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|MCL May/June 2014 - Ask the Attorney|
Ask the Attorney
By Nigel H. Mendez, Esq., Carlson & Associates, Ltd.
This column is comprised of questions that have been posed to me by homeowners, property managers and related professionals regarding legal issues that they have encountered with respect to their associations. Discussion of these questions, as well as prior questions, can be found on the CAI-MN LinkedIn page:
I live in a condominium that does not allow pets. The owner next door to me has a cat. I have complained to the board, but they refuse to do anything. How do I get the board to enforce our rules?
This is a tough situation. Although you state you live in a “no pets” condominium, there are federal laws that would permit a resident to have an animal living in the unit. I say animal and not “pet” since under the Fair Housing Act, residents, in limited situations, are able to have animals even in “no pet” buildings. These animals are not pets. If your neighbor has been granted a reasonable accommodation from the ban on pets, the board may be restricted in how much information they can provide to you. I would recommend that you ask the board if an accommodation has been granted to the owner. If they respond yes, then you know that is what is happening here.
A resident can be granted an accommodation if they are disabled under the FHA definition. A disability is defined as a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities. Such an individual can request that the board allow them to have an animal reside in the unit. There must be a nexus between the support that the animal provides and the disability, but the animal does not have to be trained in any formal manner.
While an accommodation may have been granted, the animal must not become a safety issue or nuisance for the other association residents. In your case, I presume that the cat is not constantly barking or behaving in a threatening manner towards others. However, if the resident had an accommodation for a dog, it might be a different story. If an animal allowed into the association does become a problem for other owners, the board should work with the resident to ensure that residents are safe and not unreasonably disturbed — this may require removing the offending animal from the property and allowing the resident to obtain a different animal to support his/her disability.
If it turns out that the animal is not related to an accommodation granted by the board, you can resort to legal action to force compliance. Minn. Stat. §515B.4-116 provides that owners in an association governed by MCIOA may sue either the association or any other homeowner to force compliance. In addition, the court may award reasonable attorney fees and cost of litigation to the prevailing party.
I am the newly elected secretary of my association. What do I have to include in the meeting minutes?
Congratulations! Meeting minutes provide a record of what occurred for homeowners who were not present at board meetings and meetings of the members. Your bylaws may provide guidance on what is required to be included in the minutes. If so, be sure to follow those requirements. Minutes are not meant to be a full recap of the entire meeting, but more a record of what was accomplished at the meeting. This means that discussion on a vote taken is not recorded, but the issue voted on, along with the outcome of the vote, must be detailed. Some minutes will contain the main arguments for or against a vote, but that is not required. Likewise, you are not required to indicate which individuals voted for or against the issue, but you must indicate how many votes were cast in support and against the proposal.
All minutes should include the location, time and date of the meeting, who was in attendance (for a board meeting include which directors were absent), when the next meeting will be held (if known), and what time the meeting adjourned. The rest of the minutes should list each topic discussed at the meeting, proposals that were made, and any votes that were taken. If there are action items to be worked on before the next meeting, those can be included as well.
Your role as secretary is that of a scrivner. You are there to record history, not to make history. As such, you should refrain from inserting your opinions on issues. If you voted against a motion that passed, you should not comment that this “was a bad thing for the association to approve!” While your job is to draft the minutes, the entire board should vote to approve or amend the minutes at the next meeting. This helps to ensure that the minutes are an accurate reflection of what occurred at the meeting.
To have a question answered in a future article, please email it to me at firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject line of "Ask the Attorney.” While I can’t promise that all questions will be answered, I will do my best to include questions that have a broad appeal. Questions will also be answered by other attorneys practicing in this area of law. The answers are intended to give the reader a good understanding of the issue raised by the question but are not a substitute for acquiring an opinion from your legal counsel.
Published by Community Associations Institute — Minnesota Chapter, copyright 2013. All articles and paid advertising represent the opinions of authors and advertisers and not necessarily the opinion of either Minnesota Community Living or CAI–Minnesota Chapter. The information contained within should not be construed as a recommendation for any course of action regarding financial, legal, accounting, or other professional services by the CAI–Minnesota Chapter, or by Minnesota Community Living, or its authors. Articles, letters to the editor, and advertising may be sent to Monte Abeler at email@example.com, or at CAI–Minnesota Chapter, 1000 Westgate Dr., Suite 252, St. Paul, MN 55114.