Ochs v. L'Enfant Trust and West End Condominium Association

504 A.2d 1110 (1986)

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Ochs v. L'Enfant Trust and West End Condominium Association

United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia
504 A.2d 1110 (1986)

Facts

Laurence J. Ochs (plaintiff) owned a condominium unit in the West End Condominium complex in the District of Columbia. Ochs sued the condominium association (the association) (defendant) to invalidate its donation of a conservation easement in the condominium building’s façade. The association granted the easement to a nonprofit foundation to help preserve the historic nature of the DuPont Circle Historic District, where the condominium building was located, after the association obtained what it believed was a necessary two-thirds approval of all unit owners by circulating a voting package outlining the plan. The association also levied a special assessment to cover the cost of the donation against all but two individual unit owners, who were foreigners who would not be eligible to take advantage of the tax deduction that the other owners could take for their assessed share of the donation. The façade was designated a common element in the condominium’s instruments. Ochs alleged that the association lacked the authority under district law and the condominium’s instruments to grant the easement and to levy a special assessment to fewer than all unit owners. District law empowered condominium associations to grant easements through common elements without the approval of unit owners and to levy a special assessment only against those unit owners who could benefit from a common expense. The condominium’s instruments did not limit the association’s statutory authority to grant an easement in the common elements or to levy the special assessment. The trial court ruled for the association. Ochs appealed and argued that (1) the association lacked authority to encumber Och’s undivided percentage interest in the building’s façade; (2) the easement deprived Ochs of his vested property interest in violation of the Due Process Clause of the Fifth Amendment; (3) the association’s circulated voting package violated procedures in the condominium’s instruments; and (4) the condominium’s instruments did not expressly authorize the disproportionate special assessment.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Pair, J.)

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