How important are state statutes and case decisions in governing your HOA?

October 30, 2014 on 1:20 pm | In Common Interest Community, HOA, HOA litigation, Susan B. Tarley, Unit Owners Association | No Comments

We discussed Governing Documents for homeowners associations and Governing Documents for condominium associations. These governing documents for your community association must be read in conjunction with certain state and federal laws. In this article, we will discuss those relevant laws that must be considered by your HOA.

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Can HOAs Prohibit Owners From Flying the American Flag?

October 30, 2014 on 1:20 pm | In General Interest, HOA, HOA litigation, Jason Howell, John Tarley, State & Federal Litigation, Susan B. Tarley, Unit Owners Association | No Comments

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?

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General Partnerships, The Way To Go . . . Financially Under

October 30, 2014 on 1:20 pm | In Business Planning, Merger & Acquisition, Neal J. Robinson | No Comments

 

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.

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Unauthorized Practice of Law: When unlicensed attorneys serve as HOA board members

October 30, 2014 on 1:20 pm | In Common Interest Community, General Interest, HOA, HOA litigation, Merger & Acquisition, Real Estate Strategies, Susan B. Tarley | No Comments

An article in the Virginia Gazette featured a story regarding the indictment of a local attorney for the unauthorized practice of law; a criminal charge classified as a class 1 misdemeanor. Although those allegations did not involve a homeowner association, it highlights a recurring issue for volunteer boards of directors for many organizations including homeowner associations and not-for-profit organizations on which attorneys serve. This article focuses on those issues facing boards for homeowner associations (“HOAs”) but the issues are similar for other volunteer boards of directors.

 

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Lawsuits against HOAs are expensive and time-consuming for all

October 30, 2014 on 1:19 pm | In Common Interest Community, General Interest, HOA, John Tarley, State & Federal Litigation, Susan B. Tarley | No Comments

A Virginia Circuit Court case highlights the expense and time commitment required when a homeowner sues a common interest community (referred to as “HOA” in this article). Furthermore, this case illustrates that HOAs can rarely predict or control when they may be dragged into a lawsuit.

In this case, Hornstein v. Federal Hill Homeowners Association, a homeowner had her house for sale with a pending sales contract. Pursuant to Va. Code Ann. § 55-509.5, the HOA provided a disclosure packet that revealed that the homeowner’s fence was not located on her property. In fact, the homeowner’s own survey confirmed that fact. The pending sales contract fell through.

The homeowner sued the HOA in Fairfax Circuit Court for slander of title and tortious interference with contract, including a claim for “bodily injury,” and “mental anguish.” The HOA prevailed in the case, leading to the homeowner’s petition for appeal to the Virginia Supreme Court. [UPDATED: The Virginia Supreme Court refused to hear the case, meaning that the Circuit Court’s decision stands].

Another battle has been waged regarding whether the HOA’s insurance carrier had a duty to defend the HOA in the underlying litigation. When the HOA’s insurance carrier denied coverage and representation, the HOA sued the insurance carrier. The case was removed to the federal court. The 4th Circuit District Court agreed with the insurance carrier. The HOA appealed and the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals reversed the trial court and held that the insurance carrier had a duty to defend. The insurance carrier has appealed for a rehearing. [UPDATED: the insurance carrier lost its appeal and was ordered to pay the HOA $217,308.86 for the attorneys’ fees the HOA incurred].

For a brief review, the HOA provided the disclosure packet in February 2006. After the homeowner’s pending sale fell through, she sued the HOA in August 2007. As we near August 2010, the underlying case may be close to resolution, but litigation with the insurance company may be far from resolving. Based upon the amount of litigation, we can assume that the HOA’s attorneys’ fees have reached six figures. Obviously, payment for these attorneys’ fees is then passed onto the homeowners (unless the case shifts payment of the attorneys’ fees to the losing party, but even then, courts rarely award the full 100% of the incurred fees).

Many lessons can be drawn from this experience. Most importantly, HOAs need to review their insurance policies to make sure they are covered fully for worst case scenarios. Our experience has shown that “anybody can sue anybody for anything at any time.” Although the plaintiff may not win (and did not win in this case), the ensuing litigation will take abundant resources. We can help you review your documents and insurance policies with the necessary professionals to protect your HOA, and homeowner interests.

Tarley Robinson, PLC, Attorneys and Counsellors at Law

Williamsburg, Virginia

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Virginia Supreme Court upholds arbitration award granted to homeowners who sued their HOA

October 30, 2014 on 1:19 pm | In Common Interest Community, HOA, John Tarley, State & Federal Litigation | No Comments

It is relatively routine for developers or “declarants” to include arbitration provisions into the declaration of restrictive covenants recorded to establish a common interest community. Generally, arbitration clauses are preferred by developers for a variety of reasons including avoiding a jury and having a say in the choice of the fact-finder. However, those decisions made by the developers have long lasting effects upon homeowner boards following transition, because it is difficult for a board to effect a change in the documents.

 

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Tarley Robinson welcomes Scott Foster

October 21, 2014 on 11:07 am | In General Interest, Weekly Tweets | No Comments

Scott is a 2014 graduate of the William and Mary Law School and newly admitted member of the Virginia State Bar. In 2010, Scott became the first college student to be elected to the Williamsburg City Council. Scott has worked diligently with City Council to develop the downtown area and improve the relationship between the College of William and Mary and the City of Williamsburg. Scott has been working for Tarley Robinson since 2012 and will support the firm’s practice in Land Use, Zoning, Homeowner Associations and Real Estate Strategies.

Welcome, Scott!

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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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