February 13, 2017

Small Associations Need Lawyers Too!

Many boards of small condominium and homeowners associations believe that legal services are out of their financial reach.  However, this is not the case if they work with my office.  We have productive relationships with a large number of small community associations, and one of the keys to our success in that area is our ability to achieve associations' goals both effectively and efficiently.  Sometimes a brief phone call or email is all it takes to resolve an issue or avoid a mistake.  If your association does not have an attorney to help it understand its obligations and enforce its documents, then it should rectify that situation as soon as possible.  

January 5, 2017

Washington Court of Appeals Issues Redemption Act Opinion

The Washington Court of Appeals recently issued a published opinion regarding the application of the Washington Redemption Act (RCW 6.23).  The Court's opinion holds that "a condominium owner occupying the condominium as a residence at the time of a judicial foreclosure of a condominium lien has the right to possession during the redemption period, with no obligation to pay for the value of the occupation."  The Court's opinion also notes that "nonjudicial foreclosure of the assessment lien is not subject to the right of possession."

Foreclosing a lien for unpaid condominium assessments is always a difficult decision.  My office is available to help your association evaluate and pursue its collection remedies in that situation.

January 2, 2017

Washington Court of Appeals Rules in Favor of Association in Collection Dispute

The Washington Court of Appeals ruled in favor of a Camas homeowners association’s actions concerning board membership and delinquent assessments in a recent unpublished opinion.  The Court's opinion begins by stating that “[w]e afford great deference to an organization’s interpretation of its Bylaws, and will only invalidate an interpretation if it is arbitrary and unreasonable …. [H]omeowners associations must be given room to interpret and apply their own governing documents.”  The opinion points out that the association unsuccessfully attempted to elect board members every year and that in the absence of a quorum the association was permitted to allow an appointed board member to serve out the unexpired portion of a term until a quorum could be reached and a proper annual election could be held. The Court's opinion concludes that the association’s board is properly constituted and that the association has the power to collect assessments and record liens.

December 21, 2016

Washington Court of Appeals Issues Rattlesnake Ruling

A rattlesnake bit Mica Craig while he was shopping at a Walmart outdoor garden center in Clarkston, Washington.  Mr. Craig's subsequent lawsuit against Walmart was dismissed on summary judgment, and he appealed.  The Court of Appeals ruled in favor of Mr. Craig in a recent unpublished opinion.  The Court held that Walmart created a risk of rattlesnake bites and that Walmart owed Mr. Craig a duty of reasonable care to prevent his injury.

The Court's decision is based on a pithy observation: "Rattlesnakes wander." The Court decided that "Walmart's choice to locate an outdoor garden center in its parking lot and adjacent to undeveloped land where rattlesnakes are known to live created a reasonably foreseeable hazard .... that its customers would interact with wandering rattlesnakes hiding among the dirt, plants, and other items for sale .... [and] be bitten by a rattlesnake."  As the Court observed in the concluding paragraph of its opinion: "Most businesses have walls and doors that generally prevent wild animals, including rattlesnakes, from entering." 

Community associations must take steps to ensure the safety of their common areas.  If they fail to do so, then civil liability can result.     

December 7, 2016

Comply with Fire Alarm Requirements!

It's cold outside, so thoughts turn to fire. As Q13 reported last month, Snohomish County fire officials recently confirmed that fifteen local condominium and apartment buildings are not updated with legally required fire alarms.  The compliance crackdown came about a year after a fire killed a person in their Everett apartment on New Year’s Eve.  The building involved in that tragedy did not have a sprinkler system, which allowed the fire to spread through the attic.  

When community association boards fail to follow fire alarm requirements, they at a minimum subject their associations to compliance actions by local authorities.  Boards also subject their associations, their members, and the other owners to unacceptable risks associated with possible property damage, personal injury, and loss of life. Wise association boards seek to understand and comply with local fire alarm requirements. My office is here to help if your board is unclear about the association's obligations in this area.