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
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
Amazon.com’s recent announcement – that in the future it may utilize unmanned drones to deliver packages to individual residences – has created a host of novel legal issues that all homeowners associations should consider and plan for. Although commentators believe that the commercial use of delivery drones may be a few years off, associations should begin planning now for whether they should regulate the use of drones within the association; how they should regulate the use of drones; and how they can minimize potential liability arising from the use of drones.
While the public has so far only been provided with bits and pieces of information about the make-up and capabilities of unmanned delivery drones, some general information is available: a drone will carry a package and will fly from a warehouse to an owner’s house, with the goal of attempting to deliver the package in a very short amount of time right after it has been ordered. The drone is designed to land, helicopter style, on an owner’s lawn and drop off the package. The drone will then use its helicopter-style propellers to vertically ascend from the owner’s lawn and return to the warehouse.Continue Reading Drones and HOAs: How Homeowners Associations and Condominium Associations Can Be Prepared to Deal with the New Technology
You serve on your condominium or property owners’ association’s board of directors and have been receiving complaints about unauthorized cars and space shortages in the community’s parking lot. The Board would like to designate specific parking spaces for use by designated units so that each unit has a certain number of parking spaces available to it at all times. May it do so? The answer depends on (a) how parking spaces are classified in your declaration of covenants, conditions, and restrictions, and (b) the association’s authority to control common area / common element pursuant to the Virginia Condominium Act or Property Owners’ Association Act and the specific terms of the association’s governing documents.Continue Reading Parking Rights and Common Area / Common Element: Can the Association (or Declarant) Do That?!
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.
Bills recently passed in the Virginia General Assembly extend the list of items for inclusion in property owners’ association disclosure packets and condominium association resale certificates, and also broaden non-association disclosure requirements. Effective July 1, 2013, disclosure packets may or must (depending on the item) include the following new items:
Restrictions on Solar Panels (HB 2305): Disclosure statements for lots within property owners’ associations and resale certificates for condominiums must include a statement setting forth any restriction, limitation, or prohibition on the right of a unit owner or lot owner to install or use solar energy collection devices on the owner’s property or unit. Va. Code §§ 55-79.97(C)(17), 55-509.5(A)(12).
Further, Va. Code § 55-519(B)(9) provides that the disclosure form required under the Virginia Residential Property Disclosure Act (a Virginia law that spells out, among other things, certain disclosures that most sellers of property must provide, regardless of whether the property is within a community association) must include language to notify purchasers that by delivering the residential property disclosure statement, the owner makes no representations with respect to any right to install or use solar energy collection devices on the property.
Of course, it is always incumbent on the purchaser to read the declaration, bylaws, and rules and regulations for a community association to determine whether the association has established any restrictions concerning the size, place, and manner of placement of solar energy collection devices; or, for an association with a restrictive covenant adopted prior to July 1, 2008, any restriction or prohibition on the installation or use of a solar collection device. Continue Reading Disclosure Packets and Resale Certificates Revisited: Recent Statutory Amendments