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Dimitry K., Esq.
Dimitry K., Esq., Attorney
Category: Legal
Satisfied Customers: 41221
Experience:  Multiple jurisdictions, specialize in business/contract disputes, estate creation and administration.
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First a little background... We live in a 3 bedroom- 1300

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First a little background...
We live in a 3 bedroom- 1300 sq. ft condo in Wisconsin and are part of a condo association with 11 other units.
We have lived here for almost 15 years and we have 5 children...3 over the age of 16.
Each unit has a small, single car garage and a private driveway. But, due to the small size of the garage and the large size of our vehicles, SUV & trucks, we are unable to park in our garage. We currently have 3 vehicles and have been parking 3 vehicles on the property for the last 5 years...one in our driveway and 2 along the tree line of the public driveway. There are no designated parking spots for guests or otherwise...just a long, wide driveway in front of the units.

Our association held a meeting last Thursday which we were unable to attend due to prior commitments with our children. During that meeting they voted in a new by-law that states that only 2 cars per unit are allowed to park on the condo property...one car in the private driveway and one car along the tree line.
We were informed, by email via the meeting minutes, that we are no longer allowed to park 3 cars in the driveway and we would have to park one car on the street. During the summer parking on city streets is allowed but we live on a busy road and have had a car totaled by a careless driver in the past so we hesitate to park there now. But between the months of November and April over-night parking is not allowed because it interferes with the snow plows. I have asked twice where we are supposed to park come November and I have not received an answer. But I have been told we may be fined if we violate the by-laws.

My question is...
Can the association create a new by-law like this without providing an adequate alternative? We have asked about adding parking numerous times over the past 14+ years but the other owners always vote against it.
Also, can they really fine us if we do park on the property?
There was not a vehicle restriction when we moved in almost 15 years ago and it has never been an issue until this year. We have had 3 vehicles parked on the condo property for 5 years now...how can they suddenly just decide not to allow it without providing somewhere else for us to park? And without our even being at the meeting to discuss the situation?
They state that we have too many vehicles and that it is unfair that we take up space that visitors may need to use. In my opinion, I pay condo fees each month and WE should have first choice at available parking before visitors. The visitors should be required to park on the street for the short amount of time they are here.

We are going to try to fight the new by-law as we will be ticketed by the city if we park on the street after November. I was hoping you might be able to advise us as to whether we have any legal support as well.

Thank you!
Whitney

Thank you for your question. Please permit me to assist you with your concerns.

To ensure that I do not miss anything, I will go line by line and attempt to respond to each concern posed.


Can the association create a new by-law like this without providing an adequate alternative?
Absolutely. An association is a self-regulating entity. Nothing stops it from creating any bylaw they wish provided it does not in some way violate the law. Placing a limit on how many vehicles can be parked is not a violation, and is arguably directly within the scope of the association.

We have asked about adding parking numerous times over the past 14+ years but the other owners always vote against it.
Also, can they really fine us if we do park on the property?
Yes, since you are now in violation of the bylaws in the association.

There was not a vehicle restriction when we moved in almost 15 years ago and it has never been an issue until this year. We have had 3 vehicles parked on the condo property for 5 years now...how can they suddenly just decide not to allow it without providing somewhere else for us to park?
Unfortunately they can. it does not matter if such a limitation did not exist in the past, such a limitation for outside use could be implemented. The association is not stating that you cannot have the vehicles (so they are not somehow taking away your property), they are simply stating that those vehicles cannot be parked on common areas.

And without our even being at the meeting to discuss the situation?
I agree that it is most underhanded. However if they obtained quorum and had a valid meeting, it is binding. What you may want to review are the conditions of how a bylaw can be put in place--some associations require at least one meeting to discuss, so in essence a proposal is brought up in one meeting, then next meeting they vote on it. See if that is an option because then you could possibly claim the bylaw as invalid and request that they formally have a discussion about it before voting on it and putting it in place.

They state that we have too many vehicles and that it is unfair that we take up space that visitors may need to use. In my opinion, I pay condo fees each month and WE should have first choice at available parking before visitors. The visitors should be required to park on the street for the short amount of time they are here.
I can understand your position but the association can indeed place such restrictions against their own members. they can, for example, designate certain spots only for visitors even if there are other members who are paying for the use of the spots and need them more.

Good luck.

Customer: replied 4 years ago.

If we are unable to determine if the creation of the by-law was invalid, are we, as association members, allowed to request another meeting to dispute the new by-law and plead our case since we were not in attendance for the creation of that by-law?


 


And do they have to honor our request and hold a 2nd meeting or can they just tell us "no"?

Thank you for your follow-up.

If you are unable to contest the bylaw, you can still appear at the next meeting and motion to reevaluate or reopen that bylaw vote and evaluation. It would be up to the Board to reopen discussion. The other option is to review your bylaws and see how you can bring in a new motion (you would need two homeowners as someone would have to second your request).

They do not have to honor your request to hold a second meeting, but you can do this at the next scheduled meeting, or you can review the bylaws to see how you could seek a 'special meeting' (which some associations also have a mechanism for).

Good luck.

Customer: replied 4 years ago.

One last question...


I was a member of the Board of Directors for the first 13 years we lived here. I was asked to step down when I missed 2 meetings last year due to family obligations. And now, we are suddenly the brunt of numerous complaints and changes in the by-law that directly affect only our family yet there never seemed to be a problem when I was on the Board.


 


During my time as the secretary...and during the majority of the time we have lived here...there have been several other owners who have broken pet ownership by-laws and nothing was ever done to them. We even tried to seek police assistance and we were told it must be dealt with by the association so the President just decided to ignore the problem. Yet now I am being told I must comply or I will be fined.


 


Do I have any recourse based on the fact that they have never expected other owners to fully abide by the by-laws but we are now expected to or risk being fined?

Thank you for your follow-up.

What you are describing is called 'selective enforcement'. In essence the HOA would choose which bylaws to enforce and which to ignore. Unless the enforcement is discriminatory, it is still valid I am afraid. The HOA is still a private self-regulating entity, and the HOA is therefore free to regulate itself as it sees fit. I wish I had a different answer for you, but even the courts tend to be fairly deferential to HOAs so if you decide to file suit against them, it is going to be an uphill struggle proving that the HOA is acting against their bylaws or in a discriminatory fashion.

Good luck.

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