July 31, 2020

COVID-19 Proclamation Governing WA Community Associations Is Amended

Governor Inslee amended a COVID-19 emergency proclamation pertaining to Washington community associations today. This proclamation restores associations' power to levy fines against owners who violate the association's governing documents. This power to fine was suspended by a previous proclamation. Owners must be given notice and an opportunity to be heard before fines are levied.   

The Governor's proclamation amendment extends a previous proclamation permitting owners and directors to vote on association matters by mail, electronic mail, and proxy and to attend association meetings by conference telephone and similar electronic services until 11:59 p.m. on October 1.  It also extends a prohibition on community associations charging late fees for delinquent assessments until that date.

July 21, 2020

Washington Court of Appeals Affirms Dismissal of Defamation Claims

A small group of homeowners expressed very negative views about another homeowner in their neighborhood on social media.  For example, they asserted that she was a "problem board member," "insane," and "a plague." She sued them for defamation.  The Washington Court of Appeals recently affirmed the summary dismissal of her lawsuit.

The Court initially noted that the plaintiff was required to show that the defendants' statements were "provably false" in order to prevail.  It next observed that the medium and context in which the statements were published and the audience to whom they were published must be taken into account.  The Court went on to rule that the defendant's statements were "opinions, substantially true, or not shown to be provably false" and that a social media audience "expects the speaker to use exaggeration, rhetoric, or hyperbole" and is "likely to view such representations with an awareness of the subjective biases of the speaker."

Later in its opinion, the Court concluded that the association's board of directors had the authority to adopt a fine and fee schedule pursuant to state law even though the applicable covenants did not explicitly grant the board that power and only described enforcement as being "by proceedings at law or in equity."  The Court interpreted those covenants in that manner in order to "protect the homeowners' collective interest in having covenants enforced."