October 31, 2013

Scary Halloween Thoughts for Community Association Boards

I am looking forward to taking my younger son (costume: kung-fu student; price: free!) trick-or-treating tonight.  I am also thinking about two temptations that community association boards must confront - the temptation to rely on property managers for legal advice and the temptation to rely on public sources of information for legal guidance.

Association boards understandably want to keep legal budgets as small as possible.  This sometimes leads boards to ask their property managers to provide legal advice or to rely on legal advice offered by property managers.  This can lead to scary results.  Property managers do not have the training and knowledge that are necessary to provide associations with legal advice.  If association boards want to fulfill their legal responsibilities and avoid liability, then they should only seek and accept legal advice from attorneys.

It can also be tempting for association boards to rely on public sources of information like articles, blogs, and seminars rather than seeking legal advice from attorneys.  Such a do-it-yourself approach to legal issues can lead to scary results as well.  Public sources of information usually provide broad overviews of subjects, which necessarily involves omitting numerous details and exceptions.  In addition, there is a substantial possibility that boards will misinterpret public sources of information regarding legal issues.  It is often said that a person who represents himself has a fool for a client. Boards should not put their associations in that position.

Happy Halloween!                                     

October 22, 2013

Washington Homeowners Association Prevails in Pipe Maintenance Litigation

A recent unpublished opinion by the Washington Court of Appeals involved a dispute between the Crystal Ridge Homeowners Association and the City of Bothell over responsibility for a buried interceptor pipe.  When the pipe failed and caused flood damage, the Association sued the City, arguing that the pipe was the City's responsibility to maintain.  The trial court and the appellate court agreed with the Association.

The courts’ decisions were based on careful examination of the recorded plat for the Crystal Ridge development.  The courts concluded that the plat dedicated the pipe at issue to what was then unincorporated Snohomish County as part of a drainage easement.  This dedication made the City responsible for maintaining that pipe. 

Establishing maintenance obligations based on recorded documents can be a difficult task.  My office often helps homeowners associations understand what they are responsible to maintain and what others are responsible to maintain.               

October 14, 2013

We Now Offer Legal Services to All Washington Community Associations

Until recently, my office limited itself to the provision of legal services to community associations in the Puget Sound area (King, Pierce, and Snohomish Counties).  However, it has become apparent to me over the last several years that many associations' legal needs can be handled largely or entirely using mail, email, and telephone. I am therefore proud to announce that my office now offers legal services to condominium and homeowners associations throughout Washington state.  If your association is located outside the Puget Sound area and needs legal guidance, then we would be glad to assist you.