Winzenburg, Leff, Purvis and Payne, LLP is pleased to announce our Warehouse Lecture Series for the 2017/2018 year. The Series is comprised of quarterly, half-day sessions providing Community Association Manager Continuing Education credits approved by DORA.

The first session, titled “Meetings,” will take place Friday, October 27, 2017, from 8:30 am to 12:30 pm. Session topics include the following:

  • Everything You Need to Know about Membership Meetings
  • Board of Directors Meetings
  • Action Plan for Meetings*
  • Mock Board Meeting.

Please e-mail Allison Grout at agrout@wlpplaw.com for information about pricing and how to register for all or some of the class sessions. Price increases apply for registrations received after October 23, 2017.

*Submitted for Continuing Education approval.

All the media and legislative talk of construction defect litigation and its impact on condominium construction in Colorado may seem like discussion that does not impact existing communities. But the changes to state and local laws concerning construction defect litigation do affect existing communities by creating owner notice and vote requirements that, in some cases, apply to construction undertaken by associations long after initial development of their communities. The impact of these requirements on communities will likely play out over time as defects occur and associations seek remedies.

While associations cannot unilaterally change the controlling laws, associations can take proactive steps when contracting for new projects. In particular, associations need to know how the potential for construction defects may affect insurance coverage on projects that associations contract to complete on their own. Did you know that many contractors’ insurance policies exclude multi-family housing projects from coverage?

Continue Reading Construction Defects and Insurance: Proactive Steps To Protect Your Community

HOA transfer fees are getting some attention in the news again this week. In particular, news coverage has focused on demands that HOA property management companies provide invoices for the transfer fees charged to buyers or sellers of properties within HOAs. There is good news for buyers and sellers in HOAs: access to transfer fee information is already available.

What exactly are transfer fees? Colorado statutes address transfer fees in the three following ways that are relevant to HOAs and their members:

  1. The Colorado Revised Nonprofit Corporation Act expressly authorizes nonprofit corporations to impose transfer fees upon their members unless the articles of incorporation provide otherwise. Most HOAs are formed as nonprofit corporations and have this right to impose transfer fees.
  2. The real property statutes prohibit certain transfer fee covenants, such as those intended to benefit a person or entity who does not hold an interest in the property burdened by the covenant. But transfer fee covenants for fees payable to homeowner associations are not prohibited and are recognized by statute as valid fees.
  3. Community association management companies typically contract with the HOAs they manage to charge transfer fees to the buyers or sellers of properties within those communities. The community association manager statutes and licensing rules impose explicit requirements on managers concerning these transfer fees. Those statutes and rules are the good news for buyers and sellers, and all owners, who want to know what transfer fees apply in their HOAs.

So what rights do owners, buyers, and sellers have to access transfer fee information?

Continue Reading HOA Transfer Fees: Access to Information Available Now

You’ve probably heard the news by now–an HOA refused to allow Make-A-Wish to grant a young cancer patient’s wish by constructing a playhouse in the girl’s back yard. The reason? Outbuildings are against the covenants. Of course, the HOA ends up taking the heat with press coverage and outspoken support for the sympathetic young girl.

The story has quickly blown up, with multiple sources reporting the details. One source reports that the HOA board member names and telephone numbers have been removed from the association’s website. Other stories give updates on the HOA’s reconsideration of the matter and willingness to compromise after talking with Make-A-Wish and the construction contractor.

For now, it sounds like one young girl will get her wish. It remains to be seen whether other kids in the neighbor will be permitted to have their own playhouses constructed or what kind of pressure the volunteer board members will face from neighbors who do not appreciate the compromise in this case. Unfortunately, boards can come under fire even when following the rules and fairness to others guide their decision-making.

We’ve previously written about what to do if your HOA ends up in the news (because we all know that making the headlines is rarely, if ever, a good thing). But, on this Friday afternoon, I’m curious about how you and your association may have handled the playhouse wish differently to avoid the headlines from the start. Ideas?

Winter in Colorado is sure to bring cold weather, snow, and urgent phone calls about broken water lines and slip-and-fall accidents on common areas. The problems usually start when the temperature begins to warm up after a cold spell or heavy snowfall. Water suddenly streams out of broken pipes, or snow melts and then freezes when the temperature drops at night. Whatever the circumstances, managers and board members can attest to the amount of work involved responding to owners, sorting through damages and injuries, dealing with insurance, and trying to understand legal obligations for water and slip-and-fall incidents. Most of us would love to find a magic wand that we could wave to make these problems disappear. Unfortunately, magic is not a reliable solution.

Associations can best position themselves for dealing with slip-and-fall situations by planning ahead and communicating with owners along the way. If your association is not sure what responsibility it has to remove snow and ice hazards from common areas, here are some risk management steps to help.

Review the association’s governing documents to determine responsibilities for snow removal. Different communities have different responsibilities, and your documents give direction. A condominium community may have the general obligation to remove snow from the common elements, while townhome documents may only require the association to take care of parking lots. A failure to comply with the covenants could result in claims of breach by the association, so confirming responsibilities up-front is crucial.

Continue Reading Frozen? Snow and Ice – Don’t Let It Go

We’ve all received the party invitation with a note letting us know that gifts are not requested–Your presence is present enough. Some of us take the cue, while others go above and beyond and bring a gift despite the note. I like to think that association board members, through their election or appointment to their boards, receive an invitation to the big party of the boardroom. And I’d like to encourage you to thank your association’s board members for their presence on the board this holiday season. I realize you’re busy attending parties at work, gathering with family and friends, going to your places of worship, and finding time to relax amidst the bustle of the season. Whew–this is a busy time of year! But this one quick and easy task can be accomplished by email, in passing at the mailbox, or through a handwritten note or card. I sincerely encourage you to reach out and say "thank you."

This is my "thank you" note to board members:

Continue Reading Your Board’s Presence Is Present Enough: Don’t forget to say “Thank you” this holiday season

I’m the granddaughter of Midwestern dairy farmers who grew up during the Great Depression, and my parents own a small town HVAC/plumbing business. As a child, I often heard some version of the following: “I can make that.” “We don’t need to hire someone. I can fix it.” “Why would we pay someone for that work? I can do it myself.” With this do-it-yourself attitude ingrained in my psyche, I can’t help but feel guilty when I need to call a plumber to unclog a drain or when I hire someone to clean my house. The frugality—and wherewithal—that my parents and grandparents modeled for me certainly left an impression. Yet I’ve also come to realize that my life sometimes requires different choices.

Yes, I can play plumber and unclog a sink drain. I’ve done it: I’ve gathered the equipment, removed U-traps, brushed pipes clean, disposed of clogged pipe nastiness, and put everything back together. Sometimes I’ve succeeded. But on other occasions I’ve removed the drain stopper and struggled to get it reconnected, or, as one of my college roommates will recount, my work has resulted in leaks where I could not get the old mismatched pipes to fit securely. Yes, I’ve played plumber and channeled my inner DIY-er, but I’m not a plumber. I would not offer to fix someone else’s drain, and I most definitely would not venture into my HOA’s clubhouse armed with a plunger and pipe putty.

Continue Reading This Lawyer is Not a Plumber: Are you hiring the right professionals to serve your association?

As a community association attorney, I attend a lot of homeowner meetings to discuss legal issues and provide education to boards and owners. I enjoy the opportunity to meet the people who live in my client’s communities. It’s always great to put faces to names and get a feel for the relationship dynamics that make themselves apparent in the meeting space. Often, I stand out as the only person in the room wearing a suit, and I quickly get introduced as the association’s attorney or “the board’s attorney” or simply “our attorney.” This introduction provides a chance for me to answer a question that many owners in the room have: Who do you represent, Suzanne? In fact, I try to answer the following questions, quickly and concisely, with any group of owners that I am meeting for the first time:

Who does the association attorney represent? My firm represents the community association entity, not its board of directors, any of the individual directors, the manager or management company, or the members of the association.

Continue Reading If You’re My HOA’s Attorney, You Represent Me, Right? (No, Not Quite.)

Community associations often deal with situations that they must disclose to buyers or lenders as part of the documentation provided in a real estate transaction. Typical disclosures that associations must give include (1) whether the association is involved in litigation and (2) whether a special assessment has been levied. Litigation and special assessments seem easy enough to disclose. But the obligation to disclose, or the liability for not disclosing, is less clear with respect to threatened litigation or a special assessment under consideration but not yet approved. Associations should consult with legal counsel when a situation does not fall squarely within the mandatory disclosure categories. Failure to disclose may result in liability for the association, but giving too much information can also cause problems for an association.

As examples, associations tread into murky disclosure areas with respect to the following areas:

Ongoing disputes between the association and a particular owner or group of owners that does not involve litigation. In general, associations should neither hide nor embellish the facts regarding an unhappy owner’s impact on the community. A protracted dispute, much like a potential lawsuit or special assessment, is not a mandatory disclosure for associations or sellers.

Continue Reading Full Disclosure: How much is too much?

After extensive testimony in the House Business, Labor, Economic, and Workforce Development Committee this afternoon, the HOA transfer fee bill (HB14-1254) passed out of committee, with no amendments, for consideration by the House of Representatives. The HOA transfer feel bill is sponsored by Rep. Labuda (D-Denver) and Senator Balmer (R-Centennial) and received bipartisan support by a unanimous vote of the committee.

The HOA transfer fee bill requires management companies to affirmatively disclose their fees to the associations they manage, including those fees charged when a unit transfers ownership. The bill also requires management companies to disclose remuneration they receive from third parties as a result of their relationships with the associations they manage.

Several Community Associations Institute (CAI) members attended today’s committee hearing to testify in favor of the transfer fee disclosure bill. Those CAI members primarily represented management companies and offered legislators a full picture of the services that management companies provide in exchange for the transfer fees they charge.