August 31, 2021

HOA Unpaid Assessments Are Subject to a Six-Year Statute of Limitations

The Washington Court of Appeals recently decided that the applicable statute of limitations for an action to enforce a homeowners association's lien for unpaid assessments is six years. It noted that a Washington statute establishes a six-year statute of limitations for actions upon a contract in writing or liability arising out of a written agreement and ruled that the association's declaration of covenants is a written agreement. The Court further held that each unpaid annual assessment constituted a separate claim, which limited the association to the collection of unpaid assessments imposed over the preceding six years. During the course of its opinion, it pointed out that the WUCIOA establishes a six-year statute of limitations for actions arising out of that statute and that the Washington Condominium Act establishes a three-year statute of limitations for actions arising out of that statute. 

Washington common interest associations should consider obtaining legal counsel before beginning collection actions that involve lengthy delinquencies. This will help avoid potential liability if the matter is litigated.

July 29, 2021

Washington State Common Interest Communities Are Subject to New Laws

The law governing Washington state common interest communities has changed a great deal over the last several months. The Washington Legislature and Governor recently approved three new laws affecting such communities. The Governor rescinded his virus-related proclamation concerning those communities earlier this month. Eviction restrictions have been extended in some places and allowed to expire in others. 

The first new law affecting common interest communities pertains to notices, meetings, and voting.  It permits those communities to notify owners of meetings and other matters by electronic transmission with their prior consent. It allows those communities to meet remotely if they adopt a resolution or approve a governing document amendment providing for such meetings.  The new law also permits owners in those communities to vote by proxy, mail, and electronic transmission. 

The second new law concerns foreclosure actions. It requires those communities to mail a new notice to delinquent owners before filing foreclosure actions.  Those communities are also prohibited from commencing foreclosure actions against delinquent owners until they owe at least nine months of assessments (six months of assessments starting January 1, 2024).

The third new law is a restatement of the Washington Nonprofit Corporations Act.  With minor exceptions, this law does not take effect until January 1, 2022.  Communities organized as nonprofit corporations will soon be required to comply with different procedures with regard to matters such as record retention and meeting minutes.

Governor Inslee's virus-related proclamation expired on July 24.  Common interest communities may now charge late fees and interest when an owner's account is delinquent. The proclamation's provisions relating to notices, meetings, and voting were largely incorporated and expanded in the first new law discussed above.

The federal eviction moratorium is currently scheduled to expire on July 31.  The Seattle eviction moratorium is currently scheduled to expire on September 30, but it may be extended. Other counties and cities have different eviction standards. Communities should seek legal advice before starting eviction actions or terminating utilities.

This is only a general overview of these changes. My office is available to help your community fully understand and comply with its current legal obligations.

July 21, 2021

Governor's COVID Proclamation Concerning Community Associations Expires on July 24

Governor Inslee's COVID Proclamation pertaining to Washington state community associations expires at 11:59 p.m. on July 24.  Community associations will regain the ability to charge late fees and interest if an owner's account is delinquent at that time. The Proclamation's provisions permitting community associations to notify owners, meet, and vote by electronic methods will also expire on that date, but a new state law permitting associations to act in that manner will take effect on July 25.      

July 12, 2021

Washington Court of Appeals Affirms Judgment for Misuse of Easement

Several property owners had a dispute concerning the validity and enforcement of three easements.  Two of the property owners misused the easements by initiating loud confrontations with neighbors about them, by intimidating neighbors from accessing their property within the easement areas, by destroying objects of private property, by forcing neighbors to incur debt due to unpaid public utilities, and by bringing noise and traffic onto neighbors' private property.  A judge in the ensuing litigation ruled that those two property owners unlawfully deprived their neighbors of "peace, privacy, security, and the quiet use and enjoyment of their homes" and thereby caused them to suffer economic damages and emotional distress. This decision was affirmed on appeal.

Disputes with owners regarding property use and access can escalate quickly and lead to lawsuits. Timely guidance from an experienced attorney can help ensure that an association achieves its objectives and avoids liability when it becomes involved in such disputes.