May 18, 2020

Washington Court of Appeals Rules in Favor of Tree Nuisance Claim

A property owner brought a nuisance action against her neighbors because the branches of a cedar tree on their property extended over her property, dropped leaves and needles on it, and threatened to damage her home.  The Court of Appeals ruled that the owner presented enough evidence in support of her claim to defeat her neighbors' motion to summarily dismiss it without a trial.  

RCW 7.48.010 defines an "actionable nuisance" as "whatever is injurious to health or indecent or offensive to the senses, or an obstruction to the free use of property, so as to essentially interfere with the comfortable enjoyment of the life and property." The Court noted that the branches of trees extending over adjoining land can constitute a nuisance, but it went on to point out that damages must be proved in order to support an actionable legal claim. In this case, the plaintiff presented evidence that the tree branches at issue "shed profusely" on her yard and that this debris interfered with her use and enjoyment of the property. She also presented evidence (including expert testimony) that the size and location of the tree's branches posed "an increasing danger" to her home. As a result, the Court decided that her nuisance claim must be allowed to proceed to trial.

May 8, 2020

Community Association Presentation for Washington Secretary of State's Office

I will be leading an electronic presentation concerning community associations for the Washington Secretary of State's Office on Thursday, May 28 at 1:00 p.m. This presentation will provide a general overview of the legal issues that affect those associations, including the scope of the Washington Uniform Common Interest Ownership Act and the challenges associated with the coronavirus pandemic.  If you would like to attend this presentation via the Webex platform, then please contact Teresa Glidden at teresa.glidden@sos.wa.gov. 

May 4, 2020

Washington Court of Appeals Prevents Covenant Enforcement Due to Delay

The Washington Court of Appeals recently decided in an unpublished opinion that the legal doctrine of laches prevented an owner of real property from obtaining relief based on a claim that the owner of neighboring property violated covenants governing both properties.  Laches is an implied waiver arising from knowledge of existing conditions and acquiescence in them. It is in effect neglect for an unreasonable length of time under circumstances permitting diligence to do what in law should have been done.  

The legal elements of laches are inexcusable delay and prejudice to the other party from such delay. The plaintiff in this case waited twenty years after his neighbor's home and barn were built before asserting that they violated protective covenants. The trial and appellate courts ruled that this delay and the resulting harm to his neighbor if his claim were allowed to prevail mandated dismissal of his lawsuit.             

April 21, 2020

Governor Amends COVID-19 Proclamation to Address Community Association Issues

On April 17, the Governor of Washington state amended his COVID-19 emergency proclamation to address several issues related to community associations.  This proclamation amendment first permits owners and directors in community associations to vote on association matters by mail, electronic mail, and proxy even if their associations' governing documents do not permit them to do so.  It next permits owners and directors in community associations to attend meetings by conference telephone and other types of similar communications equipment that allows all participants to hear each other at the same time even if their associations' governing documents do not permit them to do so.   It finally prohibits community associations from charging owners late fees and interest on delinquent assessments and from imposing fines on owners for violating their governing documents.  This proclamation amendment is currently scheduled to expire on May 31, but it may be extended beyond that date.    

If your association's governing documents do not specifically authorize voting by mail, electronic mail, and proxy and attending meetings by conference telephone and similar communications equipment, then you should consider taking this opportunity to schedule a meeting to vote on an amendment to those documents that contains such authorizations.