Professional Planners advocate more concentrated forms of land development. People seek the benefits of organized communities, or access to beautiful locations such as “The Beach”, inland bays and on Chesapeake Bay. These trends have produced concentrated forms of residential property ownership. In the business community, highly planned business parks, shopping complexes and commercial condominiums are now commonplace. The increased density reflects the increasing scarcity and value of desirable and well-located real estate; the planned aspect reflects a desire to control variables to optimize people’s behaviors for the common good.
Governing Legal Structures
Legal structures have evolved to accommodate these higher density projects. For example, Maryland has a condominium statute that comprehensively details the roles and responsibilities of developers, condominium associations, condominium sellers, condo boards of directors, condo insurers and the unit owners themselves. All condominiums, whether they are residential or commercial, are subject to detailed declarations, by-laws and sometimes other governing documents. These documents impose specific rules governing the operation of the condominium. They must be approved by the State before they are adopted for a residential project. The statute, in general, supersedes any contrary provisions in the declaration, which, likewise, supersede any contrary provisions in the by-laws. Condo associations may need to control the day-to-day operation of their communities by imposing fines for violations or adopting special rules, which must, of course, be adopted in compliance with the statute and condominium documents. In similarity to its condo statute, the Maryland Legislature has enacted laws governing homeowner associations, which govern affairs in modern residential subdivisions, planned unit developments, or town home communities. While the HOA statute is less pervasive in effect than the condominium statute, the governing documents of a HOA—a declaration of covenants and by-laws– often resemble those governing a condominium.
The Lawyer’s Role Helping Condos and HOA’s
Condominium association and homeowner associations need legal assistance for a number of reasons. Usually the organic documents are prepared by skilled legal counsel in close communication with the developer-client and their design professionals. Once the association is approaching self-management, legal issues frequently arise for the association. Questions arise about the condition of the common elements and common areas, and the responsibility of the developer or builder to correct any defects. Concerns surface about the developer’s handling of finances, contracts, or other financial matters while in control of the condo or HOA. The organic documents of the association frequently require revision to address changes in the legal landscape or specific needs of the association. A few owners in the condo or HOA inevitably fail to pay their dues or assessments, requiring placement of liens, judgments or other collection actions. The association’s board, which is required to hold its own meetings and conduct meetings of the unit owners, must also deal with complaints, work with contractors, utilize accountants and other professionals. They may need guidance dealing with or receiving assistance from different levels of government. For example, the Maryland Attorney General’s Office, through the Maryland Consumer Protection Division, has in recent years offered certain types of assistance to HOAs and condo associations that are having issues with their developers or builders, particularly in the financial area.
In such situations, associations can benefit greatly from the services and advice of an attorney experienced in condo and HOA law and practice.
Experienced with condominium, property and homeowner associations
For over 30 years, we have helped developers, design professionals, property managers, condominium associations, homeowner associations, commercial condos and property owners’ associations with matters relating to Maryland condo and HOA law and practice. While many of our condo and HOA clients have been in or near Ocean City, MD, quite a few others have been in or around Salisbury, MD, both in residential and commercial settings. Familiarity with the pertinent laws, procedures, common problems and issues that challenge these communities and those that develop them helps us serve their legal needs.