The Washington Court of Appeals issued an unpublished opinion earlier this month concerning a condominium association's authority to fund a major construction project without a prior vote of its owners. The project involved the installation of a $2 million "rain screen" building envelope system (an upgrade over the previous system) following the discovery of significant water intrusion. The court ruled that the project funding concerned "repair" of the building, which did not require owner approval, rather than a "capital improvement", which required owner approval over a certain amount.
The court's analysis relating to the meaning of the term "repair" in the condominium's declaration is noteworthy. The court first points out that the declaration contains a section investing the board with broad authority to acquire goods and services for the proper functioning of the condominium, including repair of units if necessary in the board's discretion to protect the common area or preserve the appearance and value of the condominium. The court then concludes on the basis of that section that a "repair" includes anything necessary in the board's discretion to protect the common area or preserve the appearance and value of the condominium.
Establishing the meaning of terms used in condominium declarations sometimes requires legal interpretation. Attorneys can help boards ensure that they are understanding their declarations correctly. A condominium board that wants to fund a construction project without obtaining owner approval should strongly consider asking an attorney whether the declaration permits this.