The Circuit Court for Baltimore City has entered a significant money judgment against a condominium council of unit owners as a means of enforcing its prior order finding the condominium in contempt for failing to complete court ordered repairs. In a case in which I represented the unit owner, the Circuit Court had originally ordered the Harborview Condominium to undertake and complete, by the end of December 2013, certain specified repairs to the exterior common elements needed to make the building watertight. In July 2014, the Circuit Court held that both the failure to include certain specified items in the repair contract, and the failure to complete the repairs within the time ordered by the Court, amounted to willful contempt, and called for the imposition of sanctions. The Circuit Court further found that the case presented the “exceptional circumstances” required under Maryland law for the award of compensatory damages, consisting of monthly payments to the unit owner continuing until the repairs are completed. The Court also established certain construction deadlines to be met in order for the Condominium to avoid additional damage payments. These rulings were affirmed by the Maryland Court of Special Appeals in August 2015. In an order dated December 30, 2015, the Circuit Court directed that the unpaid monthly payments to the unit owner be entered as a money judgment. It further ordered that the total of monthly payments not yet due be accelerated and included in the money judgment. The total money judgment entered exceeds $600,000.
The owner of a penthouse unit sued Harborview in March 2010 for its repeated failures under the Condominium’s bylaws and Maryland law to maintain, repair, and replace the Building’s common elements, and Harborview compelled arbitration. The unit owner won an arbitration award (“Award”) issued on November 24, 2011. The award declared the unit unsafe for normal occupancy due to water infiltration and mold contamination, and ordered Harborview to perform work on the Building’s roof system, exterior façade, and HVAC ductwork to repair (1) defective conditions that had resulted in damage to the Unit and (2) defective conditions in the common elements throughout the entire Building. In particular, the award ordered Harborview to replace the building’s roof system and repair its exterior façade in accordance with certain specifications contained in an engineering report – all within two years – to make the building watertight. The exterior façade work specifically included a requirement to remove and replace all balcony railings at the building. The arbitration award also required Harborview to pay $1,252,487 to the unit owner as compensatory damages. This amount included $373,032 for two years of alternate living costs – the time period during which the roof system and exterior façade work was to be completed.
The Circuit Court for Baltimore City confirmed the arbitration award and entered final judgment in an order dated June 25, 2012, and required Harborview to complete the specific performance repairs by December 30, 2013. Following an appeal by Harborview, the Maryland Court of Special Appeals affirmed the final judgment in an opinion dated October 21, 2013.
Harborview did not complete the required repairs by December 30, 2013 as ordered. Following a three-day evidentiary hearing in May 2014, the Circuit Court found that, in additionally to failing to substantially complete the repairs on time, Harborview had also failed, and did not intend, to include the balcony railing replacement in the repair work it was then undertaking. On July 24, 2014, the Circuit Court entered a memorandum and order finding Harborview in constructive civil contempt. In view of the fact that the payment to the unit owner for alternative living costs had contemplated that the repairs would be completed by December 30, 2013, the Circuit Court found that alternative living expenses were continuing to accumulate. As a sanction, and to coerce compliance, the Circuit Court ordered the following payments to be made to the unit owner:
$15,543 a month for an 18 month period of time from January 1st, 2014. The payments were to be paid by the 25th of each month. The arrearage since January 2014 was to be paid within 60 days. If the work is not completed after 18 months from January 1st, 2014 the $15,543 per month shall be increased to $25,000 a month, again to be paid by the 25th of each month. Harborview would be able to purge this contempt by completing the work as directed.
Following another appeal by Harborview, the Maryland Court of Special Appeals affirmed the contempt order in an opinion dated August 20, 2015. Harborview had not made any of the payments directed to paid to the unit owner in the contempt order. In an order entered on December 30, 2015, the Circuit Court entered a money judgment in the amount of $409,030.62 for amount due under the contempt order and unpaid; ordered that the remaining $200,000 due under the contempt order be accelerated and also entered as a money judgment; bringing the total money judgment against Harborview to $609,030.62.