the breadth and depth of knowledge that even many large law firms don’t possess. Makower Abbate Guerra Wegner Vollmer PLLC is a small firm that will give you the attention to detail you deserve.

In 1978 the Michigan Legislature adopted the Condominium Act. This Act has been amended a number of times since then, but remains the foundation of condominium law in this state. There is no specific act governing the creation or operation of homeowner or subdivision associations in Michigan. As a result, there is often confusion about the duties and rights of community associations. The complexities require the help of experienced counsel.

We regularly represent clients in the following matters affecting community associations:

  • Assessment Collection

  • Assessment Litigation

  • Bylaw Enforcement

  • Bylaw Litigation

  • Document Amendments

In both condominiums and subdivisions, we can assist with developer issues, from construction defects as to common elements to turnover of the association to co-owners/homeowners. While most such problems can be resolved without litigation, we do not shy away from using the court system when necessary to achieve the results you need.

Association boards and property managers are regularly faced with the question of when to seek an opinion from the Association’s legal counsel. While it would certainly be comforting to seek a legal opinion on every issue, obvious budgetary constraints requires that a board or a property manager be selective in determining when an opinion should be sought. Recognize, however, that in many instances the benefits of avoiding litigation or legal complications when those opinions are obtained far outweigh the money spent for the legal opinion.

The following is a list of occasions when legal advice should be obtained:

  1. Interpretation and enforcement of condominium documents. All documents are subject to interpretation. Very few factual circumstances fit exactly into the language contained in documents, almost always leaving them to interpretation. Some provisions are ambiguous or even conflicting. If the document language does not lend itself to clear application to the circumstance, that question should be posed to the Association’s legal counsel. And, that unfounded action by the Board may affect its credibility in other matters. Before commencing any enforcement action, the opinion of the Association’s counsel should be obtained. The attorney may have had experience on that type of problem and he or she could either reinforce the Board’s decision to pursue legal action or explain to the Association why such action would not be prudent.

  2. Contract review. When an association is faced with a significant contract, such as major repairs or construction, management, snow and lawn maintenance, etc., it would be wise to consult legal counsel before entering into those contracts. It is much easier and certainly less expensive to eliminate potential contractual problems before they are signed than to extricate the Association from difficulties after they occur. In other words, it is easier to stay out of trouble than to get out of trouble. Any attorney would be helpful in being sure that those contracts contain the appropriate provisions, such as time for performance, standards for performance permits, insurance requirements and termination provisions.

  3. Document amendments. This is one activity in which an association should absolutely not commence without competent legal counsel. Compliance with current laws or applicable court cases is extremely important and can be very technical. Also, the amendment process itself must be carefully followed to ensure proper adoption and future enforceability. While the Board of Directors or its property manager can be helpful in explaining to legal counsel the areas in the documents that have been troublesome to them from an operational standpoint, it is imperative that the attorney draft the language and oversee the process.

  4. Review of proposed policies, rules and regulations. Most association documents authorize the Board of Directors to adopt rules and regulations. Because of the impact upon the individual co-owners, it is important for those policies, rules and regulations to be reviewed by legal counsel before they are formally adopted. Legal counsel would ensure that they are not inconsistent with the governing documents or the law and that they are likely enforceable.

  5. Whenever the Association is served with legal papers. While it may seem obvious, too frequently an association or its property manager delays forwarding those legal papers to its attorney. Most legal papers allow only a limited time to respond, or adverse action can be taken. Therefore, it is imperative that an association IMMEDIATELY contact their legal counsel upon being served with any legal papers, particularly lawsuits.

  6. Running an association not only requires familiarity with the Condominium Act (or the common law which governs subdivisions), but also raises frequent questions of nonprofit entity governance. We are always ready to assist association directors with the difficult issues that accompany their fiduciary duties, be it conflicts of interest, indemnification, or any of the many matters that arise.

These are just a few examples of situations where legal opinion should be obtained. Legal opinions can be helpful in minimizing the risk that an association would become embroiled in extended and expensive litigation.

 

Community Assocation Law

 
 
     
     
 


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