Are You Ready for Cold Weather?

Fall is the time to prepare for winter—cold and wet conditions not only make you miserable, but they can damage your home. Now is the time to start if you haven't already. Better late than never. Some winterizing can wait, some can’t. Make a list of what needs to be done, and tackle the time-sensitive tasks first. Here’s a few tips to help you get a jump on winter and stay cozy when the temperatures drop. Winter Home Preparation Tips


What Our Clients Say About Us

Last week Community Association Law Group sent an online survey to its clients. Here are some of the things our clients had to say about why they hired us, working with us, and why they stay with us.

  • Kevin is very accessible, knowledgeable and works very hard for those he represents!

  • [The] flat fee pricing got our attention and opened the door, but it was Kevin's personal style, keen knowledge of HOA law and experience with numerous HOAs that sealed the deal

  • The main reason was Kevin's accessibility

  • Flat-Fee pricing, approachability

  • Love the newsletters and being able to search on a topic at the website

  • Great information to send out to our Board members on specific topics as well as keep in a "topics" file in our office.

  • Thought provoking articles

  • Everything went smoothly and all documents were received timely.

  • I am a former board member and currently do the newsletter for our association. I often cite you as a source of information and sometimes use parts of articles or ideas from your newsletter to inform residents on how associations work and what laws/rules regulate us. The articles are useful for educating residents who frequently don't understand how a large association works.

  • I found great information on issues that I hadn't thought about; i.e. how new laws might impact communities

  • You have an epic logo!

  • We were attracted to the Community Association Law Group through the governing document review special offered in Nov, Dec, 2015. 

Legalese in Governing Documents

Consider the following disclaimer on a law firm’s website:

Material contained herein is not offered as legal or any other advice on any particular matter. Material included here is for informational purposes only and is not necessarily an indication of future results. Transmission of this information is not intended to create, and receipt does not constitute, an attorney-client relationship between a lawyer and the user or browser. No client or other reader should act, or refrain from acting, on the basis of any matter contain in the Law Firm Home Page without seeking the appropriate legal or other professional advice on the particular facts at circumstances at issue.

Huh? It’s difficult to read and understand.  The following disclaimer, in plain English, accomplishes the same result:

Our website is for information only. We can’t give you legal advice through our website, and we can’t guarantee you a certain result. So don’t rely on anything on this website as legal advice.

Visiting our website does not make you our client. If you have a legal problem, see a lawyer and get legal advice for your specific problem.

Lawyers are known for being verbose, using legalese, and not explaining legal concepts in a way that most clients can understand.  There are many reasons for this. One reason is tradition.  Lawyers read legalese throughout law school and believe they are obligated to follow the same style. Another reason is that some lawyers believe that if they use lots of complicated words, they will sound smart. But at the end of the day, using complicated jargon doesn’t help the reader.

Governing documents in community associations are laced with legalese. Many resolutions start with “Whereas”. What does “Whereas” mean? How does it help? And why is it necessary?  The short answer is that “Whereas” is an archaic term that many drafters believe gives a sense of authority.  It doesn’t. The use of that term is unnecessary and mucks up the document.

Here’s a paragraph taken from a community association’s enforcement resolution:

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, if proof of insurance is not provided within thirty (30) days as required above, the Association shall notify the Unit Owners they are in violation of this Resolution and, after a, hearing and an opportunity to be heard, will be subject to a fine in the amount of Fifty Dollars ($50.00) per month which will increase to $75.00 for sixty (60) days and $100.00 for ninety (90) days and continuing to increase an additional $25.00 thereafter for each additional thirty (30) days proof of insurance has not been provided to the Association pursuant to Article 8(f) of the Code of Regulations and Section 3302(a)(l 1) of the Act[.]

There are several problems with this section.  First, why is “BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED” necessary?  It’s not.  Second, how many times do you have to read the language relating to fines to actually understand the amount of the fines? Lastly, the authority cited in the final portion of the paragraph is cited twice in the resolution prior to this paragraph.  Is it necessary to cite the association’s authority to do something three separate times?

Here’s the same paragraph re-written in plain English:

1. Owners must provide proof of insurance within 30 days.  After notice of the violation and an opportunity for a hearing, the Association may fine Owners who do not provide proof of insurance. The initial fine is $50. After every 30 day period the fine will increase by $25 until proof of insurance is provided.

Much easier to read, isn’t it?

Granted, there are some legal concepts or words that have no plain English equivalent.  However, when drafting rules, regulations, and policies, consider the reader’s ability to easily comprehend and understand what you are attempting to convey.  And as always, have a qualified attorney review any governing documents prior to adoption.

Ventana Partners, LLC v. Lanoue Dev., LLC (Or. App., 2014)

For some interesting reading on a planned community association's authority or ability to convey common property, take a look at Ventana Partners, LLC v. Lanoue Dev., LLC (Or. App., 2014). Especially interesting is the section of the case which reads:

"Common property" includes property "designated in the declaration for transfer to the association." ORS 94.550(7) (2005). Accordingly, ORS 94.665(1) allowed the MOA to transfer common property, even if it had not yet been transferred from the declarant to the association.

Finally, plaintiffs contend that the amendment to the declaration was ineffective to convey title to Lot 1 to LaNoue because "the recorded [amendment to the declaration] was not fully executed" because the signature line for the City of Portland was not filled in. However, a signature from the city is not required on an instrument conveying title to common property under ORS 94.665(1). See ORS 94.665(6) (formal requirements for an instrument conveying common property do not include signature from the city). And, as noted above, the city gave the approval required by the declaration.

Thus, the trial court correctly construed ORS 94.665(1) in accordance with the plain meaning of its text. That provision allowed the MOA to convey the townhouse owners' interests in the common areas in Lot 1 to LaNoue after receiving consent from 80 percent of the townhouse owners.

Click here to read the full case: Ventana Partners, LLC v. Lanoue

Community Association Websites

Many condominium and homeowners associations use websites to distribute governing documents, announce meetings, and allow owners to interact with each other. Ideally, the association’s website should have a password-protected area for owners to access financial data or other information that you may not want available to the general public. Never post sensitive data such as the names of delinquent owners or correspondence from your attorney which contains attorney-client privilege information. Here are a few options to consider:

1. GoGladly

GoGladly provides well-designed, easy to navigate websites for community associations. A basic website is free. You can add components to the website, like bulletin boards ($5/month), surveys (10 cents per door/per month), calendars and document management.

2. Weebly

With a drag-and-drop website builder, Weebly makes it easy to have an association website up and running in minutes. A basic website is free. For $8/month, you can create a “members only” section to post content or documents accessible only to owners.

3. Association Voice

Association Voice is tailored specifically for condominium and homeowners associations. There are association management tools and you can integrate the site with accounting software. Packages range from $20/month up at to $300/month.

4. Mosaik Web

For a truly custom website, local web design firm Mosaik Web builds beautiful and easy to navigate websites. Contact Mosaik for individual price quotes.