“Can we put a limit on the complaints coming from one of our homeowners?”

 The answer to this and much much more from CAI-WNY’s Rochester Panel on Legal & Insurance Issues.

It was a warm beautiful Thursday night when CAI-WNY met at the Monroe Golf Club in Pittsford this past June. After the 90-plus attendees enjoyed a picnic barbecue buffet (the smell of pulled pork and barbecue ribs: oh MY, everyone’s taste buds were prepped!), our panel settled in to answer insurance and legal questions related to HOAs and condominium associations.

Dick Aikens, CMCA, AMS of Kenrick Corporation fielded questions as the evening’s moderator. Panelists included Gary Albanese and Bonnie Gionta, both from Key Insurance & Benefits Services; Ronald S. Shubert, Esq., partner with Phillips Lytle, LLP; William N. LaForte, Esq., partner with Trevitt Cristo P.C.; and Christopher T. Pusateri, Esq., Kenny, Shelton, Liptak, Nowak, LLP.

The panelists covered a wide range of topics, everything from the importance and clarity of the association/condominium legal documents in insuring who is the responsible party regarding unit damage.

Some issues were on the cutting edge of 21st century technology: can associations restrict the use of drones and when – or if – it’s ever advisable for association board of directors to engage in social media. (“No” was the answer to both questions.)
One insurance issue was an HOA’s inherent problems with its rustic slate sidewalks which are irregularly shaped and collect water which freezes in the winter. Some residents consider them “charming,” while others call them a hazard. The question concerned limiting the potential of liability for the HOA if someone were to slip or injure themselves.
One question – guaranteed that every audience member related to – was “Can a board restrict the number of complaints coming from a single unit owner?” This solicited a huge swell of laughter from everyone attending, AND an emphatic answer from Ron Shubert: “No!” 

He proceeded to explain that any homeowner is within their rights to complain about whatever they feel is wrong in their association, but the question certainly hit home.
Many of the questions concerned association rules about the installation of television satellite dishes on the exterior of units: must they be allowed (yes, as per FCC rules) and can an association dictate where the equipment is installed (yes).

Other inquiries from participants parsed board of director procedures: Should the meeting minutes reflect the all the conversation between a (complaining) homeowner and the board of directors? Answer: No. Technically, board meeting minutes contain voting on the motions that were made at that meeting, NOT the to-and-fro between the board and homeowners.

Insurance issues involved homeowner’s installation and use of fire pits, grills and “fire tables” fueled by propane, natural gas, or wood. (The advice was to check the policy.) And what are the differences between a renter’s policy versus a traditional HO 6 or condominium policy? Several questions and comments were raised on the importance of clarity in the association’s legal documents in insuring who is the responsible party regarding unit damage.

All-in-all, an informative evening! (One last question that caused more laughter: In a community that is NOT “an over 55” what can be done about a homeowner who complains that the children who live there are “too loud”?) What do YOU think?