By Kevin C. Whitacre, Esq.
In the fall of 2014, an Illinois appeals court held that a former owner is still liable to a condominium association for unpaid assessments that accrued after the transfer of ownership if the association did not receive notice of the transfer.
In the case, Cambridge Apartments Condominium Association v. Williams, the occupant, Williams, transferred her unit to a new owner, Bennett. The transfer was not recorded with the County Recorder because the office required a water certificate, which could not be obtained because the association was delinquent on its water bill. Bennett failed to pay some of the post-transfer assessments, and the association filed a lawsuit against Williams for those assessments because they were unaware that she was no longer the owner.
At trial, Bennett testified that she had informed the association of the transfer via a telephone call and a letter, but she was unable to produce evidence of such communications. Bennett further testified that the association should have known of the transfer because she had been making payments, but the court denied this as she could have simply been making payments on behalf of Williams.
Ultimately, the court found that the association was able to obtain a judgment against Williams because the association was neither aware nor had reason to be aware of the transfer.
Though courts in Arizona are not obligated to follow precedent set by an out-of-state court, they will often take out-of-state court opinions into consideration. Therefore, it is important to be aware of current events in the legal field across the country. While it is ideal and recommended to have a complete record of owners within an association, this case provides associations an alternative avenue for collecting unpaid dues if notice of transfer was not established.
Source: CAI Law Reporter, Association is Entitled to Judgment Against Former Unit Owner for Unpaid Assessments (Sept. 2014) available at http://newsmanager.commpartners.com/cailaw/issues/2014-09-18.html