July 28, 2011

Court Rules that Washington Apartment Complex Is Not Liable for Dog Attack

The Washington Court of Appeals held last month in an unpublished opinion that a woman injured at an apartment complex by a tenant’s dog could not recover from the owner or manager of the apartment complex. The Court based its decision on the well-settled rule in Washington that only the owner, keeper, or harborer of an animal is liable for injuries that it inflicts on others. Liability flows exclusively from ownership or direct control of an animal.

The injured woman argued that the owner and manager of the apartment complex should be held liable because they breached their affirmative duty to maintain the common area in which the incident occurred in a reasonably safe condition. The Court rejected that argument in a telling footnote, pointing out that it ruled in that manner in a similar case fifteen years ago and was overruled in unequivocal fashion by the Washington Supreme Court.

Washington condominium and homeowners associations are sometimes sued in connection with injuries that occur in common areas. Sometimes the owner will have a case, but in other instances (such as those involving dog-inflicted injuries) the owner will have no legal right to recover damages from the association. An attorney who is experienced in community association law can help your board know which lawsuits are all bark and no bite.

July 21, 2011

New FHA Condominium Guidelines Allow for Higher Delinquency Rates

The Federal Housing Administration (FHA) Condominium Project Guidelines were recently revised in various respects. One significant change takes account of the financial difficulties that condominium associations and their owners have been facing over the past several years. The previous guidelines stated that associations would not be approved if more than 15% of units were more than 30 days delinquent. Under the new guidelines, condominium associations that exceed that 15% threshold can still qualify for FHA approval if they:

1) Have no more 20% of units that are more than 30 days delinquent;

2) Provide a report showing the past 6 months of assessments charged and collected;

3) Provide a report showing current reserve fund balances and operating accounts that exceed the amount of outstanding delinquencies;

4) Provide a showing that the association has budgeted for delinquencies;

5) Provide a reserve study less than 24 months old demonstrating that the association can meet replacement needs; and

6) Provide evidence of collection efforts, including legal actions and payment plans.

If your association is interested in obtaining FHA approval, it should contact an experienced professional that works in that area to determine whether it meets the many criteria that are involved in that process.