January 16, 2024

WA Court of Appeals Rules in Favor of Association's Covenant Enforcement Action

The Washington Court of Appeals recently affirmed a trial court’s decision that a community association properly exercised its authority to enforce protective covenants requiring buildings to present a finished external appearance within one year and requiring members to keep their properties free of clutter and other unsightly structures and conditions. The Court noted that the property owner failed to install permanent roofing on his house and barn for over one year without good cause and kept piles of construction materials in places that were visible from the road. The Court concluded that the owner’s attempts to invalidate the enforcement action lacked merit and that the association had the right to remedy the covenant violations at issue. The owner was also required to pay the association’s attorney fees.

Enforcing governing documents sometimes requires litigation, and the owners in question usually attack their community association’s enforcement procedures both in general and as applied to them. Association boards that work with a qualified attorney can ensure that their enforcement procedures and actions are likely to survive such scrutiny.    

December 29, 2023

Looking Forward to 2024!

As a new year begins, I look forward to tackling the questions, challenges, and innovations that it will bring. I am humbled that so many condominium and homeowners associations have placed their trust in me. I will continue to represent their interests and guide their boards to the best of my ability. 

December 22, 2023

Court of Appeals Decides that Property Owner Complied with Tree-related Duties

In early 2021, a windstorm with gusts reaching upwards of 75 miles per hour hit Spokane, causing widespread destruction. During the storm, a ponderosa pine tree located on a residential property snapped. The top of the tree landed on and damaged two vehicles on a neighboring property. A lawsuit ensued. The Washington Court of Appeals decided in a recent unpublished opinion that the owner of the property on which the tree was located was not negligent with regard to it. The Court summarized the governing law as follows:   

"A landowner is not under a duty to guarantee their trees will not harm persons or property on adjacent land when the trees are part of the natural landscape. Rather, a landowner is obliged to take corrective action toward their trees when on actual or constructive notice of defects ... A landowner is on notice when defects in their trees are 'readily observable.'"

The Court concluded that the record failed to raise a genuine issue of material fact as to whether the owner of the property on which the tree was located had actual or constructive notice of a defect in her trees. Without such notice, she had no duty to take corrective action.

November 28, 2023

Court Upholds Association's Decision to Refrain from Enforcing Covenant

In a recent unpublished Washington Court of Appeals opinion, a lot owner had sued his homeowners association and contended that it had a duty to take certain actions with regard to parking enforcement. The appellate court disagreed with that contention on several grounds, one of them being that the declaration of covenants states that the Association has the power to enforce it but is not required to do so. The court observed as follows: 

"When a homeowners’ association makes a discretionary decision in a procedurally valid manner, we must not substitute our judgment for that of the homeowners’ association unless there is fraud, dishonesty, or incompetence .... The supreme court noted that this rule was necessary to insulate homeowner associations from being subjected to lawsuits anytime a homeowner disagreed with a discretionary choice made by the Board."

If your community association board has questions about the nature and scope of its covenant enforcement powers and duties, then it should consider retaining a qualified attorney to provide clarity.

October 27, 2023

My Next Presentation for the Washington Secretary of State is on November 8!

My next free virtual presentation concerning current community association legal issues for the Washington Secretary of State will take place from 12:00 p.m. until 1:30 p.m. on Wednesday, November 8. This presentation will include information regarding new state laws applicable to such associations. If you want to attend, then you should contact Teresa Glidden at the Secretary of State's office at  teresa.glidden@sos.wa.gov.