House Bill 98 (HB 98) just passed the house and has been refered to the Utah Senate for Consideration. HB 98 contains some compromise legislation on landlord/HOA issues and also contains a substantial revision to the HOA fine laws for both condominiums and for homeowners associations governed by the Community Association Act. These provisions allow commercial condominium associations to assess fines for the first time in Utah. Morris Sperry will be ready to help with updates to Rules and CC&Rs to facilitate this new opportunity. The new fine changes also clarify continuing verses repeated violations, the content of warning and fine letters, the procedures related to the issuance of fines and warnings, and the right of board members and owners to attend fine hearings remotely. These fine changes are good for associations and owners. Morris Sperry attorney John Morris is proud to be part of the Utah CAI Legislative Action Committee that worked on this bill and to be one of the primary drafters of the fine law changes in this bill. Morris Sperry remains committed to this volunteer effort and to keeping at the forefront of changes in community association law so that their HOA, townhome, homeowners association, condominium, and PUD clients receive legal advice that is timely and accurate.
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.
Continuing their dedication to keeping ahead of the industry on important legal issues, five Morris Sperry lawyers are attending the CAI national law seminar in San Francisco California. Once again, Morris Sperry sends more Utah lawyers to the law seminar than any other firm in the state. The only Morris Sperry lawyer not attending has the one great excuse nobody could argue with - a new baby born two days ago!
Two new hoa laws, HB 98 Association Amendments and HB 99 Open meetings, passed through House Business and Labor Committee by unanimous vote of the committee members and HB 99 just passed the house and is on the way to Senate. John Morris of Morris Sperry was involved in the drafting of both bills. HB 99 will guarantee owner access and the right to notice of regular meetings of the board of directors and management committees in condominium and homeowners associations in Utah. HB 98 contains long negotiated changes to further balance the relationship between HOAs and owners who rent their units and homes. Utah HB 98 also contains new provisions clarifying HOA fine provisions and changes that will finally allow commercial condominiums to fine owners rather than have to initiate lawsuits in every enforcement action. Morris Sperry is at the frontline in the drafting and passage of balanced laws affecting community assocaitions.
In 2014 sixty-four Representatives co-sponsored legislation that would have required HOAs to "reasonably accomodate" HAM radio towers and antennas. The legislation did not pass, but the HAM radio industry is back attempting the same legislation in 2015.
SEND AN EMAIL OR LETTER TO YOUR FEDERAL REPRESENTATIVE AND SENATOR TELLING HIM OR HER THAT YOUR OWNERS SHOULD DECIDE WHETHER OR NOT HAM RADIO TOWERS ARE ALLOWED IN YOUR HOA, NOT THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT.
ASK THEM TO OPPOSE LEGISLATION REQUIRING HOMEOWNERS ASSOCIATIONS TO PERMIT HAM RADIO TOWERS IN THEIR COMMUNITY.
Morris Sperry's board member training seminar was a huge success. After filling up the first night, the seminar was extended to a second night that quickly filled up. Many of the attendees commented on the valuable information they received during the seminar. Topics such as doing business by email, the attorney client privilege, board member legal duties, how to select an insurance agent, and many others were packed into what turned into a two-hour seminar. The lawyers at Morris Sperry look forward to future seminars and continuing the strong relationship they are building with both their board member clients and the community.
John Morris appeared on ABC Channel 4 Utah this morning to talk about Morris Sperry's seminars in Park City. See the story at this link. Morris Sperry's board member seminar filled up quickly and they added a second day to satisfy the demand. Morris Sperry continues its efforts to educate HOA board members and plans on future seminars for board members.
John Morris and Quinn Sperry were chosen by their peers as members of Utah Business Magazine's 2015 Utah Legal Elite. Legal Elite honorees are selected by their peers in a statewide balloting process. Members of the Utah Bar were 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.
On January 6, 2016 the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), filed a complaint (Eugene and Galina Ovsishcher v. Trump village Section IV Inc.) against a housing cooperative in New York seeking not less than $48,000 in penalties in addition to damages and attorney fees. The claim is based on failing to grant a reasonable accomodation under the Fair Housing Act. The complainants were a husband and wife and the husband, a combat military veteran of afghanistan and Kosovo, had received a recommendation from his psychiatrist to obtain an animal to assist with psychiatric disabilities related to his service. Not only did the cooperative and its leader refuse to allow the dog, they immediately began retaliating against the couple because of their request. The Association, or its insurance company, is likelely to spend tens of thousands of dollars in the defense of this claim and will also likely end up paying attorney fees, penalties, and damages. With a little competent legal advice early on, this matter would likely have been handled completely different and the association could have avoided this claim and the bad publicity it created. Morris Sperry always recommends seeking competent legal advice when an association receives a request for service or emotional support animals or other requests for accomodation related to any claimed or apparent disability.
In a packed house at the Park City Red Rock Brewery, Morris Sperry lawyer John Morris presented on the nuances of management contracts and the relationship between the manager and an HOA. They addressed some of the thorny issues like indemnification, fidelity bonds, and hidden fees. Manager and board member attendees commented that the seminar was extremely valuable and how much they appreciated the information. Morris Sperry remains committed to training and education in the community association industry and has already scheduled a Seminar in January to continue this education.
In a packed house at the Alta Club, John Morris gave an update to Utah attorneys on recent legislation and case law in the area of community association law. The lunch was excellent and the real property section leaders did a great job organizing the event. In a little over an hour, John covered the three most important bills affecting community associations in the 2013 legislative session, HB 101, SB 64, and SB 90. He also discussed and summarized several community association appellate law cases decided in the last year, including one of his own cases. Having participated in the drafting and legislative process of the bills, John added rare insight and perspective, including the history behind the bills and what to potentially expect in the future.
John Morris attended the CAI legislative update. The board members in attendance had a great chance to talk directly to vendors in the industry and were presented with a good explanation of the Community Association legislation that passed in the 2013 session. John Morris helped present along with other members of the CAI Legislative Action Committee. The facilities at Thanksgiving Point were wonderful.
Morris Sperry is excited for the arrival of Sydney Allen as our new Administrative Assistant. She is in the process of completing her degree in Exercise and Sports Science at the University of Utah while simultaneously working on a paralegal certificate. She has a strong work history and brings a great personality and professional demeanor to the Morris Sperry team. We are confident that she will be a key person helping to ensure that our clients experience professionalism in all dealings with Morris Sperry.
Quinn Sperry has written a comprehensive article explaining both the reasons behind amending and options for amending CC&Rs. Check out the article at: http://uccai.net/blog-post/legal/amending-ccrs/
John Morris, Tanner Blackburn of Property Management Systems, and others sat on a panel discussing bidding community association services. The event was well-attended and the facilities and food at Stonebridge golf club were excellent. A good time was had by all.
John Morris appeared with other members of the Utah Community Association Institute Legislative Action Committee (CAI LAC) at the capitol on Thursday, February 14, 2013. SB 64 was introduced in a committee hearing. The CAI LAC opposes this bill and John Morris, along with two other members of the CAI LAC, testified against the bill. SB 64's purpose is to unnecessarily punish associations that have not yet complied with reserve requirements already existing in Utah law. Even more problematic, this bill would punish associations by creating a legal trap that could be used to invalidate special assessments for much needed repair projects or delay repair projects. SB 64 would also define "special assessment" in the statute differently than in existing governing documents, leading to confusion and legal expense for associations as they try to figure out what this definition means for them. This bill is a nightmare for associations, managers, developers, and builders. On behalf of the community association industry, John Morris is working tirelessly to prevent this bill from becoming law or to see it modified to eliminate all of its problems.
John Morris gave a presentation on a new mediation program that he has been working on and that is to be proposed to the Chapter. He was also presented with a plaque honoring his three years of service as the Chair of the Legislative Action Committee.
John Morris and Quinn Sperry attended the CAI National Law Conference in Tucson Arizona. This conference is the largest conference in the United States focusing exclusively on community association law and issues. The attorneys at Morris Sperry continue to update their knowledge and training and to network with lawyers around the country, all in an effort to continue to provide the best service and value to their clients.
Morris Sperry commits to a Diamond Sponsorship (the highest sponsorship level available) of the Local CAI Chapter in furtherance of the firm's long-term commitment to the industry. Morris Sperry is proud to assist the local chapter through both sponsorship and volunteer time. The Chapter provides educational opportunities for owners and board members and a forum for attorneys and other vendors in the industry to talk, test ideas, and generally work for the advancement of the expertise and sophistication of the industry. Morris Sperry is pleased to provide the critical support needed to accomplish these goals.
Morris Sperry is pleased to announce that John Morris has been selected by his peers for inclusion in Utah Business magazine's 2013 Utah Legal Elite™. Utah Business magazine surveyed thousands of Utah State Bar members and asked them to nominate attorneys they deemed above and beyond in Utah and whose legal services they would recommend to others. John Morris is honored to be selected for inclusion.
In a new and unexpected twist, a Florida condominium has apparently adopted a declaration amendment or a rule banning anyone from moving into the association who is "living in sin." The ban allows couples of any gender and sexual orientation to move in, so long as they are married. But, if they are "a couple" and are not married, the association intends to restrict them from moving in. While we can certainly talk about the legal and moral issues arising out of this decision, a more important issue is clearly implicated. Should the owners or board members in a condominium association be regulating this type of behavior at all? One can only imagine the "investigation" that will ensue when the first couple attempts to purchase a unit and professes that they are merely roommates, not "living in sin." Should a board be in the business of investigating and verifying someone's sexual activity? Moreover, exactly how would they do that?
Many people have watched the prosecution of George Zimmerman and the recent not guilty verdict. For Mr. Zimmerman's past neighbors, however, a much more intimate lawsuit was resolved in April 2013. George Zimmerman lived in a community association (HOA). After Mr. Zimmerman fatally shot Trayvon Martin, Trayvon's family filed a lawsuit against the HOA. Hopefully there was insurance coverage for the HOA, but either with our without insurance, a lawsuit against the HOA can be a very stressful process. The case was settled in a confidential settlement in April 2013 and we think it is safe to assume that some payment was made to Trayvon's family.
This incident highlights the serious legal issues involved in community associatoin neighborhood watch programs and with any sort of self policing of associations. Morris Sperry is pleased to post on our website a helpful overview of HOA neighborhood watch programs provided by Beat Koszinowski of the Buckner Company. Go to the Resources tab of this website and look under Articles for the Neighborhood Watch article. At a minimum, any community association considering a neighborhood watch program should talk both to their legal counsel and their insurance agent.
In 2008, an owner in a 2000 single-family home association in Illinois was driving through the community at 34 miles per hour. The posted speed limit was twenty-five miles per hour. The HOA's private security officer pulled the owner over with flashing lights and issued him a fine. The Rules also provided that if the owner had not pulled over, he could have been fined an additional two hundred dollars. The owner fought back and challenged the stop in a lawsuit that ultimately made it to the Illinois Supreme Court. The Illinois Supreme Court held that the Association had the right to pass rules allowing for security personnel to stop owners, to use radar guns and flashing lights on vehicles, and to issue fines for exceeding speed limits. The Court's opinion can be viewed here.
The latest in a never-ending stream of HOA embezzlement stories involves a management company accounts payable employee stealing $180,000 in condominium association funds. For over four years (2009-2013), the employee wrote checks to herself and cashed them at banks and stores. This story, along with all of the others we hear about, highlights the need for vigilance in reviewing financial statements for managers as well as board members. Serious consideration should be given to requiring board members to sign checks and for regular audits or reviews. Finally, it is always important to review the crime/dishonesty insurance policy and any fidelity bonds of any management company retained by the association. Morris Sperry is preparing training specifically on this topic and will be making that training available to board members and managers in the fall of 2013.
In a very aggressive action, a Florida Condominium Association has prevailed in collecting $98,000 in assessments, late fees, and collection costs (in addition to attorney fees), from Federal National Mortgage Association (FNMA) after a bank foreclosure. The case is now on appeal and could take a year or more to get finally resolved. Look to Morris Sperry for cutting edge community association law news and services.
The Federal Housing Administration (FHA) recently decided that a common provision in condominium declarations violates Section 513 of the National Housing Act. It is, therefore, refusing to provide FHA approval to condominium associations with this provision. Declarations commonly restrict short term occupancy (hotel and transient occupancy) of less than 30 days. Occasionally, you will also have an exception to this provision for lenders who take title through foreclosure. The FHA has targeted the lender exception and decided it violates Section 513. No condominium association with this exception will get or remain FHA approved and the FHA has flatly taken the position that any such exception must be amended out of the declaration to get or retain FHA approval. According to the Community Association Institute (CAI), associations around the country are being denied FHA approval based on this decision. CAI continues to lobby nationally to try to resolve this problem without amendments to declarations, but the FHA decision stands for now. If your condominium association wants become or remain FHA approved, Morris Sperry can quickly determine whether you have this provision and if you do, prepare an amendment allowing your condominium association to remain FHA approved. According to CAI, FHA has no intention of taking away FHA approvals already granted, but will strictly apply this decision in any future renewal or first-time application.
On March 26, 2013, the Governor signed SB 90 and HB 101. On April 1, 2013 the Governor signed SB 64. All will shortly be the law on May 14, 2013 - except for the deferred provisions! Go to the Resources page of this website for information on which provisions are deferred and which are not.
This was an active session for community association legislation. Several bills were proposed but only three bills made it through the gauntlet. SB 90 has significant amendments to both the Condominium Ownership Act and the Community Association Act. It also incorporates SB 64 (completely substituted version). Careful attention will need to be paid to SB 90 because most of the new laws have a delayed implementation date. While some of the new laws go into effect on May 14, 2013, most of the new laws in SB 90 go into effect on July 1, 2014. The important section that goes into effect immediately is the insurance section update applicable to all community associations. Most of these are technical updates that will not have much effect on current operations, but mixed use condominium projects (projects with commercial and residential units) and commercial condominium projects will need to pay careful attention to this bill because it substantially changes the application of the insurance laws. HB 101 softens the effect of the failure to properly register associations by allowing associations to avoid the effects of the failure to properly register under some circumstances. For complete text of the new laws with highlighting explaining which sections have delayed implementation in SB 90, refer to the "Resources" page on this website.
Under tremendous pressure from homeowners, board members, and industry participants, the sponsor of SB64 relented and adopted a complete substitution of the language in SB64 drafted entirely by members of the CAI Legislative Action Committee. The bill is back on the senate calendar and we now hope it passes! Thank you to everyone who contacted their legislators and derailed what could have been one of the worst bills for community associations to ever pass in Utah.