Associations Should Be Careful What They Ask For

November 3, 2017
Aaron S. Marines

In many cases, an association will seek a Court Order to enforce its rules and regulations.  In those cases, the association asks a Judge to order the unit owner to stop doing something that they are not allowed to do, or to make some sort of change to comply with association governing documents or rules and regulations.  Since the association is asking the Judge to require a specific behavior, it needs to be sure that it asks for exactly what it wants. 

In Eagle View Corporate Center Association v. Citadel Federal Credit Union, Citadel placed some air conditioning equipment on the roof of its building.  The Declaration required this equipment to be screened from view.  Citadel did not screen the equipment, and the association claimed that the equipment was not permitted at all because it was not screened.  The parties ended up in Court asking a Judge to decide the matter.

The Trial Court determined that the air conditioning equipment was permitted.  It ordered that Citadel screen the equipment.  The Trial Court’s specific Order was that “the equipment must be separately screened as approved by the architectural control committee ….”  Months passed, and Citadel never presented a plan to screen the equipment.  At this point, the association went to Court to enforce the Judge’s Order.  The association thought the Judge ordered Citadel to screen its equipment, and that Citadel was in contempt of the Judge’s Order.

The Commonwealth Court did not agree.  The Commonwealth Court said that the Trial Court only ordered Citadel to comply with the Declaration.  That meant that the association’s enforcement efforts needed to start at the beginning.  The association needed to cite Citadel for violation of the screening requirements.  Then the association needed to go through the whole process all over again to get Citadel to comply.

This was a strange case.  But the moral of the story is that if an association is seeking a court order for enforcement of its rules and regulations, the association needs to specify exactly what needs to be done by the unit owner.  Otherwise, the association could find itself right where it started in trying to enforce its rules.

Aaron Marines is an attorney at Russell, Krafft & Gruber, LLP, in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. He received his law degree from Widener University and practices in a variety of areas including Commercial Real EstateLand Use, Land Planning and Zoning matters.