ATTACK OF THE DRONES: HOT TOPICS IN COMMUNITY ASSOCIATION LAW

attack dronesBy Mark B. Davis

ATTACK OF THE DRONES : Given the ever-changing world in which we live, it is important for community associations to at least try to keep up with, if not stay ahead of, the latest trends.   This can seem like a daunting task for even the most progressive associations.  The rapidly expanding use of unmanned aircraft systems, commonly known as “drones,” is a prime example of one of these emerging trends.  Drones are taking command of the skies in today’s neighborhoods, and will likely affect an ever-increasing number of community associations.

Drones can be both a positive and a negative for community associations.   It has been suggested that drones could assist an association in identifying and remediating bylaw violations that might not be visible from the publicly accessible area around a unit.  As discussed later on in this article the rights of the association must be balanced with the privacy expectation of the individual co-owner.  In a recent incident in Kentucky, a man shot down a drone that he perceived was spying on his sunbathing daughter.  Generally, it seems that people do not take kindly to perceived spying by these unmanned units and assume the worst. This might be an extreme example, but it is something that associations should consider with drone usage. Continue reading

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MICHIGAN LEGISLATURE AMENDS SECTION 67 OF THE CONDOMINIUM ACT – “BIG DEVELOPER” WINS BIG, WHILE “AVERAGE JOE CO-OWNER” IS LEFT HOLDING THE BAG (AGAIN)

section 67By: Gregory J. Fioritto

On June 22, 2016, Governor Snyder signed Senate Bill No. 610 into law, amending Section 67 of the Michigan Condominium Act. The Michigan Legislature had a prime opportunity to effect real change in the law to benefit the many thousands of people who live in unfinished condominium projects as a result of The Great Recession. Sadly, the amendments to Section 67 amount to nothing more than another gift to developers in a statute that is already unfairly tilted in favor of “Big Developer” and against “Average Joe Co-owner.” Continue reading

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LISTEN TO THE PODCAST OF ZDF ATTORNEY PAUL C. SCHULTZ’S RADIO INTERVIEW WITH HOST GENE SULLIVAN ON “THE PATRIOT” AM 1280 IN MINNEAPOLIS REGARDING HOUSE BILL 5655 AND ITS POTENTIAL ADVERSE IMPACT ON MICHIGAN CONDOMINIUM ASSOCIATIONS!

podcast-microphone

On May 27, 2016, Gene Sullivan, host of the “Where You Live” radio program broadcast in Minneapolis on AM 1280 (“The Patriot”), interviewed our very own Paul C. Schultz regarding   Michigan House Bill 5655 and the serious adverse impact that this proposed change to the Condominium Act could have on all Michigan condominium associations and their ability to collect assessments.

You can listen to the podcast of Mr. Schultz’s interview at the link below:

https://soundcloud.com/where-you-live/5-28-16a#t=34m10s

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WATER LOSSES, CO-OWNER NEGLIGENCE, AND THE SHIFTING OF ASSOCIATION INSURANCE DEDUCTIBLES

WATER LOSSESBy: Gregory J. Fioritto

gfioritto@zdfattorneys.com

A classic “right of spring” for attorneys at our firm every year is handling the resolution of water loss disputes for Associations.  Most often, these situations arise from a non-resident co-owner’s or foreclosing lender’s failure to properly winterize a vacant unit (though these problems certainly can and do occur in occupied units as well).

If the negligent action of the owner was the cause of the loss (e.g., frozen/burst pipes caused by the owner’s failure to keep heat on in the unit during winter), the Board’s instinctual reaction is almost always to deny (or to attempt to deny) any responsibility on the part of the Association (or its insurer) for the loss.  After all, why should the Association be responsible for a loss if it was caused by co-owner “fault?” Continue reading

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HOUSE BILL NO. 5655: THE EFFECTIVE REPEAL OF A CONDOMINIUM ASSOCIATION’S ABILITY TO COLLECT ASSESSMENTS AND OTHER MISADVENTURES IN PROPOSED LEGISLATION

BILL NO. 5655

By Paul C. Schultz

pschultz@zdfattorneys.com

On May 17th, 2016, Rep. Peter Lucido introduced a bill into the Michigan House which seeks to remake some very important laws that govern life at condominiums. Among other things, the new law would make it effectively impossible for associations to collect assessments in many cases and would seek to impose new administrative duties on a Lansing bureaucracy which the legislature has not funded to perform its existing administrative duties relative to condominiums for at least two decades. These and other proposed changes are highly undesirable, to say the least.

Since at least 1978, when the current Michigan Condominium Act was put into place, it has been a bedrock principle of Michigan condominium law that a co-owner may not practice the self-help remedy of withholding condominium assessments when there are association practices that he or she dislikes. This bill stealthily seeks to dynamite that foundation and take away the ability of condominium association to collect assessments from their more disaffected members. Continue reading

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EXPERIENCED COMMUNITY ASSOCIATION ATTORNEY RICHARD L. WAGNER, JR. JOINS THE ZDF TEAM!

We are most pleased to announce that veteran community association attorney Richard L. Wagner, Jr., former principal owner of Schlottman & Wagner, PC, will be joining our firm as an associate attorney effective June 1, 2016.

Our firm is dedicated to providing the highest level of quality in legal services to community associations.  Mr. Wagner honorably served and represented hundreds of Michigan community associations over several decades through his former firm, Schlottman & Wagner, PC. Continue reading

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Residential Associations and Social Media: Legal Considerations

Social Media

By:  Lee S. Schofield

lschofield@zdfattorneys.com

The rapid development and availability of mass social media communication tools that has occurred over the last dozen years or so has been trans-formative. Anyone from our grandmothers to the largest multinational corporations can have a social media presence, using platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter, as well as more niche platforms, and can almost instantly communicate and have dialogue with audiences of up to millions of people. For residential associations, the availability of media can potentially provide numerous benefits, including: access to a broader audience, the ability to rapidly communicate and disseminate information and updates, the ability to spotlight individuals and issues, and a forum for feedback from the community as well as for discussion among members. Social media truly can build community as well as increase transparency. Of course, along with each of the mentioned potential benefits come corresponding issues that every community should consider before establishing a social media presence. Continue reading

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The Mystery of “Site Condominiums” Unravelled

Site CondominiumsBy: Gregory J. Fioritto

gfioritto@zdfattorneys.com

People who live in detached single-family homes may be surprised to learn (sometimes to their chagrin) that they are actually living in a condominium.  This realization may cause the owner to experience some confusion and perhaps even disappointment, as he or she may have believed that they owned a “single family home” in the more traditional “subdivision” sense.

The term, “condominium,” does not refer to any particular style of architecture; rather, it is a specific form of ownership of real property.  “Site condominiums” are essentially detached single-family homes that are created under the condominium form of ownership.  In a site condominium, the condominium “unit” is actually the lot that each person owns in the project; the person’s home is constructed on the unit and considered to be an “improvement” thereto.  This is, of course, in contrast to the traditional (and more commonly held) concept of a condominium, where the “unit” that each person owns is the enclosed space of air within a multi-family building or structure. Continue reading

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