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Guiding Principles for Enforcement Hearings

Since our enforcement hearing presentation at WSCAI’s Made for Managers Day a couple of weeks ago, we have been getting a lot of feedback on the variety of procedures employed for community association enforcement hearings, generally with the question “is

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Summer is Prime Community Time

One of the primary objectives of a community association board of directors is to facilitate and encourage a sense of connection within their physical community.  There are multiple ways a board can boost community, including using committees comprised of homeowners,

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Consider the Source

The internet can be a wonderful resource but BEWARE: Not everything you read on the internet is true or accurate. It is also not a substitute for professional advice.  Sometimes, bad internet “advice” is easy to spot. For example, hopefully

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Online Harassment and Risk of Liability Under Fair Housing Laws

My colleagues and I have blogged about the importance of recognizing requests for reasonable accommodations/modifications, carefully and thoughtfully considering them, and properly responding in a timely manner. We like to think our posts on this topic have helped a few

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Washington Court of Appeals Reverses Trial Court’s Partition of Common Area

The Washington Court of Appeals ruled in an unpublished opinion last month that partition of a common area created by the deeds of four adjacent properties was not a remedy available to the trial court when the property owners could

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Pre-Existing Conditions

It is difficult to turn on the news or open a newspaper (do people still do that?) without hearing a discussion of pre-existing conditions. The discussion relates to replacement of the Affordable Care Act (ACA). I am fortunate that employer-provided

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Here Comes the Sun

In preparation for writing this week’s blog post, I googled songs about the sun. Dozens of cheery, happy songs immediately sprung from the internet. Out of curiosity, I also googled songs about rain. A few select, dreary, and depressing songs

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Election Got’cha! (WA)

This is the time of the year when many community associations hold board member elections. The process is easy, right? The association identifies the number of open positions, solicits nominations, sends out a meeting notice with candidate information and proxies

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A Checklist For Selling Your Condominium

You’ve been reading countless articles in the paper about overwhelming demand for real estate and, after much thought, you have decided to take advantage of the strong seller’s market and sell your condo. While many local media stories suggest that

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Discover the Truth About Your Contractor (WA, OR)

A recent newspaper article warned homeowners of an inspector who had been fined more than $80,000 by Oregon’s Construction Contractors Board (or “CCB”) for performing illegitimate inspections and using the license number of an inspector who had the same first

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You Won the Election, Now What?

Congratulations! You threw your hat in the ring, ran a vigorous issues-based campaign promising to shake up the establishment, and ultimately won a seat on your association’s board of directors. Once the champagne stops flowing, consider the following tips to

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Galvanized Pipe Condition Assessment

Community Engineering Services, PLLC was retained by a home owners association representatives to support a Galvanized Pipe Condition Assessment for a high-rise condominium in the Pacific Northwest region of the United States. The results published here were presented to a

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Court of Appeals Upholds Homeowners Association’s Application of Bylaws

The Washington Court of Appeals recently upheld a homeowners association’s interpretation and application of its bylaws in a published opinion. Members of the association challenged its authority to impose membership fees and liens because they claimed that its board of

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Limited Common Elements

Are we dealing with part of a unit, the common elements or a limited common element? This is often the first question when analyzing maintenance, repair and replacement responsibilities in a condominium. That question also often relates to: Who pays?

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2017 Legislative Update (OR/WA)

Oregon and Washington law makers are in session. There are several proposed house and senate bills which impact condominium and homeowner associations. Here’s a brief summary, along with links to review the language of the proposed legislation.     Read the

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Many Shades of Grey

One of the main reasons I love practicing common interest community law is its newness. Compare condominium law to, say, contract law, which can be linked thousands of years all the way back to the Babylonian Code of Hammurabi (est.

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Invalid Board Does Not Have Authority to Bring Lawsuit on Association’s Behalf

The Appeals Court of Illinois recently held that an association’s board of directors does not have authority to bring a lawsuit on behalf of the association if it is not formed properly according to the condominium’s governing documents and the

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‘Tis the Season of the Annual Meeting

Reaching the end of the contentious and hotly contested national election was no doubt a relief for many of us. However, for our community association clients, there is no rest for the weary because late winter and spring is association

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Plat Maps and Surveys

The plat for your community is an important governing document. The plat is an aerial depiction of the lot boundaries, roadways, common areas, and easements. The filing of the plat and declaration is what creates the community. The plat contains

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Court Defers to Association’s Interpretation of its Bylaws (WA)

The Washington Court of Appeals recently held that an association’s board of directors was validly constituted and properly passed bylaw amendments, so the board (and the management company as the board’s agent) had the authority to charge and collect fines

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Reserve Study Washington: “The Top Six Components”

A reserve study is a budget and disclosure document, supplementing operating & maintenance budgets for the large expenses that don’t occur each year. In this busy world, focusing on a handful of key items in your reserve study may keep

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Plat Maps – A 3 Part Series For Homeowners Associations

In my day job, I primarily manage homeowners associations versus condominiums. Instead of being focused on the buildings themselves, I find myself more focused on the land on which they are built. I often tell people I am a “plat

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Understanding Governing Documents Restatements (OR/WA)

The process of amending governing documents is no easy task. Changes to the CC&Rs typically require between 66%-75% of the owners to approve. Bylaw amendments, on the other hand, are a little easier to modify, usually requiring a majority vote

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Legislative Alert (WA)

The 2017 Washington State legislative session commenced on January 7, 2017 and is in full swing. It’s expected to be another active session involving condominium and homeowner associations. Hearings are already taking place and bills are being introduced, including:   Read

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Sure, you can read it but this is our STANDARD LANGUAGE

We have all seen onerous and unfair language in contracts, waivers, releases, invoices, disclaimers, disclosures, notices. Sometimes it is in the dreaded “fine print.” Sometimes it is in large bolded, underlined print. When one party challenges such language, we often

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Free Speech in Community Associations

Condominium and homeowner associations in Washington and Oregon often deal with free speech issues. Political signs are perhaps the most common issue. It is commonly misunderstood that owners have a right to display political signs. Generally, there are no free

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Possession after Judicial Foreclosure (WA)

Recently, the Division 1 Court of Appeals of Washington issued its opinion in the case of Viewcrest Condominium Association v. Robertson, 2016 WL 7470025 (December 27, 2016). The decision by the Court in Viewcrest will need to be considered when

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Washington Court of Appeals Issues Redemption Act Opinion

The Washington Court of Appeals recently issued a published opinion regarding the application of the Washington Redemption Act (RCW 6.23). The Court’s opinion holds that “a condominium owner occupying the condominium as a residence at the time of a judicial

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Washington Court of Appeals Rules in Favor of Homeowners Association

The Washington Court of Appeals ruled in favor of a Camas homeowners association’s actions concerning board membership and delinquent assessments in a recent unpublished opinion.    Read the article…………..

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Uncollected Assessments: HOA Budgeting for Bad Debt

For the past 35 years, Lake Superior State University publishes a list of “banished” words and phrases. The annual list includes words and phrases that are misused, overused, and generally useless. The 2010 list includes such gems as “sexting”, “tweet”,

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Dealing With Ice is Anything But Neat

Those of us in the Northwest were recently hit with the first round of winter snowstorms. My children are avid weather watchers (in hopes of future school closures), so I understand that we are in store for several more storms

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Comply with Fire Alarm Requirements! (WA)

It’s cold outside, so thoughts turn to fire. As Q13 reported last month, Snohomish County fire officials recently confirmed that fifteen local condominium and apartment buildings are not updated with legally required fire alarms. The compliance crackdown came about a

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Tree Trouble – Part II, Self-Help

In part one of our three-part series on Tree Trouble, my colleague David Silver wrote about Timber Trespass. In this post, I’m going to discuss self-help. Self-help is the legal term that describes “taking the law into your own hands”—literally.

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Tree Trouble – Part I, Timber Trespass

One aspect of real property law that I find interesting is how some of the nastiest legal disputes are between neighboring property owners. On one hand, it would seem incumbent upon neighbors to be friendly and cooperative to one another

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I’ll see you out of court! Alternative options for resolving legal disputes

While some courts require mediation before trial, it is generally undertaken voluntarily. Mediation is always non-binding, meaning the mediator has no power to decide the case. The mediator’s sole role is to try and negotiate a settlement that both parties

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Rigged (HOA!) Elections

A few months ago, the Chairman and Secretary of a Pennsylvania community association were convicted by a jury of election fraud. The directors schemed to fill out ballots to stack the deck in upcoming board elections. An attorney in Las

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I Don’t Think We’re in Kansas Anymore

Kansas, of course, is in the heart of Tornado Alley and home to the most famous tornado of them all: the one that swept Dorothy into the Land of Oz. Recently, however, Oregon and Washington felt the effects of multiple

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Washington Court of Appeals Affirms Order to Trim Hedge Row and Restore View

A Mercer Island homeowner sued his downhill neighbors for specific performance of a covenant that requires landscaping to be maintained at a height no greater than the nearest roof peak. His neighbors responded that a hedge row on their property

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What Did That Say?? Political Signs & Free Speech (WA)

It is often said that this U.S. presidential election has been the most polarizing election in modern times, if not all time. Because of the strong opinions on every side, more and more community associations are having to address not

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Court of Appeals Enforces Covenant Restricting Height of Trees and Hedges

The Washington Court of Appeals recently issued an unpublished opinion that a row of trees violated a covenant restricting “hedges” to a height of six feet or less. The parties own property in a neighborhood on Whidbey Island that is

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Neutrality

Association boards deal with a variety of unit owner behaviors and personalities. Some are positive, some are negative, and some are downright inexplicable. This can lead to both real and perceived bias.  Regardless of the behavior or how much the

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New FHA Rules to Create New Association Duties

On September 13, HUD released new rules for the Fair Housing Act (FHA) that will impact community associations. Under these new rules, which take effect on October 14, 2016, a community association could face liability for the discriminatory acts of

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The Business Judgment Rule

Community Association board members frequently ask, “What is the standard we’re held to when we vote and make decisions?” The standard of conduct in Oregon and Washington is colloquially known as the “Business Judgment Rule.” Application of the Business Judgment

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Court Rejects Condominium Owner’s Attempt to Invalidate Assessments (WA)

In a recent unpublished opinion, the Washington Court of Appeals affirmed the trial court’s summary judgment denial of a condominium owner’s legal challenges to the assessments charged to his unit.    Read the article……………

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Associations Not Required to Disclose Privileged Information

The Maryland Court of Special Appeals held that the Maryland Condominium Act did not require disclosure of information related to legal advice or attorney work product (privileged information) to owners. Although this case was decided in Maryland, and it is

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Is Short-Term Leasing a “Commercial Use”?

In Houston v. Wilson Mesa Ranch Homeowners Association, Inc., the Colorado Court of Appeals held that short-term rentals did not violate a covenant prohibiting commercial use of a unit. However, this ruling did not indicate that all restrictions on short-term

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Business Judgment Rules does not Apply to Unauthorized Acts

The South Carolina Supreme Court held that association board decisions must be evaluated individually to see if the business judgment rule applied, and the business judgment rule did not apply when the board acted beyond its authority. Although this case

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The Blame Game

Most of us can be quick to point fingers. It might be a fender-bender, an overcooked hamburger, or losing the Superbowl on the last play of the game – I know my first instinct is to figure out who is

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The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly of the Insurance Discovery Rule

I have a number of “First Party Insurance” claims sitting on my desk (e.g. an Association pursuing its own carrier for discovered property damage). Many of these involve the “discovery rule.” Having dealt with this rule on a number of

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Just Dues

One of the unavoidable realities of being an owner at a condominium association is the obligation to pay membership dues. Typically, a condominium’s board of directors will levy an annual assessment based on a budget that has been ratified by

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