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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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4 things your HOA needs to know about Virginia’s complaint process

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

In 2008, Virginia enacted legislation requiring condominium and property owners’ associations to establish reasonable procedures for resolving member and citizen complaints. The legislation further required the Common Interest Community Board (the “CICB”) to establish regulations for the associations to govern the complaint process.

 

What does this mean for your association? You will need to establish, or amend, your written procedures to comply with the regulations.

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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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How does our HOA hire a Reserve Study specialist? (Part 3 of a 3 part series on Reserves)

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

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).


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Benefits of Community Associations Part 1: Are HOAs really as bad as some portray?

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

 

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.

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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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When is it unlawful for a business to terminate an employee?

April 23, 2020 on 2:07 pm | In Business Planning, Jason Howell, Merger & Acquisition, Neal J. Robinson, State & Federal Litigation | No Comments

The short answer is, rarely. Virginia is an at-will employment state. This means that an employer can discharge an employee for any reason or for no reason at all, just not for an unlawful reason. An employer who terminates an employee for an unlawful reason may be liable to the employee. The question answer in this blog post is: when is a reason unlawful?

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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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