On May 25, 2017, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court issued rulings in the case of Starling v. Lake Meade Property Owners Association, reversing a decision of the Pennsylvania Superior Court and reconfirming a community association’s ownership of and authority over key parts of its common facilities.
The Community Associations Institute (CAI) submitted a friend of the court brief in support of the position of a CAI member, Lake Meade Property Owners Association (LMPOA). The successful amicus curiae brief was prepared by attorneys Nicholas C. Haros, Esq. and Gregory D. Malaska, Esq. of the law firm of Young & Haros, LLC in Stroudsburg.
The court case dealt with the ownership and uses of certain common property within Lake Meade, a private lake community in Adams County, Pennsylvania. The dispute arose between homeowners and the Association regarding ownership and use of a cul-de-sac road serving a number of houses on a peninsula of land jutting out into the lake. For many years, LMPOA members had used the cul-de-sac and road for parking, recreation and other lakefront events in Lake Meade. The Plaintiff homeowners claimed title to parts of disputed areas around the cul-de-sac had filed suit to assert their rights.
The Adams County Court of Common Pleas first ruled that LMPOA had established ownership and authority over the disputed areas. On appeal, however, the Pennsylvania Superior Court reversed the trial court, concluding for suspect reasons that the Association did not own the road and cul-de-sac. LMPOA then requested Pennsylvania’s highest court to allow a second, final appeal to review the Superior Court’s decision.
In a thoroughly-written opinion authored by Justice David Wecht, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court reversed the Pennsylvania Superior Court and approved much of the original trial court decision. The Supreme Court stated that LMPOA owns the road and cul-de-sac and has the power to regulate the use of those common areas. More importantly, the Supreme Court decision contains comprehensive guidance for lot owners on the nature of their use of common areas in a planned community. A major victory for CAI and its member associations, this Supreme Court decision has positive impacts on all planned communities throughout Pennsylvania because it provides clear standards on these important issues for Pennsylvania communities in the future. The Supreme Court decision can be viewed at this link.
About the Author
Gregory D. Malaska, Esq. is an attorney with Young & Haros, LLC, a law firm based in Stroudsburg, Pennsylvania serving clients throughout the commonwealth of Pennsylvania. Mr. Malaska is a graduate of Catholic University of America (Juris Doctorate) and was admitted to the Pennsylvania bar in 2000. He practices real estate, community association, homeowners association, condominium association, corporate, and business law. Mr. Malaska is a past member of CAI's Pennsylvania Legislative Action Committee and currently serves as a director on CAI's Pennsylvania & Delaware Valley Chapter Board of Directors. He can be reached via e-mail at: firstname.lastname@example.org.