March 5, 2018

Legal Blogs Are Not A Substitute for Legal Advice

Washington condominium and homeowners association boards face the constant temptation to rely on legal blog posts rather than paid advice from attorneys. They should resist that pernicious pull.  

Attorneys' blog posts are not legal advice, nor are they intended to be.  They provide (at most) a general overview of a subject or issue, and this almost always fails to reflect the complexities encountered when applying legal rules and their many exceptions in specific situations.  Without additional guidance from attorneys, relying on information contained in blog posts often leads to boards misinterpreting that information and reaching incorrect conclusions.  Subsequent events can also render blog posts obsolete in some or all respects.  

As the adage goes, those who represent themselves in legal matters have fools for clients. Washington community association boards should establish relationships with attorneys who focus their practices on community association law and who diligently stay abreast of current developments in that area.  Such attorneys can help them comply with their legal obligations and minimize legal problems when they arise.  As Benjamin Franklin advised about fire safety, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.          

January 30, 2018

Pheasant Island - The 359-Year-Old Condominium Between Spain and France

Pheasant Island is a tiny (about 3,200 square feet) wooded island in the middle of the Bidassoa River between Spain and France.  In 1659, those two countries negotiated the end to a long war there.  The Treaty of the Pyrenees, which established the border between Spain and France and swapped territory between those two countries, was signed on that island.  The treaty states that Spain and France will share that island by each ruling it for a six-month period each year.  This type of joint sovereignty is called a condominium, and Pheasant Island is one of the oldest in existence.  

Spain and France now meet a few times each year to discuss issues of common interest and disputes relating to Pheasant Island.  For example, Spanish fishermen have recently argued that French pleasure boating near the island has a negative effect on their business.  Each country cuts the grass and prunes the trees on the island during its period of rule. Since the river's tides sometimes allow Spanish pedestrians to reach the island, Spanish police also remove illegal campers on the island from time to time.  May the spirit of cooperation allow this 359-year-old condominium to continue for many more years!  

January 2, 2018

Washington Condo Associations Do Not Have Lien Priority Over Existing HOAs

The Washington Court of Appeals affirmed last month that a condominium association's lien for assessments was not entitled to statutory priority over similar assessments made pursuant to the covenants of an existing homeowners association within which the condominium was organized.  It based that decision on an exception to lien priority found in RCW 64.34.364(2)(a) for encumbrances on property before the recording of the declaration.  The appellate court concluded that the homeowners association's covenants are encumbrances because they consist of "restrictions that diminish the value of the condominium."  It affirmed the trial court's award of attorney fees to the homeowners association and awarded it appellate attorney fees as well.