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    The Greater Williamsburg area is an exciting place to live and work, especially because of the large number of entrepreneurs who have built businesses from the ground up. These entrepreneurs have taken their passion and made it their profession. Many of us want to take that step. Before you begin, you need to think of the type of business entity you want to form. Our attorneys have extensive business experience, from small one-person companies to publicly traded major corporations. Our attorneys are among the leaders in Virginia in the representation of Common Interest Communities. These communities are generally referred to as "homeowners associations," or "HOAs," and "condominium associations." In the greater Williamsburg area alone, we provide legal assistance to nearly 100 associations. Our attorneys have successfully prosecuted and defended a wide array of civil disputes involving community association covenant enforcement, commercial transactions, construction disputes, contracts, real estate matters, boundary line and easement disputes, employment matters, antitrust litigation, copyright violations, administrative proceedings, and estate issues. Real Estate law encompasses a wide variety of matters, and our attorneys have vast experience to assist you. Whether you need assistance with a commercial or residential closing, or you have questions relating to residential or commercial leasing, we provide experienced advice and counsel to our clients. Zoning law can be a complicated maze of statutes and ordinances. We have ample experience in successful applications for rezoning, variance, and special use permit requests. Finally, commercial and residential construction provide special challenges with respect to financing issues and the construction process. We serve as counsel to various financial institutions.

Virginia Attorney General opinion on HOAs

April 23, 2020 on 2:07 pm | In Common Interest Community, HOA, HOA litigation, John Tarley, Real Estate Litigation, Real Estate Strategies, Unit Owners Association | No Comments

In Virginia homeowner associations, the governing documents permit a developer to continue control of the HOA’s Board of Directors for a specific period of time, or until a specific number of lots are sold. The length of that period depends upon the governing documents of each association.

HOA

This issue has generated litigation in Williamsburg, and now, thanks to Peter Vieth from Virginia Lawyer’s Weekly, we have learned of a formal opinion from the Virginia Attorney General. In an opinion dated January 11, 2013, the AG answered two questions posed by Virginia Senator Bryce E. Reeves. This blog post takes a look at that opinion.

Is the Property Owners Association Act Unconstitutional?

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Enforcing HOA covenants important for common interest communities

April 23, 2020 on 2:07 pm | In General Interest, HOA, John Tarley, State & Federal Litigation, Susan B. Tarley | 2 Comments

 

We have written previously on the litigation of homeowner association cases. Generally, homeowner associations can file a lawsuit in the General District courts to enforce collection of assessments. However, If an HOA needs to enforce a covenant, seeking an injunction to require a homeowner to comply with the restrictive covenant, as of 2011, the HOA must file a lawsuit in the Circuit Court can now file a lawsuit in the General District Court, as well. Virginia Code sections 55-79.80:2, and 55-513 give jurisdiction for those matters to the General District Court. Those lawsuits can be expensive and time-consuming.

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Emails from work computer can waive rights to privileged communications

April 23, 2020 on 2:07 pm | In Business Planning, Construction litigation, General Interest, HOA litigation, John Tarley, Real Estate Litigation | No Comments

We have written on the issues that arise when employees use their work computer for personal business. In that blog article, we referred to a California case in which an appellate court ruled that an employee’s emails to her attorney were not protected by the attorney-client privilege because the company had a written policy that informed employees that computers were not to be used for personal matters, that emails could be monitored to ensure that employees complied with the policy, and that employees should not expect any privacy in the use of their computers.

In local news, former Delegate Phil Hamilton raised a “marital privilege” objection to the use at trial of emails he sent to his wife. Certain communications to and from a spouse can be protected from disclosure. There were complicating factors to this case’s analysis.

 

Email

 

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Benefits of HOAs Part 2: How is Covenant Enforcement Good for Owners?

April 23, 2020 on 2:07 pm | In Common Interest Community, HOA, HOA litigation, Jason Howell, John Tarley, Real Estate Litigation, Susan B. Tarley, Unit Owners Association | No Comments

The enforcement of covenants, conditions, and restrictions (“CC&R’s”) is among the most criticized of the duties performed by the Board of Directors of community associations, but is also the most important responsibility. CC&R’s govern many activities in a community including house designs, parking regulations, maintenance and repair of the common areas, and collection of assessments. Sensational “Gotcha” type news stories highlight enforcement practices of some associations, which contribute to a false perception that associations in general lack common sense. However, studies repeatedly show that the overwhelming majority of people  living in neighborhoods governed by HOAs believe that the rules in their communities benefit them.

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Homeowner cannot be forced to join a voluntary HOA

April 23, 2020 on 2:07 pm | In Common Interest Community, HOA, John Tarley, Real Estate Strategies, State & Federal Litigation | 1 Comment

In a case from the Chesterfield Circuit Court, the circuit court judge determined that a homeowner could not be forced to pay association dues to a voluntary association. This result is not surprising.


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You obtained a PPP Loan? Here are some answers to questions you may have on spending the funds

April 23, 2020 on 2:07 pm | In Business Law, Business Planning, John Tarley | Comments Off on You obtained a PPP Loan? Here are some answers to questions you may have on spending the funds

With the COVid-19 Pandemic, amongst the financial packages available to small businesses is the Payroll Protection Program (“PPP”). Small businesses must make themselves aware of the benefits of these loans. This blog post assumes you were able to obtain a PPP loan, and provides you with basic information you need to know, if you want your PPP loan to be forgiven (essentially converting the loan to a grant).

Please note that what follows is NOT legal or tax advice. These are simply my observations and notes based upon information I have gathered through an analysis of the CARES Act, an analysis of proposed regulations governing the PPP, and my attendance at numerous webinars given by tax and banking experts explaining the PPP.

YOU SHOULD CONTACT YOUR TAX ADVISOR AND BANK FOR PERSONALIZED INFORMATION FOR YOUR CIRCUMSTANCES. The purpose of this blog post is to provide you basic information that you can use to educate yourself about the PPP loans, so you can use that knowledge to ask more informed questions of your financial professionals.

First, if you were funded with a PPP loan, the period of time for calculating possible forgiveness of the loan is 8 weeks from the time you were funded. Therefore, if you were funded on April 20, 2020, your allowable expenses can only be calculated for the 8 weeks after that date.

Second, as the name suggests, the PPP is primarily to be used for payroll. At this point, it appears as though your business must spend at least 75% of the PPP funds on payroll in order to qualify as fully forgiven. Be advised that no employee (or owner) can be paid from the PPP loans at an amount greater than $100,000 per year, pro-rated over the 8-week period.

What constitutes “payroll?” Here are the current general guidelines, but there are more specifics that go beyond the scope of this blog post, so your particular situation may vary:

  • Draws or distributions to owners;
  • Payroll to full-time equivalent employees (payments made to independent contractors reported on a 1099 are not considered “payroll” because ICs are not “employees” and will not be calculated in your payroll). Also, the payment of state and local income tax on employee compensation counts in the “payroll” category;
  • Payment for group health-care benefits, including insurance premiums; and
  • Employee retirement benefits.

Third, besides payroll, you can use the PPP loan to pay your business’ lease or mortgage payments. Again, the 8 week period applies, and prepayment of future rent or mortgage probably will be disallowed in calculating the “forgiven” portion of your PPP loan expenditures.

Fourth, you can use the PPP loan proceeds to pay your business’ utilities expenses, as well as interest on any other debt obligations that were incurred before you obtained the PPP loan.

As you can see, the PPP loan can work for sole-proprietors, as well as small businesses with multiple shareholders/members. You are an employee of your small business, along with any other employees you may have.

Finally, so long as you follow the guidelines, your PPP loan will be forgiven if the proceeds are used for the program’s intended purposes (see above) over a period of time no more than 8 weeks from when your loan was funded. The bank where you obtained your PPP loan will make the determination of forgiveness, based upon your documentation and your expenditures. For any amount of the loan used that does not meet the PPP loan criteria, that amount will NOT be forgiven.

As a reminder, nothing in this blog post should be considered legal advice or tax advice, but instead is a very basic overview of how to spend your PPP loan proceeds. Contact your tax or financial advisers for your particular situation. But in any case, document every PPP expenditure you make to support your case to have the entire PPP loan forgiven.

At the end of the day, we know many of our small businesses cannot afford to seek out legal advice at this time, but it is vitally important that if we are to survive the financial crisis arising out of this novel Coronavirus pandemic, and we have to be willing to help each other out. As information is made available, we will keep you updated as best we can. Stay safe!

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Simple Tips for Effective HOA Due Process Hearings

April 23, 2020 on 2:07 pm | In Common Interest Community, General Interest, HOA, HOA litigation, John Tarley, Unit Owners Association | No Comments

This blog post focuses on addressing one major source of discontent in community associations: due process hearings for alleged violations of the community’s governing documents or condominium instruments.

HOA Due Process Hearing

Homeowners want fairness

Complaints about HOA due process hearings can be split into at least three different categories:

  • Before the hearing, the Board
    • did not attempt to settle reasonably;
    • did not explain variance procedure; or
    • did not properly send notice of violation or opportunity to cure.
  • During the hearing,
    • The Board was disorganized;
    • A Board member was rude;
    • The Board was not prepared for the hearing;
    • The Board did not give owner time to gather/present case; or
    • The Board did not view property/alleged violation.
  • After the hearing,
    • The Board did not give valid reasons for decision; or
    • The penalty was unreasonable.

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Can I cut down my neighbor’s tree when its branches overhang my property?

April 23, 2020 on 2:07 pm | In Common Interest Community, John Tarley, Real Estate Strategies, State & Federal Litigation | 4 Comments

In our ever crowding residential areas, more of us experience the situation in which the limbs of a neighbor’s tree overhang our property line. Most of the time, these limbs do not pose us any concern, but questions do arise as to whether we have the right to prune our neighbor’s trees. In the past,the Virginia rule has been that you could trim the branches of your neighbor’s tree up to your property line. However, the Virginia Supreme Court expanded that long-standing rule when it decided that an owner whose property was damaged by the root system of a neighbor’s tree may be entitled to more relief than simply cutting back the roots and overhanging branches to the property line.

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Pesticides, Fungicides, and Herbicides: Why do Virginia HOAs need to know the difference?

April 23, 2020 on 2:07 pm | In HOA, HOA litigation, John Tarley, Unit Owners Association | No Comments

There are many issues that confront your common interest community as its board of directors and management company work hard to maintain the HOA. One issue that has recently come up is the need to be knowledgeable about the chemicals an HOA applies to its common areas.

The Property Owners’ Association Act in Virginia Code § 55-510.3 and the Condominium Act in Virginia Code § 55-79.80:01 both require that an association post notice of all applications of pesticide in or upon the common areas/elements. This notice must be provided by conspicuous signs placed in or upon the area where the pesticide will be applied, at least 48 hours prior to application. This blog post analyzes one particular question that an association should consider when applying chemicals to its common areas: What is a pesticide?

HOAs and pesticides

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Get your fence off my property!

April 23, 2020 on 2:07 pm | In Common Interest Community, HOA, HOA litigation, John Tarley, Real Estate Strategies, Susan B. Tarley | No Comments

Clients sometimes come to us with disputes regarding real estate litigation matters involving boundary line and easement encroachments. We provide legal advice and counsel, trying to balance your real estate rights with neighborly harmony, always looking to avoid a lawsuit when possible.

Easements provide a broad range of legal rights and obligations. In a fairly recent Virginia Supreme Court case, Snead v. C&S Properties Holding Company, a landowner blocked access to a validly recorded easement. The easement holder filed a lawsuit, asking the court to order the obstruction removed. The Virginia Supreme Court ordered the fence removed, concluding that “a significant portion of the easement would be rendered unusable for ingress and egress if injunctive relief were denied.”

Common Interest Communities

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