Supreme Court sides with homeowners association in records dispute

COURTESY PHOTO | A condo at Windcrest East.

More than a year after three homeowners at a 55-and-older community in Calverton filed a petition against their homeowners association alleging the group broke state law, a state Supreme Court justice has ruled against the homeowners and dismissed the proceedings, according to court documents.

Before going to court last year, the trio asked to see financial records of the Windcrest East Homeowners Association, a request that was granted provided the homeowners drove to Queens to see the records in person. After they could not settle the matter with the association, the homeowners filed the petition against its board of directors, saying the board violated state property law and community bylaws by storing the financial records away from their complex on Golden Spruce Drive in Calverton.

But Justice William Rebolini issued a judgment Jan. 24 in favor of the association, sayings laws were not violated and that the trip to Queens was not an undue inconvenience.

“The bylaws specifically provide that only certain documents must be made available for inspection at the principal office,” Justice Rebolini wrote in his decision. “There is no requirement that the respondents maintain other documents for inspection at that location.”

The justice added that although Real Property Law states records must be available at a convenient time, the location of those records is not specified.

“While there could be instances where maintaining the records at an excessive distance may be unreasonable, the petitioners have failed to demonstrate that traveling to Queens is so unreasonable as to have interfered with their right to examine the books and records,” Justice Rebolini wrote. “Queens County is geographically part of Long Island and the petitioners have apparently made at least two trips there to review and copy documents.”

Jack Tyniec, treasurer and board member of Windcrest homeowners association, said it is “certainly a relief” to have the petition settled in their favor.

“I think certainly myself and everyone on the board are gratified that the judge’s decision supported the board of directors,” Mr. Tyniec said.

Mr. Tyniec said the board held firm in its belief board members had never broken state law by storing the financial records with their property manager in Queens, saying their situation is not as unusual as the complainants had implied.

“Condominiums, unless they’re very small, typically have a property manager elsewhere,” he said.

The legal proceedings for the petition were a “substantial expense,” he added, saying he believes the issue is now settled.

“We hope that … we can all put this behind us,” Mr. Tyniec said.

Reached while away in Florida, Jim Salvaggio, one of the three petitioners, said he was disappointed by the justice’s decision.

“You call 70-year-olds going to Queens not a hardship?” he said. “That’s what disappointed us.”

He said the trio was even less encouraged by the reaction of the community, some of whom opposed them while others voiced support in private, but not in public.

“A lot of the homeowners would come over and voice their opinions, saying we were doing the right thing … but they didn’t back us,” Mr. Salvaggio said. “You’re living in a 55-and-older community you have a lot of widows and widowers. They get too complacent. They don’t want to upset any part of the apple cart.”

Mr. Salvaggio said he and his fellow complainants did not regret taking the homeowners association to court, adding they would not appeal the decision and would drive to Queens to see the records in the future.

“It is an inconvenience… but it’s something that we want to do and we’ll do it,” he said. “We have no choice.”

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