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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 HOAs Part 2: How is Covenant Enforcement Good for Owners?

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.

In a 2009 poll, seventy percent of owners said rules in their community protected and enhanced property values. Twenty-seven percent said that the rules made no difference, and only two percent said they harmed property values. Rules give communities standards for appearance, and address issues like noise and pets that can cause disputes between owners. By enforcing rules fairly, an association can make a community a better place to live, which translates into higher property values.

When owners buy property in a community with an association, they accept the responsibilities and restrictions included in the declaration and bylaws of the association. The Virginia Property Owner’s Association Act provides that “Every lot owner, and all those entitled to occupy a lot shall comply with all lawful provisions of this chapter and all provisions of the declaration.” The Virginia Condominium Act provides that “Every unit owner, and all those entitled to occupy a unit shall comply with all lawful provisions of this chapter and all provisions of the condominium instruments.” When owners choose not to comply with the declaration for their community, they not only violate this provision, they also harm their neighbors by increasing enforcement costs for the association and sometimes create a negative effect on property values.

Association boards and managers have the difficult task of enforcing rules in accordance with their legal duty to act in the best interest of the association, while still being fair and reasonable. Associations that are lax in enforcing even seemingly minor rule violations could lose the ability to enforce rules later on, on the grounds that they waived the right to enforce them. Our experience is that the overwhelming majority of association managers and board members take their responsibilities seriously, and genuinely try to act in the best interest of the community.

In even small communities, it’s unlikely that every owner will agree with every enforcement decision made by the association. Even unpopular enforcement decisions may still be in the best interest of the community. The volunteer members of your HOA Board may be taken for granted and may be criticized, but they have a fiduciary duty to ensure fair and comprehensive enforcement of the rules by which all the homeowners agreed to abide.

Tarley Robinson, PLC, Attorneys and Counsellors at Law

Williamsburg, Virginia

Susan Tarley






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, John Tarley, Real Estate Litigation, Susan B. Tarley, Unit Owners Association by Susan Tarley

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