I love the fresh start of a new year. Like many people, I use the last few days of the year to reflect on accomplishments, identify areas for improvement and growth, and set goals for the next twelve months. The last week of the year often slows down enough for reflection and planning, and I can chart my course for things like client relations activities, changes to internal business practices, and training for that three-day bike ride I want to complete in July.

How does your community association plan for the year ahead? If you’re a new board member, perhaps you’re eager to begin addressing concerns that led you to volunteer in the first place. If you’re a seasoned director, you may have a project underway that you intend to see to completion. But what are your goals as a board? Is your board approaching the New Year with a unified vision and voice?

Continue Reading Better Communication in 2013

As we head into the Thanksgiving holiday weekend, all of us here at Winzenburg, Leff, Purvis & Payne want to express our THANKS TO:

  • our CLIENTS for allowing us to assist with legal matters and help strengthen their communities through good governance practices, sound decision-making, and recuperation of delinquent assessments
  • the COMMUNITY MANAGERS who lend

With the passage of HB 12-1237 during the final hours of the 2012 legislative session last week, associations moved one step closer to new requirements concerning the official records that they must make available to owners upon request. We fully expect this bill to clear the final hurdle on its way to becoming law. Once HB 12-1237 is signed into law by Governor Hickenlooper, associations will have until January 1, 2013, to implement new records policies and practices.

It’s not too early for associations to start reviewing their mandatory inspection and copying of records policies and making necessary updates before the effective date of HB 12-1237. All associations should have clear policies that do the following:  

  1. Ensure availability of all documentation expressly declared a "record" by statute plus any additional records defined in an association’s governing documents
  2. Exclude specific documents from owner review

The biggest change most associations will make to their policies involves the removal of any requirement that owners state a "proper purpose" before getting access to records. Under HB 12-1237, associations must maintain certain records, and owners are entitled to access that information. Associations can help minimize the impact of owner requests for records on other association business by adopting clear policies, keeping records up to date, and making documents easily accessible.

Continue Reading For the Record … Effective Records Policies Start Now

House Bill 12-1237 passed out of the House Local Government Committee on a 9-0 vote this afternoon. The Committee adopted an amendment to the original bill language that does the following:

  • Excludes architect plans from documents that an association must disclose
  • Changes the tax return retention period from 10 years to 7 years to conform

This at least should be a rule through the letter-writing world: that no angry letter be posted till four-and-twenty hours will have elapsed since it was written. ~ Anthony Trollope

In my life outside of community association law practice, I volunteer with Denver Public Schools (“DPS”). On more than one occasion, my work with DPS, and in other volunteer roles, has allowed me to better relate to the challenges that association board members experience in their roles as community leaders – whether it’s the time commitment, strong emotions, opposing views, an unclear governance model, or thousands of e-mails flooding my inbox, I’ve experienced it.

Most recently, I served as co-chair for a large community committee that participated in a year-long process of monthly, and sometimes weekly, meetings. At the committee’s inception, a member of the general public submitted a Colorado Open Records Act (“CORA”) request to DPS, asking for all documents related to the committee’s work. DPS administration informed me and the rest of the steering committee of this CORA request to make us aware that the contents of our e-mails would get released to the constituent.

Continue Reading Association Records: Navigating the Electronic “Paper” Trail

My son’s latest obsession is chess. He joined the chess club at school, got a new chessboard, downloaded chess apps to all the electronics he could get his hands on, and started reading strategy books. On a snow day like today, it’s no surprise that we’re spending part of the time playing chess. In the midst of our moves, I can’t help but think how the game of chess translates to the business of community associations. Whether in chess or association decision-making, the following tips come in handy:

Know the moves. Chess involves a finite number of pieces, and the basic moves are easy enough to learn. As a board member, the “pieces” and moves at your disposal are much more numerous and complex. You will need to understand the moves available to you under your association’s governing documents. You’ll also consider what the association’s budget can support, the politics and dynamics of the community, options presented by vendors, and advice from attorneys, engineers, accountants and management.

Continue Reading Does Your Association Board Operate Like a Chess Master?

A manager recently told me about an association that lost some money. Specifically, one of the association’s long-term Certificates of Deposit was turned over to the State of Colorado. In this situation, the bank had apparently sent correspondence to the association’s former management company and then turned over the account to the State when no response was received within 30 days. The property manager was totally baffled and not sure how to get the money.

The Great Colorado Payback website shows that the State is holding funds for this particular association, and the manager will need to go through a claims process to get the money. Unfortunately, the association won’t get interest that accrued during the time the State has held the funds. I don’t have all the details – and haven’t heard yet if there’s a “happy ending” – but other associations may benefit from knowing that their accounts can get transferred to the State.

Continue Reading Where, oh, where has my HOA’s CD gone?

Have you heard the story of the community association members who knew one of their board candidates was convicted of a felony related to fraud or embezzlement yet elected that person anyway? Did you hear the part about how that board member later ran off with a substantial amount of the association’s funds? Maybe it’s just an urban legend among community association professionals. Or maybe it’s true. Either way, how does your association help to ensure the election of board members who will represent the association’s best interests?

As community association lawyers, we often get questions about how to place limitations on who can serve on an association’s board of directors. Sometimes boards do not want to allow owners with delinquent accounts to serve on the board. Other times, board members know that a person with a criminal record intends to run for the board. In other situations, current board members want to prevent people with different viewpoints from getting elected to the board.

Continue Reading Don’t Elect the Convicted Felon

September is National Preparedness Month. For the past few years, we have  devoted a September post to reminders of preventative steps that can help keep your community safe and prepared for emergencies. By implementing preventative measures now, your association may reduce injury and liability later. The following focus areas may assist your association in identifying how prepared it is for the next emergency:

Review governing documents and insurance policies. Ensure that insurance coverage and reserve funds meet the association’s needs as well as the requirements set forth in the declaration and state statutes. An insurance and maintenance chart and insurance guidelines prepared by the association’s attorney, in consultation with the insurance agent, can serve as one way of notifying owners of their responsibilities. We also recommend that associations check their fidelity coverage and purchase crime coverage to protect against fraud and embezzlement.

Continue Reading Prevention and Preparedness: How does your community deal with emergencies?