E-Alert Case Updates
Real Estate Cooperative Was Not Contractually Required to Repair Unit Owner’s Pipes
Robinson-Huntley v. George Washington Carver Mutual Homes Association, Inc.
In this appeal, the Court considered whether a contract obligated a real estate cooperative to make certain plumbing repairs requested by Plaintiff.
Plaintiff Carol Robinson-Huntley inherited an interest in the George Washington Carver Mutual Homes Association, Inc. (“the Association”), a real estate cooperative created in 1949. She executed a mutual ownership contract (“the Contract”) with the Association. A paragraph of the Contract (“the Provide and Pay Provision”) required that “[t]he Association shall . . . provide and pay for property including the [m]ember’s dwelling, except that the [m]ember shall make minor interior repairs and provide all interior and decorating.”
In 2011, Plaintiff began experiencing significant plumbing problems in her unit. Deteriorated pipes needed to be replaced which would cost $6,000. Plaintiff informed the Association but the Association refused to pay for the needed repairs. Plaintiff filed a Complaint alleging that the Provide and Pay Provision obligated the Association to replace the pipes.
Following a bench trial, the Court entered judgment for the Association on the Provide and Pay argument, finding that the Provide and Pay Provision did not obligate the Association to replace pipes. Plaintiff appealed.
The appellate court concluded that the Contract between Plaintiff and the Association was ambiguous, and so it consulted extrinsic evidence. An earlier version of the Contract had included an explicit requirement to repair, which had been removed from the contract signed by Plaintiff. Also, in a practical sense, Plaintiff was unable to prove that the Association had in the past made repairs similar to the kind that she sought. Therefore, the appellate court affirmed the determination by the trial court that the Association was not obligated to replace the pipes.
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