Condo Media - December 2020 - 42

The Region

VERMONT

Planning
for the
Future
Knowing the Past
[by Christina A. Jensen, Esq.]

POP QUIZ!
Who said " those who cannot remember
the past are condemned to repeat it? "
R Winston Churchill
R George Santayana
R Carlos Santana
R Mark Twain
No, not Santana, at least not that
I've discovered. I wouldn't put it past
him, and the music would be great.
Otherwise, almost all of the above,
though Churchill was paraphrasing
Santayana, and Twain begged to differ:
" history doesn't repeat itself, but it
often rhymes. " I knew none of this:
only the quote, which sent me down
a rabbit hole to confirm its source,
as I contemplated the importance
of knowing the past in planning for
the future.

42

CONDOMEDIA December 2020

COMMUNITY HISTORY
CAN BE COMPLICATED
Fully understanding the past can be
challenging for older communities.
Any Vermont community created before
1999 was probably organized under the
old Condominium Ownership Act, or
COA. It may have been expanded after it
was originally created; it may still be subject to unexercised development rights.
The governing documents - the declaration, bylaws, and rules - may have been
amended many times and be difficult to
follow, even for lawyers. They may leave
important gaps, such as when - and even
whether - development rights expire.
Communities established after 1999
have the benefit of clearer and more
comprehensive law - the Vermont
Common Interest Ownership Act, or
CIOA. Still, their histories may be complicated, particularly if the developer
remains in control of the community or
has recently relinquished control after
a lengthy period.
UNDERSTANDING THE HISTORY
CAN DEFINE THE FUTURE
The most concrete example of the value
of understanding the history of the
community may be in the developer's
payment - or, more often, nonpayment
- of its share of common expenses. The
CIOA specifically requires the developer

to pay assessments on units it owns once
they are declared. In 2016, the trial court
in Burlington ruled that the statute
required a developer to pay assessments
on lots it owned even if they had not yet
been developed with dwellings, because
the declaration defined units as lots, and
created all of them upon recording. The
developer, who controlled the community, had never paid assessments.
In June 2020, the trial court in Newfane considered a similar issue under
the COA, where a number of lots in a
decades-old community remained owned
by the developer, and the declaration required the developer to pay assessments
on lots it owned. The developer wasn't
paying; it had negotiated a " sweetheart
deal " that purported to eliminate the
requirement that it contribute to the
common expenses of the community,
effectively increasing the amounts the
other owners had to pay to cover the
developer's share. The court rejected the
sweetheart deal and ruled that the declaration applied to require the developer
to contribute to the common expenses of
the community like any other owner.
The differences in the communities
were significant. They differed in type,
in date of establishment and applicable
law, and in the provisions of their governing documents. However, they shared
one critical element: unit owners who
examined the history of the community
and discovered the developers' obligation
to contribute to its expenses. Having
secured enforcement of the obligation,
the unit owners ensured that the associations and future unit owners would not be
condemned to repeat history, but be set
on the right track for the future.
One more Mark Twain gem from my
trip down the rabbit hole: " Always do right.
This will gratify some people and astonish
the rest. " Happy Holidays, and here's to
the new year and a bright future.
Q CHRISTINA A. JENSEN, ESQ.
IS WITH THE LAW FIRM OF
LISMAN LECKERLING, P.C.



Condo Media - December 2020

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Condo Media - December 2020

Condo Media - December 2020 - Cover1
Condo Media - December 2020 - Cover2
Condo Media - December 2020 - 1
Condo Media - December 2020 - 2
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Condo Media - December 2020 - 4
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Condo Media - December 2020 - Cover3
Condo Media - December 2020 - Cover4
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