Lake County District Court. File No. C6-02-240.
Considered and decided by Hudson, Presiding Judge; Randall, Judge; and
The two-year statute of limitations provided in Minn. Stat. § 541.051, subd. 1(a) (2002), does not apply to a suit brought by individual condominium unit owners against the condominium-owners' association charged with the duties to manage and maintain the condominium complex.
The opinion of the court was delivered by: Forsberg, Judge
On appeal from summary judgment, appellant argues that the district court erred by granting respondent condominium-owners' association's motion for summary judgment on the ground that appellant's claim was barred by the two-year statute of limitations provided in Minn. Stat. § 541.051, subd. 1(a) (2002). Because we conclude that respondent is not an "owner" of the common elements of the condominium complex and that, therefore, the statute of limitations does not apply to this case, we reverse.
In June 1998, appellant Jensen-Re Partnership bought condominium unit 85 in building 5 of the Superior Shores Resort in Two Harbors. The condominium is in the resort's "rental pool," meaning that it is available for rental to the general public. Respondent Superior Shores Lakehome Association ("SSLA") is the resort's homeowners' association and is a "unit owners association" within the meaning of Minnesota's Uniform Condominium Act, Minn. Stat. §§ 515A.1-101-515A.4-118 (2002).
In early 1999, Jensen-Re discovered cracking in some of the tiles on the floor of unit 85 and notified SSLA, which in turn contacted Johnson Wilson Builders, which had constructed the building in the mid-1980s. Representatives of SSLA and Johnson Wilson inspected the property sometime in the spring of 1999. A representative of Johnson Wilson notified SSLA by letter dated May 21 that, in his opinion, although there was a crack in the foundation of building 5, the damage to the tiles in unit 85 was likely the result of water being splashed out of the hot tub. SSLA forwarded a copy of the letter to Jensen-Re.
In the spring of 2001, Jensen-Re began remodeling unit 85. The contractor performing the work discovered that the floor of the unit sloped almost five inches from north to south. Jensen-Re notified SSLA of the slope and at a condominium-owners' association board meeting on May 19, 2001, SSLA passed a motion allocating $2,500 to Jensen-Re to temporarily fix the floor of unit 85. The minutes from the meeting state that "[i]f the problems within the unit*fn2 have been caused by the foundation heaving, then the responsibility for rectifying the problems fall[s] within the responsibility of [SSLA]."
In May 2002, SSLA learned that the sloping of the floor of unit 85, as well as other damage to that building, was the result of the fact that the southwest corner of building 5 had settled approximately five inches. SSLA solicited bids to correct the settling, but SSLA's proposed repair did not include repairing the sloped floor in unit 85. SSLA informed Jensen-Re that repairs to unit 85 were not included in the proposed repair because the unit's sloped floor pre-dated Jensen-Re's June 1998 purchase of the unit.
Repair work on building 5 began on July 15, 2002. On July 16, Jensen-Re filed suit against SSLA, claiming breach of contract and breach of duties established under the Minnesota Uniform Condominium Act for SSLA's refusal to undertake the repair of the sloped floor in unit 85. In July 2003, SSLA moved for summary judgment, arguing that Jensen-Re's suit was barred by the two-year statute of limitations for actions arising from defects in improvements to real property set forth in Minn. Stat. § 541.051, subd. 1(a) (2002). Jensen-Re opposed the motion, arguing that the statute of limitations does not apply to actions brought by individual condominium owners against a condominium-owners' association, and that SSLA was estopped from seeking protection of the statute of limitations because of earlier representations by SSLA stating that SSLA would pay for any repairs ...