September 25, 2013

Washington Court Voids HOA Committee's Decision Enforcing View Covenant

The Washington Court of Appeals recently issued a published opinion that invalidated the decision of a homeowners association's covenants review committee.  The committee had decided that an owner's maple tree violated a restrictive covenant protecting views and had required that the tree be trimmed or removed.  The appellate court concluded that the committee's decision was based upon an incorrect interpretation of the relevant covenant and was not enforceable. 

The covenant at issue in this case stated that trees must not "unnecessarily" interfere with the view of another resident.  The covenants review committee subjectively determined that the tree in question unnecessarily interfered with a neighbor's view of the Olympic Mountains.  The appellate court ruled that the committee should have applied an objective standard instead.  The court held that the portions of a tree necessary to its survival are a necessary interference with the view of another residence.  Since the committee applied the wrong standard, the court struck down its decision.

Washington condominium and homeowners associations and their committees are often required to interpret and enforce their governing documents.  Seeking advice from an attorney with experience in this area can help to ensure that they do so correctly.