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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.

3 tips for safe emailing with your attorney

April 23, 2020 on 12:47 pm | In Business Planning, Common Interest Community, John Tarley, State & Federal Litigation | No Comments

Obviously the use of email has changed many aspects of our world, including the practice of law. As with all new technology, we sometimes learn hard lessons. The attorney-client privilege is the foundation of effective communication between counsel and clients. Only a client can waive that privilege. Although email has far more positives than negatives, to protect attorney-client communications, use these three tips.

Williamsburg Virginia Business Lawyers

Attorney-Client Privilege

 

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Attorneys’ Fee Provision in a Contract is Rejected as “Unconscionable”

April 23, 2020 on 12:47 pm | In Business Law, Common Interest Community, Construction litigation, Employment law, General Interest, HOA, John Tarley, Unit Owners Association | Comments Off on Attorneys’ Fee Provision in a Contract is Rejected as “Unconscionable”

Introduction

As we have previously written, Virginia generally follows the “American Rule” in requests for an award of attorneys’ fees in litigation cases. Jurisdictions that follow the American Rule require each side to pay their own attorneys’ fees, unless a party can point to a statute or contract provision that allows fee-shifting.

In a recent unpublished order, the Virginia Supreme Court struck a contractual fee-shifting provision. This blog post reviews that decision.

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Arbitration in debt collection: FTC says it’s a broken system

April 22, 2020 on 6:34 pm | In Common Interest Community, State & Federal Litigation, Susan B. Tarley, Weekly Tweets | Comments Off on Arbitration in debt collection: FTC says it’s a broken system

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

Williamsburg, Virginia

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Attorneys’ Fees and Litigation – When fees get awarded to the “Prevailing Party”

March 17, 2020 on 4:10 pm | In Common Interest Community, Construction litigation, HOA, HOA litigation, John Tarley, Mediation, Real Estate Litigation, State & Federal Litigation, Unit Owners Association | No Comments

In litigation matters involving common interest communities (otherwise known as homeowners associations (“HOAs”) or condominium owners associations (“condo associations”)), the issue of awarding attorneys’ fees for prevailing parties ultimately arises. Generally, the HOA’s Governing Documents or the condo association’s Condominium Instruments contain such a provision. Otherwise, attorneys’ fees may be recoverable by statute for HOAs and condo associations.

These attorney fee-shifting provisions, either by contract or statute, are contrary to the typical “American Rule” cases in which each side pays their own attorneys’ fees. Because litigation has become so expensive to pursue, whether to award attorneys’ fees, and the amount of any award, has become separate litigation on its own at the conclusion of cases.

In the recent case of Dewberry & Davis, Inc. v. C3NS, Inc., the Virginia Supreme Court was faced with the issue of “whether the circuit court erred in applying an attorneys’ fees provision of a contract.” We had previously blogged about this case, because in the underlying contract between the parties, Dewberry & Davis, an engineering company, had limited its liability for damages. The trial court had determined the limitation of liability clause was void, pointing to a recent change to Virginia Code § 54.1-411that permitted an engineering company to include a limitation of liability clause. Because the contract predated the code change, the court determined that those changes “demonstrate that the General Assembly fully intended to alter the statute’s intent.”

The case continued to trial, and eventually, upon appeal, to the Virginia Supreme Court. This blog post explains that Supreme Court decision relating to the award of attorneys’ fees.

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HOA Litigation: Is it avoidable?

March 17, 2020 on 4:09 pm | In Common Interest Community, HOA, HOA litigation, John Tarley, Mediation, Unit Owners Association | No Comments

We have written previously on the costs—both in time and money—for homeowners and condominium associations to litigate cases. On one hand, boards of directors have a fiduciary duty to uphold the governing documents of associations, but on the other, the board must investigate alternatives to the divisive nature of litigation.

As it turns out, sometimes there is no alternative because a homeowner can sue an HOA, forcing the association to defend. But what efforts can or should a homeowners or condo association take to avoid the consequences of litigation?

A series of recent Virginia cases highlights the consequences associations can face in litigation cases. This blog posts provides a brief summary of those cases and some cautionary advice.

Williamsburg Virginia Business and HOA Lawyers

Board of Directors Meeting

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What happens if a tree falls from my property onto a public highway causing damage?

January 6, 2020 on 11:48 am | In Common Interest Community, General Interest, Real Estate Litigation, State & Federal Litigation, Unit Owners Association | No Comments

“Tree law” fascinates us. I guess part of the reason is because many of us have at least one tree on our property, and during severe storms, we fear what would happen if one of those trees fell on our house, our neighbor’s house, or the street. Once the fear subsides, the next question we ask ourselves is “Who would pay if the tree fell on our neighbor’s property or vice versa and caused damage?” Or our neighbor’s tree may overhang our property or its roots may cause damage to our property, “What can we do then?” These issues are important considerations for property owners and community associations when reviewing their insurance policies.

The Virginia Supreme Court added to the small body of Virginia “tree law” cases. In this case, Cline v. Dunlora South, LLC, a man driving on a public road was struck and injured by a tree  that fell from private property. The man sued the property owner, claiming that the property owner’s “conduct constituted a nuisance because [its] lack of care, inspection, servicing, and/or maintenance of the subject property and tree was a condition that imperiled the safety of the public highway immediately adjacent to the property and tree, creating a danger and hazard to motorists and/or pedestrians.” The trial court dismissed the lawsuit, and on appeal the Virginia Supreme Court agreed that the property owner did not have “a duty to protect travelers on an adjoining public roadway from natural conditions on his or her land.” This blog post reviews that decision and what it means for us.

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2014 Legislative Update for Virginia HOAs

June 16, 2014 on 6:28 am | In Common Interest Community, General Interest, HOA, HOA litigation, Susan B. Tarley, Unit Owners Association, Weekly Tweets | No Comments

The 2014 session on the  Virginia Legislative Action Committee (“LAC”) created new experiences for our committee. Each year on the LAC brings new challenges, and in my second year as Chair of the LAC, we experienced our most active General Assembly session.

The LAC’s mission is to monitor and advocate for legislation affecting HOAs and condominium associations. All of the bills cited below are effective July 1, 2014 unless otherwise noted.

Williamsburg HOA and Business Law Firm

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CAI Law Seminar 2014 for HOA Lawyers

March 18, 2014 on 8:44 pm | In Common Interest Community, General Interest, HOA, HOA litigation, Susan B. Tarley, Unit Owners Association, Weekly Tweets | No Comments

Hard to believe that the CAI Law Seminar in Las Vegas was 7 weeks ago.  I have been meaning to report on the seminar but the practice has kept me very busy.

CAI Lawyer

The Law Seminar provides a unique learning opportunity to discuss emerging trends, practices and legislative issues important to the practice of community association law. Attendees include attorneys, management professionals, and other industry leaders.

The Law Seminar was excellent this year! I attended education sessions each day that were well-presented, topical, and detailed.  My colleagues in the HOA and condominium industry have a lot of experience to share.

I attended a session that reviewed a case study on Repair Projects, Special Assessments, Association Divisiveness and Litigation.  This session provided a lot of good information.  Two of the attorneys involved in advising the association, and in defending the subsequent litigation, provided an in-depth analysis of a community that needed to move forward on repair projects but did not have sufficient funds in its reserve account.  (Sound familiar?).  The program identified the issues faced by the community, the challenges of getting consensus from the owners on the needed repairs, and the solution that the board pursued.   There are many communities in Virginia that have aging infrastructures and will soon, if not already, be facing the challenges of making repairs and having the money to do so.  The presented case study provided a road map for a major repair project.

I also had the opportunity to serve on a “Panel of Pundits.” Along with colleagues from Colorado, Massachusetts, Hawaii and New Jersey, we fielded questions from the audience concerning community association issues.

Attorneys that make the effort to attend and participate in events like these help us all to stay current on issues that affect HOAs. That enables us to provide better service and advice to our clients. Because the law changes quickly, make sure your HOA law firm stays current.

Tarley Robinson, PLC, Attorneys and Counsellors at Law

Williamsburg, Virginia

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2014 CAI Annual Legal Seminar in Las Vegas

January 22, 2014 on 7:48 pm | In Common Interest Community, HOA, HOA litigation, John Tarley, Unit Owners Association, Weekly Tweets | No Comments

Susan Tarley is attending the 2014 CAI Legal Seminar in Las Vegas this week. This seminar brings together all of the leading community association legal professionals and is chock-full of interesting classes. As stated in the brochure, “The Law Seminar provides a unique learning opportunity to discuss emerging trends and legislative issues important to the practice of community association law.”

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On Wednesday night, Susan will attend the dinner for all attorneys who have been admitted into the College of Community Association Attorneys (“CCAL”). Susan is one of fewer than 150 attorneys nationwide to be admitted to CCAL, for distinguishing herself through contributions to the evolution or practice of community association law.

On Thursday afternoon, Susan will be a panelist on a Panel of Pundits. This panel of six distinguished HOA attorneys will field questions via Twitter, text message, computer, and in person. If you have a question, click here for the details and ask it!

On Friday, Dan Abrams from ABC is the keynote speaker. Finally, on Saturday, there are sessions discussing issues HOAs face in collections and insurance.  

Our attorneys participate and take leadership roles in our areas of practice in order to provide our clients with fully informed advice. By participating in events like the annual CAI Legal Seminar, we do our best to serve our clients.

 

 

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James City County offering Good Neighbor Grant to HOAs and other neighborhood associations

August 12, 2013 on 7:33 am | In Common Interest Community, HOA, John Tarley, Real Estate Strategies, Unit Owners Association, Weekly Tweets | No Comments

We frequently blog on the importance of cooperation and relationship-building in your homeowner association or condominium association. Here is an easy and practical way to build your association’s camaraderie as James City County is sponsoring a Good Neighbor Environment Matching Grant for the fall of 2013.

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The county’s stated purpose of the grant ” is to enhance the sense of community and environmental wellness of our neighborhoods through the development and accomplishment of a neighborhood sustainable landscape beautification project.” Consequently, the two categories for the grant are Physical Improvement/Sustainable Landscaping and Multi-Neighborhood Project Partnerships.

The grant is not limited to “formal” HOAs or Condo Associations, as any neighborhood association or neighborhood committee authorized “to manage and/or maintain the common areas of a community” may apply. However, such a neighbor association or committee has a few more obstacles to overcome to apply.

Applications are due on September 30, 2013, and the grants will be announced on October 15, 2013. We will make this information known to our association clients, but anybody is welcome to pass along this link to the application. Let us know if we can help your association apply for this Good Neighbor grant.

Tarley Robinson, PLC, Attorneys and Counsellors at Law

Williamsburg, Virginia

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