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California condo community trapped in construction dispute

Western Oaks Village, a 322-unit condominium complex in Novato, and its 121 members continue to be held in limbo by a dispute between a general contractor and a construction management firm. The contractor's claims of extortion against the management company and close to $2 million in mechanics' liens against the properties have made it impossible for residents to sell condos or refinance their mortgages for several years.

The homeowners association for the community had hired CIDology Inc. to manage the special assessment and hiring of a contractor to perform $4.59 million in repairs to all units. The company urged the association's board to alter its Covenants, Conditions and Restrictions so that a vote of 51 percent instead of a two-thirds majority could approve the management contract. The deal passed by a single vote, and CIDology hired a construction company to begin the job.

According to a legal complaint from the contractor, the management firm asked the contractor to inflate its bid and then expected kickbacks. When the contractor refused, CIDology ceased payments, and the contractor filed mechanics' liens on the condominiums. In a lawsuit against the contractor, CIDology accuses the company of performing substandard work. Their dispute is headed to trial.

Any person caught up in a homeowner dispute could seek legal advice. An attorney familiar with the litigation of real estate and contract law could evaluate the case and provide guidance about how to respond. Negotiations led by an attorney might produce a resolution to differences about a lease, purchase agreement or interpretation of association rules.

Source: Marinij, "Novato condo complex owners trapped in legal battle", Richard Halstead, Feb. 17, 2018

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