The fancy Washington Post "news-paper" ran an article this morning about Shadowood's date with the state Supreme Court earlier this year. The stuff about the high court's ruling and its Serious Implications on how and when condo associations can fine their residents aren't new, but there are lots of fun details about life in South Reston's most litigious condo complex. Fines for calling the management office! Cars being towed en masse on (or right before) Thanksgiving! Air conditioning cutoffs! $75,000 for consulting services! Water damage left unrepaired for years! A board election to be held… tomorrow!
For years, the Shadowood Condominium Association imposed fees for things like calling the management office or having the wrong color blinds. It towed tenants’ cars for unpaid fees — on the day before Thanksgiving. It turned off the heat or air conditioning to apartments of owners who were in arrears or in violation of its many rules.The article also provides a rare public airing of the Shadowood board's point of view.
Last year, a Fairfax County judge permanently enjoined Shadowood from doing any of that stuff. The association appealed to the state Supreme Court, using its own members/victims’ money to pay its lawyers. This summer they lost there too, enshrining Shadowood in Virginia law under the concept that you can’t make up rules and impose fees if they are not in the development’s original master deed.
So many of the owners of the 450 condos in Shadowood, at the intersection of South Lakes and Soapstone drives, are interested in changing their association leadership. But the officers who run Shadowood, in particular longtime board president Brian Olivia, are still in charge. An election is scheduled for two of the five officers on Saturday, but with an interesting set of rules for who may run, and it will be interesting to see if the vote changes anything.
Olivia is the target of a lot of ire, but he defends his positions calmly and in detail. He, and his lawyers, believed that state law allowed condo associations to impose fees in order to keep people from dumping trash or paying late, but that the Virginia courts reached a new, different view. Now, Olivia says, he has no way to enforce the rules in Shadowood, late fees are not being charged, and “it’s the Wild West around here.”The Post article's a terrific read, full of "fun" stories (assuming you don't live there). Follow the link to read them all, but we'll share the one about how Fairfax County got involved in legal action against the complex:
…Olivia felt like he and his board were merely trying to enforce rules to keep the place neat and orderly. Now, “we don’t have an effective means of enforcing our rules. We have to expect people are following the rules. They’re not.” He said Shadowood now couldn’t even charge a late fee or interest for late monthly maintenance payments.
…Olivia, who noted he and the other directors are unpaid, sent over a two-page list of the condo board’s accomplishments in the last three years, including electric heat pumps in all 450 units and extensive exterior improvements.
For many years, Fairfax County has been one of the largest condo owners in Shadowood, having bought 16 units back in 1975 to rent to low-income folks. But when their tenants began having problems with fines and fees, the amounts quickly added up. In one month of 2010, Fairfax County was told it had rung up more than $10,000 in fees, for having incomplete forms on file, making improper calls to the management office and having invalid parking stickers. A Fairfax housing official tried to attend a hearing to challenge, brought a court reporter with her, and was ejected, court records show.So it's hardly surprising the upcoming board elections are generating equal amounts of drama:
The county said a number of its tenants’ cars were towed on Thanksgiving morning one year despite discussions about pending obligations. Olivia said Fairfax had been late paying its bills, had been given a grace period granted to no one else, and still wouldn’t pay on time. He said utility bills needed to be paid for the entire complex, and all owners needed to pay their share. He said “parking privileges were suspended” and the vehicles towed on the day before Thanksgiving, not Thanksgiving morning.
So now comes Saturday’s election for two new board members, and a set of rules sent to possible candidates last month, including: “have no past, pending, probable or current litigation” against Shadowood and “have no more than three Shadowood governing document violations” in the past year.Saturday ought to be an interesting day at Shadowood, that's for sure.
This raised some eyebrows among the disgruntled owners. But Olivia said they were only voluntary guidelines, suggested by the association’s lawyer, and that several of the candidates already lined up to run are involved in lawsuits but are still on the ballot.
Jim Peters, an owner who wants new management, said Shadowood’s financial records were still being “concealed,” which he theorized was connected to the “extraordinary legal embarrassment and the court striking down our fines and late fee income. Shadowood’s owners should not have to vote from a position of ignorance.”
Update: It appears the two incumbent board members up for re-election Saturday both lost their seats.