“When will the community association pools open?” No question has been on the forefront of community association board members and frazzled parents more. On March 12, 2020, Governor Northam issued an executive order, declaring a state of emergency due to the coronavirus. Five days later, the Governor limited capacity to fitness facilities, and on March 23, completely closed all recreational and entertainment businesses, which included public pools. Then, on June 30, Governor Northam issued his executive order regarding Phase 3 of reopening Virginia, which included the following provision:

Outdoor and indoor swimming pools may be open, provided occupancy is limited to no more than 75% of the lowest occupancy load on the certificate of occupancy and all swimmers maintain at least ten feet of physical distance from others who are not family members.

Community association residents rejoiced, but board members began handwringing at the prospect of potential liability. This article is intended to provide clarity to the issue and give community associations the knowledge and tools they need to decide if and how to open community pools safely.
Continue Reading Opening HOA Pools in the Pandemic: Community Association Considerations in Opening Pools in Virginia Amongst the COVID-19 Pandemic

The Virginia General Assembly passed hundreds of bills during the 2020 legislative session. For those who lead, live in, or associate with community associations, many of these changes could impact the day to day operations of how individuals and these associations interact. Below is a summary of some of the General Assembly’s more significant recent bills that effect community associations.

House Bill 176 – Contract Disclosure Statement with regards to the Property Owners’ Association Act and Virginia Condominium Act

With House Bill 176, the Virginia General Assembly updated Virginia Code Section 55.1-1808. Section 55.1-1808 is a provision that requires the seller of a lot to disclose that the lot is located within a development that is subject to the Property Owners’ Association Act and provide to the purchaser of the lot an association disclosure packet. Under certain terms, the purchaser has the right to cancel the contract to purchase the lot upon receipt of this disclosure packet. The new law updates the language of the statute to include the term “ratified real estate contract.” Generally, the purchaser previously had the right to cancel the contract within three days of receiving the association disclosure packet. Now, the purchaser also has the right to cancel the contract of purchase for a period of up to seven days if specified in a ratified real estate contract.
Continue Reading Summary of New Virginia Legislation Impacting Community Associations in 2020

Given the worldwide coronavirus pandemic, many states have issued stay-at-home orders, and taken action to limit public gatherings. Given this sudden and extraordinary legal change, many community associations are facing difficulty in scheduling their meetings (annual and special meetings of members). Specifically, many community associations are facing the logistical challenge of conducting these meetings, via remote or electronic means, to accomplish community association business, minimize legal and health risks, and comply with the various stay-at-home orders.

2018 Legislative Changes to Remote Meeting Requirements

Before transitioning all meetings to remote or electronic means, community associations need to be careful and discuss the issue with their counsel to develop a workable plan. Back in 2018, we previously posted about a recent legislative amendment enacted by Virginia’s General Assembly permitting remote meetings under certain circumstances. The law has been codified as Virginia Code Section 13.1-844.2.

Under that statute law, nonstock corporations (which many community associations are) may conduct annual and special meetings of members via electronic means, provided that the governing documents (articles of incorporation and bylaws) do not require the meetings to take place at a particular location.
Continue Reading COVID-19 and Remote Community Association Meetings: A Closer Look at the Legal Requirements, and an Update on Virginia General Assembly’s Emergency Action

Most people are generally familiar with the concept that hotels, restaurants, and other places of public accommodation are subject to the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”). However, as we have mentioned before on this blog, community associations can fall under the scope of the ADA as well.

The ADA is a sweeping set of federal statutes that applies to places of public accommodation, amongst other entities. The ADA framework seeks to prohibit discrimination against disabled persons. As a general matter, a community association may be a place of public accommodation for purposes of the ADA if it is open to the general public, if its common areas are available for rent by members of the public, or if there are portions of the common area open to the public, such as restaurants or a golf course. The legal inquiry as to whether an association is a “covered entity” is rather fact intensive. Ultimately, the analysis turns on how open the Association is to members of the general public, not just its own owners. The more a community association is open to the public, the higher the chance that the community association will fall under the scope of the ADA.
Continue Reading ADA and Community Associations: Best Practices in Handling Requests

Even the most careful community association is bound to have the occasional dispute with an owner, a municipality, or vendor. Typically, documents are created, records are made, and emails and letters are exchanged. What records, if any, should a community association retain?

In some circumstances, parties are under a legal obligation to preserve relevant documents and evidence for purposes of potential litigation. Importantly, this duty can apply regardless of whether a lawsuit has been filed. The failure to comply with that duty is known as “spoliation”.

When dealing with spoliation, courts are empowered to impose a variety of punitive sanctions. These sanctions are varied and may range from an award of attorney’s fees to an adverse inference instruction, which is an instruction to the jury that they must infer that the litigant’s failure to preserve the evidence means that the evidence was unfavorable to the litigant. Needless to say, such an instruction to a jury could lead to a substantially increased damages award.
Continue Reading Spoliation and Records Retention Best Practices: When Parties Have A Legal Duty to Preserve Relevant Documents/Evidence

The internet has undoubtedly changed the way people work, shop, travel, and consume.  The internet, specifically Airbnb, is also changing how people view and arrange for housing.  According to AirBnb’s website, over two million people book on AirBnB each and every night.  AirBnB has listings in over 81,000 cities in over 191 countries. Short-term rentals of houses, apartments, and condominium units are becoming ubiquitous and a profitable way to use one’s real estate.

For community associations, short-term rentals are a hot topic in today’s legal and association governance landscape.  Courts and localities are attempting to deal with the unique challenges presented by short-term rentals.  Some jurisdictions are seeking to limit or otherwise tax short-term rentals.  Community associations are also faced with regulating short-term rentals, responding to potential objections by certain owners, as well as planning to minimize the potential risks posed by short-term rentals.
Continue Reading Tort Liability and Short-Term Rentals: What Owners and Community Associations Should Know

In a previous post, we discussed Dexter the (almost) flying emotional support peacock.  In this post, we turn our attention to Maybelline the emotional support pig in the great state of Florida.  Maybelline is at the center of a dispute between her owner and her owner’s HOA.  The owner claims that she suffers from certain conditions with which Maybelline helps, as an emotional support animal.  The HOA has notified the owner that Maybelline is “livestock,” the presence of which the HOA’s governing documents prohibit.

So who is right?  Under certain circumstances, Maybelline may be allowed to stay.  This post will focus on the legal background surrounding community associations and emotional support animals.
Continue Reading Emotional Support Animals and the FHA: What Community Associations Should Know

Many may recall the recent story about the airline traveler seeking to bring an emotional support peacock (Dexter) on board an airplane.  While the story received much national publicity, the reality appears to be that assistance animals and emotional support animals are becoming more commonplace in everyday life.  Stories such as Dexter’s present some interesting legal questions for non-profits, governments, and businesses alike.

Assistance animals and emotional support animals are sometimes (incorrectly) used interchangeably.  They involve different sources of law and require different analyses.  This next series of posts will seek to provide some clarity on the legal issues relating to both categories.  In part one of this series, we will focus on the legal issues surrounding the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”) and assistance animals for purposes of community associations.  Our next post will address emotional support animals and the federal and state fair housing acts.
Continue Reading Assistance Animals and the ADA: What Community Associations Ought to Know

LeClairRyan attorney Will Sleeth recently spoke at the James City County Neighborhood Leaders Forum on community association law issues. Will was invited to speak on a panel, along with several other attorneys (including the Virginia Common Interest Community Ombudsman, Heather Gillespie, and Deputy James City County Attorney Adam Kinsman), to discuss an array

How should a homeowners association or a condominium association deal with an owner who fails to pay his dues or assessments? There are three main remedies that associations have under Virginia law: (1) file a lawsuit against the owner, (2) file a memorandum of lien against the owner’s lot or unit, and (3) suspend an owner’s privilege to use certain portions of the common area or common element (we’ll address this third remedy in a future post).

Filing a Lawsuit

Associations have a right to file a lawsuit against delinquent owners, seeking a judgment for the delinquent amount. Many associations’ governing documents will also provide that the association is entitled to recover its court costs and attorneys’ fees too. In practice, some courts are occasionally reluctant to award associations the full amount of attorneys’ fees incurred in attempting to collect delinquent assessments, so the association may only be able to recover a certain dollar figure, or a certain percentage of the delinquent amount. While each court (and judge within that court) is different, it’s been our experience that in most situations, associations are usually able to recover most of the attorneys fees incurred in attempting to collect delinquent assessments.


Continue Reading Collections Options Regarding Owners Who Fail To Pay Their Assessments