On Wednesday, the New York Times reported that the owners of units in the building formerly known as Trump Place had voted to remove the name from the building. The building will now be known by its address, 200 Riverside Boulevard.

A 2000 licensing agreement with the Trump Organization allowed the use of President Trump’s name on the building. As political sentiments changed, community members wanted to remove the name. One resident stated she would not remain in the building with the Trump branding. While community members wanted to remove the name, the Trump Organization claimed the 2000 agreement prevented this removal. In response, the community sought a declaratory judgment. The court determined that the 2000 agreement required superluxury maintenance, but did not require use of the Trump name. With a substantial number of owners voting to remove the name, and no appeal of the court’s decision, the letters came off the building this month.

The use of declaratory relief in this case allowed the community to determine whether it had the right to remove the name without forcing the Trump Organization to file a lawsuit to stop the removal from happening. This offensive use of declaratory relief likely saved the homeowners substantial legal fees, and is a viable means of determining the rights and obligations between parties to a contract without first forcing a breach of that contract.

Colorado gives courts the power to declare the rights, status, and other legal relations between parties to a written instrument, which could include a contract with the declarant, the Declaration itself, or even a provision of CCIOA. Be careful, however, as all homeowners may have to be joined in as parties to a declaratory judgment action for the judgment to apply to everyone. These actions are not to be taken lightly, and you should consult carefully with legal counsel before asking a court for this extraordinary relief.

 In a recent decision [Houston v. Wilson Mesa Ranch Homeowners Association, Inc., 2015 WL 4760331 (D. Colo. August 13, 2015], the Colorado Court of Appeals held that an association’s covenants stating that homes could not be occupied or used for any commercial or business purpose did not prohibit a homeowner from renting out his property for short-term vacation rentals.

A homeowner in the community advertised and rented his home for rent through the VRBO website. In response to the homeowner’s actions, the association passed an amendment to its ‘administrative procedures’ prohibiting its members from renting out their properties for a period of less than thirty days without prior board approval and establishing a $500 fine for violations. 

Continue Reading Short Terms Rentals may not be Commercial Use of Property

Today, the Colorado Court of Appeals issued an opinion addressing the statutory declaration amendment process set forth in C.R.S. 38-33.3-217(7).  This process allows community associations that have sought to amend their declaration, and received fewer approvals than required to amend the declaration outright, to obtain a court order that approves the amendment notwithstanding the vote result. 

The statutory process is pretty black-and-white; if the Association complies with the statute’s requirements and fewer than 33% of those entitled to vote file written objections, the court "shall" approve the amendment.  "Shall" is mandatory, but some courts have declined to approve petitions notwithstanding this language.

In Centennial Ranch and Aspen Mountain Ranch Association v. Fuller et al., 14CA1326, the Court of Appeals held that when a court determines that a community association has met the requirements of Section 217(7), it errs if it denies the petition to amend.  The Court of Appeals further determined that another community association case analyzing the substantive impact of an amendment did not expand the statutory criteria for the court’s analysis of a petition to amend. 

We have always considered the process in Section 217(7) be fairly straightforward, and are pleased to have a Court of Appeals decision that supports our analysis.  It’s more important today than ever to make sure your amendment process complies with the Section 217(7) requirements, and to make sure that you comply before you end up with insufficient voter turnout. 

We’ve written many times before that community associations are bound by the provisions of the Fair Housing Act. There is a lot of information available about the Fair Housing Act, who it applies to, what it takes to comply, and what the consequences are for failure to comply. Notwithstanding all of the available information, some communities and managers (and apparently their legal counsel) still don’t "get it."

HUD recently announced a decision in connection with a complaint involving familial status. In the case, the association had rule in effect since 1998 known as the "children rule" which prohibited children from playing in the common areas. In July 2011, the association amended the rules to prohibit riding bicycles, tricycles, scooters, skateboards, skates and rollerblades; playing; picnicking; and sunbathing in the common areas.

Continue Reading Fair Housing News – Again

While community association managers in Colorado have been working through the state mandated licensure process, the ‘hot button’ topic of discussion in Florida has been the Florida Supreme Court’s May 14, 2015 Advisory Opinion regarding the unlicensed practice of law by non-lawyer community association managers. While the decision is not binding in Colorado, it is likely to spark debate and conversation among community association managers for years to come. Did the Florida Supreme Court go too far? Will a similar decision issue in Colorado in the future? 

Continue Reading Food for Thought: Unlicensed Practice of Law Opinion

Every so often we hear of something that makes us want to shake our heads and murmur to ourselves “WHAT WERE THEY THINKING?” (Okay – maybe more of a shout than a murmur, but we ask ourselves nevertheless). This happened to me recently when I read about a Texas Court of Appeals decision in which the homeowners association (Happy Hide-A –Way Civic Club) became upset with how some owners were (really, were not) maintaining their home. The association, relying on the language in its governing documents, decided that it was entitled to demolish the owners’ home, and proceeded to do just that.

Continue Reading Self-Help; Maybe Not the Best Remedy

You may have heard that there is a "cloud" on the title to your property.  Generally speaking, a "cloud" appears when a recorded document indicates that some other person may have an interest in the property.  Liens, court orders, easements, and random documents can be recorded to cloud a title.  Some clouds aren’t really cloudy at all.  For example, while a mechanic’s lien may appear on your record, they expire quickly and become unenforceable.

Usually, a document clouding your title is there for a good reason.  If you don’t pay your taxes or HOA assessments, the unpaid entities will record liens against your property.  Remove the liens by paying your bills.

Continue Reading There’s a cloud on my title? What’s that?

 We all know that the Colorado legislature last year revised the records definitions and disclosure requirements under the Colorado Common Interest Ownership Act ("CCIOA") (we do all know that, right?).

Well, here is an example of what could happen if your community doesn’t take seriously the responsibility to provide records to its members when they request them.

Continue Reading Withholding Records – We Can Do That, Right?

We are often asked to review rules and regulations for our clients during the cold winter months, before the community pool becomes the haven of unsupervised children running wild on summer break.  Our clients are shocked when we advise them that their rules could cause problems under the federal Fair Housing Act.

It seems reasonable to impose rules limiting access to attractive nuisances like swimming pools, but some courts have held that rules restricting or limiting access to pools, clubhouses, and park facilities on the basis of age violate the Fair Housing Act’s prohibition against discrimination on the basis of familial status.

Continue Reading Fair Housing – Take a Look at Your Rules!

The Tennessee Court of Appeals in the case of 4215 Harding Road Homeowners Association v. Harris, 2011 WL 145915 (Tenn.Ct.App.2011) recently ruled that a homeowners association had the right to permanently force a resident out of her condominium unit as a result of hoarding activity leading to unsanitary conditions within the unit and a resulting offensive odor in the common areas.

Continue Reading Hoarding May Cause Owner to Lose Unit