Tort Law

Attorney Owner Wins Condo Association Wastebasket War, Uses $201K Check to Pay Off Mortgage

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A nuisance provision contained in many condominium association governing documents can be a tempting basis for litigation.

But it backfired for one Florida condominium association that tried to utilize it to force an attorney owner out of her home, writes local lawyer Jean Winters on the Condos and HOAs page of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel.

A protracted legal battle began eight years ago with a dispute over whether or not Alca Condominium Association, Inc. in Miami would grant owner Nancy Wear’s request to put a wastebasket near her mailbox so she could throw away junk mail on the spot. When the association refused, she began tossing mail on the floor, the article recounts.

The battle escalated, and the association sought to have Wear declared a nuisance in arbitration so she could be evicted. A seasoned trial attorney, she successfully pursued the matter in state court and won a jury verdict. That was overturned, but last year an appeals court reinstated it and in June Wear was awarded attorney’s fees.

She used the $201,347 check she received from the association’s insurance carrier to pay off her mortgage, an apparent signal that she intends to stay in her condo long-term, according to the article.

“This was a hard lesson for Alca Condominium Association,” writes Winters. “Unfortunately, associations sometimes use vague or nuisance covenants to sue uncooperative owners—owners who ask questions, commit minor ‘violations’ or otherwise annoy the board. Associations that take legal action on issues that could be easily resolved should consider all the possible repercussions of beginning wars that can backfire in a big way.”

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