Frequently Asked Questions
Q.1. My condo board is letting the community go into disrepair. Will it get their attention if I stop paying my condo fee?
A.It will get their attention but you could lose your home. Failure to pay assessments can result in a lien being placed on your home and foreclosure being initiated. Never withhold assessments or special assessments. Once late fees, interest, cost of collection and attorney fees are added, you could find yourself owing 2 to 3 times the actual assessment owed . MHA recommends that attendance at Board meetings and service on either the Board or association Committees as the best ways to improve a community.
Q.I am an owner at a 55 and up condo association community in Howard County Maryland. The Board refuses to release legal opinions pertaining to a Board election and legal opinions about how the Board should interpret and apply certain by-laws. None of these opinions involves pending litigation or collection of delinquent maintenance fees. Does the Board have the right not to release such opinions?
A.Section 11-116 of the Maryland Condominium Act addresses the question of access to association records. The section enumerates what records an association board may withhold from its Members. Among these is the “written advice of legal counsel.” However, a case can be made that legal advice of a general nature, and that pertains to the orderly operation and good governance of an association, is different both in character and content from advice relating to an on-going legal dispute or a matters of a specific and personal nature. In the opinion of MHA, this distinction is an important one against which one might argue that it is unreasonable for an association to withhold from its members legal advice that otherwise would inure to the benefit of the entire community. MHA is not in a position to say with legal certainty whether unit owners in a condominium association in a particular Maryland county have an automatic right to access any legal advice proffered to their board. For a definitive determination we advise consulting with an attorney. Nevertheless, MHA takes the strong position that it would be against sound public policy and good governance principles for an adjudicatory body not to infer that limitations do exist with respect to the right of an association to withhold from its general membership legal advice that: 1) its fees have paid for, 2) provides a general benefit to the community, and 3) that contributes to the smooth, fair and effective application of the governing documents. For an extended discussion of this issue, click ACCESS TO LEGAL ADVICE, Rand Fishbein, 1-24-13.docx.
Q: 3. My association manager is telling the Board that they must update bylaws to conform to changes in Maryland Law. Do we have to do this?
A: According to Ms. Karen S. Straughn, Assistant Attorney General, Consumer Protection Division, Maryland Attorney General’s office, no. She said “if bylaws contradict with the statutes, the statues control. If they don’t contradict, the bylaws may still control. As a result, there would not be a need to amend the bylaws due to new statutes as the statutes would control whenever there is a difference that would require amendment anyway.”
While there is no need to update bylaws every year, it is the obligation of the association to make every homeowner aware of changes to Maryland law.
Q. 4. I’m with a title company and I need the name and address of the association for one of our properties. Can you provide me with this information?
A. No. MHA does not keep lists of associations. Further, our membership list is never released.
Q. 5. We’ve been told by our Board that our association’s governing documents trump state law. Is this correct?
A. No, it is not correct. Federal, state and county law always takes precedent over any governing documents. However, if a state has not addressed a particular issue and provided laws, the bylaws take precedent and this is why homeowners must be very wary of bylaw changes and amendments.