Mediation: What Is It and Why Do It?

Mediation is often confused with arbitration. They have similarities, including that both are overseen by third-party neutrals that do not have financial stakes in the outcomes. The key difference is that while arbitration results in the neutral evaluating the outcome (which typically is binding, but by agreement can be non-binding), while in mediation the third-party […]

Ask Val: Finding Savings in Your 2019 Condo/HOA Budget (VA)

Question: I’m the Treasurer at [redacted Condo Association] and we’re working on the 2019 budget. What’s a good way for us to save money in the budget without compromising the health and maintenance of the building?    Read the Q&A………………..

Emotional Support Animals and the FHA: What Community Associations Should Know

In a previous post, we discussed Dexter the (almost) flying emotional support peacock. In this post, we turn our attention to Maybelline the emotional support pig in the great state of Florida. Maybelline is at the center of a dispute between her owner and her owner’s HOA. The owner claims that she suffers from certain […]

What should our Condominium Association Insurance Cover? Part II – Condominium Instruments & Association Insurance

Though not legally required, most condominium instruments provide that the association must carry hazard and liability insurance in order to protect the membership from disaster and the financial strain of litigation. The instruments may also specify the amount of the deductibles that the association’s various types of coverage will have; if not, the deductibles may […]

Five Steps to Greater Cybersecurity Health for Community Associations

Media reports concerning cyber attacks continue to increase. Over the past few years, some of the largest and well-known companies have been affected by data breaches. These companies have experienced millions of dollars in losses as a result. Even a small data breach impacting only a few thousand records can expose a business to significant […]

Assistance Animals and the ADA: What Community Associations Ought to Know

Many may recall the recent story about the airline traveler seeking to bring an emotional support peacock (Dexter) on board an airplane. While the story received much national publicity, the reality appears to be that assistance animals and emotional support animals are becoming more commonplace in everyday life. Stories such as Dexter’s present some interesting […]

Virtual HOA Meetings?: Virginia’s General Assembly Makes It Easier For Property Owners’ Associations To Hold Entirely Electronic Meetings

Association (both property owners’ association and condominium association) meetings are typically held at the community clubhouse or other local building. However, with the increasing availability and utility of technology, virtual meetings are becoming more commonplace.  Virginia’s General Assembly (Virginia’s state legislature) recently passed legislation, House Bill 1205 (the “Amendment”), amending the Virginia Nonstock Corporation Act, […]

Local Governments and Community Associations: Who Enforces Your Regulations?

Your local government (county, city or town) is there to serve. The local government regulates the owners of your association through zoning, taxes them on your real estate and personal property, and provides services such as schools and law enforcement, just for starters. You see the local government at work, providing your community services for […]

Attention Virginia Community Associations: DPOR CIC Board to Adopt New Notices for Condo Resale Certificates and POA Disclosure Packages

During its 2018 session, the Virginia General Assembly passed new legislation amending the disclosure requirements under both the Virginia Condominium Act and the Virginia Property Owners’ Association Act. The new legislation has been signed by the Governor and will take effect July 1, 2018. Among other changes, the new legislation requires the Common Interest Community […]

Liam Daly and Brandee Daly v. Gulick Group, Inc., CL-2018-214 Demurrer; Letter Opinion (VA)

A real estate purchaser may unilaterally rescind a purchase contract within three days of receiving a property owners’ association disclosure packet under Virginia Code § 55-509.4(A), (C). The relevant issue that the instant Demurrer raises is whether a real estate purchaser may unilaterally rescind a purchase contract more than three days after receiving an incomplete […]

The ARC and The Covenants

As we start to see signs of a housing recovery, slow as it may be, I feel the industry is in a great position. All the effort put in by so many to improve our energy codes, green building programs & rating systems will finally be able to bear fruit. We can start to build […]

Three Steps for Effective Community Association Annual Meetings

1. Planning A. As far in advance as possible (preferably immediately after last annual meeting). Set date (must comply with Bylaws) Reserve meeting space (and tables, chairs, audio-visual equipment, podium and microphone) Give date to Association attorney Put notice of date in ALL newsletters Read the article……………..

Choosing the Right Registered Agent For Your Community Association (VA)

Under Virginia law, Virginia corporations must maintain a registered agent at all times. A registered agent is a vital contact point for any entity for receipt of service of process of law suits and other legal proceedings, as well as for notices from or necessary documents to be filed with the Commonwealth of Virginia. As […]

Checklist of Yearly Items for Community Associations

For those who are board members and officers of community associations, there is a yearly rhythm to the orderly conduct of the association that needs to be maintained. Minding those yearly issues and doing so in a timely manner will keep your association running smoothly and avoid the vast majority of problems throughout the year.  […]

Virginia Offers Guidance For Confirming That Medical Verifications for Emotional Support Animals Are Legitimate

It is clear that just about all (if not all) of the federal, state, and local fair housing agencies are dealing with the exponential growth of online medical verifications for emotional support animals (ESA’s). I have addressed any number of ESA issues in this space. Professional apartment management companies continue to look for the appropriate […]

Modernizing Condominium Documents To Streamline Assessment Collection (DC/VA/MD)

Assessment collection is critical to the efficient operation of a condominium. Governing documents play an important part in the collection process by establishing a condominium association’s assessment collection authority and collection procedures. Therefore, it is important that governing documents clearly define procedures and comply with current laws. Some assessment collection procedures in condominium governing documents […]

What does it mean to be on the Board of Directors of your HOA? Fiduciary Duties (Part 1 of a series) (VA)

Board members are told that they have fiduciary duties to the community association, but what does that really mean? Fiduciary duties arise because the members of the association entrust a board member to act in the best interest of the association when handling the association’s business.  There are three components that are important to understand […]

Persistence Can Lead to Dollars: Preserving the Community Association’s Lien for Delinquent Assessments – Part One (VA)

One of the most common questions we receive from Community Association clients is how do we preserve our lien for and recover delinquent assessments?   The frustrating reality is that some owners in Community Associations fail to pay their assessments in a timely manner. These delinquencies can create serious financial issues within the community. There are […]

Is your Resale Certificate up-to-date? (VA)

If there is one thing we seem to be able to count on from the Virginia General Assembly, its frequent amendments to the statutes regarding association resale certificates and 2017 was no exception.  Under the “News You Can Use” section of this site, Jeanne Lauer explained the new legislation regarding “For Sale” signs in condominium […]

Standing to Sue While Sitting on the Board

Standing is a party’s right to make a legal claim in Court. When the judge comes out to sit on the bench, she will read the cases and the parties or their attorneys come forward as called. “Standing” is the right to seek a legal remedy as shown by the facts alleged. Judges ordinarily decide […]

Community Associations and Stormwater Detention Pond Maintenance (“BMP”) Responsibilities (VA)

We frequently counsel clients, community associations, developers and builders, on various issues involving that ubiquitous ‘amenity’ known as the stormwater detention pond, or “BMP” (short for “Best Management Practices”). This article will briefly discuss how to avoid some of the more common pitfalls facing homeowners whose community’s common areas/elements include these useful, even if at […]

A Corporate Formality with Significant Implications – Carefully Select your Community Association’s Registered Agent

Virginia law related to registered agents is deceptively simple: · Every corporation authorized to transact business in Virginia (including incorporated community associations associations), are required to maintain a registered office and a registered agent within the state; · Registered agents in Virginia have only one statutory duty – to forward to the business entity at […]

Copyright Law for Community Associations

A common issue that community associations encounter is the proper use of copyrighted material. Whenever an association shows a movie or plays music at a common element/area location within the community, it most likely is using material that is protected by copyright law. If the association has not obtained a license allowing it to use […]

Top Reasons to Amend a Community Association’s Governing Documents

Whether your community’s documents are relatively new or have been recorded for several decades, this article is intended to provide a basis for determining why amendments should be considered. Governing documents generally include the Declaration (or Master Deed for condominiums created under the Horizontal Property Act), Articles of Incorporation (for associations that are incorporated), Bylaws, […]

New Virginia Law Regarding Real Estate For Sale Signs

There seems to be some confusion about this new addition to the resale provisions in the Condominium Act and the Property Owners Association Act. As of July 1, 2017 there is a new Virginia law, passage of which was promoted by the Virginia Association of Realtors, which will impact unit owners and lot owners in […]

New Virginia Law Regarding Real Estate For Sale Signs

There seems to be some confusion about this new addition to the resale provisions in the Condominium Act and the Property Owners Association Act. Beginning July 1, 2017 there is a new Virginia law, passage of which was promoted by the Virginia Association of Realtors, that will impact unit owners and lot owners in nearly […]

Are Legal Remedies of Owners and HOAs Equitable?

Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy recently wrote in an opinion that, “Property rights are necessary to preserve freedom, for property ownership empowers persons to shape and to plan their own destiny in a world where governments are always eager to do so for them.” Murr v. Wisconsin, 198 L.Ed.2d 497, 509 (U.S. Jun. 23, 2017). […]

Are Legal Remedies of Owners and HOAs Equitable?

Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy recently wrote in an opinion that, “Property rights are necessary to preserve freedom, for property ownership empowers persons to shape and to plan their own destiny in a world where governments are always eager to do so for them.” Murr v. Wisconsin, 198 L.Ed.2d 497, 509 (U.S. Jun. 23, 2017). […]

Freedom of Speech is a Hot Topic in Community Associations

Freedom of speech is a hot topic in community associations. Some of these First Amendment disputes concern the freedom of a property owner to display flags, signs or symbols on their property in the face of board opposition. Conflict between association leadership and members over free speech also spreads into cyberspace. One such case recently […]

Bankruptcy basics for community association boards of directors

Over the last decade, community associations (like other businesses) have been forced to navigate the “Great Recession” and continued recovery. The “Great Recession” brought with it a significant increase in the number of personal bankruptcy filings across the country. Even now, personal bankruptcy filings continue to impact communities and their ability to collect assessments.  It […]

Good Collection Practices Protect Lifeblood of Community Associations

Assessments are the lifeblood of every community association. For most associations, it is the sole source of income to pay for common expenses. Therefore, having tools and good practices to maximize collection of assessments are vital not just to survive and thrive, but to avoid unwanted special assessments and/or debt.  It is the obligation of […]

Fair Housing Act – Emotional Support Animals

A very instructive case was decided last month in a Federal Appeals Court which will demonstrate almost everything not to do with respect to compliance with the Fair Housing Act relative to emotional support animals. This case dealt with a suit brought by two emotionally disabled unit owners in a condominium community that had a […]

Fiduciary Duty and Community Association Board Members

We frequently talk about the fact that homeowner association board members have a “fiduciary duty” to the members. What exactly is it? Is it spelled out in the law? What sort of actions would violate that duty?  A fiduciary duty arises out of a relationship in which one person or entity is entrusted to make […]

Little Love Lost in Sedimental Affair

A lawsuit for damage to property must be timely filed to prevail in court. In Virginia, the statute of limitations for property damage is five years from accrual of the claim. When an owner suffers damage caused by a neighboring owner, when does this five year time-period start running towards its expiration date? Does the […]

Airbnb and VRBO and your Home: Regulating The Shared Economy

The “Shared Economy”— where economic and social activity occurs directly between individuals with the help of an online format— is reshaping our national economy. Today we can easily monetize everyday assets, including your car and home, in ways that were previously impossible.  This innovation and advancement has not occurred without growing pains, many of which […]

What’s left of Virginia’s HOA Open Meeting Policy?

Promoters of community associations tout them as “mini-democracies,” reflecting the American tradition of public participation in governmental activity on a local level. One hallmark of “representative government” is that constituents may openly observe and review what their elected officials are doing with the money and property controlled for common benefit. Norman Rockwell enshrined this in […]

Check Your Privilege, HOA

The attorney-client privilege is frequently misunderstood in the community associations context. When many owners request information, sometimes their board, board’s attorney or property manager asserts the attorney-client privilege. This may seem to obstruct their attempts to assess their property rights or how community funds are being spent. I recently had a conversation with a friend […]

New FHA Owner Occupancy Requirements Could Benefit Some Condo Communities

A few months ago we informed you that both houses of Congress voted unanimously to pass the Housing Opportunity Through Modernization Act (HOTMA) which, in part, required FHA to lower the required percentage of owner occupied units in condominiums from 50% to 35% unless FHA could prove that a higher percentage of owner occupancy was […]

Being Secretary of the Association Carries Significant Responsibilities

Questions often arise about the duties of the secretary in taking and producing minutes of meetings and providing association records to members. The primary functions of the Secretary are to produce minutes of meetings and maintain the records of the association. The secretary must produce a draft of the minutes for approval, and then finalize […]

Attorneys Fees Awards Against HOAs

In this blog and in my law practice, I focus on practical solutions to clear & present legal dangers to property rights of owners of properties in HOAs, condominiums or cooperatives. Many raise questions about getting attorneys fees awards against HOAs. This is an interesting topic in community associations law, where the outcomes of many […]

Don’t be confused when it comes to condo insurance

Condominium insurance is often misunderstood, and for good reason.  Typically, owners are protected under two insurance policies: a master policy for the condo association and an individual, or HO-6, policy. The confusion arises over what each policy covers and the potential for gaps — or a lack of coverage — for certain, often costly, occurrences. […]

When Residents Are Disruptive: Tips for Keeping the Peace

Despite living in association, sometimes disputes erupt. Some residents just can’t be reasoned with. They’ll bother the board or other residents in various ways: noise at all hours, smells, maybe even just being a pest. No matter what it is, issues like these need to be dealt with before they become bigger (and more expensive) […]

High Court Upholds Public Policies Against Restrictive Covenants

The issue of restrictive covenants often comes up in news or social media stories where a HOA or condominium demands that an owner take down an addition, a shed, a statue or some other architectural feature on the grounds that it offends the rules. The board claims that the rule is found in (or derived […]