Giving Thanks for a Superior Decision: An Appealing Outcome for Condo Associations

By Merle Hass, Esq.

We recently won a significant victory in the Appeals Court, Single Justice Session. We had filed a lawsuit in the Superior Court, challenging the behavior of a unit owner who refused to give the board access to his unit, after the unit and the common area were damaged as the result of water seepage from a burst valve. Our Verified Complaint alleged three counts for relief: declaratory judgment, intentional interference with contractual relations with our insurer, and a request for an injunction.

In response, the unit owner tried to transfer the matter to the Housing Court. We opposed this on the ground that the matter did not involve “health, safety, or welfare,” the traditional nexus for Housing Court jurisdiction. The Superior Court denied the transfer request and denied the unit owner’s motion for reconsideration.  He appealed.

And Now, the Rest of the Story
In our opposition, we elaborated to the Appeals Court the argument that this case was not a good candidate for Housing Court jurisdiction:  Not only was the unit unoccupied, but any connection with housing was incidental and peripheral. We insisted that the heart of our request for relief was the unit owner’s failure to abide by the rules in the condominium documents – a governance issue, not a housing matter.

The Appeals Court accepted our argument that the case belonged in Superior Court. It held, in essence, that the Housing Court is a court of limited jurisdiction, and that in questionable cases, it should cede jurisdiction to the Superior Court.

Here is why this is an important case. Tenants and unit owners often seek to try matters in the Housing Court, believing that the Housing Court will be more sympathetic to them. We, however, believe that we get a more level playing field in the Superior Court.

This ruling was favorable not only for our client, but for condominium boards in general. We are proud of our record in the trial and appellate courts, and, in this season of giving thanks, we are grateful to have earned this victory.

As always, if you have litigation issues, we are just a phone call or an email away.
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