HOA Case Study: A Board’s statements or conduct may establish the enforceability of its governing documents
Originally posted 2012-05-30 08:57:51. Republished by Blog Post Promoter
An article in the Washington Post discussed a pending case in the Virginia Supreme Court regarding a dispute between property owners and a community association regarding the owners’ operation of a vineyard and retail store on their property. In an unpublished Order, the Virginia Supreme Court upheld a Fauquier County jury verdict for the property owners that had been set aside by the trial court.
Although unpublished orders do not have “precedential value or . . . significance for the law or legal system,” this case does provide us with a look at how difficult it can be for community associations to interpret their governing documents and also how a board’s previous actions may have an effect upon future enforcement of the community’s declarations and covenants. This blog post will review the facts of that case and its applicability to your HOA.
Originally posted 2011-09-20 11:59:39. Republished by Blog Post Promoter
The Attorney-Client Privilege protects confidential communications between an attorney and his or her client. This privilege includes communications made to the attorney and communications from the attorney. The Attorney-Client Privilege is designed to encourage clients to communicate with their attorney freely, without fearing disclosure of those communications made in the course of representation. The Attorney-Client Privilege is important because it permits clients to give their attorney complete and uncensored information, enabling their attorney to provide informed and thorough legal advice.
For community associations, the Attorney-Client Privilege belongs to the association and can only be expressly waived by the a decision of the association board or executive organ. However, the privilege can be impliedly waived based on the client’s conduct. A determination on whether the privilege has been waived will depend on the specific facts of each case. The association will have to establish that the attorney-client relationship existed, that the communication is privileged, and that the privilege was not waived.
Here are four basic tips for the board of your Common Interest Community to follow so that it protects the association’s Attorney-Client Privilege:
Originally posted 2010-09-22 05:35:58. Republished by Blog Post Promoter
The Common Interest Community Board (the “CICB”) revoked a management company’s license for regulatory violations. In a case reported in the September issue of the Community Associations Institute Law Reporter (Virginia Common Interest Community Board v. Sarraga t/a Lakeside Community Management, File No. 2010-00562, June 24, 2010), the CICB revoked the license of Sarraga t/aLakeside Community Management and issued fines totaling $2,000.
What Does It Mean to be on the Board of Directors of your HOA? Potential Liability (Part 2 of a Series)
Originally posted 2010-10-27 08:19:06. Republished by Blog Post Promoter
We frequently are asked whether volunteer board members can be civilly liable for actions taken while a board member. This issue is of serious concern because lawsuits tend to be over inclusive, naming every possible defendant in the initial complaint. Why sign up as a volunteer board member if it could bankrupt you?
Originally posted 2011-03-22 09:00:43. Republished by Blog Post Promoter
In many HOAs, an issue arises when a homeowner purchases real estate as an investment property intending to lease the home or condo unit. In those situations, the homeowner becomes a “landlord” rather than a resident owner and the situation causes concerns for many homeowner and condominium owner associations. Many association documents contain restrictions on leasing property. In response to an inquiry, the Attorney General for Virginia has issued an official advisory opinion concerning the imposition of rental restrictions in common interest communities concluding that if the restriction is adopted correctly and for a legitimate purpose, the rental restriction is valid.
Originally posted 2010-10-26 09:30:25. Republished by Blog Post Promoter
Boards of Directors are empowered by statute in Virginia and often times by the governing documents of the community association to enact rules and regulations concerning common areas, common elements, recreational facilities or other areas of association responsibility. Rules related to the use of common areas or common elements and recreational facilities should be based on concerns about safety, sanitation and nuisance. In certain instances a Board of Directors may want to enact a rule to address the activities of children – limiting their pool time, forbidding children under a certain age from using recreational facilities or prohibiting certain activities on common areas or elements. Be careful, the rule you enact may violate the federal and state Fair Housing Act.
According to a Complaint filed against a Chesapeake condominium association, the association had a “Group Sports Activity” rule that banned organized sports activities in the common areas without approval of the board. Concerns were raised whether this rule banned activities such as a parent and child passing a football.The Commonwealth of Virginia’s Fair Housing Board filed a housing discrimination lawsuit against Cedarwood Condominium Association, a Chesapeake condominium association. There have not been many of these lawsuits.
Originally posted 2010-07-20 09:31:06. Republished by Blog Post Promoter
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
Originally posted 2010-09-23 05:35:17. Republished by Blog Post Promoter
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.
What can an HOA do to collect past dues when a bankrupt homeowner surrenders property but the lender does not foreclose?
Originally posted 2011-07-20 08:22:44. Republished by Blog Post Promoter
An all-too-common scenario occurs when a homeowners association attempts to collect past dues and the homeowner files bankruptcy. The law is clear that the bankrupt homeowner is still liable for those post-petition dues. The United States Bankruptcy Code at Section 523(a)(16) makes the homeowner liable for “a fee or assessment that becomes due and payable after the order for relief to a [homeowners association] for as long as the debtor . . . has a legal, equitable, or possessory ownership interest in such unit.”
In other instances the homeowner decides to walk away from the property and surrenders the property to the lender. Instead of foreclosing, however, the lender simply does nothing. Therefore, the title of the property is still in the name of the bankrupt homeowner who walked away from the property, and they are not paying the assessments. The lender has not foreclosed so they are not paying the assessments. How can the homeowners association collect these past due post-petition assessments?
Originally posted 2013-09-03 09:26:10. Republished by Blog Post Promoter
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.