November 30, 2012

New Board Training Manual Can Help Orient New Board Members

I recently collected twenty particularly useful posts from this blog to create a primer for new board members. This overview of important issues can be found here or by selecting "board training manual" from the "categories" menu on the right.  More posts will be added to the manual in the months ahead.  Next year, I intend to reorganize the material in the manual and make that resource available on my office's website.  I hope that this project helps many new board members understand how to properly fulfill their leadership roles in their communities.

November 21, 2012

Owners Should Be Thankful for Their Community Associations

The Washington Court of Appeals issued an unpublished opinion earlier this month concerning a challenge to the termination of a membership in a private social club.  The membership termination came as the result of a dispute over whether or not a member could bring an eleven-foot wide trailer onto the property.  The width of the trailer allegedly ran afoul of the club’s bylaws.  Finding no significant procedural irregularities, the appellate court upheld the club’s membership termination.

A concurrence to the court’s opinion noted that a slightly different standard would have been applied if this had been a case involving the restrictive covenants of a community association.  In that situation, the court would have interpreted those covenants "in such a way that protects the homeowners' collective interests and gives effect to the purposes intended by the drafters of those covenants to further the creation and maintenance of the planned community."  In other words, the interests of the community as a whole are entitled to great weight when there is a dispute about what the covenants governing Washington condominium and homeowners associations mean. 

At their best, community associations promote high property values and a pleasant living environment.  They make owners’ lives better by pursuing the common good.  On this Thanksgiving, owners should remember to be thankful for the benefits that they enjoy due to their membership in a community association.     

November 9, 2012

How Does the Washington Condominium Act Describe Unit Boundaries?

Condominium boards need to know where the boundaries between units and the rest of the property are located.  The section of the Washington Condominium Act entitled "Unit boundaries" provides a fairly straightforward description of those boundaries: 

"Except as provided by the declaration, the walls, floors, or ceilings are the boundaries of a unit, and all lath, furring, wallboard, plasterboard, plaster, paneling, tiles, wallpaper, paint, finished flooring, and any other materials constituting any part of the finished surfaces thereof are a part of the unit, and all other portions of the walls, floors, or ceilings are a part of the common elements." RCW 64.34.204(1) (emphasis mine)

This section goes on to indicate that porches, balconies, patios, exterior doors, and exterior windows are limited common elements allocated to the adjacent units (except as provided by the declaration).

Since condominium declarations are explicitly permitted to deviate from the Act with regard to boundaries, it is prudent for condominium boards to determine whether their declarations establish different boundaries than the ones described in the Act.  This can have major consequences when repairs and related assessments are necessary.  Attorneys can help boards quickly obtain a clear understanding of this crucial issue.