R.S. from outside of Connecticut writes:
Dear Mister Condo,
Can the HOA cite the current owner for an architectural change (remodeled kitchen) done by a previous owner? Is there a statute of limitations on such issues? The CC&Rs do not clearly say that the current owner is at fault. Does it make a difference if the current owner is two owners removed from the owner who had made the modifications?
Mister Condo replies:
R.S., as you can imagine, there are a lot of variables for me to consider before offering you my response. The association should clearly seek legal advice from a local, qualified attorney before proceeding against this unit owner for a previous unit owner’s remodeling violation. State laws vary and there may well be a statute of limitations in play with regards to how long the association took to take action against the unit owner and when the association first became aware of the violation to the architectural compliance that the current owner is being cited for. There will be lots of money in question here as kitchen remodeling is not an inexpensive undertaking. That being said, there are many states where there is no statute of limitation on rules enforcement but there is a requirement for equal application of the rules. That is to say, has the association inspected all kitchens that have been remodeled or just this one owner. The association cannot single out just one unit without applying the same scrutiny to all units or they risk facing a discrimination lawsuit. Clearly, the new unit owner did nothing wrong but that doesn’t mean he or she is immune from needing to follow the architectural compliance guidelines of the association. However, I can’t imagine the new unit owner will voluntarily agree to a $20,000+ kitchen remodeling project just because the association says he or she has to. This is very likely headed to court, which is one more reason for the association to work with its own attorney from the outset to make sure that all of the rules and laws are followed. Good luck!