August 29, 2012

Why Washington Condominium and Homeowners Associations Need Attorneys

Washington condominium and homeowners associations encounter a number of legal issues each year.  Many of those issues arise when owners fail to comply with the association’s governing documents. Other legal issues relate to the association’s compliance with local, state, and federal laws, many of which impose affirmative duties on community associations. For example, Washington state law requires condominium associations to periodically approve budgets, hold meetings, obtain reserve studies, purchase insurance, and maintain records.  Associations that are not represented by attorneys are not likely to consistently fulfill those legal obligations.  It is therefore highly advisable for community associations to regularly seek guidance from attorneys who are familiar with this area of the law.

Associations should not expect their property managers to draft legal documents for them or to provide them with legal advice.  As a Florida court once pointed out, property managers who draft documents which establish an association’s rights or who advise associations about what the law requires in specific situations can be sanctioned for practicing law without a license. Improperly drafted, approved, or executed documents and incorrect statements of legal requirements can also create expensive headaches for associations.  Associations should instead instruct their attorneys to draft or review documents which affect their rights and seek advice from their attorneys regarding how to conduct the association’s affairs in accordance with current legal requirements.       

Association boards should not be under the false impression that working with attorneys necessarily costs a lot of money.  The attorneys who practice in the area of community association law have different methods, opinions, and personalities.  Some of them, including myself, place a high value on providing concise advice and minimizing legal fees to the extent possible.  If your association works with the right attorney, then the benefits reaped as a result of that relationship will far outweigh the costs associated with it.