October 14, 2016

Court of Appeals Enforces Covenant Restricting Height of Trees and Hedges

The Washington Court of Appeals recently issued an unpublished opinion that a row of trees violated a covenant restricting "hedges" to a height of six feet or less.  The parties own property in a neighborhood on Whidbey Island that is built on a slope and that provides views of the Puget Sound and the Olympic Mountains.  Trees on downhill property blocked uphill property views, causing the uphill property owners to file a lawsuit arguing that the trees constituted a hedge in violation of a restrictive covenant.  The trial court ordered the downhill property owners to cut certain trees to a height of six feet or less, and those owners appealed.

The Court of Appeals noted that one definition of "hedge" is "a boundary formed by a row of trees planted close together."  The Court decided that the row of trees constituted a "hedge" under the terms of the restrictive covenant and that it was therefore subject to the height restriction.  The Court emphasized that the scenic location and views are an important part of the value of the properties and that protecting views is in the homeowners' collective interest.      

September 12, 2016

Court Rejects Condominium Owner's Attempt to Invalidate Assessments

In a recent unpublished opinion, the Washington Court of Appeals affirmed the trial court's summary judgment denial of a condominium owner's legal challenges to the assessments charged to his unit.  The owner argued that the assessments were invalid in a variety of ways, but the Court held that he did not offer sufficient evidence to support any of them.  The Court also noted that "the owner of a condominium residential unit may not withhold payment of condominium assessments as a form of protest."        

August 31, 2016

Regulating Parking in Your Community Association

I recently had the pleasure to participate in a HOAleader.com webinar about regulating parking in condominium and homeowners associations.  We discussed parking enforcement methods (notices, fines, and towing) and how to avoid legal pitfalls related to them.  We noted that restricting certain types of vehicles (commercial vehicles, inoperable vehicles, oversize vehicles, recreational vehicles, boats) has become a more important issue for associations.  We also touched on a variety of other issues, including handicapped parking, space reassignment, speeding limits, and emergency access. 

If you would like to order the HOAleader webinar, it is available for purchase here.  

July 12, 2016

Receivers to the Rescue?

The Washington Court of Appeals issued a published opinion last month pertaining to the Washington Receivership Statute (RCW 7.60).  The Court noted that "the legislature intended the Receivership Statute to benefit creditors having interests in property administered by the courts."  Receivers may thus be appointed by courts upon the commencement of foreclosure actions in order to lease properties.  The Washington Condominium Act (RCW 64.34.364(10)) describes such receiverships in the following manner:

"From the time of commencement of an action by the association to foreclose a lien for nonpayment of delinquent assessments against a unit that is not occupied by the owner thereof, the association shall be entitled to the appointment of a receiver to collect from the lessee thereof the rent for the unit as and when due. If the rental is not paid, the receiver may obtain possession of the unit, refurbish it for rental up to a reasonable standard for rental units in this type of condominium, rent the unit or permit its rental to others, and apply the rents first to the cost of the receivership and attorneys' fees thereof, then to the cost of refurbishing the unit, then to applicable charges, then to costs, fees, and charges of the foreclosure action, and then to the payment of the delinquent assessments. Only a receiver may take possession and collect rents under this subsection, and a receiver shall not be appointed less than ninety days after the delinquency. The exercise by the association of the foregoing rights shall not affect the priority of preexisting liens on the unit."

My office is available to assist your association if it wants to appoint a receiver to lease a delinquent property during a foreclosure action.    

June 30, 2016

Proud to Be a Washington Community Association Attorney!

32 of the 55 framers of the Constitution were attorneys.  Jokes aside, the legal profession has long been a profession of leadership.  As WSBA governor-at-large Sean Davis recently noted in an excellent article in NWLawyer: "We are regularly called upon when circumstances are at their worst and when stakes are highest: charged with guiding and informing decisions, often between two or more undesirable outcomes. Our willingness to speak up, remain silent, or provide influence through other means is a form of leadership: good, bad, or otherwise .... [T]he response we provide tends to carry significant weight with the hearer."  I'm proud to be a member of the legal profession.

Washington's Rule of Professional Conduct 2.1 ("Advisor") authorizes attorneys to "exercise independent professional judgment" and to "refer not only to law but to other considerations such as moral, economic, social and political factors, that may be relevant to the client's situation."  Mr. Davis pointed out in his article that this ability to guide individuals in an evaluation of considerations beyond the law "is a unique position that our profession formally holds in society."  I enjoy providing Washington condominium and homeowners associations with that kind of comprehensive legal advice. 

Have a safe, restful, and appreciative Independence Day!