Month: March 2014
By Carolyn Zezima, Esq.
The popularity of community gardens has exploded in recent years to over 5,000 community gardens nationwide. Many associations see the benefits of having gardening programs for members and have started gardens in their common areas.
When enforcing your community association's house rules, you've probably heard members claim they weren't aware that they were in violation because they never received a copy of the house rules in the first place. This could lead to a sticky situation if a member's violation has damaged common areas or other members' units, but the member claims that he's not liable because, without a copy of the house rules, he had no way of knowing that his behavior was prohibited.
If a hearing-impaired member in your community asks for a sign language interpreter to be present at a special meeting or at an annual meeting as a reasonable accommodation, be sure to provide one. Without a sign language interpreter, the disabled member may not be able to participate in any meaningful way at the meeting. As a result, your refusal to provide an interpreter could lead a hearing-impaired member to claim that you discriminated against him based on his disability.
Every community association relies on its members to make monthly payments so that it can pay for the services and amenities its members expect. So when a community member doesn’t make his monthly payment of assessments, he harms the entire community. What can you do to cut assessment delinquencies? One strategy is to set a late fee policy (see “Enforce Late Fee Policy Consistently to Avoid Fair Housing Claims,” in this issue).
Even in the age of Facebook and other social media, many communities still feature bulletin boards in their lobbies or common areas. Since not every member will be tech savvy or want to go online to check the association’s Web site, a bulletin board can be an effective way for an association to inform members about upcoming events and renovations, and other noteworthy information. A bulletin board can also be a good way for members to share information or ask for help. But letting members post on bulletin boards can cause problems.
Unfortunately, sometimes you have to charge your members late fees if they don’t pay their common expenses on time (unless you've established an acceleration policy, as discussed in "Cut Monthly Assessment Delinquencies with Tough Acceleration Policy"). You probably don’t want to charge late fees to members who occasionally pay late. But you might also feel that members who chronically pay late deserve the late charges.
Facts: Despite the fact that assessments were limited to the annual maintenance charges specified in the amended declaration of covenants and restrictions, an association charged lot owners additional assessments over the course of several years. The association based its authority to do so on its bylaws. These charges were used for the planned community’s common expenses.
Facts: A member purchased a condo unit in a building. After he moved in, he noticed that the floor produced unusually loud noises and flexed abnormally when he walked on it. It was determined that structural problems with the second story unit’s subfloor were causing the problems.
A couple of homeowners in a Phoenix planned community feel they’ve been painted into a corner by their homeowner’s association. The couple was informed after repainting their home the same color it had been for 10 years, that painting—even if it’s not a new color scheme—requires a special application to the association to be made two weeks before the project.