August 26, 2015

Washington Appellate Court Affirms Enforcement of View Easement

In a recent unpublished opinion, the Washington Court of Appeals affirmed a trial court's decision that a recorded view easement protects views of the Olympic Mountains from the main floor of a home in rural King County and requires maintenance of vegetation on an adjacent property to the extent that it exceeds the top of certain foothills and obstructs the view of the mountains which appears above them.  The view easement at issue was intended to "protect the reasonable expectation of landowners to have and protect such views as they exist on the date of the making of this agreement" and provided that the properties shall have a "reasonable unencumbered view of the Olympic Mountains."  A beautiful (and valuable) view of the mountains was thus preserved through the judicial process.

The Pacific Northwest abounds in stunning scenery, and owners of property in this region are often interested in preserving views.  Recording a view easement in conjunction with neighboring properties is the legal way to accomplish that goal.  If such an easement does not exist, then a property owner can not force his or her neighbor or homeowners association to preserve or restore a treasured view.   

July 30, 2015

We Only Represent Condominium and Homeowners Associations

We often receive calls and emails from individuals who are involved in disputes with their community associations.  However, our office only provides legal representation to condominium and homeowners associations.  It does not accept individual property owners as clients.

The Washington appellate courts have issued several unpublished opinions over the last month that are relevant to community associations.  Posts regarding those opinions are coming soon.  Stay cool out there!

July 3, 2015

Washington Court: Leasing Restriction on Homes Does Not Apply to Condominiums

The Washington Court of Appeals ruled in a recent unpublished opinion that a leasing restriction on "single-family homes" contained in the declaration of a master community does not apply to condominiums within that community.  The Court reached its decision by closely examining the declaration's definitions section.  

The declaration defined the term "home" as "any structure located on a lot ... intended for use and occupancy as a residence by a single family" and the term "condominium" to include "units located in duplexes, fourplexes, and other multi-dwelling-unit buildings."  The Court noted that a "condominium" does not fall within this definition of a "home." 

The declaration also defined the term "living unit" to mean "a building or structure or any portion thereof ... that is designated and intended for use and occupancy as a residence by a single family, including attached or detached houses, condominiums, and units within apartment buildings."  The Court viewed the leasing restriction's reference to the narrower term "homes" rather then the broader term "living units" to indicate that condominiums are not covered by that restriction.

Boards of Washington condominium and homeowners associations should seek legal guidance if disputes arise regarding the meaning of their governing documents.

June 25, 2015

Washington State Legislative Update for Community Associations

The Washington State Legislature did not approve any significant new laws affecting community associations in 2015.  A bill to replace the existing state laws pertaining to community associations was discussed in committee, but it did not have sufficient support to proceed.  A revised version of that bill will be proposed again next year, and the scope of its applicability and the content of its provisions are sure to be the subject of intense debate.

May 18, 2015

Washington Court of Appeals Rules Slip Victim Assumed Risk

The Washington Court of Appeals recently ruled in an unpublished opinion that a man assumed the risk of slipping and falling on accumulated ice and snow in a roadway.  As a result, the Court upheld the summary judgment dismissal of his lawsuit against his apartment complex.

Landlords have a general legal duty to keep common areas free from dangerous accumulations of snow and ice, but they are generally not liable for damages caused by dangers that are known or obvious to the injured person.  The Court held that the defense of implied primary assumption of risk applied in this case because the injured person had full subjective understanding of the presence and nature of the specific risk and voluntarily chose to encounter that risk.

The Court included a fun footnote near the end of its opinion.  During a discussion of the risks posed by snow and ice, the Court mentioned the "proverbial hundreds of Inuit words for snow" and cited a 2013 Washington Post story by David Robson titled There really are 50 Eskimo words for 'snow'.  This article observed that "for many of these dialects, the vocabulary associated with sea ice is even richer."