Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Would you want to know if a potential purchaser or renter had a history of nuisance in a previous community?

A client recently called me regarding an owner in the community who had become a general nuisance to her neighbors. This individual had made a hobby of creating disturbances at board and membership meetings, had peppered the manager with repeated and voluminous document inspection requests and was even suspected of damaging a neighbor’s property as well as certain common areas.

During the course of our conversation, the client advised me that this individual had done the same thing in her previous community and had been sued and sued that association more than once. I asked the client if they would have approved her purchase had they known this information and the obvious answer was “no”.

This community is actually fortunate to have pretty broad approval powers. They actually have language in there that they can deny potential purchasers and potential renters “for cause” and that one of the causes warranting denial is having a history of nuisance in another community. Having that right and exercising it are sadly, two different things. The screening committee asked this woman whether or not she had ever had problems in a prior association setting and not surprisingly her answer was a resounding “no”.

What could this board have done? For starters, they could have run a civil case history by checking with the Clerk of the Court in the county where this applicant previously lived. Some counties provide a court docket at no charge and others charge a minimal fee. The board or manager could not have seen the actual court file but they could have seen a list showing every time the applicant was sued or had sued and the previous suits with her association would have popped up. If the association wanted to view the court file for more information they would have to go down to the Courthouse; unless the file was sealed they would be able to read the file to glean even more information.

This community is now in the midst of prolonged warfare of sorts. They will undoubtedly spend an inordinate amount of time and money containing the problem but they will never really resolve it until this individual moves out and on to her next community. Let’s hope that next community has the proper authority in their governing documents to screen for a history of nuisance and knows how to find the information they need to exercise that right.

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