801.790.9000 7070 South Union Park Center, Suite 220 Midvale, UT 84047
435.575.9000 1776 Park Avenue, Suite 209 Park City, UT 84060

News/Blog

News/Blog

August 31, 2017

 

Quinn Sperry was elected by his peers to serve as the Treasurer of the Community Association Law Section of the Utah State Bar for the 2017 through 2018 year. He was elected at the 2017 annual meeting of the section. This further demonstrates Morris Sperry's commitment to service. Quinn served on a committee of the section since 2016 and will continue to support the section that was Morris Sperry's idea and that Morris Sperry applied to create with the Utah State Bar in 2015. Quinn is looking forward to helping the section fulfil its mission and goals.

Comments 0   Add new comment
August 31, 2017

 

On August 31, 2017, John Morris teamed up with Matt Liapis, a GIS expert, to discuss GIS and digital mapping technology and how it can be used in litigation. Specifically, John explained how this technology was used by Morris Sperry in obtaining a fifteen million dollar judgment. GIS presents a new opportunity for visualizing and analyzing property ownership on a massive scale and in a way that simplifies and quantifies a tremendous amount of data in simple to see and understand maps. Mat Liapis testified as a GIS expert in the trial and was able to effectively and efficiently demonstrate on digital maps the ownership of thousands of parcels of property at several different time periods. He was further able to visualize and quantify hundreds of lots upon which certain documents had been recorded. Using alternative methods of quantifying and presenting this data such as through traditional title searches and reports would have cost hundreds of thousands of dollars. In contrast, the GIS analysis and mapping was more persuasive, easily understood, and cost a small faction of that amount. Morris Sperry uses cutting edge technology in litigation and trial both to increase the persuasiveness of their arguments and to keep costs down. 

 

Comments 0   Add new comment
May 31, 2017

 

In what is almost certainly the largest wrongful lien verdict in Utah and perhaps the largest in the United States, Morris Sperry lawyers obtained a $15,110,000 wrongful lien judgment (pursuant to the Utah Wrongful Lien Act beginning at Utah Code Ann. Section 38-9-101) for their clients after a week-long trial. The judgment out of the Fourth District Court includes over fourteen million dollars in wrongful lien statutory damages and over half a million dollars in attorney fees. The trial judgment included both an award of $3,000 per interest holder under Utah Code Ann. Section 38-9-203(1) and an award of $10,000 per interest holder under Utah Code Ann. Section 38-9-203(2). The judgment was obtained for three association clients, Cold Springs, Rock Creek, and Willow Springs in the Ranches at Eagle Mountain. In addition to the massive verdict, Morris Sperry obtained an order of quiet title eliminating forever any obligation of the owners in Morris Sperry's client associations to pay assessments to the Ranches master association and clearing the title to their homes of any CC&Rs, declarations, bylaws, notices of liens, and other documents previously recorded by the Ranches.

It started when Morris Sperry was retained to review some irregularities in the amendment procedures used by the Ranches master association. Morris Sperry lawyers figured out that the Ranches documents had serious legal defects and could potentially be invalidated, freeing Morris Sperry's clients from any obligations of the master association and eliminating over ten thousand dollars a month in assessments being paid by the owners in Morris Sperry's client associations. Based on the detailed and extensive analysis of the legal issues prepared by Morris Sperry, their clients were confident going forward with an extraordinary challenge to the Ranches authority even though the master association had operated for more than ten years. When the Ranches refused to release its documents, Morris Sperry filed and prosecuted a lawsuit that involved complicated legal and equitable issues.The Morris Sperry attorneys' unparallelled understanding of HOA law and extensive complex litigation experience allowed their clients to achieve this amazing trial result and huge verdict. When you have an HOA legal problem and you really want the right answer, this case is just one more example of why Morris Sperry is the only choice in Utah.

Comments 0   Add new comment
January 17, 2017

For the fourth straight year, more Morris Sperry lawyers attended the largest and most important HOA law seminar in the nation than any other Utah law firm. Six lawyers from Morris Sperry spent four days in seminars on topics such as drones, hot HOA topics, amending governing documents, pets in HOAs, fiduciary duties, and several other community association topics. The law seminar put on by the College of Community Association Lawyers is the best opportunity for serious HOA lawyers to talk about HOA issues and strategies with hundreds of lawyers from around the country focused in this complex area of law. Morris Sperry lawyers attending and presenting at this seminar fine tune cutting edge strategies and ideas for inclusion in new governing documents and implementation throughout their practice. Morris Sperry invests in this training because they remain the only law firm in Utah focused exclusively on representing associations, owners, and developers in the complex area of community association law (condominiums, HOAs, townhomes, PUDS, and homeowner associations). Who do you want representing your condominium, townhome, or HOA, the lawyer who spends part of their time on HOA law or the lawyers at Morris Sperry who invest the time and effort to stay on the cutting edge of legal issues in the complex area of community association law?

Comments 0   Add new comment
September 20, 2016

 

John Morris of Morris Sperry took time out of his busy schedule to visit Ms. Peck's class at McMillan elementary school to talk about the judicial system and put on a mock trial in which the students participated. With a prosecutor, judge, jury, defense lawyer, and multiple witnesses, the children all played their parts and had a great time. Morris Sperry lawyers are always looking for a way to participate in the community.

 

Comments 0   Add new comment
May 24, 2016

While we generally trust in the integrity of owners, managers, and board members counting votes by owners at HOA board elections, that trust must have limits in the form of good controls. Investigations into condominium election fraud in Florida highlight the problem.  In one case, 115% of the owners voted in the annual election! In another, multiple people have confirmed that ballots submitted on their behalf were entirely fraudulent and do not contain their signature. The goal of this fraud is different in different community associations. Sometimes it is a misguided but innocent effort on the part of board members to keep election costs down. Other times it is an effort by entrenched board members to remain in power.  Even worse, sometimes it is part of a concerted effort to rob the assocaition of funds starting with the people on the board remaining in control and sometimes with the collusion of the manager. Hundreds of other complaints of election fraud were submitted in Florida in the last few years.   

It would be delusional to think this type of association electrion fraud never occurs in Utah, even if it is rare. Morris Sperry can help implement processes on behalf of associations and owners to minimize this risk when owners are concerned about election fraud or to proactively prevent any concerns. We have successfully participated in several hotly contested elections and implemented mutually agreeable procedures for collecting and counting ballots. These procedures gave everyone confidence in the results. Morris Sperry has the experience to advise associations and owners about elections, voting, counting procedures, and safeguards to ensure the integrity of the voting process.  

Comments 0   Add new comment
May 23, 2016

John Holland, the founder of Property Management Systems Inc., passed away May 17, 2016. Anyone who had the privilege of meeting John remembered him as a kind and thoughtful man who always made anyone he was speaking with feel special. He built a very successful property management business on hard work and his ability to build relationships. John and his son Joe introduced John Morris of Morris Sperry into the HOA world. Fresh out of law school, John Morris served on the board of his condominium association that Property Management Systems managed. After getting to know one another, Joe asked John Morris to help him with another association's legal issues. The rest is history as John Morris's practice included more and more HOA work until it become his sole focus. This culminated in the founding of Morris Sperry, the only law firm in Utah focused on HOA law. Joe and John Morris are still friends and still working together to solve problems for HOAs.

John Holland was a good man and he will be missed by his family, his employees, and those in the property management industry. We offer our deepest condolences from the lawyers and staff at Morris Sperry. 

Comments 0   Add new comment
March 31, 2016

 

The Connecticut Supreme Court has heard but not decided a potentially precedent-setting case involving condominiums. A police dog in a condominium building hallway signaled for marijuana outside of the door of a condominium unit. The police then obtained a warrant for the unit and found marijuana plants, growing equipment, firearms, and seeds. A trial court judge dismissed the charges saying the original search in the common area hallway violated the condominium owner's constitutional rights. This decision seems consistent with an earlier United States Supreme Court decision in 2013 holding that police dogs cannot sniff for drugs in areas right outside of a private residence without a warrant. The counter-argument in this case is that the condominium hallways are common area accessible by any owner in the project. 

This case represents an interesting constitutional question and a very practical question for community associations trying to take action to root out suspected crime. This issue could come up anytime there is crime in a condominium, townhome project, homeowners association, or any other type of HOA. The type of crime varies and can include drug dealers, growing operations, prostitution, and theft rings. The neighbors and unit owners frequently expect the association to take some action and association boards and management committees are often motivated to stop the illegal activity.

At Morris Sperry we have dealt with these issues for years and have good advice for association boards when they encounter this problem. These problems have to be handled in a way that complies with the law and puts a stop to the crime in the community.  

Comments 0   Add new comment
January 30, 2016

For the third straight year, more Morris Sperry lawyers attended the largest and most important HOA law seminar in the nation than any other Utah law firm. Five lawyers from Morris Sperry spent four days in seminars on topics such as aging communities, hot HOA topics, amending governing documents, pets in HOAs, plats, and several other community association topics. The law seminar put on by the College of Community Association Lawyers is the best opportunity for serious HOA lawyers to talk about HOA issues and strategies with hundreds of lawyers from around the country focused in this complex area of law. Morris Sperry lawyers attending and presenting at this seminar fine tune cutting edge strategies and ideas for inclusion in new governing documents and implementation throughout their practice. Morris Sperry can invest in this training because they remain the only law firm in Utah focused exclusively on representing associations, owners, and developers in the complex area of community association law (condominiums, HOAs, townhomes, PUDS, and homeowner associations). Who do you want representing your condominium, townhome, or HOA, the "jack of all trades" lawyer who would never invest the time in a seminar like this or the lawyers at Morris Sperry who invest the time and effort to stay on the cutting edge of legal issues impacting your assocaition?

Comments 0   Add new comment
January 14, 2016

John Morris, Quinn Sperry, and Brandon Myers were all selected by their peers as one of Utah Business magazine's 2016 Utah Legal Elite. This select group of lawyers practicing in Utah is chosen by other lawyers. The list of winners is published in a special edition of Utah Business magazine. Legal Elite honorees are selected by their peers in a statewide balloting process. Each year, members of the Utah Bar are invited to participate by submitting a ballot of Utah lawyers they hold in the highest regard - lawyers they have observed firsthand and would recommend to others. Nominators are allowed to cast only one ballot and can not vote for themselves. Morris Sperry lawyers have been selected for this list for years, and this selection is just one measure of the good work and value that Morris Sperry lawyers provide to their clients.

 

 

Comments 0   Add new comment

Pages

August 31, 2017

 

Quinn Sperry was elected by his peers to serve as the Treasurer of the Community Association Law Section of the Utah State Bar for the 2017 through 2018 year. He was elected at the 2017 annual meeting of the section. This further demonstrates Morris Sperry's commitment to service. Quinn served on a committee of the section since 2016 and will continue to support the section that was Morris Sperry's idea and that Morris Sperry applied to create with the Utah State Bar in 2015. Quinn is looking forward to helping the section fulfil its mission and goals.

Comments 0   Add new comment
August 31, 2017

 

On August 31, 2017, John Morris teamed up with Matt Liapis, a GIS expert, to discuss GIS and digital mapping technology and how it can be used in litigation. Specifically, John explained how this technology was used by Morris Sperry in obtaining a fifteen million dollar judgment. GIS presents a new opportunity for visualizing and analyzing property ownership on a massive scale and in a way that simplifies and quantifies a tremendous amount of data in simple to see and understand maps. Mat Liapis testified as a GIS expert in the trial and was able to effectively and efficiently demonstrate on digital maps the ownership of thousands of parcels of property at several different time periods. He was further able to visualize and quantify hundreds of lots upon which certain documents had been recorded. Using alternative methods of quantifying and presenting this data such as through traditional title searches and reports would have cost hundreds of thousands of dollars. In contrast, the GIS analysis and mapping was more persuasive, easily understood, and cost a small faction of that amount. Morris Sperry uses cutting edge technology in litigation and trial both to increase the persuasiveness of their arguments and to keep costs down. 

 

Comments 0   Add new comment
May 31, 2017

 

In what is almost certainly the largest wrongful lien verdict in Utah and perhaps the largest in the United States, Morris Sperry lawyers obtained a $15,110,000 wrongful lien judgment (pursuant to the Utah Wrongful Lien Act beginning at Utah Code Ann. Section 38-9-101) for their clients after a week-long trial. The judgment out of the Fourth District Court includes over fourteen million dollars in wrongful lien statutory damages and over half a million dollars in attorney fees. The trial judgment included both an award of $3,000 per interest holder under Utah Code Ann. Section 38-9-203(1) and an award of $10,000 per interest holder under Utah Code Ann. Section 38-9-203(2). The judgment was obtained for three association clients, Cold Springs, Rock Creek, and Willow Springs in the Ranches at Eagle Mountain. In addition to the massive verdict, Morris Sperry obtained an order of quiet title eliminating forever any obligation of the owners in Morris Sperry's client associations to pay assessments to the Ranches master association and clearing the title to their homes of any CC&Rs, declarations, bylaws, notices of liens, and other documents previously recorded by the Ranches.

It started when Morris Sperry was retained to review some irregularities in the amendment procedures used by the Ranches master association. Morris Sperry lawyers figured out that the Ranches documents had serious legal defects and could potentially be invalidated, freeing Morris Sperry's clients from any obligations of the master association and eliminating over ten thousand dollars a month in assessments being paid by the owners in Morris Sperry's client associations. Based on the detailed and extensive analysis of the legal issues prepared by Morris Sperry, their clients were confident going forward with an extraordinary challenge to the Ranches authority even though the master association had operated for more than ten years. When the Ranches refused to release its documents, Morris Sperry filed and prosecuted a lawsuit that involved complicated legal and equitable issues.The Morris Sperry attorneys' unparallelled understanding of HOA law and extensive complex litigation experience allowed their clients to achieve this amazing trial result and huge verdict. When you have an HOA legal problem and you really want the right answer, this case is just one more example of why Morris Sperry is the only choice in Utah.

Comments 0   Add new comment
January 17, 2017

For the fourth straight year, more Morris Sperry lawyers attended the largest and most important HOA law seminar in the nation than any other Utah law firm. Six lawyers from Morris Sperry spent four days in seminars on topics such as drones, hot HOA topics, amending governing documents, pets in HOAs, fiduciary duties, and several other community association topics. The law seminar put on by the College of Community Association Lawyers is the best opportunity for serious HOA lawyers to talk about HOA issues and strategies with hundreds of lawyers from around the country focused in this complex area of law. Morris Sperry lawyers attending and presenting at this seminar fine tune cutting edge strategies and ideas for inclusion in new governing documents and implementation throughout their practice. Morris Sperry invests in this training because they remain the only law firm in Utah focused exclusively on representing associations, owners, and developers in the complex area of community association law (condominiums, HOAs, townhomes, PUDS, and homeowner associations). Who do you want representing your condominium, townhome, or HOA, the lawyer who spends part of their time on HOA law or the lawyers at Morris Sperry who invest the time and effort to stay on the cutting edge of legal issues in the complex area of community association law?

Comments 0   Add new comment
September 20, 2016

 

John Morris of Morris Sperry took time out of his busy schedule to visit Ms. Peck's class at McMillan elementary school to talk about the judicial system and put on a mock trial in which the students participated. With a prosecutor, judge, jury, defense lawyer, and multiple witnesses, the children all played their parts and had a great time. Morris Sperry lawyers are always looking for a way to participate in the community.

 

Comments 0   Add new comment
May 23, 2016

John Holland, the founder of Property Management Systems Inc., passed away May 17, 2016. Anyone who had the privilege of meeting John remembered him as a kind and thoughtful man who always made anyone he was speaking with feel special. He built a very successful property management business on hard work and his ability to build relationships. John and his son Joe introduced John Morris of Morris Sperry into the HOA world. Fresh out of law school, John Morris served on the board of his condominium association that Property Management Systems managed. After getting to know one another, Joe asked John Morris to help him with another association's legal issues. The rest is history as John Morris's practice included more and more HOA work until it become his sole focus. This culminated in the founding of Morris Sperry, the only law firm in Utah focused on HOA law. Joe and John Morris are still friends and still working together to solve problems for HOAs.

John Holland was a good man and he will be missed by his family, his employees, and those in the property management industry. We offer our deepest condolences from the lawyers and staff at Morris Sperry. 

Comments 0   Add new comment
January 30, 2016

For the third straight year, more Morris Sperry lawyers attended the largest and most important HOA law seminar in the nation than any other Utah law firm. Five lawyers from Morris Sperry spent four days in seminars on topics such as aging communities, hot HOA topics, amending governing documents, pets in HOAs, plats, and several other community association topics. The law seminar put on by the College of Community Association Lawyers is the best opportunity for serious HOA lawyers to talk about HOA issues and strategies with hundreds of lawyers from around the country focused in this complex area of law. Morris Sperry lawyers attending and presenting at this seminar fine tune cutting edge strategies and ideas for inclusion in new governing documents and implementation throughout their practice. Morris Sperry can invest in this training because they remain the only law firm in Utah focused exclusively on representing associations, owners, and developers in the complex area of community association law (condominiums, HOAs, townhomes, PUDS, and homeowner associations). Who do you want representing your condominium, townhome, or HOA, the "jack of all trades" lawyer who would never invest the time in a seminar like this or the lawyers at Morris Sperry who invest the time and effort to stay on the cutting edge of legal issues impacting your assocaition?

Comments 0   Add new comment
January 14, 2016

John Morris, Quinn Sperry, and Brandon Myers were all selected by their peers as one of Utah Business magazine's 2016 Utah Legal Elite. This select group of lawyers practicing in Utah is chosen by other lawyers. The list of winners is published in a special edition of Utah Business magazine. Legal Elite honorees are selected by their peers in a statewide balloting process. Each year, members of the Utah Bar are invited to participate by submitting a ballot of Utah lawyers they hold in the highest regard - lawyers they have observed firsthand and would recommend to others. Nominators are allowed to cast only one ballot and can not vote for themselves. Morris Sperry lawyers have been selected for this list for years, and this selection is just one measure of the good work and value that Morris Sperry lawyers provide to their clients.

 

 

Comments 0   Add new comment
December 11, 2015

Lauren DeVoe has joined Morris Sperry as a new associate attorney. Lauren graduated at the top of her class at the University of Utah and served on the Utah Law Review. She interned for a Utah Supreme Court Justice and worked for a year as a clerk for judges in the Second District Court writing opinions and assisting judges in rendering decisions. She has a keen legal mind and fantastic experience that she will be putting to work for community associations, developers, and owners in HOAs. Morris Sperry is excited for Lauren's arrival and looks forward to the great legal work she will be providing Morris Sperry clients.

Comments 0   Add new comment
October 29, 2015

Amy Binns-Shewan has joined Morris Sperry as an associate attorney. Amy excelled in law school, graduating in the top of her class. She graduated with honors and was invited to join the Order of the Coif. She served on the Utah Law Review and received several distinctions for excellent performance in law school. Amy is excited to focus on community association law and is looking forward to immersing herself in this complicated area of law. Amy contributes to the depth of excellent lawyers at Morris Sperry, allowing the firm to get work done (and done well) for our clients. Morris Sperry is excited to add excellent lawyers like Amy and will continue to grow and add lawyers as necessary to provide excellent and timely legal services to Utah condominiums, HOAs, homeowner associations, and community associations.  

Comments 0   Add new comment

Pages

August 31, 2017

 

Quinn Sperry was elected by his peers to serve as the Treasurer of the Community Association Law Section of the Utah State Bar for the 2017 through 2018 year. He was elected at the 2017 annual meeting of the section. This further demonstrates Morris Sperry's commitment to service. Quinn served on a committee of the section since 2016 and will continue to support the section that was Morris Sperry's idea and that Morris Sperry applied to create with the Utah State Bar in 2015. Quinn is looking forward to helping the section fulfil its mission and goals.

Comments 0   Add new comment
August 31, 2017

 

On August 31, 2017, John Morris teamed up with Matt Liapis, a GIS expert, to discuss GIS and digital mapping technology and how it can be used in litigation. Specifically, John explained how this technology was used by Morris Sperry in obtaining a fifteen million dollar judgment. GIS presents a new opportunity for visualizing and analyzing property ownership on a massive scale and in a way that simplifies and quantifies a tremendous amount of data in simple to see and understand maps. Mat Liapis testified as a GIS expert in the trial and was able to effectively and efficiently demonstrate on digital maps the ownership of thousands of parcels of property at several different time periods. He was further able to visualize and quantify hundreds of lots upon which certain documents had been recorded. Using alternative methods of quantifying and presenting this data such as through traditional title searches and reports would have cost hundreds of thousands of dollars. In contrast, the GIS analysis and mapping was more persuasive, easily understood, and cost a small faction of that amount. Morris Sperry uses cutting edge technology in litigation and trial both to increase the persuasiveness of their arguments and to keep costs down. 

 

Comments 0   Add new comment
May 31, 2017

 

In what is almost certainly the largest wrongful lien verdict in Utah and perhaps the largest in the United States, Morris Sperry lawyers obtained a $15,110,000 wrongful lien judgment (pursuant to the Utah Wrongful Lien Act beginning at Utah Code Ann. Section 38-9-101) for their clients after a week-long trial. The judgment out of the Fourth District Court includes over fourteen million dollars in wrongful lien statutory damages and over half a million dollars in attorney fees. The trial judgment included both an award of $3,000 per interest holder under Utah Code Ann. Section 38-9-203(1) and an award of $10,000 per interest holder under Utah Code Ann. Section 38-9-203(2). The judgment was obtained for three association clients, Cold Springs, Rock Creek, and Willow Springs in the Ranches at Eagle Mountain. In addition to the massive verdict, Morris Sperry obtained an order of quiet title eliminating forever any obligation of the owners in Morris Sperry's client associations to pay assessments to the Ranches master association and clearing the title to their homes of any CC&Rs, declarations, bylaws, notices of liens, and other documents previously recorded by the Ranches.

It started when Morris Sperry was retained to review some irregularities in the amendment procedures used by the Ranches master association. Morris Sperry lawyers figured out that the Ranches documents had serious legal defects and could potentially be invalidated, freeing Morris Sperry's clients from any obligations of the master association and eliminating over ten thousand dollars a month in assessments being paid by the owners in Morris Sperry's client associations. Based on the detailed and extensive analysis of the legal issues prepared by Morris Sperry, their clients were confident going forward with an extraordinary challenge to the Ranches authority even though the master association had operated for more than ten years. When the Ranches refused to release its documents, Morris Sperry filed and prosecuted a lawsuit that involved complicated legal and equitable issues.The Morris Sperry attorneys' unparallelled understanding of HOA law and extensive complex litigation experience allowed their clients to achieve this amazing trial result and huge verdict. When you have an HOA legal problem and you really want the right answer, this case is just one more example of why Morris Sperry is the only choice in Utah.

Comments 0   Add new comment
January 17, 2017

For the fourth straight year, more Morris Sperry lawyers attended the largest and most important HOA law seminar in the nation than any other Utah law firm. Six lawyers from Morris Sperry spent four days in seminars on topics such as drones, hot HOA topics, amending governing documents, pets in HOAs, fiduciary duties, and several other community association topics. The law seminar put on by the College of Community Association Lawyers is the best opportunity for serious HOA lawyers to talk about HOA issues and strategies with hundreds of lawyers from around the country focused in this complex area of law. Morris Sperry lawyers attending and presenting at this seminar fine tune cutting edge strategies and ideas for inclusion in new governing documents and implementation throughout their practice. Morris Sperry invests in this training because they remain the only law firm in Utah focused exclusively on representing associations, owners, and developers in the complex area of community association law (condominiums, HOAs, townhomes, PUDS, and homeowner associations). Who do you want representing your condominium, townhome, or HOA, the lawyer who spends part of their time on HOA law or the lawyers at Morris Sperry who invest the time and effort to stay on the cutting edge of legal issues in the complex area of community association law?

Comments 0   Add new comment
May 24, 2016

While we generally trust in the integrity of owners, managers, and board members counting votes by owners at HOA board elections, that trust must have limits in the form of good controls. Investigations into condominium election fraud in Florida highlight the problem.  In one case, 115% of the owners voted in the annual election! In another, multiple people have confirmed that ballots submitted on their behalf were entirely fraudulent and do not contain their signature. The goal of this fraud is different in different community associations. Sometimes it is a misguided but innocent effort on the part of board members to keep election costs down. Other times it is an effort by entrenched board members to remain in power.  Even worse, sometimes it is part of a concerted effort to rob the assocaition of funds starting with the people on the board remaining in control and sometimes with the collusion of the manager. Hundreds of other complaints of election fraud were submitted in Florida in the last few years.   

It would be delusional to think this type of association electrion fraud never occurs in Utah, even if it is rare. Morris Sperry can help implement processes on behalf of associations and owners to minimize this risk when owners are concerned about election fraud or to proactively prevent any concerns. We have successfully participated in several hotly contested elections and implemented mutually agreeable procedures for collecting and counting ballots. These procedures gave everyone confidence in the results. Morris Sperry has the experience to advise associations and owners about elections, voting, counting procedures, and safeguards to ensure the integrity of the voting process.  

Comments 0   Add new comment
May 23, 2016

John Holland, the founder of Property Management Systems Inc., passed away May 17, 2016. Anyone who had the privilege of meeting John remembered him as a kind and thoughtful man who always made anyone he was speaking with feel special. He built a very successful property management business on hard work and his ability to build relationships. John and his son Joe introduced John Morris of Morris Sperry into the HOA world. Fresh out of law school, John Morris served on the board of his condominium association that Property Management Systems managed. After getting to know one another, Joe asked John Morris to help him with another association's legal issues. The rest is history as John Morris's practice included more and more HOA work until it become his sole focus. This culminated in the founding of Morris Sperry, the only law firm in Utah focused on HOA law. Joe and John Morris are still friends and still working together to solve problems for HOAs.

John Holland was a good man and he will be missed by his family, his employees, and those in the property management industry. We offer our deepest condolences from the lawyers and staff at Morris Sperry. 

Comments 0   Add new comment
March 31, 2016

 

The Connecticut Supreme Court has heard but not decided a potentially precedent-setting case involving condominiums. A police dog in a condominium building hallway signaled for marijuana outside of the door of a condominium unit. The police then obtained a warrant for the unit and found marijuana plants, growing equipment, firearms, and seeds. A trial court judge dismissed the charges saying the original search in the common area hallway violated the condominium owner's constitutional rights. This decision seems consistent with an earlier United States Supreme Court decision in 2013 holding that police dogs cannot sniff for drugs in areas right outside of a private residence without a warrant. The counter-argument in this case is that the condominium hallways are common area accessible by any owner in the project. 

This case represents an interesting constitutional question and a very practical question for community associations trying to take action to root out suspected crime. This issue could come up anytime there is crime in a condominium, townhome project, homeowners association, or any other type of HOA. The type of crime varies and can include drug dealers, growing operations, prostitution, and theft rings. The neighbors and unit owners frequently expect the association to take some action and association boards and management committees are often motivated to stop the illegal activity.

At Morris Sperry we have dealt with these issues for years and have good advice for association boards when they encounter this problem. These problems have to be handled in a way that complies with the law and puts a stop to the crime in the community.  

Comments 0   Add new comment
January 30, 2016

For the third straight year, more Morris Sperry lawyers attended the largest and most important HOA law seminar in the nation than any other Utah law firm. Five lawyers from Morris Sperry spent four days in seminars on topics such as aging communities, hot HOA topics, amending governing documents, pets in HOAs, plats, and several other community association topics. The law seminar put on by the College of Community Association Lawyers is the best opportunity for serious HOA lawyers to talk about HOA issues and strategies with hundreds of lawyers from around the country focused in this complex area of law. Morris Sperry lawyers attending and presenting at this seminar fine tune cutting edge strategies and ideas for inclusion in new governing documents and implementation throughout their practice. Morris Sperry can invest in this training because they remain the only law firm in Utah focused exclusively on representing associations, owners, and developers in the complex area of community association law (condominiums, HOAs, townhomes, PUDS, and homeowner associations). Who do you want representing your condominium, townhome, or HOA, the "jack of all trades" lawyer who would never invest the time in a seminar like this or the lawyers at Morris Sperry who invest the time and effort to stay on the cutting edge of legal issues impacting your assocaition?

Comments 0   Add new comment
January 14, 2016

John Morris, Quinn Sperry, and Brandon Myers were all selected by their peers as one of Utah Business magazine's 2016 Utah Legal Elite. This select group of lawyers practicing in Utah is chosen by other lawyers. The list of winners is published in a special edition of Utah Business magazine. Legal Elite honorees are selected by their peers in a statewide balloting process. Each year, members of the Utah Bar are invited to participate by submitting a ballot of Utah lawyers they hold in the highest regard - lawyers they have observed firsthand and would recommend to others. Nominators are allowed to cast only one ballot and can not vote for themselves. Morris Sperry lawyers have been selected for this list for years, and this selection is just one measure of the good work and value that Morris Sperry lawyers provide to their clients.

 

 

Comments 0   Add new comment
November 24, 2015

A Virginia association recently received an application from an eleven-year-old boy for an open board position. The bylaws and declaration don't have any minimum age requirements. The Association has engaged counsel and is scrambling to figure out if they must accept the application and put the boy on the ballot for the election. The application raises all sorts of interesting issues including whether a child with no capacity to enter into a contract can nonetheless vote on a board and make decisions. Practically, of course, it seems that an association who elects an eleven-year-old to the board deserves what they get! 

This funny example highlights the never-ending questions that can arise in the context of board elections. The Association is taking the right step in seeking legal advice to resolve this issue before an annual meeting and before an election dispute turns into something more serious. Morris Sperry attorneys can turn around these types of questions quickly and efficiently to keep associations on track with their board elections.

Comments 0   Add new comment

Pages

August 31, 2017

 

Quinn Sperry was elected by his peers to serve as the Treasurer of the Community Association Law Section of the Utah State Bar for the 2017 through 2018 year. He was elected at the 2017 annual meeting of the section. This further demonstrates Morris Sperry's commitment to service. Quinn served on a committee of the section since 2016 and will continue to support the section that was Morris Sperry's idea and that Morris Sperry applied to create with the Utah State Bar in 2015. Quinn is looking forward to helping the section fulfil its mission and goals.

Comments 0   Add new comment
August 31, 2017

 

On August 31, 2017, John Morris teamed up with Matt Liapis, a GIS expert, to discuss GIS and digital mapping technology and how it can be used in litigation. Specifically, John explained how this technology was used by Morris Sperry in obtaining a fifteen million dollar judgment. GIS presents a new opportunity for visualizing and analyzing property ownership on a massive scale and in a way that simplifies and quantifies a tremendous amount of data in simple to see and understand maps. Mat Liapis testified as a GIS expert in the trial and was able to effectively and efficiently demonstrate on digital maps the ownership of thousands of parcels of property at several different time periods. He was further able to visualize and quantify hundreds of lots upon which certain documents had been recorded. Using alternative methods of quantifying and presenting this data such as through traditional title searches and reports would have cost hundreds of thousands of dollars. In contrast, the GIS analysis and mapping was more persuasive, easily understood, and cost a small faction of that amount. Morris Sperry uses cutting edge technology in litigation and trial both to increase the persuasiveness of their arguments and to keep costs down. 

 

Comments 0   Add new comment
May 31, 2017

 

In what is almost certainly the largest wrongful lien verdict in Utah and perhaps the largest in the United States, Morris Sperry lawyers obtained a $15,110,000 wrongful lien judgment (pursuant to the Utah Wrongful Lien Act beginning at Utah Code Ann. Section 38-9-101) for their clients after a week-long trial. The judgment out of the Fourth District Court includes over fourteen million dollars in wrongful lien statutory damages and over half a million dollars in attorney fees. The trial judgment included both an award of $3,000 per interest holder under Utah Code Ann. Section 38-9-203(1) and an award of $10,000 per interest holder under Utah Code Ann. Section 38-9-203(2). The judgment was obtained for three association clients, Cold Springs, Rock Creek, and Willow Springs in the Ranches at Eagle Mountain. In addition to the massive verdict, Morris Sperry obtained an order of quiet title eliminating forever any obligation of the owners in Morris Sperry's client associations to pay assessments to the Ranches master association and clearing the title to their homes of any CC&Rs, declarations, bylaws, notices of liens, and other documents previously recorded by the Ranches.

It started when Morris Sperry was retained to review some irregularities in the amendment procedures used by the Ranches master association. Morris Sperry lawyers figured out that the Ranches documents had serious legal defects and could potentially be invalidated, freeing Morris Sperry's clients from any obligations of the master association and eliminating over ten thousand dollars a month in assessments being paid by the owners in Morris Sperry's client associations. Based on the detailed and extensive analysis of the legal issues prepared by Morris Sperry, their clients were confident going forward with an extraordinary challenge to the Ranches authority even though the master association had operated for more than ten years. When the Ranches refused to release its documents, Morris Sperry filed and prosecuted a lawsuit that involved complicated legal and equitable issues.The Morris Sperry attorneys' unparallelled understanding of HOA law and extensive complex litigation experience allowed their clients to achieve this amazing trial result and huge verdict. When you have an HOA legal problem and you really want the right answer, this case is just one more example of why Morris Sperry is the only choice in Utah.

Comments 0   Add new comment
May 24, 2016

While we generally trust in the integrity of owners, managers, and board members counting votes by owners at HOA board elections, that trust must have limits in the form of good controls. Investigations into condominium election fraud in Florida highlight the problem.  In one case, 115% of the owners voted in the annual election! In another, multiple people have confirmed that ballots submitted on their behalf were entirely fraudulent and do not contain their signature. The goal of this fraud is different in different community associations. Sometimes it is a misguided but innocent effort on the part of board members to keep election costs down. Other times it is an effort by entrenched board members to remain in power.  Even worse, sometimes it is part of a concerted effort to rob the assocaition of funds starting with the people on the board remaining in control and sometimes with the collusion of the manager. Hundreds of other complaints of election fraud were submitted in Florida in the last few years.   

It would be delusional to think this type of association electrion fraud never occurs in Utah, even if it is rare. Morris Sperry can help implement processes on behalf of associations and owners to minimize this risk when owners are concerned about election fraud or to proactively prevent any concerns. We have successfully participated in several hotly contested elections and implemented mutually agreeable procedures for collecting and counting ballots. These procedures gave everyone confidence in the results. Morris Sperry has the experience to advise associations and owners about elections, voting, counting procedures, and safeguards to ensure the integrity of the voting process.  

Comments 0   Add new comment
March 31, 2016

 

The Connecticut Supreme Court has heard but not decided a potentially precedent-setting case involving condominiums. A police dog in a condominium building hallway signaled for marijuana outside of the door of a condominium unit. The police then obtained a warrant for the unit and found marijuana plants, growing equipment, firearms, and seeds. A trial court judge dismissed the charges saying the original search in the common area hallway violated the condominium owner's constitutional rights. This decision seems consistent with an earlier United States Supreme Court decision in 2013 holding that police dogs cannot sniff for drugs in areas right outside of a private residence without a warrant. The counter-argument in this case is that the condominium hallways are common area accessible by any owner in the project. 

This case represents an interesting constitutional question and a very practical question for community associations trying to take action to root out suspected crime. This issue could come up anytime there is crime in a condominium, townhome project, homeowners association, or any other type of HOA. The type of crime varies and can include drug dealers, growing operations, prostitution, and theft rings. The neighbors and unit owners frequently expect the association to take some action and association boards and management committees are often motivated to stop the illegal activity.

At Morris Sperry we have dealt with these issues for years and have good advice for association boards when they encounter this problem. These problems have to be handled in a way that complies with the law and puts a stop to the crime in the community.  

Comments 0   Add new comment
January 14, 2016

John Morris, Quinn Sperry, and Brandon Myers were all selected by their peers as one of Utah Business magazine's 2016 Utah Legal Elite. This select group of lawyers practicing in Utah is chosen by other lawyers. The list of winners is published in a special edition of Utah Business magazine. Legal Elite honorees are selected by their peers in a statewide balloting process. Each year, members of the Utah Bar are invited to participate by submitting a ballot of Utah lawyers they hold in the highest regard - lawyers they have observed firsthand and would recommend to others. Nominators are allowed to cast only one ballot and can not vote for themselves. Morris Sperry lawyers have been selected for this list for years, and this selection is just one measure of the good work and value that Morris Sperry lawyers provide to their clients.

 

 

Comments 0   Add new comment
November 24, 2015

A Virginia association recently received an application from an eleven-year-old boy for an open board position. The bylaws and declaration don't have any minimum age requirements. The Association has engaged counsel and is scrambling to figure out if they must accept the application and put the boy on the ballot for the election. The application raises all sorts of interesting issues including whether a child with no capacity to enter into a contract can nonetheless vote on a board and make decisions. Practically, of course, it seems that an association who elects an eleven-year-old to the board deserves what they get! 

This funny example highlights the never-ending questions that can arise in the context of board elections. The Association is taking the right step in seeking legal advice to resolve this issue before an annual meeting and before an election dispute turns into something more serious. Morris Sperry attorneys can turn around these types of questions quickly and efficiently to keep associations on track with their board elections.

Comments 0   Add new comment
November 12, 2015

As Americans, we love our country and those men and women, past and present, who serve and sacrifice for our freedoms. Displaying the Flag of the United States is one way we show our patriotism to honor our nation and the heroes that make this country great.  

Recently, the right to fly our nation’s Flag within homeowners associations (each an “HOA”) has stirred some controversy here in our state. When news broke that an HOA in the Salt Lake Valley wanted to restrict its residents from flying Old Glory, owners of that HOA and many others expressed their outrage. It is likely that no other symbol evokes more emotion and patriotism than the Stars and Stripes. So if you are an owner or resident in an HOA, what are your rights when it comes to flying the American Flag?

When a person purchases a home in an HOA (a condo, townhome, or detached home), that person becomes a member of the HOA and agrees to adhere to the HOA’s particular covenants, conditions, and restrictions (the “CC&Rs”). Courts interpret CC&Rs as legally binding contracts between the owners and the HOA. This is why it’s so important for owners or prospective purchasers to review the HOA’s CC&Rs so they understand the covenants or restrictions that may apply to the use of their property and the HOA’s common property within the HOA’s boundaries. Due to the complex nature of CC&Rs, owners in HOAs sometimes fail to properly understand the restrictions they agree to when purchasing their home or fail to see the many benefits HOA living brings with it.

While some HOA rights are apparent, other rights have been misunderstood. Some people feel that an HOA restricting the location where a Flag is flown is a restriction on freedom of speech and the property rights we as Americans hold so dear. However, this is not always the case.   

A homeowner in an HOA has the absolute legal right to fly the American Flag on property he or she exclusively owns or controls, within certain legal requirements. Both federal and Utah state statutes apply to one’s right to display the American Flag. Section 3 of the Freedom to Display the American Flag Act of 2005 (federal law) states:

“A condominium association, cooperative association, or residential real estate management association may not adopt or enforce any policy, or enter into any agreement, that would restrict or prevent a member of the association from displaying the flag of the United States on residential property within the association with respect to which such member has a separate ownership interest or a right to exclusive possession or use.”  

A quick reading of this section may suggest that an HOA may not restrict an owner’s right to display the Flag at all. However, the key issue to focus on in this scenario is the location where an owner is attempting to display the Flag.

If the owner has “exclusive possession or use” of an area then the HOA cannot restrict or prevent Flag displays in that area. The HOA, however, can restrict Flag flying in the common areas. The CC&Rs and plats for each HOA identify those sections of an owner’s dwelling or lot that are owned exclusively by the owner and those areas over which the owner has the exclusive right to use or possess. The HOA’s CC&Rs further identify the common areas of the HOA. In a condominium project, the common areas are owned collectively by all owners and may include areas such as the clubhouse or pool area, landscaping surrounding condos, and building features (siding, roofs, eaves, etc.). In other community association developments (non-condominium projects), the common areas are owned by the HOA itself. Thus, the common areas in HOAs are not owned by any one owner and there is no “separate ownership interest” in the common areas for a particular owner. Moreover, the CC&Rs generally provide that all owners of the HOA have a right to use and enjoy the common areas, which means that no individual owner has the “right to exclusive possession or use” of these common areas. These common areas, therefore, fall outside the scope of section 3 of the Freedom to Display the American Flag Act of 2005, and an HOA may regulate or even prohibit the display of the Flag on its common areas.

Utah law further addresses displaying flags in an HOA. Utah’s Display of Flag Act includes condominium associations within the definition of “residential property management authority”[1] and provides, in part:

A residential property management authority may not prohibit a resident from displaying a Flag:

(a)    consistent with the guidelines in [federal law];

(b)   within an area over which the resident has exclusive control; and

(c)    from a staff, pole, or window.[2]

As explained above, an owner or resident of a condominium association does not have “exclusive control” over common areas within his or her HOA; therefore, a condominium association may restrict or prevent an owner or resident from displaying the Flag in common areas. On the other hand, CC&Rs typically define the interior sides of windows in condominium projects as being under the resident’s “exclusive control”; thus, an HOA could not prohibit the resident from displaying the Flag in a window.

Utah’s Community Association Act[3] – which applies to planned unit developments and community associations other than condominium projects[4] – further addresses the issue of displaying the Flag in a community association. Section 219 of this act states:

  1. An association may not prohibit a lot owner from displaying a United States flag inside a dwelling or limited common area or on a lot, if the display complies with United States Code, Title 4, Chapter 1, The Flag. 
  2. An association may restrict the display of a flag on the common areas.

This law allows the HOA to restrict the display of the Flag in the common areas, which are owned by the HOA and not by any particular owner. Keep in mind, however, that the HOA may not prohibit an owner from displaying the Flag in any area that is not common area, except in limited circumstances

Federal law allows an HOA to adopt “any reasonable restriction pertaining to the time, place, manner of displaying the Flag of the United States necessary to protect a substantial interest of the condominium association, cooperative association, or residential real estate management association.” [5] One example of a valid time, place, and manner restriction could apply to illuminating the Flag for display at night.  “[I]t might be appropriate to restrict large flood lights that illuminate the flag because it disturbs the ability of neighbors to sleep.”[6] An HOA may require that the Flag be properly displayed per the Federal Flag Act. We all hope that someone displaying or using the Flag does so in a manner that is proper and respectful to the Flag but, just in case, an HOA may require that the individual correct his/her actions so that the Flag is properly displayed.

One must keep in mind that even though an HOA has the right to restrict the display of the American Flag on common area, the HOA may take the position that it wants its owners and residents to fly the Flag in the common areas.  An HOA may choose to amend its CC&Rs (in accordance with its particular amendment procedures) and specifically allow owners to display the American Flag in certain common areas. Such an amendment may contain guidelines concerning the location and manner that flag poles or other devices may be installed on the common areas to minimize the potential for future damages (i.e. water penetration through the holes) while still allowing residents to express their patriotism and respecting a person’s right to fly that Star Spangled Banner.

It is important to note that while many view HOAs in a negative light, these people limit their focus and perspective to only certain restrictions imposed by the HOA. It is true that when individuals live in an HOA, they are essentially entering into a contract with their neighbors and, by entering into that contract, the owners may give up some of their rights that may otherwise accompany traditional homeownership (outside of an HOA); however, these individuals in an HOA gain protections and rights too.  Some of the use restrictions that may limit traditional property rights concern: colors used on the exterior of a home, materials and colors used when installing a fence, types of plants or trees an owner may have in his/her yard, smoking tobacco products in or around a dwelling, and the number or type of pets an owner may have, whether an owner may rent their property.  Viewed from another perspective, these restrictions grant owners the right to protect themselves from breathing secondhand smoke and to maintain uniformity in the quality of craftsmanship, landscaping, and level of building and landscaping maintenance all of which preserve property values.  An HOA’s CC&Rs further afford owners the right to elect members of their HOA’s governing board, approve their HOA’s budget, and ratify proposed amendments to their HOA’s CC&Rs. 

In conclusion, living in an HOA does not strip individuals of their Constitutional, federal, and/or state law rights when it comes to issues such as displaying the American Flag.  By living in an HOA, individuals agree to adhere to further statutory and contractual provisions intended to promote the health, safety, and welfare of the community residents, maintain a sense of community, and preserve owners’ property values.

**This article originally appeared on the Utah Chapter of the Community Associations Institute blog on Nov. 11, 2015.


 

[1] Utah Code Ann. § 57-24-101(3).

[2] Utah Code Ann. § 57-24-102(1).

[3] Utah Code Ann. § 57-8a-101 et seq.

[4] Utah Code Ann. § 57-8-1 et seq., applies to condominium projects. 

[5] See Section 4 of the Freedom to Display the American Flag Act of 2005.

[6] See Guidance for Complying with the Freedom to Display the American Flag Act of 2005, Community Associations Institute, available at http://www.caionline.org/govt/news/Pages/GuidanceforComplyingwiththeFreedomtoDisplaytheAmericanFlagActof2005.aspx.

Comments 0   Add new comment
October 21, 2015

In a free webinar put on by Utah CAI, John Morris introduced a new Utah HOA mediation program that he spearheaded and that members of the local CAI chapter have been working on for more than two years. This will be a great opportunity to cost effectively resolve disputes involving HOAs. Associations, board members, homeowners, and vendors in homeowners associations can now take advantage of this program and low cost mediators experienced in HOA matters that the program will offer. This is a great option for resolving disputes before people are forced to spend money on lawyers and lawsuits. Morris Sperry is proud to have guided the development of this program for the benefit of all homeowners and associations in Utah.

 

Comments 0   Add new comment
October 5, 2015

Quinn Sperry of Morris Sperry was interviewed on the news last week about a serious controversy in a Utah HOA. Residents want to fly the American flag and the association board is sending them fines and wants the flags removed. This problem repeats around the country when HOAs take harsh positions on flying the flag inside the community. No symbol evokes more emotion, patriotism, and willingness to fight an HOA than the stars and stripes. Morris Sperry regularly advises both owners in communities and community associations (HOAs, condominiums, townhomes, and homeowners associations) about flying the flag of the United States of America. There is an absolute legal right to fly the American flag from or on certain property owned or under the exclusive use of the homeowner and with certain legal requirements. Working with Morris Sperry and taking advantage of our experience and knowledge with this issue, associations can make and enforce reasonable requirements for flying of the American flag while allowing owners to express their patriotism and while respecting their legal right to fly the flag. More importantly, with the wise counsel of Morris Sperry, associations and owners can avoid the media circus and hostility created by the association that was the subject of this story.

Click HERE to see the story. 

Comments 0   Add new comment

Pages

April 8, 2015

Governor Herbert signed the ceremonial copy of H.B. 98 today at the Capitol. John Morris of Morris Sperry, members of the apartment association, and the sponsor Representative Gage Froerer attended. John Morris appeared representing the Utah CAI Legislative Action Committee, members of whom worked on this bill. This new HOA law in Utah further defines the relationship between landlords in condominium associations and community associations. It also adds needed clarity to the law applicable to HOA fines and warning letters. John Morris and the other members of the Utah CAI LAC worked hard on this bill and it represents a good compromise between all of the interests involved.

Comments 0   Add new comment
April 3, 2015

The governor signed the remaining new HOA law, S.B. 118, on the last day allowed. Signficant changes to the procedure for requesting association documents now takes effect along with help for association amendments and the fine and attorney fee provision for associations who fail to comply with the new open meeting laws. All of the new 2015 condominium laws and PUD laws will now take effect. Watch for future articles on the Morris Sperry website analyzing the new legislation and providing specific implementation dates.

Comments 0   Add new comment
April 1, 2015

Governor Herbert signed three more new condo laws and new community association laws in the last few days. H.B. 98 dealing with association rentals and fines will become law. S.B. 80 making minor modifications to the reserve statute will become law. Finally, S.B. 206 making significant changes the the revised nonprofit corporations act will become law. Keep updated on the Morris Sperry's website for more information on these important new hoa laws.

Comments 0   Add new comment
March 31, 2015

Governor Gary Herbert signed H.B. 304 into law. H.B. 304 contains important new homeowners association laws and condo laws that will help associations minimize damage from flooding and freezing pipes. In short, the bill now allows community associations to give notice the electric and gas companies, stating that the association wants notice before the utility shuts off either eletrical or natural gas service. Upon receiving notice from the gas or electric company, the condominium association or HOA can take action to winterize the unit or pay the utilitites so that the pipes don't freeze. The Utah Community Association Institute Legislative Action Committee successfully introduced this bill in an effort to help with this destructive problem. Contact Morris Sperry for a complete outline of the new 2015 HOA laws. 

Comments 0   Add new comment
March 23, 2015

On Friday March 20, 2015, the Department of Justice announced that the Greenbrier Condominiums in Minnesota agreed to pay $100,000 in compensatory damages to six families that suffered discrimination and $10,000 in penalties to the United States. The settlement ends a Fair Housing Act case started by the Department of Justice against the Association and one of its employees. The Association also has to establish new non-discrimination policies and end discriminatory behavior. The Greenbrier and its employee were alleged to have created and enforced rules that prevented children from equally enjoying the common areas and to have made statements indicating a preference against families with children. This case highlights the importance of an annual review of a Condo or hoa's rules and policies by a qualified HOA lawyer - such as those from Morris Sperry. The lawyers at Morris Sperry have significant experience dealing with Utah Fair Housing issues and complaints, including successfully defending several complaints brought against Condominium Associations. More importantly, Morris Sperry can advise associations on how to avoid these complaints in the first place and comply with what can sometimes be very subtle Fair Housing laws.  

Comments 0   Add new comment
March 15, 2015

The 2015 Utah legislative session ended Friday.New Utah laws on hundreds of topics including new HOA laws for 2015 all await the Governor's signature. With the passage of 528 bills, the Governor has started the long process of signing bills. None of the new community association laws have been signed yet, but there is no reason to believe they would be subject to a veto. For now, community associations in Utah just wait and see to find out which new 2015 HOA laws the governor will sign. The governor has 20 days from the end of the session to veto or sign a bill. If he vetos the bill, it obviously does not become law. However, whether he signs the bill, or does not sign it but does not veto, it becomes law.

Comments 0   Add new comment
March 11, 2015

 

HB 304, a new Utah HOA law for 2015, is one step closer to passage. The bill, explained in a prior Morris Sperry news articles, passed the senate and is now waiting for the governor's signature along with several other new HOA laws for 2015.  

Comments 0   Add new comment
March 7, 2015

After an unpredictable and wild legislative process that saw the bill transform several times, SB 118 finally passed the Senate and the House. It now awaits the governor's signature. This bill took more turns than a blind mouse in a mile long maze. In its final form, this bill is a compilation of three different concepts. First, community associations now have even better tools to get past mistakes and roadblocks in the governing documents that prevent amendments. Second, this bill ended up with owner protections against associations who fail to comply with the new open meeting laws in HB 99. The Utah Senate committee required these changes but, through simple inadvertence, they didn't make it into HB 99 before it passed both houses. So, they ended up in SB 118. Finally, SB 118 was amended to include significant clarifications to the procedures for an owner requesting association documents and a new penalty provision if condominium associations or other community associations fail to comply with owner document requests. These provisions came instead of another bill the Sponsor intended to run and were also part of a cooperative drafting effort between the CAI LAC and the senator.

This bill reflects a careful balance between owner and association rights. Those associations who take the "high road" of transparency and compliance with the law, will see no problems with these new penalty provisions. On the other hand, those management companies, HOA attorneys, and associations who tend to view HOA relationships with owners as an "us" - the board and its advisors, against "them" - the owners, had better beware. The days of obstructing owners who want to attend meetings or see association records are coming to an end. Owners in townhomes, condominiums, and homeowners associations will no longer have to stand for stonewalling, unexplained delay, exorbitant document copying charges, and other common strategies employed by the "low road" associations and their advisors who try to obstruct owners in their legitimate requests for association documents. Without needing an attorney, owners will be able to file a claim in small claims court and obtain a $500 damage award if the association fails to comply with either the open meeting or the document production laws. If an owner gets an attorney, he or she has a right to recover reasonable attorney fees.

This bill faced opposition from the "low road" attorneys who think that every law granting HOA owner rights is a threat to associations. And for those associations they advise, it probably is. Fortunately, that narrow minded opposition was fleeting, weak, and had no impact on the passage of the bill. The Utah legislature understood the importance of these types of balanced laws that support owners’ rights. How could they not – the same types of disclosure and access laws apply to the government they serve in!

John Morris, an attorney at Morris Sperry, is proud to have helped written the laws in this bill and to have testified in favor of this bill at the capitol. Morris Sperry applauds and supports this type of legislation. This new HOA law respects the balance between HOAs and their owners and helps remind as all who the HOA serves – the owners! The Utah community association institute HOA LAC (legislative action committee) worked hard on this bill with senators who have encountered the "low road" HOAs and were set on punishing them. The result was an excellent balance that good HOAs and their advisors will appreciate and respect. The work on this bill also continued and strengthened a good working relationship between the LAC and the Utah legislature.

Comments 1   Add new comment
March 6, 2015

HB 304 passed through the Utah Senate Transportation and Public Utilities and Technology Committee and was placed on the Senate consent calendar yesterday. The odds of this bill passing just went up significantly. Community Associations could soon have a tool that allows them to get notice from utility companies before power and natural gas are shut off by the utility company for lack of payment. The board or management committee will have a chance to either enter the unit and winterize the unit or pay the bill and keep the utilities on. The Utah Legislative Action Committee of the Utah chapter of the Community Association Institute worked on and proposed this bill to help reduce damage from freezing pipes and flooding in community associations. Hopefully, this will turn into a valuable tool for Utah condominium associations and PUDs. 

Comments 0   Add new comment
February 26, 2015

Senate Bill 218 has passed out of committee in the Utah Senate and is now moving forward on the floor of the senate. This bill would make several changes to the Revised Nonprofit Corporation Act. Those HOAs that are incorporated, which 95% are, will be subject to the changes in all sorts of areas. Among other things, the new HOA law would: (1) clarify that notice and member participation by text, email, and other electronic means is acceptable in more circumstances, (2) eliminate the ability to use written ballots in a meeting if those ballots were solicited as part of an effort to take action without a meeting, (3) clarify that a proxy may be sent by text, email, or other means of electronic communication, (4) clarifying the right of board members to approve of board actions by text and email, (5) limit the authority of committees, (6) clarify that other types of notice may be permitted for meetings of the members and board, (7) clarifies the conflict of interest section application to relatives of board members, and (8) clarifies the contents of articles of restatement. 

If this bill passes, HOAs will need to update their procedures and practices applicable to daily decision making by board members and for member meetings and action. Morris Sperry will continue to monitor this bill and will be ready to provide any association with a complete overview of the changes if this new law passes.

Comments 0   Add new comment

Pages

August 31, 2017

 

Quinn Sperry was elected by his peers to serve as the Treasurer of the Community Association Law Section of the Utah State Bar for the 2017 through 2018 year. He was elected at the 2017 annual meeting of the section. This further demonstrates Morris Sperry's commitment to service. Quinn served on a committee of the section since 2016 and will continue to support the section that was Morris Sperry's idea and that Morris Sperry applied to create with the Utah State Bar in 2015. Quinn is looking forward to helping the section fulfil its mission and goals.

Comments 0   Add new comment
May 31, 2017

 

In what is almost certainly the largest wrongful lien verdict in Utah and perhaps the largest in the United States, Morris Sperry lawyers obtained a $15,110,000 wrongful lien judgment (pursuant to the Utah Wrongful Lien Act beginning at Utah Code Ann. Section 38-9-101) for their clients after a week-long trial. The judgment out of the Fourth District Court includes over fourteen million dollars in wrongful lien statutory damages and over half a million dollars in attorney fees. The trial judgment included both an award of $3,000 per interest holder under Utah Code Ann. Section 38-9-203(1) and an award of $10,000 per interest holder under Utah Code Ann. Section 38-9-203(2). The judgment was obtained for three association clients, Cold Springs, Rock Creek, and Willow Springs in the Ranches at Eagle Mountain. In addition to the massive verdict, Morris Sperry obtained an order of quiet title eliminating forever any obligation of the owners in Morris Sperry's client associations to pay assessments to the Ranches master association and clearing the title to their homes of any CC&Rs, declarations, bylaws, notices of liens, and other documents previously recorded by the Ranches.

It started when Morris Sperry was retained to review some irregularities in the amendment procedures used by the Ranches master association. Morris Sperry lawyers figured out that the Ranches documents had serious legal defects and could potentially be invalidated, freeing Morris Sperry's clients from any obligations of the master association and eliminating over ten thousand dollars a month in assessments being paid by the owners in Morris Sperry's client associations. Based on the detailed and extensive analysis of the legal issues prepared by Morris Sperry, their clients were confident going forward with an extraordinary challenge to the Ranches authority even though the master association had operated for more than ten years. When the Ranches refused to release its documents, Morris Sperry filed and prosecuted a lawsuit that involved complicated legal and equitable issues.The Morris Sperry attorneys' unparallelled understanding of HOA law and extensive complex litigation experience allowed their clients to achieve this amazing trial result and huge verdict. When you have an HOA legal problem and you really want the right answer, this case is just one more example of why Morris Sperry is the only choice in Utah.

Comments 0   Add new comment
September 20, 2016

 

John Morris of Morris Sperry took time out of his busy schedule to visit Ms. Peck's class at McMillan elementary school to talk about the judicial system and put on a mock trial in which the students participated. With a prosecutor, judge, jury, defense lawyer, and multiple witnesses, the children all played their parts and had a great time. Morris Sperry lawyers are always looking for a way to participate in the community.

 

Comments 0   Add new comment
May 23, 2016

John Holland, the founder of Property Management Systems Inc., passed away May 17, 2016. Anyone who had the privilege of meeting John remembered him as a kind and thoughtful man who always made anyone he was speaking with feel special. He built a very successful property management business on hard work and his ability to build relationships. John and his son Joe introduced John Morris of Morris Sperry into the HOA world. Fresh out of law school, John Morris served on the board of his condominium association that Property Management Systems managed. After getting to know one another, Joe asked John Morris to help him with another association's legal issues. The rest is history as John Morris's practice included more and more HOA work until it become his sole focus. This culminated in the founding of Morris Sperry, the only law firm in Utah focused on HOA law. Joe and John Morris are still friends and still working together to solve problems for HOAs.

John Holland was a good man and he will be missed by his family, his employees, and those in the property management industry. We offer our deepest condolences from the lawyers and staff at Morris Sperry. 

Comments 0   Add new comment
January 30, 2016

For the third straight year, more Morris Sperry lawyers attended the largest and most important HOA law seminar in the nation than any other Utah law firm. Five lawyers from Morris Sperry spent four days in seminars on topics such as aging communities, hot HOA topics, amending governing documents, pets in HOAs, plats, and several other community association topics. The law seminar put on by the College of Community Association Lawyers is the best opportunity for serious HOA lawyers to talk about HOA issues and strategies with hundreds of lawyers from around the country focused in this complex area of law. Morris Sperry lawyers attending and presenting at this seminar fine tune cutting edge strategies and ideas for inclusion in new governing documents and implementation throughout their practice. Morris Sperry can invest in this training because they remain the only law firm in Utah focused exclusively on representing associations, owners, and developers in the complex area of community association law (condominiums, HOAs, townhomes, PUDS, and homeowner associations). Who do you want representing your condominium, townhome, or HOA, the "jack of all trades" lawyer who would never invest the time in a seminar like this or the lawyers at Morris Sperry who invest the time and effort to stay on the cutting edge of legal issues impacting your assocaition?

Comments 0   Add new comment
January 14, 2016

John Morris, Quinn Sperry, and Brandon Myers were all selected by their peers as one of Utah Business magazine's 2016 Utah Legal Elite. This select group of lawyers practicing in Utah is chosen by other lawyers. The list of winners is published in a special edition of Utah Business magazine. Legal Elite honorees are selected by their peers in a statewide balloting process. Each year, members of the Utah Bar are invited to participate by submitting a ballot of Utah lawyers they hold in the highest regard - lawyers they have observed firsthand and would recommend to others. Nominators are allowed to cast only one ballot and can not vote for themselves. Morris Sperry lawyers have been selected for this list for years, and this selection is just one measure of the good work and value that Morris Sperry lawyers provide to their clients.

 

 

Comments 0   Add new comment
November 12, 2015

As Americans, we love our country and those men and women, past and present, who serve and sacrifice for our freedoms. Displaying the Flag of the United States is one way we show our patriotism to honor our nation and the heroes that make this country great.  

Recently, the right to fly our nation’s Flag within homeowners associations (each an “HOA”) has stirred some controversy here in our state. When news broke that an HOA in the Salt Lake Valley wanted to restrict its residents from flying Old Glory, owners of that HOA and many others expressed their outrage. It is likely that no other symbol evokes more emotion and patriotism than the Stars and Stripes. So if you are an owner or resident in an HOA, what are your rights when it comes to flying the American Flag?

When a person purchases a home in an HOA (a condo, townhome, or detached home), that person becomes a member of the HOA and agrees to adhere to the HOA’s particular covenants, conditions, and restrictions (the “CC&Rs”). Courts interpret CC&Rs as legally binding contracts between the owners and the HOA. This is why it’s so important for owners or prospective purchasers to review the HOA’s CC&Rs so they understand the covenants or restrictions that may apply to the use of their property and the HOA’s common property within the HOA’s boundaries. Due to the complex nature of CC&Rs, owners in HOAs sometimes fail to properly understand the restrictions they agree to when purchasing their home or fail to see the many benefits HOA living brings with it.

While some HOA rights are apparent, other rights have been misunderstood. Some people feel that an HOA restricting the location where a Flag is flown is a restriction on freedom of speech and the property rights we as Americans hold so dear. However, this is not always the case.   

A homeowner in an HOA has the absolute legal right to fly the American Flag on property he or she exclusively owns or controls, within certain legal requirements. Both federal and Utah state statutes apply to one’s right to display the American Flag. Section 3 of the Freedom to Display the American Flag Act of 2005 (federal law) states:

“A condominium association, cooperative association, or residential real estate management association may not adopt or enforce any policy, or enter into any agreement, that would restrict or prevent a member of the association from displaying the flag of the United States on residential property within the association with respect to which such member has a separate ownership interest or a right to exclusive possession or use.”  

A quick reading of this section may suggest that an HOA may not restrict an owner’s right to display the Flag at all. However, the key issue to focus on in this scenario is the location where an owner is attempting to display the Flag.

If the owner has “exclusive possession or use” of an area then the HOA cannot restrict or prevent Flag displays in that area. The HOA, however, can restrict Flag flying in the common areas. The CC&Rs and plats for each HOA identify those sections of an owner’s dwelling or lot that are owned exclusively by the owner and those areas over which the owner has the exclusive right to use or possess. The HOA’s CC&Rs further identify the common areas of the HOA. In a condominium project, the common areas are owned collectively by all owners and may include areas such as the clubhouse or pool area, landscaping surrounding condos, and building features (siding, roofs, eaves, etc.). In other community association developments (non-condominium projects), the common areas are owned by the HOA itself. Thus, the common areas in HOAs are not owned by any one owner and there is no “separate ownership interest” in the common areas for a particular owner. Moreover, the CC&Rs generally provide that all owners of the HOA have a right to use and enjoy the common areas, which means that no individual owner has the “right to exclusive possession or use” of these common areas. These common areas, therefore, fall outside the scope of section 3 of the Freedom to Display the American Flag Act of 2005, and an HOA may regulate or even prohibit the display of the Flag on its common areas.

Utah law further addresses displaying flags in an HOA. Utah’s Display of Flag Act includes condominium associations within the definition of “residential property management authority”[1] and provides, in part:

A residential property management authority may not prohibit a resident from displaying a Flag:

(a)    consistent with the guidelines in [federal law];

(b)   within an area over which the resident has exclusive control; and

(c)    from a staff, pole, or window.[2]

As explained above, an owner or resident of a condominium association does not have “exclusive control” over common areas within his or her HOA; therefore, a condominium association may restrict or prevent an owner or resident from displaying the Flag in common areas. On the other hand, CC&Rs typically define the interior sides of windows in condominium projects as being under the resident’s “exclusive control”; thus, an HOA could not prohibit the resident from displaying the Flag in a window.

Utah’s Community Association Act[3] – which applies to planned unit developments and community associations other than condominium projects[4] – further addresses the issue of displaying the Flag in a community association. Section 219 of this act states:

  1. An association may not prohibit a lot owner from displaying a United States flag inside a dwelling or limited common area or on a lot, if the display complies with United States Code, Title 4, Chapter 1, The Flag. 
  2. An association may restrict the display of a flag on the common areas.

This law allows the HOA to restrict the display of the Flag in the common areas, which are owned by the HOA and not by any particular owner. Keep in mind, however, that the HOA may not prohibit an owner from displaying the Flag in any area that is not common area, except in limited circumstances

Federal law allows an HOA to adopt “any reasonable restriction pertaining to the time, place, manner of displaying the Flag of the United States necessary to protect a substantial interest of the condominium association, cooperative association, or residential real estate management association.” [5] One example of a valid time, place, and manner restriction could apply to illuminating the Flag for display at night.  “[I]t might be appropriate to restrict large flood lights that illuminate the flag because it disturbs the ability of neighbors to sleep.”[6] An HOA may require that the Flag be properly displayed per the Federal Flag Act. We all hope that someone displaying or using the Flag does so in a manner that is proper and respectful to the Flag but, just in case, an HOA may require that the individual correct his/her actions so that the Flag is properly displayed.

One must keep in mind that even though an HOA has the right to restrict the display of the American Flag on common area, the HOA may take the position that it wants its owners and residents to fly the Flag in the common areas.  An HOA may choose to amend its CC&Rs (in accordance with its particular amendment procedures) and specifically allow owners to display the American Flag in certain common areas. Such an amendment may contain guidelines concerning the location and manner that flag poles or other devices may be installed on the common areas to minimize the potential for future damages (i.e. water penetration through the holes) while still allowing residents to express their patriotism and respecting a person’s right to fly that Star Spangled Banner.

It is important to note that while many view HOAs in a negative light, these people limit their focus and perspective to only certain restrictions imposed by the HOA. It is true that when individuals live in an HOA, they are essentially entering into a contract with their neighbors and, by entering into that contract, the owners may give up some of their rights that may otherwise accompany traditional homeownership (outside of an HOA); however, these individuals in an HOA gain protections and rights too.  Some of the use restrictions that may limit traditional property rights concern: colors used on the exterior of a home, materials and colors used when installing a fence, types of plants or trees an owner may have in his/her yard, smoking tobacco products in or around a dwelling, and the number or type of pets an owner may have, whether an owner may rent their property.  Viewed from another perspective, these restrictions grant owners the right to protect themselves from breathing secondhand smoke and to maintain uniformity in the quality of craftsmanship, landscaping, and level of building and landscaping maintenance all of which preserve property values.  An HOA’s CC&Rs further afford owners the right to elect members of their HOA’s governing board, approve their HOA’s budget, and ratify proposed amendments to their HOA’s CC&Rs. 

In conclusion, living in an HOA does not strip individuals of their Constitutional, federal, and/or state law rights when it comes to issues such as displaying the American Flag.  By living in an HOA, individuals agree to adhere to further statutory and contractual provisions intended to promote the health, safety, and welfare of the community residents, maintain a sense of community, and preserve owners’ property values.

**This article originally appeared on the Utah Chapter of the Community Associations Institute blog on Nov. 11, 2015.


 

[1] Utah Code Ann. § 57-24-101(3).

[2] Utah Code Ann. § 57-24-102(1).

[3] Utah Code Ann. § 57-8a-101 et seq.

[4] Utah Code Ann. § 57-8-1 et seq., applies to condominium projects. 

[5] See Section 4 of the Freedom to Display the American Flag Act of 2005.

[6] See Guidance for Complying with the Freedom to Display the American Flag Act of 2005, Community Associations Institute, available at http://www.caionline.org/govt/news/Pages/GuidanceforComplyingwiththeFreedomtoDisplaytheAmericanFlagActof2005.aspx.

Comments 0   Add new comment
October 29, 2015

Amy Binns-Shewan has joined Morris Sperry as an associate attorney. Amy excelled in law school, graduating in the top of her class. She graduated with honors and was invited to join the Order of the Coif. She served on the Utah Law Review and received several distinctions for excellent performance in law school. Amy is excited to focus on community association law and is looking forward to immersing herself in this complicated area of law. Amy contributes to the depth of excellent lawyers at Morris Sperry, allowing the firm to get work done (and done well) for our clients. Morris Sperry is excited to add excellent lawyers like Amy and will continue to grow and add lawyers as necessary to provide excellent and timely legal services to Utah condominiums, HOAs, homeowner associations, and community associations.  

Comments 0   Add new comment
October 21, 2015

In a free webinar put on by Utah CAI, John Morris introduced a new Utah HOA mediation program that he spearheaded and that members of the local CAI chapter have been working on for more than two years. This will be a great opportunity to cost effectively resolve disputes involving HOAs. Associations, board members, homeowners, and vendors in homeowners associations can now take advantage of this program and low cost mediators experienced in HOA matters that the program will offer. This is a great option for resolving disputes before people are forced to spend money on lawyers and lawsuits. Morris Sperry is proud to have guided the development of this program for the benefit of all homeowners and associations in Utah.

 

Comments 0   Add new comment
October 5, 2015

Quinn Sperry of Morris Sperry was interviewed on the news last week about a serious controversy in a Utah HOA. Residents want to fly the American flag and the association board is sending them fines and wants the flags removed. This problem repeats around the country when HOAs take harsh positions on flying the flag inside the community. No symbol evokes more emotion, patriotism, and willingness to fight an HOA than the stars and stripes. Morris Sperry regularly advises both owners in communities and community associations (HOAs, condominiums, townhomes, and homeowners associations) about flying the flag of the United States of America. There is an absolute legal right to fly the American flag from or on certain property owned or under the exclusive use of the homeowner and with certain legal requirements. Working with Morris Sperry and taking advantage of our experience and knowledge with this issue, associations can make and enforce reasonable requirements for flying of the American flag while allowing owners to express their patriotism and while respecting their legal right to fly the flag. More importantly, with the wise counsel of Morris Sperry, associations and owners can avoid the media circus and hostility created by the association that was the subject of this story.

Click HERE to see the story. 

Comments 0   Add new comment

Pages

August 31, 2017

 

On August 31, 2017, John Morris teamed up with Matt Liapis, a GIS expert, to discuss GIS and digital mapping technology and how it can be used in litigation. Specifically, John explained how this technology was used by Morris Sperry in obtaining a fifteen million dollar judgment. GIS presents a new opportunity for visualizing and analyzing property ownership on a massive scale and in a way that simplifies and quantifies a tremendous amount of data in simple to see and understand maps. Mat Liapis testified as a GIS expert in the trial and was able to effectively and efficiently demonstrate on digital maps the ownership of thousands of parcels of property at several different time periods. He was further able to visualize and quantify hundreds of lots upon which certain documents had been recorded. Using alternative methods of quantifying and presenting this data such as through traditional title searches and reports would have cost hundreds of thousands of dollars. In contrast, the GIS analysis and mapping was more persuasive, easily understood, and cost a small faction of that amount. Morris Sperry uses cutting edge technology in litigation and trial both to increase the persuasiveness of their arguments and to keep costs down. 

 

Comments 0   Add new comment
May 31, 2017

 

In what is almost certainly the largest wrongful lien verdict in Utah and perhaps the largest in the United States, Morris Sperry lawyers obtained a $15,110,000 wrongful lien judgment (pursuant to the Utah Wrongful Lien Act beginning at Utah Code Ann. Section 38-9-101) for their clients after a week-long trial. The judgment out of the Fourth District Court includes over fourteen million dollars in wrongful lien statutory damages and over half a million dollars in attorney fees. The trial judgment included both an award of $3,000 per interest holder under Utah Code Ann. Section 38-9-203(1) and an award of $10,000 per interest holder under Utah Code Ann. Section 38-9-203(2). The judgment was obtained for three association clients, Cold Springs, Rock Creek, and Willow Springs in the Ranches at Eagle Mountain. In addition to the massive verdict, Morris Sperry obtained an order of quiet title eliminating forever any obligation of the owners in Morris Sperry's client associations to pay assessments to the Ranches master association and clearing the title to their homes of any CC&Rs, declarations, bylaws, notices of liens, and other documents previously recorded by the Ranches.

It started when Morris Sperry was retained to review some irregularities in the amendment procedures used by the Ranches master association. Morris Sperry lawyers figured out that the Ranches documents had serious legal defects and could potentially be invalidated, freeing Morris Sperry's clients from any obligations of the master association and eliminating over ten thousand dollars a month in assessments being paid by the owners in Morris Sperry's client associations. Based on the detailed and extensive analysis of the legal issues prepared by Morris Sperry, their clients were confident going forward with an extraordinary challenge to the Ranches authority even though the master association had operated for more than ten years. When the Ranches refused to release its documents, Morris Sperry filed and prosecuted a lawsuit that involved complicated legal and equitable issues.The Morris Sperry attorneys' unparallelled understanding of HOA law and extensive complex litigation experience allowed their clients to achieve this amazing trial result and huge verdict. When you have an HOA legal problem and you really want the right answer, this case is just one more example of why Morris Sperry is the only choice in Utah.

Comments 0   Add new comment
January 17, 2017

For the fourth straight year, more Morris Sperry lawyers attended the largest and most important HOA law seminar in the nation than any other Utah law firm. Six lawyers from Morris Sperry spent four days in seminars on topics such as drones, hot HOA topics, amending governing documents, pets in HOAs, fiduciary duties, and several other community association topics. The law seminar put on by the College of Community Association Lawyers is the best opportunity for serious HOA lawyers to talk about HOA issues and strategies with hundreds of lawyers from around the country focused in this complex area of law. Morris Sperry lawyers attending and presenting at this seminar fine tune cutting edge strategies and ideas for inclusion in new governing documents and implementation throughout their practice. Morris Sperry invests in this training because they remain the only law firm in Utah focused exclusively on representing associations, owners, and developers in the complex area of community association law (condominiums, HOAs, townhomes, PUDS, and homeowner associations). Who do you want representing your condominium, townhome, or HOA, the lawyer who spends part of their time on HOA law or the lawyers at Morris Sperry who invest the time and effort to stay on the cutting edge of legal issues in the complex area of community association law?

Comments 0   Add new comment
May 24, 2016

While we generally trust in the integrity of owners, managers, and board members counting votes by owners at HOA board elections, that trust must have limits in the form of good controls. Investigations into condominium election fraud in Florida highlight the problem.  In one case, 115% of the owners voted in the annual election! In another, multiple people have confirmed that ballots submitted on their behalf were entirely fraudulent and do not contain their signature. The goal of this fraud is different in different community associations. Sometimes it is a misguided but innocent effort on the part of board members to keep election costs down. Other times it is an effort by entrenched board members to remain in power.  Even worse, sometimes it is part of a concerted effort to rob the assocaition of funds starting with the people on the board remaining in control and sometimes with the collusion of the manager. Hundreds of other complaints of election fraud were submitted in Florida in the last few years.   

It would be delusional to think this type of association electrion fraud never occurs in Utah, even if it is rare. Morris Sperry can help implement processes on behalf of associations and owners to minimize this risk when owners are concerned about election fraud or to proactively prevent any concerns. We have successfully participated in several hotly contested elections and implemented mutually agreeable procedures for collecting and counting ballots. These procedures gave everyone confidence in the results. Morris Sperry has the experience to advise associations and owners about elections, voting, counting procedures, and safeguards to ensure the integrity of the voting process.  

Comments 0   Add new comment
May 23, 2016

John Holland, the founder of Property Management Systems Inc., passed away May 17, 2016. Anyone who had the privilege of meeting John remembered him as a kind and thoughtful man who always made anyone he was speaking with feel special. He built a very successful property management business on hard work and his ability to build relationships. John and his son Joe introduced John Morris of Morris Sperry into the HOA world. Fresh out of law school, John Morris served on the board of his condominium association that Property Management Systems managed. After getting to know one another, Joe asked John Morris to help him with another association's legal issues. The rest is history as John Morris's practice included more and more HOA work until it become his sole focus. This culminated in the founding of Morris Sperry, the only law firm in Utah focused on HOA law. Joe and John Morris are still friends and still working together to solve problems for HOAs.

John Holland was a good man and he will be missed by his family, his employees, and those in the property management industry. We offer our deepest condolences from the lawyers and staff at Morris Sperry. 

Comments 0   Add new comment
March 31, 2016

 

The Connecticut Supreme Court has heard but not decided a potentially precedent-setting case involving condominiums. A police dog in a condominium building hallway signaled for marijuana outside of the door of a condominium unit. The police then obtained a warrant for the unit and found marijuana plants, growing equipment, firearms, and seeds. A trial court judge dismissed the charges saying the original search in the common area hallway violated the condominium owner's constitutional rights. This decision seems consistent with an earlier United States Supreme Court decision in 2013 holding that police dogs cannot sniff for drugs in areas right outside of a private residence without a warrant. The counter-argument in this case is that the condominium hallways are common area accessible by any owner in the project. 

This case represents an interesting constitutional question and a very practical question for community associations trying to take action to root out suspected crime. This issue could come up anytime there is crime in a condominium, townhome project, homeowners association, or any other type of HOA. The type of crime varies and can include drug dealers, growing operations, prostitution, and theft rings. The neighbors and unit owners frequently expect the association to take some action and association boards and management committees are often motivated to stop the illegal activity.

At Morris Sperry we have dealt with these issues for years and have good advice for association boards when they encounter this problem. These problems have to be handled in a way that complies with the law and puts a stop to the crime in the community.  

Comments 0   Add new comment
January 30, 2016

For the third straight year, more Morris Sperry lawyers attended the largest and most important HOA law seminar in the nation than any other Utah law firm. Five lawyers from Morris Sperry spent four days in seminars on topics such as aging communities, hot HOA topics, amending governing documents, pets in HOAs, plats, and several other community association topics. The law seminar put on by the College of Community Association Lawyers is the best opportunity for serious HOA lawyers to talk about HOA issues and strategies with hundreds of lawyers from around the country focused in this complex area of law. Morris Sperry lawyers attending and presenting at this seminar fine tune cutting edge strategies and ideas for inclusion in new governing documents and implementation throughout their practice. Morris Sperry can invest in this training because they remain the only law firm in Utah focused exclusively on representing associations, owners, and developers in the complex area of community association law (condominiums, HOAs, townhomes, PUDS, and homeowner associations). Who do you want representing your condominium, townhome, or HOA, the "jack of all trades" lawyer who would never invest the time in a seminar like this or the lawyers at Morris Sperry who invest the time and effort to stay on the cutting edge of legal issues impacting your assocaition?

Comments 0   Add new comment
January 14, 2016

John Morris, Quinn Sperry, and Brandon Myers were all selected by their peers as one of Utah Business magazine's 2016 Utah Legal Elite. This select group of lawyers practicing in Utah is chosen by other lawyers. The list of winners is published in a special edition of Utah Business magazine. Legal Elite honorees are selected by their peers in a statewide balloting process. Each year, members of the Utah Bar are invited to participate by submitting a ballot of Utah lawyers they hold in the highest regard - lawyers they have observed firsthand and would recommend to others. Nominators are allowed to cast only one ballot and can not vote for themselves. Morris Sperry lawyers have been selected for this list for years, and this selection is just one measure of the good work and value that Morris Sperry lawyers provide to their clients.

 

 

Comments 0   Add new comment
November 24, 2015

A Virginia association recently received an application from an eleven-year-old boy for an open board position. The bylaws and declaration don't have any minimum age requirements. The Association has engaged counsel and is scrambling to figure out if they must accept the application and put the boy on the ballot for the election. The application raises all sorts of interesting issues including whether a child with no capacity to enter into a contract can nonetheless vote on a board and make decisions. Practically, of course, it seems that an association who elects an eleven-year-old to the board deserves what they get! 

This funny example highlights the never-ending questions that can arise in the context of board elections. The Association is taking the right step in seeking legal advice to resolve this issue before an annual meeting and before an election dispute turns into something more serious. Morris Sperry attorneys can turn around these types of questions quickly and efficiently to keep associations on track with their board elections.

Comments 0   Add new comment
November 12, 2015

As Americans, we love our country and those men and women, past and present, who serve and sacrifice for our freedoms. Displaying the Flag of the United States is one way we show our patriotism to honor our nation and the heroes that make this country great.  

Recently, the right to fly our nation’s Flag within homeowners associations (each an “HOA”) has stirred some controversy here in our state. When news broke that an HOA in the Salt Lake Valley wanted to restrict its residents from flying Old Glory, owners of that HOA and many others expressed their outrage. It is likely that no other symbol evokes more emotion and patriotism than the Stars and Stripes. So if you are an owner or resident in an HOA, what are your rights when it comes to flying the American Flag?

When a person purchases a home in an HOA (a condo, townhome, or detached home), that person becomes a member of the HOA and agrees to adhere to the HOA’s particular covenants, conditions, and restrictions (the “CC&Rs”). Courts interpret CC&Rs as legally binding contracts between the owners and the HOA. This is why it’s so important for owners or prospective purchasers to review the HOA’s CC&Rs so they understand the covenants or restrictions that may apply to the use of their property and the HOA’s common property within the HOA’s boundaries. Due to the complex nature of CC&Rs, owners in HOAs sometimes fail to properly understand the restrictions they agree to when purchasing their home or fail to see the many benefits HOA living brings with it.

While some HOA rights are apparent, other rights have been misunderstood. Some people feel that an HOA restricting the location where a Flag is flown is a restriction on freedom of speech and the property rights we as Americans hold so dear. However, this is not always the case.   

A homeowner in an HOA has the absolute legal right to fly the American Flag on property he or she exclusively owns or controls, within certain legal requirements. Both federal and Utah state statutes apply to one’s right to display the American Flag. Section 3 of the Freedom to Display the American Flag Act of 2005 (federal law) states:

“A condominium association, cooperative association, or residential real estate management association may not adopt or enforce any policy, or enter into any agreement, that would restrict or prevent a member of the association from displaying the flag of the United States on residential property within the association with respect to which such member has a separate ownership interest or a right to exclusive possession or use.”  

A quick reading of this section may suggest that an HOA may not restrict an owner’s right to display the Flag at all. However, the key issue to focus on in this scenario is the location where an owner is attempting to display the Flag.

If the owner has “exclusive possession or use” of an area then the HOA cannot restrict or prevent Flag displays in that area. The HOA, however, can restrict Flag flying in the common areas. The CC&Rs and plats for each HOA identify those sections of an owner’s dwelling or lot that are owned exclusively by the owner and those areas over which the owner has the exclusive right to use or possess. The HOA’s CC&Rs further identify the common areas of the HOA. In a condominium project, the common areas are owned collectively by all owners and may include areas such as the clubhouse or pool area, landscaping surrounding condos, and building features (siding, roofs, eaves, etc.). In other community association developments (non-condominium projects), the common areas are owned by the HOA itself. Thus, the common areas in HOAs are not owned by any one owner and there is no “separate ownership interest” in the common areas for a particular owner. Moreover, the CC&Rs generally provide that all owners of the HOA have a right to use and enjoy the common areas, which means that no individual owner has the “right to exclusive possession or use” of these common areas. These common areas, therefore, fall outside the scope of section 3 of the Freedom to Display the American Flag Act of 2005, and an HOA may regulate or even prohibit the display of the Flag on its common areas.

Utah law further addresses displaying flags in an HOA. Utah’s Display of Flag Act includes condominium associations within the definition of “residential property management authority”[1] and provides, in part:

A residential property management authority may not prohibit a resident from displaying a Flag:

(a)    consistent with the guidelines in [federal law];

(b)   within an area over which the resident has exclusive control; and

(c)    from a staff, pole, or window.[2]

As explained above, an owner or resident of a condominium association does not have “exclusive control” over common areas within his or her HOA; therefore, a condominium association may restrict or prevent an owner or resident from displaying the Flag in common areas. On the other hand, CC&Rs typically define the interior sides of windows in condominium projects as being under the resident’s “exclusive control”; thus, an HOA could not prohibit the resident from displaying the Flag in a window.

Utah’s Community Association Act[3] – which applies to planned unit developments and community associations other than condominium projects[4] – further addresses the issue of displaying the Flag in a community association. Section 219 of this act states:

  1. An association may not prohibit a lot owner from displaying a United States flag inside a dwelling or limited common area or on a lot, if the display complies with United States Code, Title 4, Chapter 1, The Flag. 
  2. An association may restrict the display of a flag on the common areas.

This law allows the HOA to restrict the display of the Flag in the common areas, which are owned by the HOA and not by any particular owner. Keep in mind, however, that the HOA may not prohibit an owner from displaying the Flag in any area that is not common area, except in limited circumstances

Federal law allows an HOA to adopt “any reasonable restriction pertaining to the time, place, manner of displaying the Flag of the United States necessary to protect a substantial interest of the condominium association, cooperative association, or residential real estate management association.” [5] One example of a valid time, place, and manner restriction could apply to illuminating the Flag for display at night.  “[I]t might be appropriate to restrict large flood lights that illuminate the flag because it disturbs the ability of neighbors to sleep.”[6] An HOA may require that the Flag be properly displayed per the Federal Flag Act. We all hope that someone displaying or using the Flag does so in a manner that is proper and respectful to the Flag but, just in case, an HOA may require that the individual correct his/her actions so that the Flag is properly displayed.

One must keep in mind that even though an HOA has the right to restrict the display of the American Flag on common area, the HOA may take the position that it wants its owners and residents to fly the Flag in the common areas.  An HOA may choose to amend its CC&Rs (in accordance with its particular amendment procedures) and specifically allow owners to display the American Flag in certain common areas. Such an amendment may contain guidelines concerning the location and manner that flag poles or other devices may be installed on the common areas to minimize the potential for future damages (i.e. water penetration through the holes) while still allowing residents to express their patriotism and respecting a person’s right to fly that Star Spangled Banner.

It is important to note that while many view HOAs in a negative light, these people limit their focus and perspective to only certain restrictions imposed by the HOA. It is true that when individuals live in an HOA, they are essentially entering into a contract with their neighbors and, by entering into that contract, the owners may give up some of their rights that may otherwise accompany traditional homeownership (outside of an HOA); however, these individuals in an HOA gain protections and rights too.  Some of the use restrictions that may limit traditional property rights concern: colors used on the exterior of a home, materials and colors used when installing a fence, types of plants or trees an owner may have in his/her yard, smoking tobacco products in or around a dwelling, and the number or type of pets an owner may have, whether an owner may rent their property.  Viewed from another perspective, these restrictions grant owners the right to protect themselves from breathing secondhand smoke and to maintain uniformity in the quality of craftsmanship, landscaping, and level of building and landscaping maintenance all of which preserve property values.  An HOA’s CC&Rs further afford owners the right to elect members of their HOA’s governing board, approve their HOA’s budget, and ratify proposed amendments to their HOA’s CC&Rs. 

In conclusion, living in an HOA does not strip individuals of their Constitutional, federal, and/or state law rights when it comes to issues such as displaying the American Flag.  By living in an HOA, individuals agree to adhere to further statutory and contractual provisions intended to promote the health, safety, and welfare of the community residents, maintain a sense of community, and preserve owners’ property values.

**This article originally appeared on the Utah Chapter of the Community Associations Institute blog on Nov. 11, 2015.


 

[1] Utah Code Ann. § 57-24-101(3).

[2] Utah Code Ann. § 57-24-102(1).

[3] Utah Code Ann. § 57-8a-101 et seq.

[4] Utah Code Ann. § 57-8-1 et seq., applies to condominium projects. 

[5] See Section 4 of the Freedom to Display the American Flag Act of 2005.

[6] See Guidance for Complying with the Freedom to Display the American Flag Act of 2005, Community Associations Institute, available at http://www.caionline.org/govt/news/Pages/GuidanceforComplyingwiththeFreedomtoDisplaytheAmericanFlagActof2005.aspx.

Comments 0   Add new comment

Pages