Daily Development for
Friday, May 17, 1996

by: Patrick A. Randolph, Jr.
Professor of Law
UMKC School of Law

CONDOMINIUMS; RIGHTS OF UNIT OWNERS; AMENDMENTS OF BYLAWS; PARKING SPACES: A condominium association may be authorized by its by-laws to allocate parking spaces which are common areas under the Maryland Condominium Act, Md. Code Ann. 11-101 et seq. Alpert v. Le'Lisa Condominium, 667 A.2d 947 (Md. Ct. Sp. App. 1995). The owners of a condominium unit challenged the authority of the condominium Council to assign individual parking spaces for the exclusive use of individual unit owners through a by-law amendment adopted after they had acquired their unit. There were sufficient parking spaces available for all unit owners, but only a limited number were covered spaces. Under a custom of the owners, parking spaces traditionally had been assigned on the basis of length of ownership. A new owner was required to park in the uncovered area. The owner-plaintiffs thought that they would be obtaining a covered parking space when they purchased because their sellers had enjoyed that space. They were notified of the parking allocation system only after their purchase and refused to abide by it. The Council amended the by-laws to incorporate the allocation custom.

The owner-plaintiffs argued that the Council could not designate specific parking spaces without amending the Declaration of Condominium, as to do so would infringe on each owner's common right of access and possession of the common elements. The court, in a case of first impression, held that the parking assignment policy was a regulation of the use of a common element, not the taking of a portion of each unit owner's interest in common areas. Therefore, a by-law amendment was appropriate to institute the parking system and would be binding on all owners.

The court reviewed a number of cases from other jurisdictions discussing whether a by-law amendment altered the percentage interest of owners in the common elements. It reasoned that restricting the use of parking spaces by assigning them to unit owners was "related to promoting the health, happiness and piece of mind of the unit owners" and not a permanent grant of exclusive use of part of the common elements to any particular owner.

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