Posts by Susan Tarley:
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 2011-08-25 08:30:43. Republished by Blog Post Promoter
To many homeowners, the assessments they pay to their homeowners or condominium association are just one more bill each month. Too often, owners don’t realize the benefits they get in exchange for these assessments. Some owners even go so far as to stop paying their assessments. A careful review of your association’s budget would show that the benefits for owners that come from their assessment payments far surpass the cost of the assessment. But when an owner chooses not to pay, everyone in the community bears the consequences.
Originally posted 2011-07-05 09:05:23. Republished by Blog Post Promoter
Flying the flag is an important way that Americans celebrate their liberty and the sacrifices of past and present heroes who defend it. There were news stories about a dispute between an Ohio homeowners’ association and a Vietnam veteran over a flagpole that brought an important issue to the forefront.
In Ohio, a homeowner erected a large flagpole on his property to fly the flag. The homeowners’ association told him that the flagpole (not the flag) violated the declaration of covenants for the neighborhood, and asked him to take the flagpole down. It offered to place flagpoles in common areas in the neighborhood, and suggested that the covenants would allow him to fly a flag on a pole attached to his house. He refused. After a firestorm of publicity, the HOA averted litigation by permitting the homeowner to keep his flagpole. The underlying question remains: can a homeowners’ association really prohibit an owner from flying the American Flag?
A New Twist on Identity Theft and Fraud: How can Realtors, Lenders, Title Companies and Law Firms Protect Your Clients and Yourselves?October 30th, 2014
Originally posted 2014-06-30 09:40:20. Republished by Blog Post Promoter
A case out of Virginia Beach underscores the deviousness of those who engage in identity theft. As reported in Virginia Lawyers Weekly, Guy Gugliotta owned two lots in Virginia Beach. A local realty company maintained contact with Gugliotta via mail in case he was interested in selling the lots. In 2012 someone purporting to be Gugliotta notified the tax assessors office to change the mailing address for tax bills. Then they notified the realty company that they had decided to sell the lots. The lots were listed for sale and in August, a purchaser made an offer.
The seller documents were handled via mail with the fraudulent seller executing documents in Florida and sending them to the closing agent. Deeds to transfer property require that the seller’s signature be notarized so surely this was the end of the road for the fraudster.
But no, not only did the thief take the identity of the owner; he also took the identity of a notary public in Florida. The notary public declared under oath that it was not his signature and that he had never notarized the documents.
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 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
Originally posted 2010-09-09 06:33:34. Republished by Blog Post Promoter
Although Virginia law does not address who can perform a reserve study, it is clearly in the best interest of an association to hire a credentialed professional to conduct a reserve study for the community. Professionals who provide reserve studies include licensed Professional Engineers (PE), Architects (AIA and/or RA) and experts such as a Reserve Specialist (RS) or Professional Reserve Analyst (PRA).
Originally posted 2011-01-11 11:11:51. Republished by Blog Post Promoter
For your homeowners association, here’s a simple, but effective and invaluable checklist of suggested resolutions to improve the Board of Directors in your community association.
- Set-up your board of director orientation with Tarley Robinson, PLC. This service is provided at no charge to our clients. We will send out a an email and letter to schedule an orientation shortly after your board of director elections. Email us to make sure you are on our mailing list.
- Review your documents with your manager and attorney, or if self-managed, with your board and attorney, to determine whether you are operating in compliance with your documents and whether your documents comply with the law.
- Encourage civility, applaud the good deeds of neighbors and provide solid leadership. Remember that you are part of a community.
- Schedule an appointment with your insurance agent to review your current policies. Confirm that your policies comply with any insurance requirements in your documents. Find out if you should change your deductibles. Determine if you are paying the best price.
- Implement your Complaint Policy and Copying Policy. You are required to have them.
- Conduct efficient and effective board meetings. Spend some time working on the processes and procedures for your board meetings. Seek input from your board members, manager and attorney.
- Follow the legislation affecting community associations. The Virginia Legislative Action Committee will be working hard to review proposed legislation and determine its impact on community associations. Updates will be posted at http://www.cai-valac.org/
- Review your Reserve Study. Virginia law request annual review of your Reserve Study. If you do not have a Reserve Study to review, resolve to obtain one. It is the law.
- Conduct a risk assessment relative to safety and the use of your Common Areas or Common Elements. Follow-up with appropriate action, be it implementing safety rules, repairing an unsafe area or item, or posting a warning sign.
- Attend seminars provided by CAI. The Central Virginia Chapter Community Association Day, for example, is a daylong event that includes some great educational opportunities.
Tarley Robinson, PLC, Attorneys and Counsellors at Law
Originally posted 2013-03-11 10:30:11. Republished by Blog Post Promoter
It happens in a heartbeat – literally. Sudden cardiac arrest is a leading cause of death among adults over the age of 40 in the United States and other countries. Studies have shown, however, that when bystanders intervene and start cardiopulmonary resuscitation (“CPR”) or utilize an automated external defibrillator (“AED”), four out of ten victims actually survive this otherwise certain killer.
Community associations considering installing an AED at the clubhouse or pool are understandably concerned about liability. What if someone uses it incorrectly? Is the Association required to provide training? Should access to the AED be limited? What if the AED has not been maintained?
Originally posted 2010-06-29 00:57:15. Republished by Blog Post Promoter
The attorney-client privilege permits confidential communication between an attorney and her client. The objective is to encourage open communication, which permits an attorney to provide thorough, competent and complete advice. Generally speaking, only a client can waive the privilege, but as found by the Virginia Supreme Court in Walton v. Mid-Atlantic Spine Specialist, PC, et al., a client’s inadvertent disclosure of a privileged communication may operate as a waiver of the attorney-client privilege.
In this Williamsburg medical malpractice case, a defendant doctor wrote a letter to his attorney calling into question his medical diagnosis he gave to his patient. The doctor kept this letter in a separate notebook. During discovery the defendant medical practice used a third party service to copy document requests. The letter was provided inadvertently to the plaintiff.
Although the defendant claimed that he did not produce the letter or permit anyone else to produce the letter, the Court found that the defendant did not take adequate protection to protect the letter. The Court noted that the notebook in which the letter was found was not marked as confidential or privileged. Furthermore, the Court held that the client did not take prompt action following disclosure.
The Virginia Supreme Court considered five main factors in determining whether the inadvertent disclosure waived the client’s privilege. The Court looked at: (1) the reasonableness of the precautions to prevent inadvertent disclosures, (2) the time taken to rectify the error, (3) the scope of discovery, (4) the extent of the disclosure, and (5) whether the party asserting the claim of privilege or protection for the communication has used its unavailability for misleading or otherwise improper or overreaching purposes in the litigation making it unfair to allow the party to invoke confidentiality under the circumstances.
As a start, clients should maintain attorney-client privileged communications in a separate file or notebook and clearly mark the file or notebook and each communication as “CONFIDENTIAL-ATTORNEY-CLIENT PRIVILEGED COMMUNICATION.” Then, if an inadvertent disclosure is made, the client should contact her attorney as soon as possible to determine a plan of action to restore the attorney-client privilege.
Tarley Robinson, PLC, Attorneys and Counsellors at Law