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Tech Professional Centre Condominium Association v. Apex Holdings, L.L.C.

Court of Appeals of Iowa

April 3, 2019

TECH PROFESSIONAL CENTRE CONDOMINIUM ASSOCIATION, Plaintiff-Appellee/Cross-Appellant,
v.
APEX HOLDINGS, L.L.C. and JENS BAKER, Defendants-Appellants/Cross-Appellees.

          Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Scott County, Mark J. Smith, Judge.

         In this consolidated appeal, the parties both challenge the district court's order entering judgment in favor of plaintiff.

          Paul J. Bieber of Gomez May LLP, Davenport, for appellants.

          Michael J. Meloy of Meloy Law Office, Bettendorf, for appellee.

          Heard by Vogel, C.J., Vaitheswaran, J., and Danilson, S.J. [*]

          VAITHESWARAN, JUDGE

         An owner of two condominiums modified the exterior doors and windows of the units. The condominium association sued the owner and the owner's registered agent for breach of association rules, bylaws, and the statute governing condominiums. Following trial, the district court ruled in favor of the association and ordered the owner to return the units to their original condition. The court declined to grant the association's request for attorney fees. The owner and the association appeal.

         I. Background Facts and Proceedings

         Tech Professional Centre Condominium Association ("Association") administers a condominium complex in Bettendorf. Among other things, the Association is responsible for "[c]are, upkeep, and surveillance of the property and the general common elements and facilities." The "general common elements" of the condominium complex are to "be owned by all the unit owners as tenants in common."

         Each condominium unit owner is "automatically" a member of the Association and remains a member until "ownership ceases." Unit owners are responsible for the internal maintenance and repair of their units, including "water, light, gas, power, sewage, telephones, air conditions, sanitary installations, doors, windows, lamps and all other accessories." Unit owners are not to "make structural modifications or alterations in [their] unit installations located therein without receiving prior written approval from the Association."

         Apex Holdings, LLC, through its registered agent Jens Baker (collectively, "Apex"), purchased two condominium units and leased them for commercial use. When the units became vacant, a daycare facility expressed an interest in renting them. The Bettendorf fire marshal determined the exterior doors were too close together for operation of a daycare center. Apex made plans to move the doors.

         Baker conceded he did not convene a board meeting to notify the Association of his renovation plans or submit a written modification request. Instead, he "made the . . . various owners aware that these changes were being required by the fire department" during an "impromptu meeting" behind the building. According to Baker, the subject of the doors again arose at a subsequent "more formal meeting" convened for an entirely different purpose. During the meeting, one of the owners asked Baker, "[H]ey, what's going on with your day care?" Baker responded by "mention[ing] . . . [t]hat the doors . . . needed to be relocated." Baker testified, "There was no objection."

         Apex hired a contractor, who removed two sets of windows, installed new entrance doors to the units, and made the existing doors "nonoperable." During the renovation, the contractor removed approximately thirty exterior bricks, replaced plywood, and added new sidewalks.[1] The Association ordered Apex to cease and desist with the renovations. Apex ignored the orders, completed the construction, and paid the contractor $5095.48.

         The Association filed a "petition at law," alleging Apex breached the Association bylaws and violated Iowa Code chapter 499B (2017) "by making significant exterior alterations to the building without the . . . Association's approval." Following trial, the district court determined Apex violated the Association bylaws and chapter 499B by failing to notify the Association of its proposed changes to the building. The court ordered Apex to "place the exterior of the condominium building in its condition prior to the exterior renovation done to the building in 2016" "no later ...


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