May 31, 2013

Washington Court Invalidates Restriction on Dues Increases in Association's Bylaws

In late 2011, the board of directors of the Sudden Valley Community Association approved a budget that increased the membership dues by thirty percent.  A short time later, a newly elected board of directors rescinded that dues increase because a provision in the Association’s bylaws required dues increases to be approved by at least sixty percent of the owners.  The former board members then filed a lawsuit seeking to establish that the bylaws provision requiring owner approval of dues increases was unenforceable.  On April 17, a Whatcom County Superior Court judge agreed with those former board members, ruling that the bylaws provision at issue could not be enforced because it conflicted with the state law governing homeowners association budgets.       

The Washington Homeowners’ Associations Act requires the boards of such associations to provide owners with summaries of proposed budgets and to schedule association meetings to consider the ratification of those budgets.  Unless owners holding a majority of the voting power or any larger percentage specified in the covenants reject a proposed budget, it is ratified (even if a quorum is not present at the meeting).  In other words, it takes a vote of at least a majority of the owners to prevent a board-approved budget from taking effect.

The Sudden Valley ruling serves as a reminder that declarations and covenants are not always the last word in community association disputes.  State and federal laws can also come into play, which is an important reason to establish a relationship with an attorney who is familiar with those laws and how they are typically applied.        

May 21, 2013

Does Your Board Have Rapport with the Association's Attorney?

The French word rapporter entered the English language as rapport in the 1660's. While rapporter means to “fetch”, “yield”, or “bring back”, rapport is defined as “a sympathetic or harmonious relationship or state of mutual understanding”. When rapport entered into common use in English, the relationship that it was most often used to describe was the relationship between therapist and patient.

The French word counseillier entered the English language as counselor.  Counselor has referred to “one who gives professional legal advice” in modern English for almost 500 years.  Counselor also became a common synonym for therapist in the middle of the 20th Century.  A counselor of either type ideally seeks to establish rapport with clients in order to help them solve their problems. 

When a professional relationship is not based upon rapport, communication suffers and inferior results are produced. When rapport is present, communication flourishes and superior results are produced. As an attorney and counselor at law, I make it a priority to establish the best possible rapport with community association boards by responding quickly to their concerns, by working efficiently on their projects and by offering them clear and concise advice. In my experience, this leads to empowered and informed boards that are well satisfied with the legal services that they receive.