Little can be more frustrating to an association than when a non-compliant homeowner files for bankruptcy. The bankruptcy laws are complex, and navigating them can be a challenge even for the most sophisticated managers. One of the broadest protections for homeowners that file bankruptcy is the “automatic stay.” This provision of the bankruptcy code immediately
Many people are generally familiar with the concept that housing providers, real estate agents, and property management companies are subject to state and federal fair housing laws. However, it is important to know that community associations are also subject to those laws. State fair housing laws vary from state to state. These laws typically set forth a statutory procedure for the resolution of complaints of violations of those laws.
This post will focus mainly on the Virginia Fair Housing Law (“VFHL”) (Virginia Code Section 36-96.1, et seq.) and the Virginia process for complaint resolution.
What VFHL Covers
Virginia has a stated policy to provide fair housing throughout the Commonwealth. Va. Code § 36-96.1. The VFHL prohibits covered persons or entities from engaging in unlawful discriminatory housing practices. Va. Code § 36-96.3.
Continue Reading Virginia Fair Housing Law and Community Associations: Procedural Background and Best Practices in Handling Complaints
In the world of enforcing covenants, deeds, and restrictions, injunctions are one of the most powerful tools association managers have in their arsenal. An injunction is an order from a Court either requiring a homeowner to comply with particular rules or restrictions or ordering the homeowner to cease violating the restrictions. Associations can request injunctive relief whether or not the association wishes to seek monetary damages against the homeowner.
Courts are often willing to award injunctions for several reasons. First, in most cases where injunctions are appropriate, the association has taken many steps prior to filing suit to enforce the covenants, including communications with the homeowner, calling the owner to a due process hearing of the board, assessing non-compliance charges, and oftentimes demands for compliance from the association’s attorney. The association can then plead with the Court, arguing that there is little else the association can do to enforce the restrictions. Judges are frequently sympathetic to these arguments, especially considering the fact that the restrictions are legally deemed to be a contract with the homeowner, and if the homeowner refuses to abide by the contract, then the only avenue for redress is with the Courts. Additionally, most violations affect the neighboring properties and often decrease home values and/or make it difficult for neighbors to sell their property.
Continue Reading The Almighty Injunction
For those who live in a community with a homeowners association (also referred to in Virginia as a “property owners’ association” or a condominium association) (an “Association”), you are no doubt familiar with assessments that go toward landscaping, parks, and pools, and declarations and bylaws that govern architectural changes to the exterior of the homes. How strictly these are enforced may go to the nature of the people serving on the board of the Association, or it may be due to the rights included in a development’s founding documents: Declaration, Articles of Incorporation, and Bylaws. What can be enforced by law and in what manner starts with an examination of these documents.
Continue Reading Collections Overview: A Summary of Collecting Delinquent Community Association Assessments
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
In a previous post, we discussed the advantages and disadvantages of a memorandum of lien foreclosure.
In this post, we will focus on the process of enforcing an Association’s judgment lien.
When an Association sues a delinquent owner, the Association seeks a monetary damages award (plus attorney’s fees and costs usually) from a court. If the Association wins, the court awards the Association a monetary judgment.
What’s a Judgment?
A judgment is merely a piece of paper that states that the delinquent owner owes the Association the delinquent amounts. A judgment is not a court order to pay. With the exception of child support or tax debts, delinquent debtors are generally not court-ordered to pay debts.
Continue Reading Stepping Up The Pressure: Using a Judgment Creditor’s Suit to Enforce an Association’s Lien