Case Notes in


First published: Mar 2018
Minkin v. Board Of Directors of the Cortlandt Ridge Homeowners Association

Assessing fines may be the best way to enforce rules and policies. The declaration and bylaws were unambiguous. A court may look at the offering plan as an aid to interpretation only when governing documents are unclear or inconsistent. The declaration and bylaws are the contract between the board and owners. Finally, in the lower court decision, the court recognized that this decision would affect all unit-owners, not just the one who was a party to the suit. Although other homeowners could sue on the same theories (and could raise additional bases for their claims), for practical purposes these rulings decided the issues before the court for all homeowners.

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First published: Feb 2014
Tucciarone v. The Hamlet on Olde Oyster Bay Homeowners Association

While this case involves an HOA, and not a co-op or a condo, it is instructive. The HOA board knowingly placed the Tucciarones in a catch-22 situation. From the decision, it appears that the only way for the couple to stop the imposition of the fines and penalties, including the denial of car access, was to make a deal with their next-door neighbor. We cannot tell from this decision whether the couple or the neighbor was being reasonable (if either of them was), but we are not sure it makes a difference. The way in which the board chose, apparently, to force a settlement, placed the Tucciarones in an untenable position. Although the court referred to the board’s behavior as possibly “unconscionable,” identifying such activity as an exception to the Business Judgment Rule, it appears that the court was actually speaking about a component of the good faith standard imposed by the rule. In other words, it appears that the owners were able to demonstrate that the actions taken by the board were in bad faith so that the rule would be inapplicable and the court need not defer to the board’s determination. From the facts recited in this opinion, it appears that the board consciously placed the Tucciarones in a no-win position. Indeed, according to the decision, the board admitted that “the purpose of the new directive is [to] obtain remediation, i.e., settlement of the Fadlon Action, of the bamboo infestation.” An important factor is that the board plainly did not follow its own rules. There is no question that it had to comply with its governing documents in any treatment of unit-owners. In instances such as this, strict compliance is required and it is advisable that a board have – and produce to the court – the paperwork to demonstrate it has done precisely that. In this case, the board apparently failed, and this alone was likely a basis for the relief granted.

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