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Wisconsin Condo & HOA Articles Archive

/ Owner - July 3, 2012
  • Association Records – What You Need to Know (WI)
    Two years ago, the law in Wisconsin was clarified relative to what records unit owners were entitled to inspect and copy. That list used to require a comparison of Ch. 703 and Ch. 181 Wis. Stat. Now what is required to be maintained and produced to unit owners is set forth in 703.20 Wis. Stat.    Read the article…………………………….
  • Navigating Differences: Reserve Studies and Structural Integrity Reserve Studies
    The core purpose of any reserve study is the same – to serve as a capital expenditure forecasting tool and reserve funding plan to offset such expenditures. These resources provide knowledge on the true cost of ownership for your community and aim to ensure the physical well-being of your association. However, there are some key differences between a typical reserve study and a Structural Integrity Reserve Study (SIRS).   Read the article……………………………
  • A Closer Look at The Latest Changes to CAI’s Reserve Study Standards
    In March of 2022, a task force of fourteen community association industry experts gathered to begin the process of revising Community Association Institute’s (CAI) Reserve Study (RS) Standards. Originally published in 1998, the RS Standards provide a consistent framework under which reserve study providers and common interest communities should operate in tandem – a necessary blueprint for the then-new industry. Since then, both the community association and reserve study industries have rapidly grown, and the RS Standards have been revised to reflect the current climate.  Read the article………………………..
  • Recreational Immunity in Wisconsin – What You Need to Know
    The starting point for recreational immunity is to understand that the purpose of the law is to induce property owners to open their land for recreational use. Therefore, recreational users are to bear the risk of the recreational activity. Held v. Ackerville Snow Club, 2007 WI App 43, 300 Wis. 2d 498, 730 N.W.2d 428, 06-0914.    Read the article………………………..
  • Contractual Considerations for Short-Term Rentals
    Property owners (“Owners”) interested in engaging in short-term leases should carefully consider the structure of their contracts (“Leases”). Anticipating potential disputes and consequences is essential for avoiding future litigation. A well-written Lease can serve to facilitate friendly, productive, and profitable landlord/tenant relationships.   Read the article………………………..
  • Backyard Event Rentals: Problems Posed for Homeowner Associations
    Homeowners may wish to engage in backyard event rentals to earn supplemental income. For example, some homeowners may rent out their pool and backyard space for parties. While this might seem like a clever opportunity for homeowners to make an extra buck, such backyard event rentals will likely cause tension between homeowners and their HOA or community management entity.   Read the article………………………..
  • Conflicts of Interest and The Boards Power to Interpret the Governing Documents
    Where the governing documents or the statute place the authority to interpret the governing documents with the board, the board’s interpretation will be binding unless unreasonable. However, if a director has a conflict of interest, the director can’t be part of the decision making process or the vote and must recuse herself/himself. Read the article………………………..
  • Wisconsin has a ‘solar rights’ law. But HOAs still sometimes prevent solar installations
    Wisconsin has a ‘solar rights law,’ so HOAs cannot legally ban solar. But many do unintentionally. Kuntz had an intern review HOA covenants.  They found that most restrictions were not written by residents but by developers. Sometimes the rules are specific to solar, but often they apply to anything that changes a home’s aesthetics. HOAs inherit this language and frequently never question it.   Read the article………………………..
  • 7 Things You Need to Know about Emotional Support Animals in 2023
    Whether the Association adopted regulations and/or engaged in a “pattern or practice” to prevent or delay approval for residents who qualify for an emotional support animal (“ESA”) to live with them in their apartment.  Read the article………………………..
  • Association Successfully Recovers ALL Attorney’s Fees From Unit Owners Who Refused to Pay Attorney Fees (WI)
    If you want the best chance of collecting outstanding assessments, late fees, interest and attorney fees, you need to be organized, have a collection policy and follow your documents. Doing so can make a big difference to your association, as one of our clients recently learned   Read the article………………………..
  • Long-Lived Assets: The Bottom Line
    Long-lived assets or components are those which do not have a predictable remaining useful life, or their replacements are beyond the scope of the reserve study. When conducting a reserve study, one of the first steps your consultant will take is evaluating the inventory of your community’s components and classifying them into groups, with reserve studies focusing most prominently on reserve components. However, long-lived assets are equally as important to keep an eye on.   Read the article………………………..
  • Homeowners Association Notices Now Due (WI)
    Attention all homeowners’ and large condominium associations; be sure to review the recently adopted Wis. Stat. §182.01(7) and §710.18, regarding regulation and notice filing requirements for residential lot homeowners’ associations, and Wis. Stat. §703.20(1r) requiring large condominium associations to maintain a website for the condominium association,    Read the article………………………..
  • Dues, Special Assessments, and Reserves – What’s The Deal?
    As you know, dues and special assessments come with the territory of residing in any type of community association. Understandably, it can be confusing for residents to navigate exactly what both of these payments are used for, when they should be used, and how they affect the association as a whole.  Read the article………………………..
  • New Website Requirement for Wisconsin Condominium Associations and Their Property Managers
    Condominium associations and their property managers should be aware of a new subsection (1r) added by the Wisconsin State Legislature to the 2021 Wisconsin Act 166 requiring condominium associations of 100 units or more to maintain a website that satisfies the conditions listed below by April 1, 2023. Those that do not comply may face enforcement actions brought by the association members, the unit owners.   Read the article………………………..
  • Claims for When Developers Have TOO Much Control of Association
    Montana Developer of three condominium-hotels at Big Sky Ski Resort sold units subject to Declarations that required “all unit owners to use .”   Read the article………………………..
  • Inflation and Reserves: The Implications on Capital Planning
    As we all know by now, inflation has moved into our lives and isn’t estimated to move out for about a year or more. While some industries are already seeing some relief, this is not and will not be the case for many other industries for the foreseeable future, including those that community associations rely on for capital projects.  Read the article………………………..
  • Recent Changes in the Wisconsin Condominium Ownership Act that Affect Your Association: Record Keeping, Financial Records, Audits, and Website Requirements
    In 2022, the Wisconsin legislature adopted additional provisions to the Condominium Ownership Act that affect all Wisconsin condominium associations. Because the new statutes require condominium associations to take affirmative action, your association needs to be aware and get prepared.   Read the article………………………..
  • Condo and HOA Maintenance: Who is Responsible?
    There are many benefits to being a member of a condominium, homeowner (HOA), and townhome community association. By paying assessments, unit owners share the cost for a variety of association expenses including common area maintenance (ex. lobbies, hallways, elevators), amenities (ex. club house, gym, pool), landscaping, utilities, and more.   Read the article………………………..
  • Architectural Control Through Rulemaking Authority is Proper IF YOUR DOCUMENTS ARE PROPERLY WRITTEN
    Does a homebuilder need Association approval of its plans? NO, unless the condominium documents require it.   Read the article………………………..
  • Using Your Reserve Study As A Budget Tool
    With the budget season fast approaching, it’s time to seriously consider your association’s near and long-term financial needs, goals, and ultimately, its future. Capital planning is no easy feat, but having a continuous blueprint for the future is the key to a thriving community.  Read the article…………………………..
  • Reserve Funding Strategies
    Boards and managers who want to ensure adequate funds and avoid shortfalls (or at least get into a better financial position) should familiarize themselves with common reserve funding goals and the strategies to achieve them. As outlined in the National Reserve Study Standards (NRSS), four accepted funding goals are available to community associations.    Read the article………………………
  • Managers of Condominiums Who Know or Should Know of Security or Safety Concerns May be Required to Engage in Enhanced Security Measures
    The plaintiff, Jody Goldstein, was beaten and robbed, resulting in serious, permanent injuries while staying as a guest at the Chateau Orleans, a combination hotel, timeshare, and condominium facility located in the French Quarter in New Orleans. The defendant, Leisure Management, Ltd. maintained and operated the Chateau. Upon arriving at the Chateau, the plaintiff informed management that there was a large crack in the center of the door to his unit.   Read the entire article……………………………….
  • Former Association Member Can’t Sue for Breach of Fiduciary Duty (TX)
    In 2014, Kato purchased a unit at an association, thereby becoming a member of the association. Kato also joined the board and became its President/Treasurer. Later that year, Kato’s unit, and two other units in the association were destroyed by fire.   Read the entire article……………………………….
  • Recording Invalid Documents Gets VERY Expensive
    Defendant, Leisure World Community Association (“Association”), consists of nearly two dozen single-family platted communities. One of those is the Plat 24 community. “Each community is governed by its Declaration of Covenants, Conditions, and Restrictions (CC&Rs). Plat 24’s original CC&Rs required that at least three-quarters of Plat 24 record owners approve any amendments to the CC&Rs. The Watson Trust (“Trust”) owned a unit in Plat 24.   Read the entire article……………………………….
  • Record Requests – Even if Lengthy and Difficult to Follow, They Need to Be Produced if Sought for a Proper Purpose
    Owner sought records from a Michigan association (the “Association:”). The Association refused to produce records presumably on the grounds that the requests were long, difficult to follow and failed to state a proper purpose. The requests, clarified in the complaint, consisted of the following:  Read the entire article……………………………….
  • Emotional Support Animals – If It’s Aggressive, It’s Not Reasonable
    n 2015, Unit Owner’s dog, Maggie, was an 11-year old golden retriever. Maggie bit another dog living at the Association and had previously “displayed aggressive behavior or injured another dog” at the Association.    Read the entire article……………………………….
  • Building in HOA Common Area – MUCH More Costly Than Owner Thought (Because of Association Attorney Fees)
    The Garrett’s purchased their property in the HOA in 2001. The CCR’s required an owner to obtain the approval of the architectural control committee (“ACC”) before doing any construction on the property. The Garrett’s submitted plans to build a pool in their backyard, but the original plans were rejected by the ACC because the plans “were too vague and because professional plans are required for such a large project.”      Read the entire article……………………………….
  • Driveway Easement and Boat Slips – Expensive Fighting (WI)
    Two of the three lot owners in a subdivision had a dispute over a driveway easement and boat slips. Lot 2 was contracted to be sold first and it included a driveway easement on Lot 1 and Slip A (the one with the boat lift). When Lot 2 was deeded, however, Slip C was on the deed (no boat lift). Lot 2 used Slip A, but when Lot 1 was later sold, that deed stated Slip A.   Read the entire article……………………………….
  • Seeing Injustice is Easy – Solving Problems is HARD
    Many of you may have seen the June 7, 2021, Milwaukee Sentinel story about a Milwaukee area home that was flying two flags: one the US flag and the second a Pride flag. According to the story, the owners were told to take down the Pride flag because the association only allowed the US flag. The residents, one of whom was a board member, “decided to adhere to the rules and take the flag down” but then installed “a bright display of rainbow-colored Pride lights to highlight the house.” The story tells us that the residents had no intent to become adversarial, that they “don’t feel targeted or attacked in community” but rather to illustrate with humor ways to ...
  • Lien Priority Statutes and Why They Make Sense
    A unit owner stopped paying assessments. The condominium association properly recorded and perfected a lien against the unit for those assessments. Under the applicable Oregon statute, the condo association lien is prior to all other liens, except tax liens and a first mortgage or deed of trust. An exception exists, such that the condominium association can gain priority over the first mortgage if (among other things) “the association gives the first lienholder formal notice of the unpaid assessments, and the lienholder ‘has not initiated judicial action to foreclose the mortgage * * * prior to the expiration of 90 days following the notice’”    Read the entire article……………………………….
  • Developers/Declarants are Liable for Implied Warranties to Association for Construction Defects
    Plaintiff, Brooktree Village Homeowners Association, Inc. (“Association”), filed suit “on behalf of itself and on behalf of its members” in May 2017 against the second developer, Brooktree Village, LLC (“Developer”). Developer had acquired the remaining undeveloped portions of the development, other than the common areas. “A construction company affiliated with Developer, Rivers Development, Inc. (“Builder”), completed construction of the development.    Read the entire article……………………………….
  • Language in Declaration Makes Association Strictly Liable
    Defendant, Castletown Corner Owner’s Association, Inc. (“Association”), had a duty to maintain a lift station. Specifically, the declaration imposed an obligation on the Association to pay “all Maintenance Costs in connection with” improvements constructed at the Association. Maintenance costs are then defined as “all of the costs necessary to maintain the … sewers, utility strips, and other facilities … and to keep such facilities operational and in good condition, including, but not limited to, the cost of all upkeep, maintenance, repair, replacement … for the continuous operation of such facilities.”    Read the article……………………………….
  • Dealing with Sophisticated Debtors
    Does your condominium or homeowners association (HOA) have owners who don’t pay their assessments? Owners are finding more excuses to avoid paying their assessments. Filing multiple bankruptcies, submitting payments with conditional language, NSF payments, claiming they don’t owe since they don’t use the common elements. . . The list goes on and on.    Read the article…………………………..
  • Attorney Fees – FDCPA Violation – Failure to Follow Association Document Procedures
    Plaintiff, O’Donnell, bought his condo in 2012 and sold it in 2019. Beginning in 2013, O’Donnell missed various assessment payments. In late 2013 the association filed a lien, and in 2018 the association commenced a foreclosure action. To bring the lawsuit to an end, O’Donnell sold his unit. The sale allowed O’Donnell to pay off the claimed past due assessments and attorney fees.     Read the article…………………………………..
  • Tackling Mental Health and Aging Issues in Your Community Association
    Mental health issues can impact community associations in a myriad of ways. Often Associations become the “reluctant care provider” (owners have no family/next of kin, or the family “dumped” the owner in the Association rather than in a care facility). This can be true of older residents (“aging-in-place”) as well of younger residents. The COVID pandemic, and the corresponding year of lockdowns, has added extra stress and increased isolation, exacerbating existing mental health conditions. This has led to an increase of emotional distress, substance abuse, and suicides.    Read the article…………………………………..
  • Solar Panels – What Your Association Should Do When Someone Requests to Install Them (WI)
    When faced with a request by a homeowner or condominium owner to install solar panels at your association, your Board needs to determine a number of things:    Read the article……………………………………….
  • Education, Education, Education – Overcoming Harassment, Racism and Hostility in Community Associations
    Let’s face it, 2020 was rough and not everyone was nice about it. Hate crimes have increased dramatically over the last six years. Heightened political tensions have led to family quarrels and neighbor-to-neighbor feuds. And to top it all off, the COVID pandemic and corresponding lockdowns has made most of us a little stir crazy.    Read the article…………………………………….
  • Self-Dealing by Director is a Breach of Fiduciary Duty (Case 2)
    Carmichael and other unit owners (collectively “Owners”), individually and on behalf of the Association, sued the Officers and the Management company for breaches of fiduciary duties and for unjust enrichment because the Officers caused the Association to provide for the maintenance and preservation of property that was not part of the Association (the retail space of the buildings). The Officers and Management Company asserted that the Owners did not have standing to sue on behalf of the Association (a derivative suit).    Read the article………………………………..
  • Condo and HOA Virtual/ZOOM Meetings in Wisconsin – How Legal Are They?
    Most condominiums and homeowner associations (HOAs) are nonstock corporations under Wisconsin Chapter 181. As such their members can make decisions one of three ways:   Read the article………………………………
  • Self-Dealing by Director is a Breach of Fiduciary Duty (Case 1)
    Plaintiff, Coley, owns a home in an HOA, the Eskaton Village (“Association”). Two other Eskaton named entities (“Eskaton”) develop and support HOAs. A five-member board runs the Association, subject to the Declaration. Eskaton has always controlled three of the five directors on the Association Board because it owns 137 of the 267 units. The three directors are always employees of Eskaton and are “financially incentivized to run the Association for the benefit of Eskaton.” In short, the better Eskaton performs the higher their compensation, which is directly related to the expenses of the Association.   Read the article………………………………….
  • Another Helpful Emotional Support Animal Case
    Plaintiff, Cohen (“Tenant”) and Defendant, Clark (another tenant, “Clark”) leased separate apartments in the same building on the same day, July 21, 2006. Both leases prohibited pets in the building or on the premises. Tenant picked the apartment in part because of its no pet policy, as she had a severe allergy to pet dander that caused her to carry an EpiPen to protect against anaphylactic shock. A month after entering into the lease, Clark requested an emotional support dog as a reasonable accommodation.    Read the article…………………………….
  • Improper Amendments Are VERY Expensive
    Earlier this year, I blogged on the case of Johnson v. Board of Directors of Forest Lakes Master Association, 454 P.3d 623 (2019) unpublished (Kansas) and explained how improperly passing and/or filing amendments can be VERY expensive. This is true in every state, and today we learn of another way that amendment errors can be costly.     Read the article………………………………
  • Wisconsin’s WB-14 Residential Condominium Offer to Purchase (CONDO SELLER’S BEWARE) (WI)
    Wisconsin’s new WB-14 form will become the standard form used by real estate brokers on behalf of their clients this week: normally the Seller of a condominium unit. As drafted, it is a trap for the Seller, and any Broker using it should, at a minimum, cross out lines 158-160. Although this new form offer may make the broker’s job easier, it puts Sellers (but not real estate brokers) at risk for no particular reason.   Read the article……………………………….
  • Must Wisconsin Condominium Residents Wear A Face Covering (Mask) In Indoor Common Element
    As many of you know, on July 30, 2020, Governor Evers of Wisconsin issued Executive Order #82 declaring a public health emergency to combat COVID-19, and Emergency Order #1 requiring individuals, with certain exceptions, to wear face coverings if:   Read the article………………………………
  • Can a Group Home be Built in a Single Family Association under the FHA – YES
    Plaintiff, Harmony Haus and a resident, sued Defendant, Parkstone Property Owners Association (“Association”) under the Fair Housing Act (“FHA”) seeking an injunction and attorney fees for violation of the Civil Rights Act. Association counter sued alleging breaches of deed restrictions. Plaintiff is a sober living residence for individuals recovering from alcoholism and drug addiction.     Read the article…………………………
  • HOA and Condominium Record Retention – What you NEED to Know!! (WI)
    Record retention is a tricky subject. Keep too much or for too long and opposing counsel in litigation will have all the documents they may need to prove that your association’s actions were discriminatory or amounted to selective enforcement, at least compared to its old records. Keep to little or for too short of time and in your deposition or trial testimony you will be forced to admit that records that should have been kept were “not kept in the course of regularly conducted business-activity.” Judges do not look kindly on that answer. There are many other pitfalls as well, including some basic misconceptions:    Read the article…………………………
  • Rules That Target Children Really Target Your Association
    Does your Association have rules that target children? Does your Association have rules that apply differently to children and adult residents within the community? The following case is a cautionary tale for Condominium Associations and HOAs—repeal those rules now, or potentially face a losing battle pursuant to federal law.   Read the article…………………………..
  • What is the Difference Between Community Association Directors and Officers?
    I recently read an article on the difference between condominium and homeowner association officers and directors by an attorney out of Ohio, Jennifer B. Cusimano of Kaman & Cusimano, LLC. It was well written, clarified a subject that is often confused, and inspired me to do my best to explain the difference to our readers.   Read the article…………………………………
  • Director & Officer Theft of Funds–Your Community Association Needs Fidelity Insurance (WI)
    David Jensen, a longtime municipal judge, respected civil servant, and owner of an insurance company embezzled more than $40,000 from his homeowner’s association (HOA) in the last three years. This is the second case of this nature in Wisconsin that I have seen in the last four years.    Read the article…………………………….
  • HOAs & Riparian Rights-Can I Put a Dock Here? (MI)
    The dispute in this case centered on what rights owners of lots that did not have frontage on a lake (“Non-Lake Lot Owners”) had to place a dock in the lake based on the restrictive rights for their homeowner’s association (“HOA”) which were recorded in 1922. The HOA consisted of 146 lots. All Non-Lake Lots were granted a perpetual easement over and across seven lakefront outlots for their use and enjoyment, including access to the lake.    Read the article………………………….
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