Prince George’s County is providing “alternative dispute resolution” assistance regarding disputes involving the governance of condominium, co-op, and homeowners associations (HOA).
The dispute resolution process will be conducted through the County Office of Community Relations (OCR), which will provide a qualified dispute resolution specialist to attempt to settle a dispute. Disputes between associations and homeowners, which may be submitted to the OCR, include the authority of the HOA board of directors to require:
- A person to take or not take any action involving a unit or common element
- A person to pay a fee, fine, or assessment
- Spending of association funds, or alter or add a common element
The alternative dispute resolution process may also be used for disagreements concerning the failure of the HOA board of directors (when required by law or an association document) to:
- Properly conduct an election or meeting
- Give adequate notice of a meeting or other action
- Properly adopt a budget or rules
- Maintain or audit books and records
- Maintain or repair a common element if the failure results in significant personal injury or property damage
- Exercise its judgment in good faith concerning the enforcement of the association documents
Disagreements that are not subject to the OCR dispute resolution process include those that involve:
- The collection of an assessment validly levied
- The exercise of an HOA board’s judgment or discretion in taking or not taking any legally authorized action
Any disagreement requests to invoke the OCR’s dispute resolution process may not be filed until the requesting party makes a fair attempt to exhaust all resolution processes already provided in the HOA documents.
Under this new law, an HOA member “may not file an action in any Prince George’s County Court until he/she has first attempted conflict resolution” through the OCR.
This new law also prohibits an HOA from taking “any action to enforce or implement its decision until the time to file a request for alternative dispute resolution process has been exhausted and the opposing party has not requested alternative dispute resolution process.”