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REAL ESTATE 10: Dispute between a unit owner and the Condominium Association.

This matter arises out of an ongoing dispute between a unit owner in the Condominium, and the Condominium Association (the Association).

Unit Owner was a member of the Association’s board until he resigned over a procedural dispute, and he was the Association’s website designer and operator until he deleted the website and replaced it with what he concedes was a “gripe site” when the Association wished to take control of the website itself. Thereafter, Unit Owner contends that he has made numerous efforts to vindicate the legal rights of condominium members, ensure that the Association follows the law, obtain outstanding payments for website hosting and services, and gain access to various records; the Association contends that Unit Owner has waged a tireless vendetta of harassment and antagonism.

In this matter, it is manifestly apparent from Unit Owner’s conduct that he intends to continue making an issue of his disagreement with how the Association’s board conducts its affairs whether or not there is any sound reason to do so. The fact that a disruptive, antagonistic force of pettifoggery exists in the system appears to be itself enough of a basis to conclude that future disputes will occur and are not merely hypothetical, making a determination of the Association’s rights to govern its affairs, and one angry owner’s rights to interfere, not merely an abstract issue. We therefore conclude, reluctantly, that the trial court should not have found some of these issues moot, and we are forced to adjudicate them.

We therefore hold that the First Amendment was entirely proper for the Association’s board to enact without a co-owner vote, because it did not materially affect the rights of the co-owners. We therefore need not discuss the applicability of any theories of recovery.

The Condominium’s bylaws provide that meetings of the Association shall be conducted in accordance with Sturgis’ Code of Parliamentary Procedure, Roberts Rules of Order or some other generally recognized manual of parliamentary procedure when not otherwise in conflict with the Condominium documents or the laws of the State of Michigan. It is undisputed that the Association historically relied on Robert’s Rules of Order. Unit Owner argues that the Association’s board violated this bylaw provision by adopting certain standing rules without a majority vote of the co-owners and by failing to address certain points of order he raised at the 2013 annual meeting. He further argues that the trial court erred in relying on the fact that there is no law dictating the use of parliamentary procedure. We agree only with the latter point, but find it immaterial.

Unit Owner also argues that the Association’s board violated Robert’s Rules of Order during the 2013 annual meeting by improperly responding to his efforts to raise points of order. The Association points out that Robert’s Rules of Order explicitly provide for appeals from decisions by the chair of an assembly, and states that members have no right to criticize a ruling of the chair unless they appeal from his decision.  No such provision was in any materials provided to us, but our own research verified that the Association accurately cites an extant provision. There is no dispute as far as we can determine that Unit Owner left the meeting instead of attempting to appeal any of the alleged violations. Considering his reliance on the particulars of Robert’s Rules of Order, we conclude that his own arguments bind him to having no right to criticize the Association’s board’s actions as a result.

We find the Association’s description of events far more persuasive after reviewing the record, and we agree with the trial court that Unit Owner’s claims are without merit, some egregiously so and clearly pursued for improper purposes. We decline to impose sanctions for frivolity out of respect for the parties’ agreement foregoing any such sanctions. However, the Association may be entitled to an award under MCL 450.2493 at the trial court’s discretion and subject to a right to be heard on the matter. Furthermore, we understand that there may be other post-judgment matters, such as case evaluation sanctions, to be addressed. We therefore affirm the trial court’s dismissal of all of Unit Owner’s claims, and we remand for any further proceedings as may be warranted not inconsistent with this opinion. We do not retain jurisdiction.

Are you involved in a real estate dispute in Michigan? Are you seeking an efficient and effective resolution to a property litigation matter?  At Aldrich Legal Services, we understand that litigation can be costly and time-consuming. We are focused on helping our clients resolve disputes in the most efficient and cost-effective manner possible, consistent with their objectives.

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