United States: The Battle At Bluff Point

Originally published in Habitat Magazine, April 2017

What happens in a community when homeowners do not follow restrictive covenants? The court reviewed just that question in Bluff Point Townhouse Owners Association v. Kapsokefalos.

Lisa Kapsokefalos and her husband own a townhouse in the Bluff Point community in Plattsburgh, New York. The homeowners pay membership dues to Bluff Point, which provides services for the benefit of residents. There was a long history of litigation between the parties, with the Kapsokefaloses refusing to pay monthly dues. There were two prior actions against the couple as a result of their failure to comply with certain restrictive covenants and pay dues. The second of these two actions ended with a decision and order issued on January 6, 2014, awarding the association judgment for the relief requested in the complaint. Specifically, the Kapsokefaloses were directed to pay the monthly dues outstanding from August 2007 to December 2013.

The defendants complied, but eventually, after another personal dispute with the board, they stopped paying monthly dues and eventually owed $2,900 for those dues outstanding from January 2014 to June 2016.

In June 2016, Kapsokefalos painted a sign on the garage door of her townhouse that declared: "Property Rights Matter!!!" According to a neighbor, the sign was written in large letters, and appeared to have been spray-painted to give the appearance of graffiti. In addition, Kapsokefalos painted with red paint the trim around the garage, her front door, and the second-story windows of her townhouse. But red violated the color scheme previously approved by Bluff Point.

Bluff Point sought a preliminary injunction as a result of the painting of the garage sign and the trim to non-conforming colors. It also demanded that the Kapsokefaloses be required to cut back or trim overgrown vegetation in the front and rear of the unit.

The decision discussed here deals primarily with Bluff Point's request for a preliminary injunction. An injunction is an equitable remedy, and because it is interim – i.e., requested at the beginning of the action rather than at the end – there is a heightened burden on the one demanding the relief. Thus, the court explained that, in order to obtain a preliminary injunction, Bluff Point would have to show that it is likely to succeed on the merits of its claims for permanent injunctive relief; that there will be irreparable harm to Bluff Point if the injunction is not granted; and that the equities of the situation balance in Bluff Point's favor.

The court first noted that, because of prior litigation between the parties, Bluff Point would probably succeed on the merits of its claims, meeting the first element for a preliminary injunction. However, the court explained, whether Bluff Point established irreparable harm and a balancing of the equities differed on each item it sought to enjoin.

The court took each of the issues separately. It concluded that the painting of a graffiti-like sign on the garage door was unsightly and could affect surrounding property values. The Kapsokefaloses, however, submitted proof that Lisa had painted over the sign. The court stated that, given her history, "it is not inconceivable that [she] might repeat the conduct." It thus ordered that during the litigation, Kapsokefalos would not be permitted to paint or letter the exterior of the premises.

As to the trim paint, the court acknowledged that the color was non-conforming. However, the court looked specifically to the "irreparable harm" prong of the preliminary injunction test. It concluded that the paint color did not, in and of itself, rise to the level of harm that would warrant the grant of a preliminary injunction. Presumably, the court did not believe that the non-conforming color would affect property values or otherwise negatively affect other members of the community. Although it did not order that Lisa Kapsokefalos repaint, the court did direct that she could not further paint the exterior of the townhouse with a color not approved by Bluff Point.

The last issue addressed by the court was the vegetation in the front and back of the Kapsokefaloses' house. The photographs submitted did not, in the court's view, create a condition that was so unsightly or dangerous so as to establish the irreparable harm required to allow the court to grant a preliminary injunction. This was, in part, because there can be no finding of irreparable harm if money damages are available to resolve the matter. Accordingly, the court noted, to the extent Bluff Point had the right to maintain the lawns, it could trim the vegetation and then seek monetary damages separately.

The Takeaway

It appears from the decision reported here, and from other cases concerning these parties both at the lower court and the appellate level, that the two sides continue to litigate in part because of a personal incident. Where there are personal disputes in an association setting, it is important that the parties try to keep them in perspective. Homeowners should not take action merely to flout the rules, nor should a board implement rules solely directed at an owner as a result of a personal animus. Condominiums, cooperatives, and homeowners associations require people to live together and comply with the rules, which are presumably implemented for the benefit of all owners. While the motion discussed here was a "preliminary injunction," we suspect that, if the matter proceeds to conclusion, Bluff Point would probably receive the injunctive relief it seeks, assuming the rules were promulgated in accordance with Bluff Point's governing documents. This is because it has long been the law that when one buys into a community such as a cooperative, condominium, or homeowners association, one submits to the governance of that community.

For Plaintiff: Niles & Bracy
For Defendant: The Clements Firm

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on Mondaq.com.

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

In association with
Related Video
Up-coming Events Search
Font Size:
Mondaq on Twitter
Register for Access and our Free Biweekly Alert for
This service is completely free. Access 250,000 archived articles from 100+ countries and get a personalised email twice a week covering developments (and yes, our lawyers like to think you’ve read our Disclaimer).
Email Address
Company Name
Confirm Password
Mondaq Topics -- Select your Interests
 Law Performance
 Law Practice
 Media & IT
 Real Estate
 Wealth Mgt
Asia Pacific
European Union
Latin America
Middle East
United States
Worldwide Updates
Check to state you have read and
agree to our Terms and Conditions

Terms & Conditions and Privacy Statement

Mondaq.com (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd and as a user you are granted a non-exclusive, revocable license to access the Website under its terms and conditions of use. Your use of the Website constitutes your agreement to the following terms and conditions of use. Mondaq Ltd may terminate your use of the Website if you are in breach of these terms and conditions or if Mondaq Ltd decides to terminate your license of use for whatever reason.

Use of www.mondaq.com

You may use the Website but are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the content and articles available (the Content). You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these terms & conditions or with the prior written consent of Mondaq Ltd. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information about Mondaq.com’s content, users or contributors in order to offer them any services or products which compete directly or indirectly with Mondaq Ltd’s services and products.


Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the documents and related graphics published on this server for any purpose. All such documents and related graphics are provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers hereby disclaim all warranties and conditions with regard to this information, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. In no event shall Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use or performance of information available from this server.

The documents and related graphics published on this server could include technical inaccuracies or typographical errors. Changes are periodically added to the information herein. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers may make improvements and/or changes in the product(s) and/or the program(s) described herein at any time.


Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including what sort of information you are interested in, for three primary purposes:

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, newsletter alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our information providers who provide information free for your use.

Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) do not sell or provide your details to third parties other than information providers. The reason we provide our information providers with this information is so that they can measure the response their articles are receiving and provide you with information about their products and services.

If you do not want us to provide your name and email address you may opt out by clicking here .

If you do not wish to receive any future announcements of products and services offered by Mondaq by clicking here .

Information Collection and Use

We require site users to register with Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to view the free information on the site. We also collect information from our users at several different points on the websites: this is so that we can customise the sites according to individual usage, provide 'session-aware' functionality, and ensure that content is acquired and developed appropriately. This gives us an overall picture of our user profiles, which in turn shows to our Editorial Contributors the type of person they are reaching by posting articles on Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) – meaning more free content for registered users.

We are only able to provide the material on the Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) site free to site visitors because we can pass on information about the pages that users are viewing and the personal information users provide to us (e.g. email addresses) to reputable contributing firms such as law firms who author those pages. We do not sell or rent information to anyone else other than the authors of those pages, who may change from time to time. Should you wish us not to disclose your details to any of these parties, please tick the box above or tick the box marked "Opt out of Registration Information Disclosure" on the Your Profile page. We and our author organisations may only contact you via email or other means if you allow us to do so. Users can opt out of contact when they register on the site, or send an email to unsubscribe@mondaq.com with “no disclosure” in the subject heading

Mondaq News Alerts

In order to receive Mondaq News Alerts, users have to complete a separate registration form. This is a personalised service where users choose regions and topics of interest and we send it only to those users who have requested it. Users can stop receiving these Alerts by going to the Mondaq News Alerts page and deselecting all interest areas. In the same way users can amend their personal preferences to add or remove subject areas.


A cookie is a small text file written to a user’s hard drive that contains an identifying user number. The cookies do not contain any personal information about users. We use the cookie so users do not have to log in every time they use the service and the cookie will automatically expire if you do not visit the Mondaq website (or its affiliate sites) for 12 months. We also use the cookie to personalise a user's experience of the site (for example to show information specific to a user's region). As the Mondaq sites are fully personalised and cookies are essential to its core technology the site will function unpredictably with browsers that do not support cookies - or where cookies are disabled (in these circumstances we advise you to attempt to locate the information you require elsewhere on the web). However if you are concerned about the presence of a Mondaq cookie on your machine you can also choose to expire the cookie immediately (remove it) by selecting the 'Log Off' menu option as the last thing you do when you use the site.

Some of our business partners may use cookies on our site (for example, advertisers). However, we have no access to or control over these cookies and we are not aware of any at present that do so.

Log Files

We use IP addresses to analyse trends, administer the site, track movement, and gather broad demographic information for aggregate use. IP addresses are not linked to personally identifiable information.


This web site contains links to other sites. Please be aware that Mondaq (or its affiliate sites) are not responsible for the privacy practices of such other sites. We encourage our users to be aware when they leave our site and to read the privacy statements of these third party sites. This privacy statement applies solely to information collected by this Web site.

Surveys & Contests

From time-to-time our site requests information from users via surveys or contests. Participation in these surveys or contests is completely voluntary and the user therefore has a choice whether or not to disclose any information requested. Information requested may include contact information (such as name and delivery address), and demographic information (such as postcode, age level). Contact information will be used to notify the winners and award prizes. Survey information will be used for purposes of monitoring or improving the functionality of the site.


If a user elects to use our referral service for informing a friend about our site, we ask them for the friend’s name and email address. Mondaq stores this information and may contact the friend to invite them to register with Mondaq, but they will not be contacted more than once. The friend may contact Mondaq to request the removal of this information from our database.


This website takes every reasonable precaution to protect our users’ information. When users submit sensitive information via the website, your information is protected using firewalls and other security technology. If you have any questions about the security at our website, you can send an email to webmaster@mondaq.com.

Correcting/Updating Personal Information

If a user’s personally identifiable information changes (such as postcode), or if a user no longer desires our service, we will endeavour to provide a way to correct, update or remove that user’s personal data provided to us. This can usually be done at the “Your Profile” page or by sending an email to EditorialAdvisor@mondaq.com.

Notification of Changes

If we decide to change our Terms & Conditions or Privacy Policy, we will post those changes on our site so our users are always aware of what information we collect, how we use it, and under what circumstances, if any, we disclose it. If at any point we decide to use personally identifiable information in a manner different from that stated at the time it was collected, we will notify users by way of an email. Users will have a choice as to whether or not we use their information in this different manner. We will use information in accordance with the privacy policy under which the information was collected.

How to contact Mondaq

You can contact us with comments or queries at enquiries@mondaq.com.

If for some reason you believe Mondaq Ltd. has not adhered to these principles, please notify us by e-mail at problems@mondaq.com and we will use commercially reasonable efforts to determine and correct the problem promptly.