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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.

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

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.


In an unpublished decision, the Virginia Supreme Court reversed a Loudoun County Circuit Court that had vacated an arbitrator’s decision in a homeowner lawsuit. In Worman v. River Creek Owners Association, the homeowners wanted to install a basketball goal. The association denied all three applications, so the homeowners submitted a demand for arbitration with AAA. The association did not consent to the arbitration, but the AAA arbitrator held a preliminary hearing and determined the issue arbitrable.

The homeowners prevailed in the arbitration and were also awarded attorneys’ fees. As is required in Virginia, the homeowners filed a motion to affirm the decision in the Loudoun County Circuit Court. The Court vacated the arbitration award, deciding that the issue was not arbitrable.

The Wormans appealed to the Virginia Supreme Court on two issues: 1) The arbitrator had the authority to determine whether the issue was arbitrable; and 2) Regardless of the arbitrator’s authority, the issue was indeed arbitrable.┬áThe Virginia Supreme Court held that the issue was arbitrable, issue number “2” above, and consequently did not address issue number “1.” The Court ruled that based upon the language in the relevant arbitration clause, all issues between the homeowners association and a homeowner were arbitrable. Therefore, the arbitrator’s decision was final.

This case is interesting on several levels. First, the particular clause in this declaration is similar to several that we have reviewed. The Court’s interpretation is important guidance to reviewing arbitration clauses, so the opinion is important for that reason. Second, the Virginia Supreme Court continues to uphold arbitration clauses and the resulting arbitrator decisions.

Make sure you talk with your attorney about the advisability of arbitration clauses. Arbitration has its advantages, just make sure you are making a reasoned decision and not relying upon “boilerplate” language. Furthermore, if your contract has an arbitration clause, you may want to think again about using valuable resources to contest whether an issue is arbitrable because courts continue to uphold the enforceability of these clauses.

Tarley Robinson, PLC, Attorneys and Counsellors at Law

Williamsburg, Virginia

John Tarley

John Tarley

John is the firm's managing partner and chairs the firm's small business, zoning, and litigation practice areas.

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Filed under: Common Interest Community, HOA, John Tarley, State & Federal Litigation by John Tarley

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