The Washington State Court of Appeals recently held that the owner of a condominium unit could not be forced to move out or pay rent during the redemption period after a judicial foreclosure by the Association. Viewcrest Condo. Ass’n v. Robertson, No. 74115-2-I, 2016 WL 7470025 (Wash. Ct. App. Dec. 27, 2016)
In the case, Viewcrest obtained a judgment and order foreclosing its lien for past due assessments against Robertson. After becoming the purchaser of the unit at the Sheriff’s Sale, Viewcrest sought a court order (“writ of assistance”) forcibly removing Robertson from her unit. (Robertson failed to respond to an offer to remain in the unit if she paid fair market rent). Viewcrest acknowledged that the condominium unit might be Robertson’s “homestead” under the Homestead Act, but argued that language in the Condominium Act making the Redemption Act inapplicable to association liens would also prevent Robertson from living “rent free” in the unit.
The appeals court sought a “harmonious” reading of the Condominium Act, the Redemption Act, and the Homestead Act, and found that none of the acts explicitly stated that a condominium owner was required to pay rent during the redemption period. According to the court, the legislature indicated no intent to deprive a condominium owner of the right to remain in their homestead without payment for the redemption period. The Court distinguished between the owner’s right to possession during the redemption period and the Association’s right to avoid homestead protection preventing a financial recovery. The court opined that Viewpoint’s policy arguments were better suited for the legislature, and the policies protecting homesteads were more compelling.
This is a significant change to how the lower courts have interpreted the law for several years, and may change how often associations conduct Sheriff’s Sales of owner-occupied units/homes.