Does Condo Class Action Lawsuits Make Sense For Connecticut?
One of the chief problems with court litigation to enforce owner rights is cost. Unit owners don’t have the money. The State does not have the money. There may be a low cost solution.
Perhaps, the answer is to create a special type of litigation, like a “condo class action,” in which two or more unit owners could bring an action against the board on behalf of all unit owners.
To start a class action in Connecticut is difficult. The procedure is outlined below. A special type of condominium class action could be created that would not need all of the prerequisites of a regular class action.
The requirements could be 1. The action is by two or more condo unit owners, 2. the issue affects all condominium owners in the complex, i.e.,( rule application, document interpretation, failure to maintain common elements, election fraud.), 3. the issue is covered by CIOA.
A successful condo class action would require that the court award a reasonable attorneys’ fee to plaintiffs or a certain minimum damage amount. The unit owners would have to make a written demand on the board before litigation is started.
Florida has a statute that allows an association to bring a class action. Why not extend it to a certain number of unit owners. Florida Law:
1.221 Homeowners and Condominium Assocs
A homeowners’ or condominium association, after control of such association is obtained by homeowners or unit owners other than the developer, may institute, maintain, settle, or appeal actions or hearings in its name on behalf of all association members concerning matters of common interest to the members, including, but not limited to: (1) the common property, area, or elements; (2) the roof or structural components of a building, or other improvements (in the case of homeowners. associations, being specifically limited to those improvements for which the association is responsible); (3) mechanical, electrical, or plumbing elements serving a property or an improvement or building (in the case of homeowners. associations, being specifically limited to those elements for which the association is responsible); (4) representations of the developer pertaining to any existing or proposed commonly used facility; (5) protests of ad valorem taxes on commonly used facilities; and, in the case of homeowners. associations, (6) defense of actions in eminent domain or prosecution of inverse condemnation actions. If an association has the authority to maintain a class action under this rule, the association may be joined in an action as representative of that class with reference to litigation and disputes involving the matters for which the association could bring a class action under this rule. Nothing herein limits any statutory or common law right of any individual homeowner or unit owner, or class of such owners, to bring any action that may otherwise be available. An action under this rule shall not be subject to the requirements of rule 1.220.
Below is the convoluted process for class action in Connecticut:
f (1) the class is so numerous that joinder of all members is impracticable, (2) there are questions of law or fact common to the class, (3) the claims or defenses of the representative parties are typical of the claims or defenses of the
class, and (4) the representative parties will fairly and adequately protect the interests of the class.
(1) the prosecution of separate actions by or against individual members of the class would create a risk of: (A) inconsistent or varying adjudications with respect to individual members of the class which would establish incompatible standards of conduct for the party opposing the class; or (B) adjudications with respect to individual members of the class which would, as a practical matter, be dispositive of the interests of the other members who are not parties to the adjudications or substantially impair or impede their ability to protect their interests, or (2) the party opposing the class has acted or refused to act on grounds generally applicable to the class, thereby making appropriate final injunctive
relief or corresponding declaratory relief with respect to the class as a whole; or (3) the court finds that the questions of law or fact common to the members of the class predominate over any questions affecting only individual
members and that a class action is superior to other available methods…
Attorney Patricia A. Ayars of Glastonbury is a member of the Connecticut Condo Owners Coalition advisory committee.