Hazel B. Thomas, Appellant,
James Buckley, et al., Appellees.
October 13, 2016
Published February 15, 2018
from the Superior Court of the District of Columbia
(CAR-6746-13) (Hon. Stuart G. Nash, Trial Judge)
Stephanie K. Rones argued on behalf of appellant, who filed
her brief pro se.
C. Lynch, with whom M. Richard Coel was on brief, for
appellees James Buckley, University Hall Condominium
Association, and Tilton Bernstein Management, Inc.
M.K. Hassler, with whom Aaron L. Handleman was on brief, for
appellee Linowes and Blocher LLP.
W. Thompson, with whom Arthur F. Konopka was on brief, for
BLACKBURNE-RIGSBY, Chief Judge [†] McLEESE,
Associate Judge, and FARRELL, Senior Judge [‡
BLACKBURNE-RIGSBY, CHIEF JUDGE.
Hazel B. Thomas owned a condominium unit located at 3000 7th
Street, Northeast, Washington, D.C., from 1981 until the
foreclosure sale in 2012. From around 2002 to 2012, Ms.
Thomas did not live in the unit but instead resided at 4317
20th Street, Northeast, Washington, D.C. For a significant
period of time from at least 2004 to 2012, Ms. Thomas did not
pay or make late condominium association dues. Therefore, the
condominium association, appellee University Hall Condominium
Association ("UHC") sought to foreclose on Ms.
Thomas's unit for her failure to pay dues. UHC mailed Ms.
Thomas notice of the foreclosure sale to the condominium
unit, but not to her actual residence. Ms. Thomas claims that
she never received notice of the foreclosure sale, which
allowed the unit to be sold at auction without her knowledge,
or her ability to take action. UHC concedes that Ms. Thomas
may not have received "actual notice" of the
foreclosure sale, but contends it fulfilled its statutory
duty by sending notice to Ms. Thomas's unit only. The
critical issue in this case is whether UHC should have also
sent notice to Ms. Thomas's actual residence, pursuant to
D.C. Code § 42-1903.13 (c)(4) (2001), which states that
a condominium association shall send notice of a foreclosure
sale "to the unit owner at the mailing address of the
unit and at any other address designated by the unit owner to
the executive board for purpose of notice."
trial court granted summary judgment in favor of UHC and the
other named defendants on the LLC's claim to quiet title
and Ms. Thomas's counter-suit for wrongful foreclosure.
The trial court concluded as a matter of law that because
"Ms. Thomas [n]ever formally designated a different
address to the [UHC Executive] [B]oard, it was legally
sufficient for UHC to provide notice by certified mail to the
conclude that UHC's notice of the foreclosure sale of Ms.
Thomas's condominium did not comply with the notice
provision under D.C. Code § 42-1903.13
(c)(4). The record evidence in this case reveals
that UHC was aware of Ms. Thomas's actual address. In Ms.
Thomas's deposition, she stated that she filled out a
form giving TBM notice of the change in her address. Further,
there is documentation stating that UHC has sent Ms. Thomas
important notices warning Ms. Thomas of her nonpayment of
assessments at her actual address. Consequently, other than
UHC's assertion that Ms. Thomas never gave them notice of
her actual address, there is no evidence in the record to
support this claim. We therefore hold, due to the
uncontroverted facts in evidence, that Ms. Thomas
"designated" her actual address to UHC, which
required UHC to send notice of the impending foreclosure sale
to her at that address. Therefore, we must reverse the trial
court's grant of summary judgment and remand for
proceedings not inconsistent with our decision. See Logan
v. LaSalle Bank Nat'l Ass'n, 80 A.3d 1014, 1024
(D.C. 2013) (stating that a foreclosure sale is void if a
condominium association fails to provide notice of a
foreclosure sale to a unit owner because this lack of notice
impairs the owner's ability to contest or prevent the
Factual and Procedural History
1981, Ms. Thomas has owned Unit 222 in the UHC building
located at 3000 7th Street, Northeast, Washington,
The last time she actually lived in the unit was in 2002,
after which she began living at her 4317 20th Street,
Northeast, Washington, D.C. residence.
Thomas has leased her condominium unit to a tenant since
approximately 2002. Ms. Thomas testified at her deposition
that she notified appellees that she was renting her
condominium unit, and "filled out a [TBM] form"
that stated her current (actual) residence, 4317 20th Street
Northeast. Although the record does not contain a copy of the
form that Ms. Thomas tilled out, UHC does not contest that
Ms. Thomas filled out a form when she notified UHC and TBM
that she was leasing her unit. After Ms. Thomas filled out
the form, the record evinces UHC and TBM sent her notices and
letters to her 20th Street residence.
to the condominium bylaws, Ms. Thomas was obligated to pay
monthly UHC building assessment fees for the maintenance of
the condominium's common areas and amenities. Ms. Thomas
consistently made late payments or made no payments at all.
On two prior occasions, Ms. Thomas defaulted on her
assessments and UHC threatened foreclosure. On at least one
of these occasions, Ms. Thomas was notified of the potential
foreclosure and avoided foreclosure by agreeing to pay off
her debt with a lump sum payment.
Ms. Thomas defaulted for the third time on her condominium
assessments in December 2011, UHC filed a Notice of
Condominium Lien for the unpaid assessment fees from February
1 to December 1, 2011, but did not send notice to Ms. Thomas
at her actual residence. UHC does not contest that Ms. Thomas
did not receive the notice, but argues that the notice it
mailed to her condominium unit was legally sufficient to
satisfy the notice provision of § 42-1903.13 (c)(4)
because Ms. Thomas never formally designated that she wanted
to receive notice at an address other than her condominium
unit. On or around April 10, 2012, UHC's counsel filed a
Notice of Foreclosure Sale of Condominium Unit for
Assessments Due with the District of Columbia Office of Tax
and Revenue Recorder of Deeds, and mailed notice of the
upcoming foreclosure sale of the unit to Ms. Thomas's
condominium unit. On April 29, 2012, the notice of
foreclosure was returned to UHC and marked "Return to
Sender, Unclaimed, Unable to Forward." The foreclosure
sale notice stated the unit would be up for sale at public
auction on May 15, 2012, and the amount Ms. Thomas owed, $16,
of the foreclosure sale was published in The Washington
Post as required by statute. At the public auction, Ms.
Thomas's unit was sold to the LLCas the "best and highest
bidder for the bid price of $21, 835.00." Subsequently,
the LLC filed a suit to quiet title to the unit. In response,
Ms. Thomas filed a complaint for wrongful foreclosure of her
condominium. In the quiet title case, Ms. Thomas then
moved for summary judgment or, in the alternative, to
consolidate the quiet title case with her suit to rescind the
foreclosure sale of her condominium unit.
trial court consolidated the two suits, and denied Ms.
Thomas's motion for summary judgment, without prejudice.
Appellees UHC, TBM, and Mr. Buckley moved for summary
judgment in Ms. Thomas's wrongful foreclosure sale case,
and appellee LLC moved for summary judgment in the quiet
title case. The trial court granted summary judgment to the
appellees and ordered that the unit be conveyed "free
and clear of any right, title and interest. . . of [Ms.
Thomas] . . . ." The trial court concluded that
"[a]bsent evidence that Ms. Thomas ever formally
designated a different address to the board, [for the purpose
of notice, ] it was legally sufficient for UHC to provide
notice by certified mail to the unit only." The trial
court further concluded that Ms. Thomas failed to demonstrate
that she gave a "formal" designation to the UHC
Board that she wanted to receive mail or notice at her 20th
Street residence "exclusively." This appeal
Thomas raises numerous claims as to why summary judgment was
inappropriate in this case. We conclude that her claim that
she lacked adequate notice pursuant to D.C. Code §
42-1903.13, controls the outcome of this case because without
adequate notice, the foreclosure sale is void and must be set