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News/Blog

News/Blog

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.

 

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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. 

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September 22, 2015

For the third year in a row, Morris Sperry lawyers showed up in force to play golf and enjoy a day with HOA managers, HOA insurance providers, and other HOA vendors and industry partners. This annual outing is a great chance for people in the Utah HOA industry to spend a day together and enjoy one-another's company outside of work. Morris Sperry sponsored a record eight teams this year, one of which was the biggest loser (remember . . . we focus on HOA law, not golfing), and one of which tied to win. Morris Sperry lawyers and staff look forward to this ongoing tradition and to continue to support CAI and the education of homeowners and HOA board members in Utah. 

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September 22, 2015

The cable television provider in a Florida association recently refused to provide service because its service technicians had been robbed at gunpoint. Nine buildings have been demolished by the city in the 60 unit association and the association had received millions of dollars in fines for code violations. This association is likely the end result of unchecked defered maintenance. When an association has failed to maintain long enough, it crosses a tipping point. Any owner who is financially capable of catching up the maintenance or with the talent and leadership to work through serious maintenance problems will have moved. The only people left will be those people financially unable to correct the problems and without the motivation or talent for serious maintenance projects. The inevitable result is a catestrophic loss of property values and eventual condemnation. Every association with any signficant common area infrastructure is at risk for this problem, particularly condominium and townhome associations. Morris Sperry can provide good legal and busineses advice on the issues of deferred maintenance and reserves. Don't let your association cross the tipping point!

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September 8, 2015

In a new twist on the pink flamingo, a Texas HOA board is now wrestling with a T-Rex and a Velociraptor decoration on the front lawn of a member home. The owners installed the Jurassic lawn decorations without approval of the association. The declaration and bylaws clearly require approval of the association for any yard decorations. The owners have stated that they will challenge any attempt by the community association to enforce the restriction or to remove the decorations. The surrounding community is watching to see if the dinosaurs are strong enough to survive HOA enforcement powers. Hopefully the HOA and the homeowners have lawyers like Morris Sperry to help deal with this situation. This is the type of issue that can explode into expensive litigation and a damaging public relations battle. Having dealt with this type of problem many times, Morris Sperry can offer a combination of both legal and practical advice to resolve this type of problem in a constructive and cost effective way.   

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August 18, 2015

In another free speech case, the New Jersey Supreme Court held that rule banning handing out campaign materials in a cooperative violated the state's constitutional guarantee of free speech. This case follows a pattern of cases applying private action on private property to be subject to constitutional protection. The New Jersey Supreme Court applied a cohesive analysis and considered who was seeking to speak, the purpose of the speech, and where it was being prohibited.  The Court addressed the "important right of residents to speak about the governance of their community" in light of the board's concerns. Importantly, the Court also described how the board had an exception to the rule for its materials, and utilized that exception to criticize opponents and tout the board's accomplishments. One wonders if the case would have been decided differently if the Board had rule against handouts that applied to everyone.  

Morris Sperry remains on the cutting edge of these issues offering solid legal advice and state of the art new documents that address these and many other evolving issues in community association law. Morris Sperry HOA attorneys offer this good legal advice to developers in the formation of community associations, boards and management committees in the governance of associations, and owners who are concerned about the operation of their associations. 

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July 31, 2015

In what appears to be the largest HOA assessment collections judgment ever obtained in Utah, and perhaps the largest in the United States, the Morris Sperry law firm obtained a judgment for unpaid unit owner assessments on behalf of a client association in Park City, Utah, for nearly 1.4 million dollars. Morris Sperry also promptly obtained payment in full for the judgment. The largest unit owner in a Park City condominium hotel refused to pay assessments as part of a series of disputes and lawsuits. The judgment was for over a million dollars in assessments and over three hundred thousand dollars in interest. At the request of the Morris Sperry HOA law office, the court ordered that interest accrue on the judgment at thousands of dollars a month and awarded the association its attorney fees. 

Morris Sperry's litigation and assessment collection team routinely collects much smaller amounts on behalf of condominum and homeowner associations, but they are also capable of successfully prosecuting the most complex collection matters. Regardless of whether you have a routine collection matter or a collection matter involving bankruptcy, foreclosure, counterclaims, or millions of dollars; Morris Sperry is the team you want working for your community association collecting unpaid dues and assessments.   

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July 24, 2015

It's final! Morris Sperry's new Park City address is 1776 Park Avenue, Suite 209, Park City, Utah. With two offices, Morris Sperry is now even better situated to serve clients anywhere in Utah. Starting July 28, 2015, Morris Sperry lawyers will be working in temporary space at this Park City address while the future permanent office space is completely remodeled and upgraded. Morris Sperry will be creating a world class office and meeting space to serve Park City, Heber, and all other Summit County, Wasatch County, and Eastern Utah community associations, condominium associations, and HOAs. The remodel will include a new conference room allowing Morris Sperry attorneys to host meetings of up to forty people and will include state of the art conference phone systems and presentation technology. Morris Sperry client associations will be allowed to use the conference room for annual meetings and board meetings at no cost. The Morris Sperry Park City HOA law office will also be the location for expanded training and educational seminars in this new state-of-the-art conference room. The Morris Sperry hoa lawyers look forward to moving into the permanent space in October, 2015. The addition of a Park City office also provides much needed relief for the Midvale office which is bursting at the seams after Morris Sperry added six lawyers in the last two years.

The Morris Sperry community association lawyers are committed to serving community associations throughout the state of Utah and will continue to add excellent lawyers and staff and open offices as necessary to provide excellent and timely legal services.  

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June 23, 2015

Quinn Sperry of the Morris Sperry HOA law firm have been named to Mountain States Super Lawyers Rising Stars list in 2015. Super Lawyers is a rating service of outstanding lawyers from more than 70 practice areas who have attained a high-degree of peer recognition and professional achievement. The selection process includes independent research, peer nominations, and peer evaluations. No more than 2.5 percent of the laywers in any state are named to Rising Stars. The HOA lawyers at Morris Sperry are acknowledged and distinguished in various lawyer rating services.  

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June 23, 2015

The HOA law firm Morris Sperry is in the process of procuring office space in Park City, Utah. Two of the HOA attorneys at Morris Sperry live in Park City and Morris Sperry has many condominium and homeowners association clients in Park City, Deer Valley, Empire Pass, Heber, Jeremy Ranch, and the surrounding areas. Morris Sperry's Park City office will provide a convenient and easy office for clients, board members, and HOA owners to visit their HOA lawyers. Morris Sperry also intends to make available its conference room for homeowners association meetings and board meetings. Morris Sperry looks forward to opening the office sometime in October or November 2015. The HOA attorneys at Morris Sperry remain committed to serving the many homeowners associations, developers, and owners in HOAs all throughout Utah.

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July 24, 2015

It's final! Morris Sperry's new Park City address is 1776 Park Avenue, Suite 209, Park City, Utah. With two offices, Morris Sperry is now even better situated to serve clients anywhere in Utah. Starting July 28, 2015, Morris Sperry lawyers will be working in temporary space at this Park City address while the future permanent office space is completely remodeled and upgraded. Morris Sperry will be creating a world class office and meeting space to serve Park City, Heber, and all other Summit County, Wasatch County, and Eastern Utah community associations, condominium associations, and HOAs. The remodel will include a new conference room allowing Morris Sperry attorneys to host meetings of up to forty people and will include state of the art conference phone systems and presentation technology. Morris Sperry client associations will be allowed to use the conference room for annual meetings and board meetings at no cost. The Morris Sperry Park City HOA law office will also be the location for expanded training and educational seminars in this new state-of-the-art conference room. The Morris Sperry hoa lawyers look forward to moving into the permanent space in October, 2015. The addition of a Park City office also provides much needed relief for the Midvale office which is bursting at the seams after Morris Sperry added six lawyers in the last two years.

The Morris Sperry community association lawyers are committed to serving community associations throughout the state of Utah and will continue to add excellent lawyers and staff and open offices as necessary to provide excellent and timely legal services.  

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June 23, 2015

Quinn Sperry of the Morris Sperry HOA law firm have been named to Mountain States Super Lawyers Rising Stars list in 2015. Super Lawyers is a rating service of outstanding lawyers from more than 70 practice areas who have attained a high-degree of peer recognition and professional achievement. The selection process includes independent research, peer nominations, and peer evaluations. No more than 2.5 percent of the laywers in any state are named to Rising Stars. The HOA lawyers at Morris Sperry are acknowledged and distinguished in various lawyer rating services.  

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June 23, 2015

The HOA law firm Morris Sperry is in the process of procuring office space in Park City, Utah. Two of the HOA attorneys at Morris Sperry live in Park City and Morris Sperry has many condominium and homeowners association clients in Park City, Deer Valley, Empire Pass, Heber, Jeremy Ranch, and the surrounding areas. Morris Sperry's Park City office will provide a convenient and easy office for clients, board members, and HOA owners to visit their HOA lawyers. Morris Sperry also intends to make available its conference room for homeowners association meetings and board meetings. Morris Sperry looks forward to opening the office sometime in October or November 2015. The HOA attorneys at Morris Sperry remain committed to serving the many homeowners associations, developers, and owners in HOAs all throughout Utah.

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May 2, 2015

John Morris presented at the CAI national conference in Las Vegas. He focused on defamation law and the various defenses to defamation that associations and board members can raise when defamation claims are made by owners. It was an interesting mix of legal analysis and actual real life examples. He responded to several questions from the audience and provided some general advice to minimize defamation claims.

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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.

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April 2, 2015

John Morris presented on HOA laws and practical issues to a group of real estate agents at City Creek Center. The topics included reserves, new 2015 Utah HOA laws, and practical considerations when selling and buying homes in condominiums and PUDs. There were many questions and the discussion involved some of the unique aspects of the condominiums in City Creek. The real estate agents in attendance all received continuing education credit. Morris Sperry remains committed to providing education to the community on important HOA issues.

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February 24, 2015

John Morris of Morris Sperry testified in favor of Senate Bill 118 (SB 118) today in the House Business and Labor Committee with Senator Todd Weiler. (Senator Weiler's Website)  Senator Weiler graciously allowed his original senate bill to be expanded to provide more help for Community Associations trying to amend governing documents (declaration, bylaws, articles of incorporation). SB 118 will limit the restrictions on amending governing documents so that no more than 67% of the owners and mortgage holders are required to approve an amendment. It also fixes a couple of other limitations that exist in some documents, including in Senator Weiler's district. Morris Sperry commends the Utah legislature and Senator Todd Weiler for their serious consideration of the issues facing community associations and their willingness to help solve those problems. Owners and board members in Condominiums, Townhomes, and Homeowners Associations in Senator Weiler's district are well served by his Utah legislative efforts and for his balanced and practical approach to HOA legal issues.

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February 11, 2015

John Morris appeared and testified again before the Senate Business and Labor committee regarding House Bill 98 (HB 98) (HB0098S01), substituted Senate Bill 118 (SB 118) (SB0118S01), and substituted Senate Bill 80 (SB 80) (SB0080S01). All three bills passed out of committee today and are headed to the floor of the Senate. HB 98 is the compilation bill that will clarify and update the requirements for HOA fines in Utah. It will also have a big impact on an association's rights related to rental units in the association and the association's right to impose rental restrictions through amendments to the governing documents. Charges that an Association might impose on rental units just because they are rental units will be a thing of the past as will other blatently descriminatory practices against rental units in associations. SB 118 addresses restrictive provisions in governing documents that make it overly difficult to amend those documents. It will void requirements that 100% of the owners approve amendments in older condominiums, 100% requirements for mortgagee approvals for amendments, and any requirement that a particular owner approve an amendment. If it passes, SB 80 will require certain disclosures at the time of sale of a unit or home in a community association if the association is in the developer control period. This will help provide more information to purchasers about hoa reserve accounts as well as other association financial information.  

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February 8, 2015

John Morris testified before the Senate Business and Labor committee last week regarding new HOA laws in Utah. HB 99 will require condominium, townhome, HOA, PUD, and homeowner associtaions to all open their board of directors', management committee', or board of trustees' meetings to owners. John Morris answered questions about the law and addressed concerns of Senators that the law does not go far enough in protecting the rights of owners to attend board member meetings. John explained that the law is a first step and that the industry does not want to create to much of a burden on managers or associations, while nonetheless preserving the right of an owenr to attend board meetings. John continues his work on good laws in Utah on the Community Association Insitute (CAI) Utah Legislative Action committee. House Bill 99 is sponsored by representative Mike Shultz in District 12. HB 99 originated in the local Utah Chapter and was the product of almost three years of discussion among managers, owners in HOAs, board members, HOA attorneys, and other industry vendors and participants.   

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January 30, 2015

Will drones be used by an HOA for enforcement of covenants and common area inspections?  Will drones be used by third parties for the delivery of pizzas, delivery of prescription medications, taking photoragraphs for real estate listings, and other uses in a condominium association?  Will drones "land" in an HOA? Will we need "drone ports"? Is vaping or use of E-cigarettes "smoking" or covered in no smoking policies? Should they be? Are there secondary risks from these devices? Is medical use of Marijuana a problem for community associations in Utah? Will the use of Google Glass, Microsoft Hololense and similar "eyeglasses" that can photgraph or video surepticiously exacerbate the already difficult issue of recording annual meetings and board meetings?

Morris Sperry attorneys are attending seminars and talking about these issues at the National HOA law seminar this week in San Francisco California.This is part of the ongoing effort by Morris Sperry lawyers to stay ahead of these cutting edge issues in the drafting and enforcement of governing documents. 

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September 8, 2015

In a new twist on the pink flamingo, a Texas HOA board is now wrestling with a T-Rex and a Velociraptor decoration on the front lawn of a member home. The owners installed the Jurassic lawn decorations without approval of the association. The declaration and bylaws clearly require approval of the association for any yard decorations. The owners have stated that they will challenge any attempt by the community association to enforce the restriction or to remove the decorations. The surrounding community is watching to see if the dinosaurs are strong enough to survive HOA enforcement powers. Hopefully the HOA and the homeowners have lawyers like Morris Sperry to help deal with this situation. This is the type of issue that can explode into expensive litigation and a damaging public relations battle. Having dealt with this type of problem many times, Morris Sperry can offer a combination of both legal and practical advice to resolve this type of problem in a constructive and cost effective way.   

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August 18, 2015

In another free speech case, the New Jersey Supreme Court held that rule banning handing out campaign materials in a cooperative violated the state's constitutional guarantee of free speech. This case follows a pattern of cases applying private action on private property to be subject to constitutional protection. The New Jersey Supreme Court applied a cohesive analysis and considered who was seeking to speak, the purpose of the speech, and where it was being prohibited.  The Court addressed the "important right of residents to speak about the governance of their community" in light of the board's concerns. Importantly, the Court also described how the board had an exception to the rule for its materials, and utilized that exception to criticize opponents and tout the board's accomplishments. One wonders if the case would have been decided differently if the Board had rule against handouts that applied to everyone.  

Morris Sperry remains on the cutting edge of these issues offering solid legal advice and state of the art new documents that address these and many other evolving issues in community association law. Morris Sperry HOA attorneys offer this good legal advice to developers in the formation of community associations, boards and management committees in the governance of associations, and owners who are concerned about the operation of their associations. 

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July 31, 2015

In what appears to be the largest HOA assessment collections judgment ever obtained in Utah, and perhaps the largest in the United States, the Morris Sperry law firm obtained a judgment for unpaid unit owner assessments on behalf of a client association in Park City, Utah, for nearly 1.4 million dollars. Morris Sperry also promptly obtained payment in full for the judgment. The largest unit owner in a Park City condominium hotel refused to pay assessments as part of a series of disputes and lawsuits. The judgment was for over a million dollars in assessments and over three hundred thousand dollars in interest. At the request of the Morris Sperry HOA law office, the court ordered that interest accrue on the judgment at thousands of dollars a month and awarded the association its attorney fees. 

Morris Sperry's litigation and assessment collection team routinely collects much smaller amounts on behalf of condominum and homeowner associations, but they are also capable of successfully prosecuting the most complex collection matters. Regardless of whether you have a routine collection matter or a collection matter involving bankruptcy, foreclosure, counterclaims, or millions of dollars; Morris Sperry is the team you want working for your community association collecting unpaid dues and assessments.   

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June 23, 2015

Quinn Sperry of the Morris Sperry HOA law firm have been named to Mountain States Super Lawyers Rising Stars list in 2015. Super Lawyers is a rating service of outstanding lawyers from more than 70 practice areas who have attained a high-degree of peer recognition and professional achievement. The selection process includes independent research, peer nominations, and peer evaluations. No more than 2.5 percent of the laywers in any state are named to Rising Stars. The HOA lawyers at Morris Sperry are acknowledged and distinguished in various lawyer rating services.  

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June 23, 2015

The HOA law firm Morris Sperry is in the process of procuring office space in Park City, Utah. Two of the HOA attorneys at Morris Sperry live in Park City and Morris Sperry has many condominium and homeowners association clients in Park City, Deer Valley, Empire Pass, Heber, Jeremy Ranch, and the surrounding areas. Morris Sperry's Park City office will provide a convenient and easy office for clients, board members, and HOA owners to visit their HOA lawyers. Morris Sperry also intends to make available its conference room for homeowners association meetings and board meetings. Morris Sperry looks forward to opening the office sometime in October or November 2015. The HOA attorneys at Morris Sperry remain committed to serving the many homeowners associations, developers, and owners in HOAs all throughout Utah.

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May 27, 2015

A property manager is alleged to have stolen $228,000 from a Florida HOA by writing checks to a fake company she owned and controlled. The company had a name similar to the Association's insurance company name and it appears she was passing off the payments as insurance payments. The Association has filed suit and the police are investigating. This is one more reason to maintain a good crime insurance policy, commonly referred to as a bond or fidelity bond. Given the trust placed in managers and the limited interest each owner has in the operations of the association, there is simply no other way of properly protecting the association's money. Diligent oversight will help, but in the long run a clever manager determined to steal money will eventually figure out a way. For one of its client associations,

Morris Sperry aggressively pursued a manager who embezzled over $100,000 by initiating and supporting a criminal prosecution and by recovering a significant portion of the embezzled funds in a quickly filed civil lawsuit. With prompt notice from their client, Morris Sperry was able to quickly lien and obtain the sale of the manager's home to fund a significant part of the recovery. Morris Sperry also initiated quick action to properly preserve evidence and assist the association in a transition to new management in the middle of a financial crisis. In any situation where an association discovers that a manager has stolen or embezzled funds, the association's first call should be to Morris Sperry.  

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May 27, 2015

A Tennessee HOA has agreed to pay $156,000 to settle a lawsuit against the association alleging violations of the Fair Housing Act. The Association refused to grant permission to an owner to build a therapeutic space for two children with Down syndrome. The Association failed to grant the reasonable accommodation, in this instance a reasonable modification, to create the space. After years of effort to obtain approval and multile denials, the family finally move out of the neighborhood and sold their home at a loss. 

The Fair Housing Act is a field of landmines for a homeowners association, condominium, or townhome community. It is critical that the association engage competent legal counsel when anyone asks for an "accommodation" related to a disability. The failure to handle these requests properly or to grant some requests can result in serious fines, penalties, and awards of attorney fees against the association. Morris Sperry has worked on dozens of Fair Housing Act matters and fully understands how to navigate the process of receiving, analyzing, and responding to a request for an accommodation.

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May 27, 2015

In what could foretell the future for many Western State HOAs, a Nevada homeowners association removed dozens of mature pine trees to replace them with drought resistant and lower water consumption trees. According to the Association's manager, a healthy pine tree can consume twelve times as much water as more drought resistant trees. The owners in the community were upset by the change in the appearance of the community, but seemed to understand why the change had to be made. As population and world temperatures increase, HOAs in Utah and surrounding states will face more pressure to use less water and to replace thirsty lawn and landscaping. 

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May 15, 2015

A management company in Florida has been called the "Condo crime family" by a Floriday state legislator who chairred a committee on condominium abuses. The management company is accused of stealing money, fraud, rigging elections, kicking board members off of boards who asked to many questions, threatening to sue owners who speak up in HOA meetings, and refusing to provide condominium financial information. Family members at the company have been convicted of forging checks and other crimes. Fortunately for HOA owners in Florida, managers must be licensed so this management company has been fined and penalized. Through the state licensing divisions, investigations and enforcement action continue.

Unfortunately for community associations in Utah, there is no regulation or oversight of HOA managers. A person could finish a ten-year prison sentence for embezzlement and fraud and start managing an HOA the next day, taking over control of hundreds of thousands of dollars of unkowning homeowner funds. The Utah CAI legislative action committee - of which John Morris of Morris Sperry is a member, has been working for years on a bill to provide for manager registration that would require some minimum certifications and education for managers. So far, that bill has been stalled in the legislative process but the Utah CAI LAC members remain committed to introducing and passing the bill. 

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April 26, 2015

A Florida condominium president paid himself hundreds of thousands of dollars for "managing" the condominium and purchased a car with association funds that he used. He was criminally charged for managing without a license and as part of his plea deal, he agreed to resign from the board, do 25 hours community services, serve three months' probation, return the car, and write a letter admitting wrongdoing. The association has also filed a civil suit to recover the money he paid to himself.

Association boards should always be wary of hiring board members and their relatives to provide any services to the association and should carefully abide by conflict of interest procedures if they consider those relationships. Moreover, associations need to make sure multi-member boards are functioning properly to provide the oversight needed to manage conflict of interest transactions.

Unfortunately, Utah has no requirements for licensing or regulation of condo or HOA managers. Morris Sperry lawyers are part of a committee working hard on a new law that would provide at least a minimal amount of regulation over HOA managers in Utah. If passed, the new law would require managers to have a certain level of industry training, a minimum level of insurance, and require registration with the state. Unfortunately, this law has been stalled in the legislature for the last two years. Morris Sperry remains hopeful that this manager registration act can be passed so that situations like that in Florida are less likely to happen in Utah. 

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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. 

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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.  

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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.

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March 12, 2015

One resident in a D.C. townhome obtained a court order (temporary restraining order) preventing the neighbor from smoking in the neighboring townhome. Smoke from tobacco, cigarettes, or marijuana is clearly a nuisance under the law in most states, including Utah. The Court in this case found that the smoke was making its way into the neighboring home, where a couple lived with one child and another on the way. The couple also sued for $500,000 in damages. Apparently the couple had tried to work it out informally and had tried mediation, but he smoking neighbor refused to take action to minimize the transmission of smoke. 

Unfortunately, smokers frequently take a hard line position about smoking in their homes, assuming that they don't have to worry about where the smoke from their cigarettes or tabacco products actual drifts to. That, of course, is not the law in Utah and most other states. Utah has a very strong nuisance statute and tobacco smoke is clearly a nuisance, in any amount. It also doesn't matter how the smoke gets in, as long as it does.

Morris Sperry has dealt with complicated nuisance and HOA smoking cases representing parties on both sides, the HOA and the owner. They are difficult cases because most people are not excited about quitting smoking or moving out of their homes. 

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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.  

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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.

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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. 

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March 3, 2015

A veteran manager in the Utah HOA industry recently told a lawyer at Morris Sperry that he manages a Utah community association in which the board (with the help of an attorney member) has decided that it is just too hard to get the required 67% approval of owners necessary to approve declaration amendments. So, in a clever solution to this problem, they decided that they will treat any owner who does not respond to a voting request as a "yes" vote. Not surprisingly, amendments to their declarations are now easier than ever! In a perverted twist on voting, unless they get more than 33% of the owners to vote "no," every amendment the board propose passes without any problemYou don't need a single person to vote "yes," or at all, to get amendments to the declaration to pass!

It only takes a minute to think of the fun any owner in this association could have. Just get enough owners to demand a special meeting and vote on a particular issue and your are in business. Sometimes it only takes a handful of owners to demand a special meeting. The board must send out the ballots and apply the same rules they are applying to their amendments. You don't like that rental restrictions . . . demand a special meeting and watch the association board scramble to gather enough no votes to prevent your amendment from passing! 

After you quit laughing, a hard reality sets in. The ultimate effect of this voting rule is a letter from an attorney hired by an owner demanding that the association undue all of its bogus declaration amendments and threatening a lawsuit. It is not a question of whether these amendments will be challenged, it is just a question of when and how much it will cost the Association in attorney fees to come to their senses and undue the amendments passed using this laughable voting rule.

Naturally, our veteran manager expressed concern over this voting practice and was told by the board that an outside attorney had offered a legal opinion and that this was a legal way of voting. This is why community associations (condominiums, PUDs, Townhomes, and homeowners associations) should seek out the advice of the HOA attorneys at the Morris Sperry law office. Community association law is a complex area of law with no mercy on general practicioners and dabblers who have one HOA case a year. Would you go to a divorce lawyer for estate planning? Would you want someone who handles personal injury cases to file your bankruptcy? The lawyers at Morris Sperry have one focus - HOA law. That's all they do. Why would you go anywhere else for your HOA legal questions and risk the type of advice that this poor association received?  

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March 2, 2015

Condominiums, Townhomes, and Homeowner Associations should be aware that playing music or movies in the clubhouse or in any common area to a group of owners and/or their guests could be a copyright infringement. The test is whether the display is a "public performance." That legal and factual analysis depends on the makeup of the group of people in attendance. Private parties in HOA clubhouses have been held to be public performances for purposes of the music played at those events. Any association considering any organized event in a clubhouse or common area at which a movie or music will be offered by the Association, should contact Morris Sperry for a quick analysis or make sure whoever they source for that entertainment complies with copyright law. 

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February 26, 2015

Senate Bill 80 passed the Utah Senate yesterday and will now start its journey through the House of Representatives. SB 80, entitled "Homeowners' Association Reserve Fund" will require developers during the period of administrative control (the time developers control a new project) to provide a copy of the HOA governing documents and the most recent financials for the association in any sale of a unit or home in the community.

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May 2, 2015

John Morris presented at the CAI national conference in Las Vegas. He focused on defamation law and the various defenses to defamation that associations and board members can raise when defamation claims are made by owners. It was an interesting mix of legal analysis and actual real life examples. He responded to several questions from the audience and provided some general advice to minimize defamation claims.

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April 26, 2015

A recently released 2015 report of the Western United States identified 3,509 Utah properties worth 782 million dollars in high to very high wildfire areas. In addition to the impact this may have on insurance rates, community associations with homes in those areas should be thinking about an emergency plan for fires. They should also be taking proactive action to prevent both the spread of fires and to minimize the risks of damage. The report provides that wildfires are unique natural hazzard because they can be caused by humans (as opposed to earthquakes, storms, and other natural hazzards) and because it is possible to minimize the damage either through fire fighting or through earlier efforts of property owners.

If an association is in a wildfire risk area, Morris Sperry can assist in identifying the scope of authority and responsibility of an association board of directors in the governing documents. With a clear understanding of both the association's authority and responsibility to minimize these risks, the association can take action consistent with the governing documents or make necessary revisions to the documents to align them with the desires of the association. 

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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.

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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.

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April 2, 2015

John Morris presented on HOA laws and practical issues to a group of real estate agents at City Creek Center. The topics included reserves, new 2015 Utah HOA laws, and practical considerations when selling and buying homes in condominiums and PUDs. There were many questions and the discussion involved some of the unique aspects of the condominiums in City Creek. The real estate agents in attendance all received continuing education credit. Morris Sperry remains committed to providing education to the community on important HOA issues.

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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.

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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. 

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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.

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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.  

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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.

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July 31, 2015

In what appears to be the largest HOA assessment collections judgment ever obtained in Utah, and perhaps the largest in the United States, the Morris Sperry law firm obtained a judgment for unpaid unit owner assessments on behalf of a client association in Park City, Utah, for nearly 1.4 million dollars. Morris Sperry also promptly obtained payment in full for the judgment. The largest unit owner in a Park City condominium hotel refused to pay assessments as part of a series of disputes and lawsuits. The judgment was for over a million dollars in assessments and over three hundred thousand dollars in interest. At the request of the Morris Sperry HOA law office, the court ordered that interest accrue on the judgment at thousands of dollars a month and awarded the association its attorney fees. 

Morris Sperry's litigation and assessment collection team routinely collects much smaller amounts on behalf of condominum and homeowner associations, but they are also capable of successfully prosecuting the most complex collection matters. Regardless of whether you have a routine collection matter or a collection matter involving bankruptcy, foreclosure, counterclaims, or millions of dollars; Morris Sperry is the team you want working for your community association collecting unpaid dues and assessments.   

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July 24, 2015

It's final! Morris Sperry's new Park City address is 1776 Park Avenue, Suite 209, Park City, Utah. With two offices, Morris Sperry is now even better situated to serve clients anywhere in Utah. Starting July 28, 2015, Morris Sperry lawyers will be working in temporary space at this Park City address while the future permanent office space is completely remodeled and upgraded. Morris Sperry will be creating a world class office and meeting space to serve Park City, Heber, and all other Summit County, Wasatch County, and Eastern Utah community associations, condominium associations, and HOAs. The remodel will include a new conference room allowing Morris Sperry attorneys to host meetings of up to forty people and will include state of the art conference phone systems and presentation technology. Morris Sperry client associations will be allowed to use the conference room for annual meetings and board meetings at no cost. The Morris Sperry Park City HOA law office will also be the location for expanded training and educational seminars in this new state-of-the-art conference room. The Morris Sperry hoa lawyers look forward to moving into the permanent space in October, 2015. The addition of a Park City office also provides much needed relief for the Midvale office which is bursting at the seams after Morris Sperry added six lawyers in the last two years.

The Morris Sperry community association lawyers are committed to serving community associations throughout the state of Utah and will continue to add excellent lawyers and staff and open offices as necessary to provide excellent and timely legal services.  

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June 23, 2015

Quinn Sperry of the Morris Sperry HOA law firm have been named to Mountain States Super Lawyers Rising Stars list in 2015. Super Lawyers is a rating service of outstanding lawyers from more than 70 practice areas who have attained a high-degree of peer recognition and professional achievement. The selection process includes independent research, peer nominations, and peer evaluations. No more than 2.5 percent of the laywers in any state are named to Rising Stars. The HOA lawyers at Morris Sperry are acknowledged and distinguished in various lawyer rating services.  

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June 23, 2015

The HOA law firm Morris Sperry is in the process of procuring office space in Park City, Utah. Two of the HOA attorneys at Morris Sperry live in Park City and Morris Sperry has many condominium and homeowners association clients in Park City, Deer Valley, Empire Pass, Heber, Jeremy Ranch, and the surrounding areas. Morris Sperry's Park City office will provide a convenient and easy office for clients, board members, and HOA owners to visit their HOA lawyers. Morris Sperry also intends to make available its conference room for homeowners association meetings and board meetings. Morris Sperry looks forward to opening the office sometime in October or November 2015. The HOA attorneys at Morris Sperry remain committed to serving the many homeowners associations, developers, and owners in HOAs all throughout Utah.

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May 27, 2015

A property manager is alleged to have stolen $228,000 from a Florida HOA by writing checks to a fake company she owned and controlled. The company had a name similar to the Association's insurance company name and it appears she was passing off the payments as insurance payments. The Association has filed suit and the police are investigating. This is one more reason to maintain a good crime insurance policy, commonly referred to as a bond or fidelity bond. Given the trust placed in managers and the limited interest each owner has in the operations of the association, there is simply no other way of properly protecting the association's money. Diligent oversight will help, but in the long run a clever manager determined to steal money will eventually figure out a way. For one of its client associations,

Morris Sperry aggressively pursued a manager who embezzled over $100,000 by initiating and supporting a criminal prosecution and by recovering a significant portion of the embezzled funds in a quickly filed civil lawsuit. With prompt notice from their client, Morris Sperry was able to quickly lien and obtain the sale of the manager's home to fund a significant part of the recovery. Morris Sperry also initiated quick action to properly preserve evidence and assist the association in a transition to new management in the middle of a financial crisis. In any situation where an association discovers that a manager has stolen or embezzled funds, the association's first call should be to Morris Sperry.  

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May 27, 2015

In what could foretell the future for many Western State HOAs, a Nevada homeowners association removed dozens of mature pine trees to replace them with drought resistant and lower water consumption trees. According to the Association's manager, a healthy pine tree can consume twelve times as much water as more drought resistant trees. The owners in the community were upset by the change in the appearance of the community, but seemed to understand why the change had to be made. As population and world temperatures increase, HOAs in Utah and surrounding states will face more pressure to use less water and to replace thirsty lawn and landscaping. 

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May 15, 2015

A management company in Florida has been called the "Condo crime family" by a Floriday state legislator who chairred a committee on condominium abuses. The management company is accused of stealing money, fraud, rigging elections, kicking board members off of boards who asked to many questions, threatening to sue owners who speak up in HOA meetings, and refusing to provide condominium financial information. Family members at the company have been convicted of forging checks and other crimes. Fortunately for HOA owners in Florida, managers must be licensed so this management company has been fined and penalized. Through the state licensing divisions, investigations and enforcement action continue.

Unfortunately for community associations in Utah, there is no regulation or oversight of HOA managers. A person could finish a ten-year prison sentence for embezzlement and fraud and start managing an HOA the next day, taking over control of hundreds of thousands of dollars of unkowning homeowner funds. The Utah CAI legislative action committee - of which John Morris of Morris Sperry is a member, has been working for years on a bill to provide for manager registration that would require some minimum certifications and education for managers. So far, that bill has been stalled in the legislative process but the Utah CAI LAC members remain committed to introducing and passing the bill. 

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April 26, 2015

A recently released 2015 report of the Western United States identified 3,509 Utah properties worth 782 million dollars in high to very high wildfire areas. In addition to the impact this may have on insurance rates, community associations with homes in those areas should be thinking about an emergency plan for fires. They should also be taking proactive action to prevent both the spread of fires and to minimize the risks of damage. The report provides that wildfires are unique natural hazzard because they can be caused by humans (as opposed to earthquakes, storms, and other natural hazzards) and because it is possible to minimize the damage either through fire fighting or through earlier efforts of property owners.

If an association is in a wildfire risk area, Morris Sperry can assist in identifying the scope of authority and responsibility of an association board of directors in the governing documents. With a clear understanding of both the association's authority and responsibility to minimize these risks, the association can take action consistent with the governing documents or make necessary revisions to the documents to align them with the desires of the association. 

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April 26, 2015

A Florida condominium president paid himself hundreds of thousands of dollars for "managing" the condominium and purchased a car with association funds that he used. He was criminally charged for managing without a license and as part of his plea deal, he agreed to resign from the board, do 25 hours community services, serve three months' probation, return the car, and write a letter admitting wrongdoing. The association has also filed a civil suit to recover the money he paid to himself.

Association boards should always be wary of hiring board members and their relatives to provide any services to the association and should carefully abide by conflict of interest procedures if they consider those relationships. Moreover, associations need to make sure multi-member boards are functioning properly to provide the oversight needed to manage conflict of interest transactions.

Unfortunately, Utah has no requirements for licensing or regulation of condo or HOA managers. Morris Sperry lawyers are part of a committee working hard on a new law that would provide at least a minimal amount of regulation over HOA managers in Utah. If passed, the new law would require managers to have a certain level of industry training, a minimum level of insurance, and require registration with the state. Unfortunately, this law has been stalled in the legislature for the last two years. Morris Sperry remains hopeful that this manager registration act can be passed so that situations like that in Florida are less likely to happen in Utah. 

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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.

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