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

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?

Earlier today the Colorado HOA Information and Resource Office released its 2013 Annual Report. Interestingly, the number of complaints more than doubled – from 576 in 2012 to 1,248 in 2013 – but the number of people logging complaints only increased slightly from 309 complainants in 2012 to 327 in 2013. The most complaints in 2013 related to association and management communication with homeowners (or lack thereof), which moved up from fourth place in 2012. The report contains other details about the number and types of communities registered with the Office, and the outreach work that the Office undertook in 2013.

For those of us who work with community associations on a daily basis, the report contains few surprises. Even so, the trends revealed in these annual reports are important to consider because they can sometimes have an influence on legislation and regulations affecting community associations. 

The report is also a good reminder for boards to ensure that owners and directors receive their annual education, as mandated by the Colorado Common Interest Ownership Act. Education can help prevent problems and complaints in your HOA. Our "CCIOA 101 for HOA Boards" blog series is a great resource for board members to learn about basic association governance laws. In addition, our attorneys work with association clients to prepare board and owner education classes tailored to an individual community’s needs. Contact one of our attorneys directly if you have questions about education options.

 

 

 

 

As you’re probably aware, effective January 1, 2014, recreational pot became legal in Colorado. This new law is already affecting homeowners associations. While some associations started planning for pot smoking residents last year when the law was passed, not every community association moved quickly to adopt rules and regulations or amend restrictive covenants to address anticipated issues related to recreational pot smoking. If your association has not yet considered whether the new marijuana laws will affect your community, or if you’re thinking about how to tackle problems before they occur, here are some things to consider:

Shared spaces. Most associations have the authority to create rules and regulations that control activities in outdoor and indoor common area spaces. If your association already regulates tobacco smoking in these areas, the association, through board of director action, may consider extending those smoking policies to marijuana use. Associations should also evaluate the extent to which local laws interact with association rules and regulations and seek to fill any regulatory gaps that warrant attention in specific communities. Boards will want to pay particular attention to areas of their communities where use of marijuana will impact other residents. For example, with tobacco smoke, smoking near doorways and windows of other units are areas that typically result in complaints from residents.

Continue Reading Marijuana Matters: Has your association taken a shot at regulating pot?

Last Friday afternoon an Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ") at the Colorado Public Utilities Commission issued revised proposed towing regulations. The Towing Carrier Rules start on page 57 of this document. This updated version of the proposed regulations is not nearly as onerous for community associations as the first version that was introduced back in January. For example, this latest version of proposed regulations does not require associations to post signs every 10 feet in their parking lots and allows associations to continue making towing carriers their authorized agents. In fact, the ALJ’s revisions to the proposed rules seem to have accounted for most of the concerns expressed by members of the Community Associations Institute. As an added bonus, these new regulations will clarify the proper signage for giving notice prior to authorizing nonconsensual tows from residential parking lots.

Continue Reading Move That Car! Final Proposed Towing Regulations Clarify HOA Towing Authority

The Colorado General Assembly concluded its 2013 session on Wednesday after approving several pieces of legislation that impact community associations. We have covered the legislation from start to finish and will continue to provide updates on key legislation, such as the new manager licensure law, as it moves through rule-making and implementation. For now, association boards should add the following action items to their upcoming meeting agendas:

Revise architectural guidelines to remove requirements that owners install turf grass. SB 183, which was signed into law today by Governor Hickenlooper, takes effect immediately and applies to all new landscaping and replacement or redesign of existing landscaping. With water restrictions in effect along the Front Range, associations should prepare to receive landscaping plans that eliminate turf grass. The Denver Botanic Gardens and Colorado State University’s Extension Services offer classes and resources on xeriscaping.

Adopt a policy concerning the installation of electric vehicle charging stations. SB 126 also takes effect immediately and applies most directly to townhomes and condominium associations.

Revise the association’s collection policy to comply with the requirements of HB 1276. This law does not take effect until January 1, 2014, but it’s not too soon to incorporate a six-month payment plan option for owners, the required board authorization for each individual foreclosure, and the other statutory mandates into your association’s policy.

Register with the Division of Real Estate’s HOA Information Office and Resource Center. HB 1134, which takes effect August 7, 2013, extends the registration requirement to common interest communities formed before July 1, 1992. If your association is already registered, then check this one off the list!

The past week has been a busy news week for HOAs in Colorado. The trend continues with a column about community association manager licensing in today’s edition of the Snowmass Sun. Columnist Barbara Lucks describes how the role of community association managers is different from that of other property managers as she makes the case in support of manager licensing.

Do you think Ms. Lucks presents good arguments in favor of manager licensing?

By March 2nd, we will know whether Colorado’s Department of Regulatory Agencies (DORA) agrees with Ms. Lucks. We will report on DORA’s findings as soon as the information is available. Check www.cohoalaw.com — or subscribe to our email notifications — to receive timely updates on this topic and other issues affecting HOAs in Colorado. 

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?