Originally posted 2014-04-08 08:44:24. Republished by Blog Post Promoter
You are elected Secretary of your homeowners’ association. Congratulations! Someone hands you the minute book, owner roster, and the governing documents. You think, hey this is not overwhelming at all. Then the retiring Secretary mentions in passing that “If you’re home tomorrow I’ll deliver the boxes.” You ask “What boxes?” “Oh, all of the HOA’s records are boxed up and have been in my garage – I’ll bring them by,” replies the retiring Secretary.
What do you do with the boxes? What records and documents do HOAs need to keep? How long do you need to keep them? How should they be stored? This blog post provides some basic guidance on best practice tips for community association record retention.
Originally posted 2012-04-16 08:22:32. Republished by Blog Post Promoter
We wrote earlier about a Charlottesville case in which the court analyzed the duty to disclose for a seller of residential real estate. Although Virginia follows the general rule of caveat emptor, the court ruled that the seller, who was also a licensed real estate agent, may have violated a duty to disclose material adverse facts.
The purchasers alleged two other counts, alleging that the seller failed “to disclose the adjacent drain problems and history of flooding, constituting both fraudulent misrepresentation and constructive fraud.” The court dismissed those claims while providing a nice, succinct history of the law of fraud in the sale of a home. This blog post reviews the general rules of fraudulent misrepresentations in residential real estate sales.
Originally posted 2012-02-21 09:00:58. Republished by Blog Post Promoter
We know that in Virginia, the parties to a contract are bound to the terms of that contract. We also know that Virginia courts look to the terms of that contract to determine each party’s rights and obligations. But what is a “contract?” This blog post looks at a recent Virginia Supreme Court case that gives a little guidance to answer that question.
Originally posted 2011-10-18 08:45:32. Republished by Blog Post Promoter
In the Greater Williamsburg area, many small businesses face seasonal layoffs when the summer tourism season ends. For small businesses, these layoffs lead to questions regarding unemployment compensation. In this blog post, we will discuss the issue of when an employer can be liable for the unemployment compensation for a terminated employee.
Generally speaking, an employee terminated by you may be otherwise eligible for unemployment benefits, chargeable to your company if:
- you were the last employer for the employee, and
- that employee worked at least 30 days or 240 hours, and
- that employee was not terminated for cause.
The basic qualifications for unemployment compensation are:
- The employee must have been employed and earned a certain amount of wages. The Virginia Employment Commission publishes requirements for wages earned or time worked during an established period of time referred to as a “base period.”
- The employee must be determined to be unemployed through no fault of their own. An employee terminated for cause is not eligible for unemployment.
Once you have been determined to be the “employer” liable for unemployment compensation, you are responsible for all the benefits payable to that former employee. Unless extended benefits have been approved, the maximum benefit is 26 times the weekly benefits payable to the employee.
The weekly benefits are found in a table at Virginia Code § 60.1-602. This table is regularly updated, it tells you how much a person would receive per week in unemployment, based upon the amount they made when employed. For example, if a person made $6,300 in the prior twelve weeks when employed, he would receive $125 per week in unemployment, and a total of $3,250, if he were employed for the entire 26-week period.
The possibility of being liable for unemployment compensation worries many small business owners. Discuss the issue with your business attorney so that you can plan properly for your employment needs.
Tarley Robinson, PLC, Attorneys and Counsellors at Law
Originally posted 2010-06-18 12:30:24. Republished by Blog Post Promoter
Though the majority of businesses in the United States are sole proprietorships, those of you who read an earlier post know that I recommend, for a myriad of good reasons, that an entity of some kind be placed between a person doing business and the rest of the world. Find an experienced business attorney to help establish your business entity.
In this post, I address briefly the general partnership form of business entity, the only form I consider more dangerous to the financial health of an individual than the sole proprietorship. Why, you ask? Because with the sole proprietorship, the sole proprietor is personally liable for the acts of the sole proprietor, the business and the business employees. In the general partnership, the partners are personally liable for the acts of the business, the employees and each other. What partners do can be fairly unpredictable, like contracting to purchase or lease things that cannot possibly be paid for out of the profits of the business, or like contracting to do that which cannot possibly be done profitably.
Originally posted 2011-10-11 08:45:38. Republished by Blog Post Promoter
In other posts we have discussed a homeowner association’s governing documents. Many communities were established 20-40 years ago with governing documents that worked well for the developer, and for the most part the community association. However, many of these governing documents are outdated. Virginia and federal laws pertaining to community associations have changed substantially. If your board of directors has not engaged in an audit of your communities governing documents in the past 5-7 years, it should.
What is an “audit” of our governing documents?
An “audit” of your documents is an in-depth review by your HOA’s board of directors in conjunction with your association attorney. The Board reviews each document noting any sections that lack clarity, are no longer enforced, appear to not apply to your community, protect a long-gone developer, or do not provide the association with adequate remedies. The Board prepares a list of concerns or issues facing the community, such as homes that are not being maintained, large amounts of delinquent assessments, or enforcement capabilities of the association. The Board provides this information to the association attorney.
Originally posted 2011-07-26 08:30:49. Republished by Blog Post Promoter
Community Associations have been the subject of a lot of bad press lately. An Associated Press article is typical of news reports that lambast associations. The article tells about a 55-and-older condo complex in Florida. According to the article, units in the Inlet House condo complex used to be worth $79,000, but sold for as little as $3,000 after rats started chewing through toilet seats and sewage started leaking from the ceiling. The article goes on to vilify the condo association for levying a $6,000 special assessment on residents and then foreclosing on owners who don’t pay their dues.
In its eagerness to blame the condo association for the woes of these senior citizens, the article and many blogs pointing out the “abuses of HOAs” miss an important point: the association may be the only group really looking out for the interests of the owners. Let’s look at what the article does not allege: it does not allege that the Association was responsible for the rat infestation or the sewage leak and it does not allege that the Association could have prevented the housing meltdown that contributed to the decline in property values.
Originally posted 2011-01-20 08:30:43. Republished by Blog Post Promoter
Well, we have written about protecting the attorney-client privilege and about safe emailing tips when emailing your attorney. Although we thought we had it pretty well covered, a recent decision from a California appellate has given us something more to think about.
Continue reading “Using your business’ computer to email your attorney may be a bad idea”
Originally posted 2010-07-13 10:45:13. Republished by Blog Post Promoter
As a follow-up to our post on the costs and benefits of the arbitration process, the Federal Trade Commission (“FTC”) recently issued a report indicating that the litigation and arbitration practices for resolving consumer debt need major reform.
Debt collection cases are on the rise. We have seen a tremendous increase in the number of cases we are filing on delinquent homeowner association dues. In James City County/Williamsburg, the local courts have seen a 27% increase in civil filings from 2006 to 2008. Other courts in Virginia and other states are experiencing similar increases in civil filings.
The FTC has made specific recommendations that the Federal government and the states consider new laws to protect consumers including a recommendation that a temporary ban be placed on the use of binding arbitration until such time that the arbitration forums have initiated changes to address deficiencies in arbitration. The FTC has suggested that state legislatures adopt measures to make it more likely that consumers will defend themselves in litigation, decreasing the prevalence of default judgments; require debt collectors to include more information about the alleged debt in their complaints; take steps to make it less likely that collectors will sue on debt on which the statute of limitations has run; and change laws to prevent the freezing of a specified amount in a bank account including funds exempt from garnishment.
We do not believe that these changes, if they occur, will effect our current practice areas and clients. However, we have also seen instances in which perceived procedural unfairness can lead to overreaching legislation. For example, it is fair to say that when the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act was passed, legislators did not intend for it to reach into the wide-ranging areas it now does, including the collection of homeowner dues. See, e.g., Barry v. Board of Managers of Elmwood Park Condominium II, NT Slip Op 27506, http://caselaw.findlaw.com/ny-civil-court/1211140.html (December 12, 2007, NY Civil Court City of New York, Richmond County) (Judge Philip S. Straniere writing that “Somehow I think that Adams, Jefferson and Madison must be turning over in their graves at the thought that the federal government is regulating such a local activity as the collection of condominium association dues between the homeowner and the association”).
Arbitration tends to release pressure on state courts by handling cases that otherwise would be brought in court. However, if the process continues to be perceived as unfair, restrictions on the use of arbitration could be forthcoming.
Tarley Robinson, PLC, Attorneys and Counsellors at Law
HOA Case Study: A Board’s statements or conduct may establish the enforceability of its governing documents
Originally posted 2012-05-30 08:57:51. Republished by Blog Post Promoter
An article in the Washington Post discussed a pending case in the Virginia Supreme Court regarding a dispute between property owners and a community association regarding the owners’ operation of a vineyard and retail store on their property. In an unpublished Order, the Virginia Supreme Court upheld a Fauquier County jury verdict for the property owners that had been set aside by the trial court.
Although unpublished orders do not have “precedential value or . . . significance for the law or legal system,” this case does provide us with a look at how difficult it can be for community associations to interpret their governing documents and also how a board’s previous actions may have an effect upon future enforcement of the community’s declarations and covenants. This blog post will review the facts of that case and its applicability to your HOA.