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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.

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


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.

On the other hand, by levying a special assessment to pay for plumbing repairs, the association not only fulfilled its obligations under the covenants; it corrected a health hazard by taking steps that will hopefully help increase unit values in the condo complex. ­­­­Conversely, by refusing to pay their dues, a minority (17 of 60 units in the complex are delinquent) of the owners make their neighbors shoulder a higher percentage of the cost than they deserve.

This scenario is replicated in communities all over the country. Associations, staffed by volunteer board members, provide valuable services to owners by enforcing covenants and maintaining common areas that directly affect property values and the ambiance of the neighborhood. Occasionally owners will disagree with a particular bylaw or assessment, but when they respond by refusing to pay, they only pass on the problem to their neighbors. As more owners stop paying their dues, the costs multiply for everyone. The association then has the unsavory choice of raising dues for the people who do pay or taking action to collect from the people who don’t.

The current mortgage foreclosure crisis has aggravated this situation. In a survey of 1,500 community managers, only 19% reported that the rate of assessment delinquency in 2005 (before the foreclosure crisis) was higher than five percent. Now, 65% of the responding community managers reported delinquency rates above five percent. That increase in delinquency translates, in many cases, into higher dues and assessments for those who are paying, as associations attempt to compensate for the lost revenue. Despite this downturn, an overwhelming majority (71%) of people who live in neighborhoods with associations continue to have favorable opinions of their experience living in a community association.

When an owner gets seriously behind in payments, the association has the option, like any creditor, of placing a lien on the property and foreclosing. Whether foreclosure is practical in each case depends on a number of factors, including the amount of the debt and the equity in the home. If enough owners are not paying their assessments, foreclosure may be the only way to collect funds for important maintenance and repairs. An owner who persists in not paying dues and assessments may force the association into foreclosing.

Every situation is different, every person is different, and every association is different. Clearly, news stories will not focus on the overwhelming majority of associations that are not in a crisis situation, because those associations are not “newsworthy.” In these difficult economic times, those volunteer board members in your local homeowners associations have a statutory fiduciary responsibility to make decisions in good faith and in the best interests of the association. In many instances, they are the only people looking after the interests of everybody over their own self-interests.

Tarley Robinson, PLC, Attorneys and Counsellors at Law

Williamsburg, Virginia

Susan new photo 150x150 Can Homeowners’ Associations Prohibit Owners From Flying the American Flag?

Jason Howell Can Homeowners’ Associations Prohibit Owners From Flying the American Flag?

Susan Tarley

Susan Tarley

Susan chairs the firm's common interest community (HOAs and Condos) practice area. She was 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.

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Filed under: Common Interest Community, HOA, HOA litigation, Real Estate Litigation, Real Estate Strategies, Susan B. Tarley, Unit Owners Association by Susan Tarley

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