This Day in Virginia Condo Law: Plate v. Board of Directors, Kincannon Place Condominium Unit Owners’ Association, 30 Va. Cir. 323 (Fairfax County 1993)

Plate v. Board of Directors of Kidcannon Condominium Unit Owners Association

On April 5, 1993, the Fairfax County Circuit Court issued an opinion in Plate v. Board of Directors, Kincannon Place Condominium Unit Owners’ Association related to the scope of condominium association’s authority to regulate parking on common elements.

In Kincannon Place, Robert Plate sought a declaratory judgment action to establish scope of condominium association’s authority to regulate parking on common elements with a request for a temporary injunction to enjoin Kincannon Place from towing vehicles parked on the common elements.

Plate was the owner of several units in a commercial condominium project and operated a vehicle repair business.   Most of the other commercial units operated in the building and construction industries.

The Bylaws for Kincannon Place prohibiting the parking or storage of “inoperable, junk, or stored vehicles, including any vehicle bearing expired registration tags” on the common elements (including limited common elements).

As the owner and operator of a vehicle repair business, most of the vehicles parked on the common elements by Plate (between 45-80 at any given time) were being stored, pending repair.  After the association sent letters threatening the towing of vehicles, the suit was filed.

Plate alleged the association “selectively, unreasonably, arbitrarily, and capriciously enforces the Bylaws, threatening to substantially injure his business.”

After the suit was filed, the board of directors issued a new parking regulation which assigns each unit a certain number of marked parking spaces on the common elements tor use by that owner.

In its pleadings, the association defined “inoperable” vehicles to include vehicles which are temporarily inoperable in that they can not be driven to and from the premises and defined “stored vehicles” as any vehicle part of inventory or being held pending repair.

The Court found the definitions urged by the association are inconsistent with the intent of the parties and that the application of the association definitions restrict and may prohibit the operation of complainants business.

The Court, in the preliminary injunction hearing, determined the association may tow vehicles, but only those outside of the newly allocated, assigned parking spaces.

According to counsel from Mr. Plate (through his website), “After the injunction was obtained, the condominium board stopped trying to enforce the threatened towing, and a compromise was worked out that allowed the body shop to use a specified portion of the parking area in connection with its business.”

Most significant quotes:

The factors to be balanced by the court in determining whether to issue a preliminary injunction include: the likelihood that the plaintiff will prevail on the merits at the final hearing; irreparable injury to the plaintiff if no injunction is issued: injury to defendant if the injunction is issued; whether an adequate remedy at law exists1 the interest of the public…While the harm to the complainant relative to that of the respondent are the two factors considered paramount, they must be weighed in relation to complainant’s likelihood of success on the merits.

With respect to the likelihood complainant will prevail on the merits, my inquiry has been focused on whether the respondent Board has acted within the scope of its authority as defined under the Bylaws and whether it has adopted a limitation on the use of property which is reasonably related to a legitimate purpose. See Unit Owners Assoc, of Build America-1 v. Gillman, 223 Va. 752, 770 (1982).

Because every set of recorded governing documents are different, the application of case law to each community association differs.  As always, contact an experienced attorney for advice and counsel.

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