In this condominium bylaw enforcement action, the Condo Association alleged bylaw violations by the owners of one of the association’s condominiums. The parties reached a stipulated agreement settling the substantive claims but could not agree regarding attorney fees.
MCL 559.206(b) of the Condominium Act provides: In a proceeding arising because of an alleged default by a co-owner, the association of co-owners or the co-owner, if successful, shall recover the costs of the proceeding and reasonable attorney fees, as determined by the court, to the extent the condominium documents expressly so provide.
The condominium documents governing this dispute—the condo association’s Bylaws—expressly allow for the recovery of attorney fees and costs, using language drawn from the Condominium Act. Article XIX, Section 2 of the Bylaws states:
In any proceeding arising because of an alleged default by any Co-owner, the Association, if successful, shall be entitled to recover the costs of the proceeding and such reasonable attorney fees (not limited to statutory fees) as may be determined by the court, but in no event shall any Co-owner be entitled to recover such attorney fees.
Regarding the award of attorney fees, Michigan follows the American Rule, which states that attorney fees are not recoverable as an element of costs or damages unless expressly allowed by statute, court rule, common-law exception, or contract.
Recovery of Attorney Fees
The condo association was entitled to recover fees and costs for all aspects of the proceedings. MCL 559.206(b) provides that the condo association shall recover attorney fees and costs according to the relevant condominium documents, and the Bylaws expressly provide that the condo association may recover the fees and costs for any proceeding arising from an alleged bylaw violation.
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