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News/Blog

News/Blog

March 18, 2020

This article provides current information (as of 3/18/2020) regarding the Coronavirus Pandemic and offers suggestions to Utah HOAs (Condominiums, Associations, HOAs, and Homeowners Associations) on how to respond to this outbreak. Much of the information in this article is available and sourced from the CDC website: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/index.html. Other information is available at https://healthcare.utah.edu/coronavirus/https://health.utah.gov/coronavirushttps://www.cnn.com/2020/02/26/opinions/colleen-kraft-coronavirus-best-defense/index.htmlhttps://www.ready.gov/pandemic.

A very informative map and dashboard tracking system for the pandemic is available from the Johns Hopkins University Center for Science and Engineering. You can access it by clicking HERE.  

Utah HOAs should start planning and preparing for a more widespread outbreak (community transmission) in Utah because the CDC and almost all public officials are stating that it is not a matter of “if” it will occur, but more a matter of “when.” Moreover, there is now confirmed community transmission in various counties in Utah, including Davis, Summit, and Salt Lake counties.

Background on the new Coronavirus Pandemic

The CDC (Center for Disease Control) is monitoring an emerging and rapidly evolving outbreak of respiratory disease caused by a novel (new) virus that was initially detected in China. . This new Coronavirus has been named SARS-CoV-2. The World Health Organization (WHO) declared the outbreak a "public heatlh emergency of international concern on January 30, 2020 and declared the outbreak an official pandemic on March 11, 2020.

Coronavirus around the World

The virus has now infected more than 215,000 people in almost every country including the United States. More than 8,700 people have died from the virus. The virus has spread dramatically in several countries including China, Italy, South Korea, and Iran. In China and Itally hospitals have been overwhelmed. Many countries are closing schools, cancelling all public gatherings, and imposing restrictions on the movement of people. Almost every country affected is recommending that people shelter at home. 

Coronavirus in the United States

As of the last update of this article, there were over 7,700 confirmed cases of the new Coronavirus in the United States in every state and Washington D.C., with more than 118 deaths resulting from the infections. President Trump declared a national emergency on March 13, 2020. Many state governors and local authorities have also declared state and local emergencies. Schools are closing in many states and most sporting events and gatherings have been cancelled. The following is the latest reporting from the Johns Hopkins University tracking Website as of the last update of this article. Based on a press conference held by the President of the United States on March 18, 2020, it is expected that the number of confirmed cases in the United States will dramatically increase over the next week because testing kits are more widely available. 

The Coronavirus in Utah

There are now in excess of 51 reported and confirmed cases in Utah, although there are certainly more undetected and unconfirmed infections. Summit County has reported the first confirmed case of community spread with the positive test of a doorman at the Spur Bar and Grill in Park city. The man had no known contact with anyone infected and it is unclear how many people this man interacted with while infected and showing symptoms. The governor of Utah declared a state of emergency on Friday March 6, 2020 to facilitate emergency preparation. Hospitals in Utah are preparing for an increase in patients. All public schools (including university campuses) were closed for two weeks effective March 13, 2020 and all commencement ceremonies this spring will be postponed or cancelled. Almost all sporting events and gatherings of people have been cancelled. Almost every religious organization has cancelled all services and gatherings. The Utah Department of Health ordered all restuarants and bars to close their dining roomes, effective 11:59 p.m. March 17, 2020. Take-out, delivery, and grocery shopping is still permitted. Many health care providers are aksing people to reschedule non-essential vistis and call before visiting a walk-in clinic to allow medical staff to focus on the Covid-19 crisis. State officials are not encouraging everyone to take serious precautions, including staying at least six feet away from other people and staying home if showing any symptoms. 

Clinical Analysis

The complete clinical picture with regard to the new Coronavirus is not fully understood. Reported illnesses have ranged from mild to severe, including illness resulting in death. While information so far suggests that most new Coronavirus illness is mild, a report out of China suggests serious illness occurs in 16% of cases. Older people and people with certain underlying health conditions like heart disease, lung disease and diabetes, for example, seem to be at greater risk of serious illness. The potential public health threat posed by the new Coronavirus is very high in the United States, according to the CDC.

Symptoms

Symptoms of infection include fever (88% of people reporting), dry cough (68%), fatigue (38%), Sputum production (33%), shortness of breath (18%), muscle or joint pain (15%), sore throat (14%), headache (14%), chills (11%), nausea or vomiting (5%), nasal congestion (5%), Diarrhea (4%), Haemoptsis (1%), & Conjunctive congestion (1%). In more serious infections, symptoms include high fevers, coughing up blood, decreased while blood cells, and kidney failure. Some people who are infected will show no symptoms. 

Potential for Future Spreading of the Infection

According to the CDC, significantly more infections are likely to be identified in the coming days, including more cases in the United States. At this time, most people in the United States will have little immediate risk of exposure to this virus because the virus is not currently spreading widely in the United States. However, The CDC notes that current global circumstances suggest it is likely that this virus will cause a pandemic. It’s also likely that person-to-person spread will continue to occur, including in communities in the United States. It’s likely that at some point, widespread transmission of the new Coronavirus in the United States will occur.

General Effect of Widespread Spreading

According to the CDC, widespread transmission of the new Coronavirus would translate into large numbers of people needing medical care at the same time. Schools, childcare centers, workplaces, and other places for mass gatherings may experience more absenteeism. Public health and healthcare systems may become overloaded, with elevated rates of hospitalizations and deaths. Other critical infrastructure, such as law enforcement, emergency medical services, and transportation industry may also be affected. Health care providers and hospitals may be overwhelmed.

Treatment

At this time, there is no vaccine to protect against the New Coronavirus and no medications approved to treat it. There are multiple government/private parties working on a vaccine. The best estimate is that it will take at least one year to produce a vaccine. In the meantime, treatment for an infection is limited to supportive care to help relieve symptoms. In life threatening situations, hospitalization and care to support vital organ functions is necessary.

Individual Response

The CDC, other government agencies, and various experts recommend the following actions:

  1. Limit all travel, but certainly limit travel to certain locations in the World, including China, Hong Kong, Iran, Italy, Japan, and South Korea.
  2. Shelter in place. 
  3. Get a flu vaccine,
  4. Frequently and properly wash hands,
  5. Avoid in-person contact with people who are sick,
  6. Stay at least six feet away from other people,
  7. Stay at home if you are sick, along with taking other actions to prevent the spread of your illness,
  8. Avoid touching your eyes, mouth, and nose,
  9. Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces at home, work, school, and other locations,
  10. Get plenty of sleep, manage stress, drink fluids, eat nutritious foods, and be physically active.
  11. Prepare your household for a “pandemic Flu” https://www.cdc.gov/nonpharmaceutical-interventions/pdf/gr-pan-flu-ind-house.pdf
  12. Prepare for the closure of your child’s school or daycare.
  13. Have a minimum two-week supply of water, food, and over-the-counter medications you tend to take. A six-month supply of food and over-the-counter medication  in case of shortages and home sheltering is recommended by Morris Sperry. Rice, pasta, canned foods, and other non-perishables are recommended for long term home sheltering.
  14. Stock up on over-the-counter medications for the relief of flu-like symptoms in case you are infected and must treat at home.
  15. Obtain a several-month supply (at least 6 months) of normal medications, especially if you are over 60 years old or in another high risk category. 
  16. Consider updating computers, home WiFi networks, and internet access speeds in preparation for working from home and for more intensive use of computers and the internet in case of home sheltering recommendations or requirements.

HOA Response

HOA boards of directors and management committees can play a role in assisting owners in an HOA related to this outbreak. Each Board will have to decide how involved they want to be. Morris Sperry offers the following suggestions for Utah condominium associations, Utah homeowners associations, and Utah HOAs, depending on the level of involvement the HOA management committee wants to take.

Minimum Recommended Actions

  1. Confirm and/or start regular cleaning of frequently touched surfaces in common areas that could be a source of transmitting of the virus. This could include common area door handles, railings, doors, restrooms, mailbox surfaces, and counters.
  2. Cancel all in-person meetings of owners and board members and instead conduct meetings telephonically or electronically. All Utah HOA meetings in Utah can be conducted legally using telephonic and other electronic communications and Utah HOA boards can legally make decisions and take actions using email. There are multiple online services available to accomplish calls and meetings with any number of people, including Gotomeeting, WebEx, ezTalks Meetings, Teamview, join.me, Google Hangouts, and Megameeting. Some are free and some require a fee. They have varying levels of services and availability.
  3. Obtain extra supplies of common area cleaning materials and normal maintenance supplies to avoid the effects of shortages in stores and the need for employees or volunteers to have in-person contact in stores and supply houses.

Additional Possible Actions.

  1. In HOA newsletters or mailings, provide links to owners for government sources of information at the national, state, and local level, which could include those links identified in this article. The HOA should avoid any characterization of the outbreak not supported by information on these websites. There have been comments from some politicians and news sources clearly influenced by the potential political effect of the outbreak. The HOA board of directors should avoid using or adopting extreme or unfounded characterizations not supported on government websites.
  2. Provide daily or enhanced cleaning and/or disinfection of the common area surfaces described above under Minimum Recommended Actions.
  3. Provide cleaning of individual unit door handles and door surfaces that enter into common area such as doors to units in common area hallways.
  4. Increase stock of cleaning supplies for periods of shortages or delivery interruptions. 
  5. Identify and plan for any special procedures, actions, or precautions that should be taken in the HOA if community transmission starts in your area or if one or more persons becomes sick in your community and it is confirmed or suspected to be the New Coronavirus. This may include extra cleaning and potentially closing clubhouses, hot tubs, pools, and other community amenities.
  6. Identify and plan for any special procedures, actions, or precautions that need to be addressed in case home sheltering is recommended or becomes mandatory.
  7. Identify and plan for any special procedures, actions, or precautions that may need to be implemented to prevent risk of infection by guests in the community, cleaning persons, delivery persons, visiting health care providers, and other visitors.
  8. Discuss with essential vendors, managers, and employees how they are planning for the outbreak to find out if essential services or supplies may be interrupted and to plan on how to minimize or mitigate any potential interruption. This could include garbage removal services, maintenance services (elevator, boiler, etc.), management services, and snow or ice removal services.
  9. Identify and plan for how the HOA will prevent or minimize the potential for transmission of the new Coronavirus by or through any of its own employees, which may include the need for use of masks, gloves, sanitizers, and other precautionary measures.
  10. Consider organizing volunteers from the community to regularly, perhaps daily, check on those who are isolated or at high risk, including the elderly. These are people who need to avoid in-person contact as much as possible due to the increased risk of serious complications or death if they are infected. These checks can be performed by email or telephone to avoid in-person contact. Checks could include verifying the person is symptom free, has sufficient food and water, has sufficient regular medications, and has sufficient personal items to care for themselves. These volunteer groups should consider planning on a course of action if they encounter a person who develops symptoms, does not have sufficient food or personal items for personal care, or is unable to obtain regular medications without leaving their home and risking exposure. The course of action in case of problems could include calling relatives, police, health care providers, or other government agencies for assistance. Planning could include identifying the appropriate people and agencies to contact in case of problems.
  11. Evaluate HOA controlled or provided internet or WiFi networks for potential increased loads during periods of increased home sheltering. Upgrade now if necessary.
  12. Evaluate the potential effect of increased home deliveries of food and other items, and prepare for increased volume of such deliveries. This may include the need to evaluate increased consideration for security and storage of such items, the need to minimize in-person contact with delivery persons associated with such deliveries by establishing staging or delivery areas that minimize the exposure of the community, and the potential for increased cleaning associated with potential contamination to surfaces and door handles by delivery personnel. 

The lawyers at Morris Sperry will keep you updated on this serious issue and continue to provide practical advice and information on its website. For legal advice related to the new Coronavirus and how it might impact the operations of your Utah HOA, the lawyers at Morris Sperry are the lawyers to call in Utah.

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February 12, 2020

The Daybreak Townhome 1 Owners' Association, Inc. ("Association"), has filed a lawsuit in Utah naming hundreds of defendants. The lawsuit is Utah Case No. 190908678. This is a "declaratory" action, which  means no one is being sued for money or damages or attorney fees.  No money or damages are involved. The Association is simply trying to obtain an Assignment of Claims from the original owners of the townhomes in this project.

If you have been named as one of the defendants, you should have been or will be served either personally, by certified mail, by regular mail, by publication, and/or by email. Information has been provided about how to provide an Assignment of Claims to Morris Sperry and then be dismissed from this declaratory lawsuit. For your convenience, that information is listed below:

Instructions for Accessing Information about this Case:

  • In your Internet browser, go to www.morrissperry.com
  • Select "Resources"
  • Select "Client Documents"
  • Select "Go to client documents"
  • Type in TOWNHOME for the Username
  • Type in COMPLAINT for the Password
  • Click "Log in"

The most helpful document for you to access is the Notice to All Defendants. Please read that carefully as it answers many of your questions. Morris Sperry looks forward to receiving the signed Assignment of Claims from the original owners and dismissing those original owners from this action.

If you have any additional questions, you can email melissa@morrissperry.com or call (801) 790-9000.

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September 13, 2019

Lauren DeVoe of Morris Sperry presented for the Utah Community Law Section of the Utah State Bar. Her presentation discussed the appointment of receivers in homeowners associations. Homeowners associations include PUDs, condominiums, and condominium hotels. Morris Sperry has extensivel involvement in this issue and is currently working on a complex contested receivership matter in Park City. Receiverships are an important remedy, and sometimes the only practical remedy, when a majority of interests in an HOA act to undermine the interests of a minority of owners. Lauren's presentation focused on this issue and included discussions of important legal cases from around the country on this issue. Lauren's presentation also included a case study analysis of Utah receivership actions now pending before the courts. Morris Serry's experience with HOA receiverships is unmatched in Utah. Morris Sperry is capable of seeking the appointment of a receiver or defending against the appointment of a receiver. 

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June 17, 2019

 

John Morris and Quinn Sperry were selected to the 2019 Super Lawyers list for Utah. Super Lawyers selects attorneys using a patented multiphase selection process. Peer nominations and evaluations are combined with independent research. 5% of attorneys are selected to Super Lawyers. Each candidate is evaluated on 12 indicators of peer recognition and professional achievement. Selections are made on an annual, state-by-state basis. Both John Morris and Quinn Sperry have been selected for the list for several years. 

 

 

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June 5, 2019

 

The typical HOA has a variety of signs throughout the project. Utah Community Associations are governed by a web of laws that apply to signs, in some ways that are unexpected. For example, while it may seem obvious that the pool and spa signs must comply with Health Department regulations, it is not well known that they cannot be any more restrictive than those regulations without risk of violating the Fair Housing Act. Clubhouse and workout room signs must be carefully prepared to comply with the same federal and state Fair Housing laws. Towing and parking signs in an HOA must be consistent with applicable towing laws. All signs and notices must comply with the rules and governing documents in both condominium associations and townhome projects. Slight variances between the rules and signs can create problems for enforcement and the assessment of fines for violations. The lawyers at Morris Sperry can conduct a sign audit and identify problems with signs that can avoid litigation, UALD complaints, and enforcement problems.

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May 24, 2019

A Maryland property management company is in trouble with the state over how it spent homeowner and condo fees. The Maryland Attorney General Consumer Protection Division filed charges against Evergreen Management, LLC for misappropriating assessments paid to homeowner associations and condominium associations. The owners of Evergreen, Jason Barry Oseroff and his late father Ivan Oseroff, are accused of taking nearly $2.5 million in funds and using the money for their own benefit over the years. Evergreen was hired to manage the books and records of HOAs, arrange and pay for contractors such as landscapers, prepare tax returns, attend meetings, and perform other functions. The company was hired by 13 associations in Maryland. Instead of providing the services for which they were hired, Oseroff withdrew unauthorized cash amounts, paid thousands for charges on his wife's credit card, made payments to himself, and funneled money from other HOAs to cover the bills of another. Evergreen also failed to provide bank records and invoices to homeowners when requested. The company is also accused of providing homeowners with false balance, expense, and income reports.

Amazingly, HOA management companies are completely unregulated and do not need any license. They can accumulate and manager millions of dollars in assessments and reserve funds without any state oversight. In Utah, there are fewer qualifications for managing HOAs than there are to do nails in a nail salon. The Utah CAI Legislative Action Committee tried for multiple years to introduce legislation that would require minimal training and bonding requirements for HOA managers. But, the Utah legislature stymied those efforts and would not allow the legislation to advance. 

Thefts like that above have occurred in Utah HOAs multiple times. The lesson for Utah HOAs is simple. Carefully vet and hire experienced and reputable managers. Even then, someone in the Association must keep an eye on the money. Association boards should insist that their HOA funds are kept in distinct accounts in the name of the HOA and that bank statements for those accounts are provided each month. They should insist that only board members have signing authority for any significant transfers or checks and that they should have exclusive signing authority on reserve accounts. Ocassionally, a call should be made to the bank to verify that the funds represented on bank statements are really in the accounts. With minimal oversight, it can be very difficult for a management company to steal HOA funds. Without oversight, it can be extremely easy.

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February 22, 2019

John Morris, Quinn Sperry, and Lauren DeVoe presented an HOA legislative and case law update to lawyers in the Utah State Bar on February 21, 2019. The Morris Sperry HOA attorneys explained and discussed new statutes affecting homeowners' associations including new laws and cases related to construction defects and requests for emotional support animals. The presentation was packed by Utah lawyers looking for an HOA update. When lawyers need an education on HOA issues, they go to the lawyers at Morris Sperry because they are focused exclusively on HOA law.  

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February 15, 2019

 

The Utah CAI Legislative Action Committee is running HB 329, that will have new HOA laws. The bill will make changes (some minor and some more important) to various sections of the Condominium Ownership Act and the Community Association Act. After negotiations with various constituents, the bill is in the process of being shortened from its current form but will still include some changes that Utah community associations and homeowners’ associations will need to know about. There will be some technical changes to Utah Code Ann. § 57-8-13.1 and § 57-8a-105 related to lien enforcement during periods when a homeowners’ association has failed to register with the Department of Commerce. The basic obligation of all Utah HOAs to register with the department of commerce remains. Utah Code Ann. § 57-8-54 will undergo substantial changes related to owners requesting payoff information from their HOA or the HOA's manager. The lawyers at Morris Sperry suspect this provision will have further modifications from its existing form before passage. The rules provisions in the community association act, Utah Code Ann. § 57-8a-217, will also undergo some significant changes. These changes include new definitional terms that could have significant effects on the validity of various HOA governing documents. In addition, these changes include limitations on the time period for challenging the adoption of a rule that does not comply with the notice and vetting periods allowed to owners before new rules are adopted in community associations. The lawyers at Morris Sperry are involved with these amendments through their service on the Utah CAI Legislative Action Committee and are closely watching the progress of these new 2019 Utah HOA laws. The time for this bill to get passed is slipping away, but there still remains a chance these provisions could go into law. Look for future updates from Morris Sperry on the status of this bill and the passage of other new laws in 2019 that affect HOAs.

 

 

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February 1, 2019

 

In the 2019 legislative session, the Utah legislature is considering House Bill 43 (HB 43) that would make certain actions involving emotional support animals (also known as support animals, companion animals, or comfort animals) a class C misdemeanor. HB 43 has passed the house and is under consideration in the senate. By all indications, this bill is set to sail through the legislature and to be signed by the governor. HB 43 is sponsored by Representative Dunnigan and Senator Bramble, both of whom sponsored the bills that formed the original laws that this is bill is modifying and expanding.

The existing statute, Utah Code Ann.  § 62A-5b-106, already made it a crime to interfere with the exercise of a disabled person's right to a service animal. The existing statute also made it a crime for someone to "intentionally and knowingly" represent to another that an animal is a service animal when the animal is not. It also made it a crime to misrepresent facts to a health care provider for the purpose of obtaining a service animal. H.B. 43 would modify the existing law to, for the first time, included emotional support animals along with service animals. The distinction is important because service animals are a carefully prescribed and easily identified category of animals that are typically trained and certified to provide very specific services to a disabled owner. Emotional support animals, on the other hand, have no specialized training or certifications because that is not necessary for their function. Although the benefit of emotional support animals can vary among their disabled owners, the typical benefit is a therapeutic and helpful calming of the symptoms of certain mental conditions, such as extreme anxiety and PTSD. In short, the presence and companionship of the animal provides the benefit.

In the world of condominiums, PUDs, Townhomes, HOAs, homeowners’ associations, and other community associations, this is a critically important issue. The federal Fair Housing Act and the Utah state Fair Housing Act both provide that owners and community associations must make reasonable accommodations for both service animals and emotional support animals. This means if an HOA has rules or covenants that prohibit animals or proscribe limitations on animals (such as their size or where they may go in the project), the owner or homeowners’ association may have to make exceptions to those rules under circumstances where a disabled individual needs the animal to assist with one or more of the disabled person's major life activities. A common example of this type of situation is a veteran who suffers from Post-Traumatic Stress Syndrome and has a dog who helps minimize the symptoms of that condition. That veteran may have the right to move into a condominium project that does not allow animals, and nonetheless keep her dog.

The big question for HOAs is how H.B. 43 will impact requests for accommodation and the responses of HOAs to those requests. If a condominium board of directors believes a request to keep an emotional support animal is not genuine, could they and should they file a criminal complaint? What is "enough" information to support the filing of a criminal complaint? Is the filing retaliation that is prohibited under federal law? Also, what about people who complain about an emotional support animal in a project or harass the owner who has one? Have they now violated a criminal law? What about Boards who deny a request for accommodation, are they now potentially liable criminally? Do the criminal provisions apply at all to an HOA board of trustees or an HOA board of directors? 

As other states have passed similar laws, the lawyers at Morris Sperry have been carefully watching this issue. They are prepared to assist their clients (owners requesting accommodations and HOAs responding to requests) with answers to the hard questions above. No firm in Utah has more experience with Fair Housing laws in homeowners’ associations. The lawyers at Morris Sperry will continue to monitor HB 43 in the 2019 Utah legislature and will be prepared to assist their clients with the nuances of this law and other Fair Housing laws.

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January 26, 2019

 

John Morris and Quinn Sperry, Utah homeowners association lawyers, were selected to be two of the presenters for the CCAL national HOA law seminar in New Orleans. This seminar was attended by more than 400 HOA lawyers from around the country. They presented on how to deal with divisiveness and conflict in HOAs. This very interesting issue is at the forefront of the national political debate and is a commonly encountered problem in community associations around the country and in Utah. The topic included information and practical advice for dealing with board member verses board member disputes, board member verses owner disputes, HOA verses board member disputes, and other common types of disputes in HOAs. The presentation included a careful review of the ethical rules lawyers must deal with representing parties in these disputes, along with practical advice for minimizing, deescalating, and resolving these disputes. Morris Sperry lawyers and the Morris Sperry HOA law firm are committed to resolving disputes in condominium associations, PUDs, townhomes, and other community associations as quickly, efficiently, and amicably as possible. This is why both Quinn and John have completed mediation training and frequently suggest alternatives for resolving disputes other than litigation. Attorneys who focus in HOA law, like the attorneys at Morris Sperry, understand the importance of understanding, managing, and harnessing the benefits of different opinions in homeowners associations.  

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March 18, 2020

This article provides current information (as of 3/18/2020) regarding the Coronavirus Pandemic and offers suggestions to Utah HOAs (Condominiums, Associations, HOAs, and Homeowners Associations) on how to respond to this outbreak. Much of the information in this article is available and sourced from the CDC website: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/index.html. Other information is available at https://healthcare.utah.edu/coronavirus/https://health.utah.gov/coronavirushttps://www.cnn.com/2020/02/26/opinions/colleen-kraft-coronavirus-best-defense/index.htmlhttps://www.ready.gov/pandemic.

A very informative map and dashboard tracking system for the pandemic is available from the Johns Hopkins University Center for Science and Engineering. You can access it by clicking HERE.  

Utah HOAs should start planning and preparing for a more widespread outbreak (community transmission) in Utah because the CDC and almost all public officials are stating that it is not a matter of “if” it will occur, but more a matter of “when.” Moreover, there is now confirmed community transmission in various counties in Utah, including Davis, Summit, and Salt Lake counties.

Background on the new Coronavirus Pandemic

The CDC (Center for Disease Control) is monitoring an emerging and rapidly evolving outbreak of respiratory disease caused by a novel (new) virus that was initially detected in China. . This new Coronavirus has been named SARS-CoV-2. The World Health Organization (WHO) declared the outbreak a "public heatlh emergency of international concern on January 30, 2020 and declared the outbreak an official pandemic on March 11, 2020.

Coronavirus around the World

The virus has now infected more than 215,000 people in almost every country including the United States. More than 8,700 people have died from the virus. The virus has spread dramatically in several countries including China, Italy, South Korea, and Iran. In China and Itally hospitals have been overwhelmed. Many countries are closing schools, cancelling all public gatherings, and imposing restrictions on the movement of people. Almost every country affected is recommending that people shelter at home. 

Coronavirus in the United States

As of the last update of this article, there were over 7,700 confirmed cases of the new Coronavirus in the United States in every state and Washington D.C., with more than 118 deaths resulting from the infections. President Trump declared a national emergency on March 13, 2020. Many state governors and local authorities have also declared state and local emergencies. Schools are closing in many states and most sporting events and gatherings have been cancelled. The following is the latest reporting from the Johns Hopkins University tracking Website as of the last update of this article. Based on a press conference held by the President of the United States on March 18, 2020, it is expected that the number of confirmed cases in the United States will dramatically increase over the next week because testing kits are more widely available. 

The Coronavirus in Utah

There are now in excess of 51 reported and confirmed cases in Utah, although there are certainly more undetected and unconfirmed infections. Summit County has reported the first confirmed case of community spread with the positive test of a doorman at the Spur Bar and Grill in Park city. The man had no known contact with anyone infected and it is unclear how many people this man interacted with while infected and showing symptoms. The governor of Utah declared a state of emergency on Friday March 6, 2020 to facilitate emergency preparation. Hospitals in Utah are preparing for an increase in patients. All public schools (including university campuses) were closed for two weeks effective March 13, 2020 and all commencement ceremonies this spring will be postponed or cancelled. Almost all sporting events and gatherings of people have been cancelled. Almost every religious organization has cancelled all services and gatherings. The Utah Department of Health ordered all restuarants and bars to close their dining roomes, effective 11:59 p.m. March 17, 2020. Take-out, delivery, and grocery shopping is still permitted. Many health care providers are aksing people to reschedule non-essential vistis and call before visiting a walk-in clinic to allow medical staff to focus on the Covid-19 crisis. State officials are not encouraging everyone to take serious precautions, including staying at least six feet away from other people and staying home if showing any symptoms. 

Clinical Analysis

The complete clinical picture with regard to the new Coronavirus is not fully understood. Reported illnesses have ranged from mild to severe, including illness resulting in death. While information so far suggests that most new Coronavirus illness is mild, a report out of China suggests serious illness occurs in 16% of cases. Older people and people with certain underlying health conditions like heart disease, lung disease and diabetes, for example, seem to be at greater risk of serious illness. The potential public health threat posed by the new Coronavirus is very high in the United States, according to the CDC.

Symptoms

Symptoms of infection include fever (88% of people reporting), dry cough (68%), fatigue (38%), Sputum production (33%), shortness of breath (18%), muscle or joint pain (15%), sore throat (14%), headache (14%), chills (11%), nausea or vomiting (5%), nasal congestion (5%), Diarrhea (4%), Haemoptsis (1%), & Conjunctive congestion (1%). In more serious infections, symptoms include high fevers, coughing up blood, decreased while blood cells, and kidney failure. Some people who are infected will show no symptoms. 

Potential for Future Spreading of the Infection

According to the CDC, significantly more infections are likely to be identified in the coming days, including more cases in the United States. At this time, most people in the United States will have little immediate risk of exposure to this virus because the virus is not currently spreading widely in the United States. However, The CDC notes that current global circumstances suggest it is likely that this virus will cause a pandemic. It’s also likely that person-to-person spread will continue to occur, including in communities in the United States. It’s likely that at some point, widespread transmission of the new Coronavirus in the United States will occur.

General Effect of Widespread Spreading

According to the CDC, widespread transmission of the new Coronavirus would translate into large numbers of people needing medical care at the same time. Schools, childcare centers, workplaces, and other places for mass gatherings may experience more absenteeism. Public health and healthcare systems may become overloaded, with elevated rates of hospitalizations and deaths. Other critical infrastructure, such as law enforcement, emergency medical services, and transportation industry may also be affected. Health care providers and hospitals may be overwhelmed.

Treatment

At this time, there is no vaccine to protect against the New Coronavirus and no medications approved to treat it. There are multiple government/private parties working on a vaccine. The best estimate is that it will take at least one year to produce a vaccine. In the meantime, treatment for an infection is limited to supportive care to help relieve symptoms. In life threatening situations, hospitalization and care to support vital organ functions is necessary.

Individual Response

The CDC, other government agencies, and various experts recommend the following actions:

  1. Limit all travel, but certainly limit travel to certain locations in the World, including China, Hong Kong, Iran, Italy, Japan, and South Korea.
  2. Shelter in place. 
  3. Get a flu vaccine,
  4. Frequently and properly wash hands,
  5. Avoid in-person contact with people who are sick,
  6. Stay at least six feet away from other people,
  7. Stay at home if you are sick, along with taking other actions to prevent the spread of your illness,
  8. Avoid touching your eyes, mouth, and nose,
  9. Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces at home, work, school, and other locations,
  10. Get plenty of sleep, manage stress, drink fluids, eat nutritious foods, and be physically active.
  11. Prepare your household for a “pandemic Flu” https://www.cdc.gov/nonpharmaceutical-interventions/pdf/gr-pan-flu-ind-house.pdf
  12. Prepare for the closure of your child’s school or daycare.
  13. Have a minimum two-week supply of water, food, and over-the-counter medications you tend to take. A six-month supply of food and over-the-counter medication  in case of shortages and home sheltering is recommended by Morris Sperry. Rice, pasta, canned foods, and other non-perishables are recommended for long term home sheltering.
  14. Stock up on over-the-counter medications for the relief of flu-like symptoms in case you are infected and must treat at home.
  15. Obtain a several-month supply (at least 6 months) of normal medications, especially if you are over 60 years old or in another high risk category. 
  16. Consider updating computers, home WiFi networks, and internet access speeds in preparation for working from home and for more intensive use of computers and the internet in case of home sheltering recommendations or requirements.

HOA Response

HOA boards of directors and management committees can play a role in assisting owners in an HOA related to this outbreak. Each Board will have to decide how involved they want to be. Morris Sperry offers the following suggestions for Utah condominium associations, Utah homeowners associations, and Utah HOAs, depending on the level of involvement the HOA management committee wants to take.

Minimum Recommended Actions

  1. Confirm and/or start regular cleaning of frequently touched surfaces in common areas that could be a source of transmitting of the virus. This could include common area door handles, railings, doors, restrooms, mailbox surfaces, and counters.
  2. Cancel all in-person meetings of owners and board members and instead conduct meetings telephonically or electronically. All Utah HOA meetings in Utah can be conducted legally using telephonic and other electronic communications and Utah HOA boards can legally make decisions and take actions using email. There are multiple online services available to accomplish calls and meetings with any number of people, including Gotomeeting, WebEx, ezTalks Meetings, Teamview, join.me, Google Hangouts, and Megameeting. Some are free and some require a fee. They have varying levels of services and availability.
  3. Obtain extra supplies of common area cleaning materials and normal maintenance supplies to avoid the effects of shortages in stores and the need for employees or volunteers to have in-person contact in stores and supply houses.

Additional Possible Actions.

  1. In HOA newsletters or mailings, provide links to owners for government sources of information at the national, state, and local level, which could include those links identified in this article. The HOA should avoid any characterization of the outbreak not supported by information on these websites. There have been comments from some politicians and news sources clearly influenced by the potential political effect of the outbreak. The HOA board of directors should avoid using or adopting extreme or unfounded characterizations not supported on government websites.
  2. Provide daily or enhanced cleaning and/or disinfection of the common area surfaces described above under Minimum Recommended Actions.
  3. Provide cleaning of individual unit door handles and door surfaces that enter into common area such as doors to units in common area hallways.
  4. Increase stock of cleaning supplies for periods of shortages or delivery interruptions. 
  5. Identify and plan for any special procedures, actions, or precautions that should be taken in the HOA if community transmission starts in your area or if one or more persons becomes sick in your community and it is confirmed or suspected to be the New Coronavirus. This may include extra cleaning and potentially closing clubhouses, hot tubs, pools, and other community amenities.
  6. Identify and plan for any special procedures, actions, or precautions that need to be addressed in case home sheltering is recommended or becomes mandatory.
  7. Identify and plan for any special procedures, actions, or precautions that may need to be implemented to prevent risk of infection by guests in the community, cleaning persons, delivery persons, visiting health care providers, and other visitors.
  8. Discuss with essential vendors, managers, and employees how they are planning for the outbreak to find out if essential services or supplies may be interrupted and to plan on how to minimize or mitigate any potential interruption. This could include garbage removal services, maintenance services (elevator, boiler, etc.), management services, and snow or ice removal services.
  9. Identify and plan for how the HOA will prevent or minimize the potential for transmission of the new Coronavirus by or through any of its own employees, which may include the need for use of masks, gloves, sanitizers, and other precautionary measures.
  10. Consider organizing volunteers from the community to regularly, perhaps daily, check on those who are isolated or at high risk, including the elderly. These are people who need to avoid in-person contact as much as possible due to the increased risk of serious complications or death if they are infected. These checks can be performed by email or telephone to avoid in-person contact. Checks could include verifying the person is symptom free, has sufficient food and water, has sufficient regular medications, and has sufficient personal items to care for themselves. These volunteer groups should consider planning on a course of action if they encounter a person who develops symptoms, does not have sufficient food or personal items for personal care, or is unable to obtain regular medications without leaving their home and risking exposure. The course of action in case of problems could include calling relatives, police, health care providers, or other government agencies for assistance. Planning could include identifying the appropriate people and agencies to contact in case of problems.
  11. Evaluate HOA controlled or provided internet or WiFi networks for potential increased loads during periods of increased home sheltering. Upgrade now if necessary.
  12. Evaluate the potential effect of increased home deliveries of food and other items, and prepare for increased volume of such deliveries. This may include the need to evaluate increased consideration for security and storage of such items, the need to minimize in-person contact with delivery persons associated with such deliveries by establishing staging or delivery areas that minimize the exposure of the community, and the potential for increased cleaning associated with potential contamination to surfaces and door handles by delivery personnel. 

The lawyers at Morris Sperry will keep you updated on this serious issue and continue to provide practical advice and information on its website. For legal advice related to the new Coronavirus and how it might impact the operations of your Utah HOA, the lawyers at Morris Sperry are the lawyers to call in Utah.

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February 12, 2020

The Daybreak Townhome 1 Owners' Association, Inc. ("Association"), has filed a lawsuit in Utah naming hundreds of defendants. The lawsuit is Utah Case No. 190908678. This is a "declaratory" action, which  means no one is being sued for money or damages or attorney fees.  No money or damages are involved. The Association is simply trying to obtain an Assignment of Claims from the original owners of the townhomes in this project.

If you have been named as one of the defendants, you should have been or will be served either personally, by certified mail, by regular mail, by publication, and/or by email. Information has been provided about how to provide an Assignment of Claims to Morris Sperry and then be dismissed from this declaratory lawsuit. For your convenience, that information is listed below:

Instructions for Accessing Information about this Case:

  • In your Internet browser, go to www.morrissperry.com
  • Select "Resources"
  • Select "Client Documents"
  • Select "Go to client documents"
  • Type in TOWNHOME for the Username
  • Type in COMPLAINT for the Password
  • Click "Log in"

The most helpful document for you to access is the Notice to All Defendants. Please read that carefully as it answers many of your questions. Morris Sperry looks forward to receiving the signed Assignment of Claims from the original owners and dismissing those original owners from this action.

If you have any additional questions, you can email melissa@morrissperry.com or call (801) 790-9000.

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September 13, 2019

Lauren DeVoe of Morris Sperry presented for the Utah Community Law Section of the Utah State Bar. Her presentation discussed the appointment of receivers in homeowners associations. Homeowners associations include PUDs, condominiums, and condominium hotels. Morris Sperry has extensivel involvement in this issue and is currently working on a complex contested receivership matter in Park City. Receiverships are an important remedy, and sometimes the only practical remedy, when a majority of interests in an HOA act to undermine the interests of a minority of owners. Lauren's presentation focused on this issue and included discussions of important legal cases from around the country on this issue. Lauren's presentation also included a case study analysis of Utah receivership actions now pending before the courts. Morris Serry's experience with HOA receiverships is unmatched in Utah. Morris Sperry is capable of seeking the appointment of a receiver or defending against the appointment of a receiver. 

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June 17, 2019

 

John Morris and Quinn Sperry were selected to the 2019 Super Lawyers list for Utah. Super Lawyers selects attorneys using a patented multiphase selection process. Peer nominations and evaluations are combined with independent research. 5% of attorneys are selected to Super Lawyers. Each candidate is evaluated on 12 indicators of peer recognition and professional achievement. Selections are made on an annual, state-by-state basis. Both John Morris and Quinn Sperry have been selected for the list for several years. 

 

 

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February 22, 2019

John Morris, Quinn Sperry, and Lauren DeVoe presented an HOA legislative and case law update to lawyers in the Utah State Bar on February 21, 2019. The Morris Sperry HOA attorneys explained and discussed new statutes affecting homeowners' associations including new laws and cases related to construction defects and requests for emotional support animals. The presentation was packed by Utah lawyers looking for an HOA update. When lawyers need an education on HOA issues, they go to the lawyers at Morris Sperry because they are focused exclusively on HOA law.  

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February 15, 2019

 

The Utah CAI Legislative Action Committee is running HB 329, that will have new HOA laws. The bill will make changes (some minor and some more important) to various sections of the Condominium Ownership Act and the Community Association Act. After negotiations with various constituents, the bill is in the process of being shortened from its current form but will still include some changes that Utah community associations and homeowners’ associations will need to know about. There will be some technical changes to Utah Code Ann. § 57-8-13.1 and § 57-8a-105 related to lien enforcement during periods when a homeowners’ association has failed to register with the Department of Commerce. The basic obligation of all Utah HOAs to register with the department of commerce remains. Utah Code Ann. § 57-8-54 will undergo substantial changes related to owners requesting payoff information from their HOA or the HOA's manager. The lawyers at Morris Sperry suspect this provision will have further modifications from its existing form before passage. The rules provisions in the community association act, Utah Code Ann. § 57-8a-217, will also undergo some significant changes. These changes include new definitional terms that could have significant effects on the validity of various HOA governing documents. In addition, these changes include limitations on the time period for challenging the adoption of a rule that does not comply with the notice and vetting periods allowed to owners before new rules are adopted in community associations. The lawyers at Morris Sperry are involved with these amendments through their service on the Utah CAI Legislative Action Committee and are closely watching the progress of these new 2019 Utah HOA laws. The time for this bill to get passed is slipping away, but there still remains a chance these provisions could go into law. Look for future updates from Morris Sperry on the status of this bill and the passage of other new laws in 2019 that affect HOAs.

 

 

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January 26, 2019

 

John Morris and Quinn Sperry, Utah homeowners association lawyers, were selected to be two of the presenters for the CCAL national HOA law seminar in New Orleans. This seminar was attended by more than 400 HOA lawyers from around the country. They presented on how to deal with divisiveness and conflict in HOAs. This very interesting issue is at the forefront of the national political debate and is a commonly encountered problem in community associations around the country and in Utah. The topic included information and practical advice for dealing with board member verses board member disputes, board member verses owner disputes, HOA verses board member disputes, and other common types of disputes in HOAs. The presentation included a careful review of the ethical rules lawyers must deal with representing parties in these disputes, along with practical advice for minimizing, deescalating, and resolving these disputes. Morris Sperry lawyers and the Morris Sperry HOA law firm are committed to resolving disputes in condominium associations, PUDs, townhomes, and other community associations as quickly, efficiently, and amicably as possible. This is why both Quinn and John have completed mediation training and frequently suggest alternatives for resolving disputes other than litigation. Attorneys who focus in HOA law, like the attorneys at Morris Sperry, understand the importance of understanding, managing, and harnessing the benefits of different opinions in homeowners associations.  

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January 25, 2019

 

Five Morris Sperry lawyers are attending the National HOA law conference in New Orleans this week. This conference is one of the best opportunities to meet and learn from HOA lawyers from around the country. Morris Sperry lawyers get exposure to legal trends and new approaches to HOA problems. This ongoing dedication and focus on community association law is why Morris Sperry is the only law firm you want working for you when you have townhome, condominium, PUD, and other HOA legal issues. 

 

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January 14, 2019

 

John Morris and Quinn Sperry are preparing to present at the National HOA Law Seminar in New Orleans. Over 500 of the best HOA lawyers in the country get together once a year to discuss advanced community association law issues. A careful selection and vetting process occurs to select speakers for this advanced seminar. John Morris and Quinn Sperry have been selected multiple times. This year's presentation will focus on the lawyer's role in divisiveness and disputes among HOA participants, including the owners, board members, and managers. A particular focus will be on the ethical challenges lawyers face in these situations. This topic was undoubtedly selected because it is so timely given the extreme polarization of country on any number of political issues and the unfortunate impact that polarization can have on the leadership and operations of community organizations. With its exclusive focus on HOA law, Morris Sperry remains the only firm in Utah to call for help when you have disputes among and between board members and between board members and owners in an HOA. 

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October 8, 2018

 

Quinn Sperry was elected Second Vice Chair by the Community Association Section of the Utah State Bar. In the same meeting, Lauren DeVoe of Morris Sperry was elected by the section as Treasurer. Morris Sperry continues their service to the community, to their fellow HOA lawyers, and to the HOA and community association law industry as a whole through this service. Since John Morris of Morris Sperry came up with the idea for this section, lawyers from Morris Sperry have advocated for the section and have volunteered to serve.

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March 18, 2020

This article provides current information (as of 3/18/2020) regarding the Coronavirus Pandemic and offers suggestions to Utah HOAs (Condominiums, Associations, HOAs, and Homeowners Associations) on how to respond to this outbreak. Much of the information in this article is available and sourced from the CDC website: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/index.html. Other information is available at https://healthcare.utah.edu/coronavirus/https://health.utah.gov/coronavirushttps://www.cnn.com/2020/02/26/opinions/colleen-kraft-coronavirus-best-defense/index.htmlhttps://www.ready.gov/pandemic.

A very informative map and dashboard tracking system for the pandemic is available from the Johns Hopkins University Center for Science and Engineering. You can access it by clicking HERE.  

Utah HOAs should start planning and preparing for a more widespread outbreak (community transmission) in Utah because the CDC and almost all public officials are stating that it is not a matter of “if” it will occur, but more a matter of “when.” Moreover, there is now confirmed community transmission in various counties in Utah, including Davis, Summit, and Salt Lake counties.

Background on the new Coronavirus Pandemic

The CDC (Center for Disease Control) is monitoring an emerging and rapidly evolving outbreak of respiratory disease caused by a novel (new) virus that was initially detected in China. . This new Coronavirus has been named SARS-CoV-2. The World Health Organization (WHO) declared the outbreak a "public heatlh emergency of international concern on January 30, 2020 and declared the outbreak an official pandemic on March 11, 2020.

Coronavirus around the World

The virus has now infected more than 215,000 people in almost every country including the United States. More than 8,700 people have died from the virus. The virus has spread dramatically in several countries including China, Italy, South Korea, and Iran. In China and Itally hospitals have been overwhelmed. Many countries are closing schools, cancelling all public gatherings, and imposing restrictions on the movement of people. Almost every country affected is recommending that people shelter at home. 

Coronavirus in the United States

As of the last update of this article, there were over 7,700 confirmed cases of the new Coronavirus in the United States in every state and Washington D.C., with more than 118 deaths resulting from the infections. President Trump declared a national emergency on March 13, 2020. Many state governors and local authorities have also declared state and local emergencies. Schools are closing in many states and most sporting events and gatherings have been cancelled. The following is the latest reporting from the Johns Hopkins University tracking Website as of the last update of this article. Based on a press conference held by the President of the United States on March 18, 2020, it is expected that the number of confirmed cases in the United States will dramatically increase over the next week because testing kits are more widely available. 

The Coronavirus in Utah

There are now in excess of 51 reported and confirmed cases in Utah, although there are certainly more undetected and unconfirmed infections. Summit County has reported the first confirmed case of community spread with the positive test of a doorman at the Spur Bar and Grill in Park city. The man had no known contact with anyone infected and it is unclear how many people this man interacted with while infected and showing symptoms. The governor of Utah declared a state of emergency on Friday March 6, 2020 to facilitate emergency preparation. Hospitals in Utah are preparing for an increase in patients. All public schools (including university campuses) were closed for two weeks effective March 13, 2020 and all commencement ceremonies this spring will be postponed or cancelled. Almost all sporting events and gatherings of people have been cancelled. Almost every religious organization has cancelled all services and gatherings. The Utah Department of Health ordered all restuarants and bars to close their dining roomes, effective 11:59 p.m. March 17, 2020. Take-out, delivery, and grocery shopping is still permitted. Many health care providers are aksing people to reschedule non-essential vistis and call before visiting a walk-in clinic to allow medical staff to focus on the Covid-19 crisis. State officials are not encouraging everyone to take serious precautions, including staying at least six feet away from other people and staying home if showing any symptoms. 

Clinical Analysis

The complete clinical picture with regard to the new Coronavirus is not fully understood. Reported illnesses have ranged from mild to severe, including illness resulting in death. While information so far suggests that most new Coronavirus illness is mild, a report out of China suggests serious illness occurs in 16% of cases. Older people and people with certain underlying health conditions like heart disease, lung disease and diabetes, for example, seem to be at greater risk of serious illness. The potential public health threat posed by the new Coronavirus is very high in the United States, according to the CDC.

Symptoms

Symptoms of infection include fever (88% of people reporting), dry cough (68%), fatigue (38%), Sputum production (33%), shortness of breath (18%), muscle or joint pain (15%), sore throat (14%), headache (14%), chills (11%), nausea or vomiting (5%), nasal congestion (5%), Diarrhea (4%), Haemoptsis (1%), & Conjunctive congestion (1%). In more serious infections, symptoms include high fevers, coughing up blood, decreased while blood cells, and kidney failure. Some people who are infected will show no symptoms. 

Potential for Future Spreading of the Infection

According to the CDC, significantly more infections are likely to be identified in the coming days, including more cases in the United States. At this time, most people in the United States will have little immediate risk of exposure to this virus because the virus is not currently spreading widely in the United States. However, The CDC notes that current global circumstances suggest it is likely that this virus will cause a pandemic. It’s also likely that person-to-person spread will continue to occur, including in communities in the United States. It’s likely that at some point, widespread transmission of the new Coronavirus in the United States will occur.

General Effect of Widespread Spreading

According to the CDC, widespread transmission of the new Coronavirus would translate into large numbers of people needing medical care at the same time. Schools, childcare centers, workplaces, and other places for mass gatherings may experience more absenteeism. Public health and healthcare systems may become overloaded, with elevated rates of hospitalizations and deaths. Other critical infrastructure, such as law enforcement, emergency medical services, and transportation industry may also be affected. Health care providers and hospitals may be overwhelmed.

Treatment

At this time, there is no vaccine to protect against the New Coronavirus and no medications approved to treat it. There are multiple government/private parties working on a vaccine. The best estimate is that it will take at least one year to produce a vaccine. In the meantime, treatment for an infection is limited to supportive care to help relieve symptoms. In life threatening situations, hospitalization and care to support vital organ functions is necessary.

Individual Response

The CDC, other government agencies, and various experts recommend the following actions:

  1. Limit all travel, but certainly limit travel to certain locations in the World, including China, Hong Kong, Iran, Italy, Japan, and South Korea.
  2. Shelter in place. 
  3. Get a flu vaccine,
  4. Frequently and properly wash hands,
  5. Avoid in-person contact with people who are sick,
  6. Stay at least six feet away from other people,
  7. Stay at home if you are sick, along with taking other actions to prevent the spread of your illness,
  8. Avoid touching your eyes, mouth, and nose,
  9. Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces at home, work, school, and other locations,
  10. Get plenty of sleep, manage stress, drink fluids, eat nutritious foods, and be physically active.
  11. Prepare your household for a “pandemic Flu” https://www.cdc.gov/nonpharmaceutical-interventions/pdf/gr-pan-flu-ind-house.pdf
  12. Prepare for the closure of your child’s school or daycare.
  13. Have a minimum two-week supply of water, food, and over-the-counter medications you tend to take. A six-month supply of food and over-the-counter medication  in case of shortages and home sheltering is recommended by Morris Sperry. Rice, pasta, canned foods, and other non-perishables are recommended for long term home sheltering.
  14. Stock up on over-the-counter medications for the relief of flu-like symptoms in case you are infected and must treat at home.
  15. Obtain a several-month supply (at least 6 months) of normal medications, especially if you are over 60 years old or in another high risk category. 
  16. Consider updating computers, home WiFi networks, and internet access speeds in preparation for working from home and for more intensive use of computers and the internet in case of home sheltering recommendations or requirements.

HOA Response

HOA boards of directors and management committees can play a role in assisting owners in an HOA related to this outbreak. Each Board will have to decide how involved they want to be. Morris Sperry offers the following suggestions for Utah condominium associations, Utah homeowners associations, and Utah HOAs, depending on the level of involvement the HOA management committee wants to take.

Minimum Recommended Actions

  1. Confirm and/or start regular cleaning of frequently touched surfaces in common areas that could be a source of transmitting of the virus. This could include common area door handles, railings, doors, restrooms, mailbox surfaces, and counters.
  2. Cancel all in-person meetings of owners and board members and instead conduct meetings telephonically or electronically. All Utah HOA meetings in Utah can be conducted legally using telephonic and other electronic communications and Utah HOA boards can legally make decisions and take actions using email. There are multiple online services available to accomplish calls and meetings with any number of people, including Gotomeeting, WebEx, ezTalks Meetings, Teamview, join.me, Google Hangouts, and Megameeting. Some are free and some require a fee. They have varying levels of services and availability.
  3. Obtain extra supplies of common area cleaning materials and normal maintenance supplies to avoid the effects of shortages in stores and the need for employees or volunteers to have in-person contact in stores and supply houses.

Additional Possible Actions.

  1. In HOA newsletters or mailings, provide links to owners for government sources of information at the national, state, and local level, which could include those links identified in this article. The HOA should avoid any characterization of the outbreak not supported by information on these websites. There have been comments from some politicians and news sources clearly influenced by the potential political effect of the outbreak. The HOA board of directors should avoid using or adopting extreme or unfounded characterizations not supported on government websites.
  2. Provide daily or enhanced cleaning and/or disinfection of the common area surfaces described above under Minimum Recommended Actions.
  3. Provide cleaning of individual unit door handles and door surfaces that enter into common area such as doors to units in common area hallways.
  4. Increase stock of cleaning supplies for periods of shortages or delivery interruptions. 
  5. Identify and plan for any special procedures, actions, or precautions that should be taken in the HOA if community transmission starts in your area or if one or more persons becomes sick in your community and it is confirmed or suspected to be the New Coronavirus. This may include extra cleaning and potentially closing clubhouses, hot tubs, pools, and other community amenities.
  6. Identify and plan for any special procedures, actions, or precautions that need to be addressed in case home sheltering is recommended or becomes mandatory.
  7. Identify and plan for any special procedures, actions, or precautions that may need to be implemented to prevent risk of infection by guests in the community, cleaning persons, delivery persons, visiting health care providers, and other visitors.
  8. Discuss with essential vendors, managers, and employees how they are planning for the outbreak to find out if essential services or supplies may be interrupted and to plan on how to minimize or mitigate any potential interruption. This could include garbage removal services, maintenance services (elevator, boiler, etc.), management services, and snow or ice removal services.
  9. Identify and plan for how the HOA will prevent or minimize the potential for transmission of the new Coronavirus by or through any of its own employees, which may include the need for use of masks, gloves, sanitizers, and other precautionary measures.
  10. Consider organizing volunteers from the community to regularly, perhaps daily, check on those who are isolated or at high risk, including the elderly. These are people who need to avoid in-person contact as much as possible due to the increased risk of serious complications or death if they are infected. These checks can be performed by email or telephone to avoid in-person contact. Checks could include verifying the person is symptom free, has sufficient food and water, has sufficient regular medications, and has sufficient personal items to care for themselves. These volunteer groups should consider planning on a course of action if they encounter a person who develops symptoms, does not have sufficient food or personal items for personal care, or is unable to obtain regular medications without leaving their home and risking exposure. The course of action in case of problems could include calling relatives, police, health care providers, or other government agencies for assistance. Planning could include identifying the appropriate people and agencies to contact in case of problems.
  11. Evaluate HOA controlled or provided internet or WiFi networks for potential increased loads during periods of increased home sheltering. Upgrade now if necessary.
  12. Evaluate the potential effect of increased home deliveries of food and other items, and prepare for increased volume of such deliveries. This may include the need to evaluate increased consideration for security and storage of such items, the need to minimize in-person contact with delivery persons associated with such deliveries by establishing staging or delivery areas that minimize the exposure of the community, and the potential for increased cleaning associated with potential contamination to surfaces and door handles by delivery personnel. 

The lawyers at Morris Sperry will keep you updated on this serious issue and continue to provide practical advice and information on its website. For legal advice related to the new Coronavirus and how it might impact the operations of your Utah HOA, the lawyers at Morris Sperry are the lawyers to call in Utah.

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September 13, 2019

Lauren DeVoe of Morris Sperry presented for the Utah Community Law Section of the Utah State Bar. Her presentation discussed the appointment of receivers in homeowners associations. Homeowners associations include PUDs, condominiums, and condominium hotels. Morris Sperry has extensivel involvement in this issue and is currently working on a complex contested receivership matter in Park City. Receiverships are an important remedy, and sometimes the only practical remedy, when a majority of interests in an HOA act to undermine the interests of a minority of owners. Lauren's presentation focused on this issue and included discussions of important legal cases from around the country on this issue. Lauren's presentation also included a case study analysis of Utah receivership actions now pending before the courts. Morris Serry's experience with HOA receiverships is unmatched in Utah. Morris Sperry is capable of seeking the appointment of a receiver or defending against the appointment of a receiver. 

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June 17, 2019

 

John Morris and Quinn Sperry were selected to the 2019 Super Lawyers list for Utah. Super Lawyers selects attorneys using a patented multiphase selection process. Peer nominations and evaluations are combined with independent research. 5% of attorneys are selected to Super Lawyers. Each candidate is evaluated on 12 indicators of peer recognition and professional achievement. Selections are made on an annual, state-by-state basis. Both John Morris and Quinn Sperry have been selected for the list for several years. 

 

 

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May 24, 2019

A Maryland property management company is in trouble with the state over how it spent homeowner and condo fees. The Maryland Attorney General Consumer Protection Division filed charges against Evergreen Management, LLC for misappropriating assessments paid to homeowner associations and condominium associations. The owners of Evergreen, Jason Barry Oseroff and his late father Ivan Oseroff, are accused of taking nearly $2.5 million in funds and using the money for their own benefit over the years. Evergreen was hired to manage the books and records of HOAs, arrange and pay for contractors such as landscapers, prepare tax returns, attend meetings, and perform other functions. The company was hired by 13 associations in Maryland. Instead of providing the services for which they were hired, Oseroff withdrew unauthorized cash amounts, paid thousands for charges on his wife's credit card, made payments to himself, and funneled money from other HOAs to cover the bills of another. Evergreen also failed to provide bank records and invoices to homeowners when requested. The company is also accused of providing homeowners with false balance, expense, and income reports.

Amazingly, HOA management companies are completely unregulated and do not need any license. They can accumulate and manager millions of dollars in assessments and reserve funds without any state oversight. In Utah, there are fewer qualifications for managing HOAs than there are to do nails in a nail salon. The Utah CAI Legislative Action Committee tried for multiple years to introduce legislation that would require minimal training and bonding requirements for HOA managers. But, the Utah legislature stymied those efforts and would not allow the legislation to advance. 

Thefts like that above have occurred in Utah HOAs multiple times. The lesson for Utah HOAs is simple. Carefully vet and hire experienced and reputable managers. Even then, someone in the Association must keep an eye on the money. Association boards should insist that their HOA funds are kept in distinct accounts in the name of the HOA and that bank statements for those accounts are provided each month. They should insist that only board members have signing authority for any significant transfers or checks and that they should have exclusive signing authority on reserve accounts. Ocassionally, a call should be made to the bank to verify that the funds represented on bank statements are really in the accounts. With minimal oversight, it can be very difficult for a management company to steal HOA funds. Without oversight, it can be extremely easy.

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February 22, 2019

John Morris, Quinn Sperry, and Lauren DeVoe presented an HOA legislative and case law update to lawyers in the Utah State Bar on February 21, 2019. The Morris Sperry HOA attorneys explained and discussed new statutes affecting homeowners' associations including new laws and cases related to construction defects and requests for emotional support animals. The presentation was packed by Utah lawyers looking for an HOA update. When lawyers need an education on HOA issues, they go to the lawyers at Morris Sperry because they are focused exclusively on HOA law.  

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February 15, 2019

 

The Utah CAI Legislative Action Committee is running HB 329, that will have new HOA laws. The bill will make changes (some minor and some more important) to various sections of the Condominium Ownership Act and the Community Association Act. After negotiations with various constituents, the bill is in the process of being shortened from its current form but will still include some changes that Utah community associations and homeowners’ associations will need to know about. There will be some technical changes to Utah Code Ann. § 57-8-13.1 and § 57-8a-105 related to lien enforcement during periods when a homeowners’ association has failed to register with the Department of Commerce. The basic obligation of all Utah HOAs to register with the department of commerce remains. Utah Code Ann. § 57-8-54 will undergo substantial changes related to owners requesting payoff information from their HOA or the HOA's manager. The lawyers at Morris Sperry suspect this provision will have further modifications from its existing form before passage. The rules provisions in the community association act, Utah Code Ann. § 57-8a-217, will also undergo some significant changes. These changes include new definitional terms that could have significant effects on the validity of various HOA governing documents. In addition, these changes include limitations on the time period for challenging the adoption of a rule that does not comply with the notice and vetting periods allowed to owners before new rules are adopted in community associations. The lawyers at Morris Sperry are involved with these amendments through their service on the Utah CAI Legislative Action Committee and are closely watching the progress of these new 2019 Utah HOA laws. The time for this bill to get passed is slipping away, but there still remains a chance these provisions could go into law. Look for future updates from Morris Sperry on the status of this bill and the passage of other new laws in 2019 that affect HOAs.

 

 

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February 1, 2019

 

In the 2019 legislative session, the Utah legislature is considering House Bill 43 (HB 43) that would make certain actions involving emotional support animals (also known as support animals, companion animals, or comfort animals) a class C misdemeanor. HB 43 has passed the house and is under consideration in the senate. By all indications, this bill is set to sail through the legislature and to be signed by the governor. HB 43 is sponsored by Representative Dunnigan and Senator Bramble, both of whom sponsored the bills that formed the original laws that this is bill is modifying and expanding.

The existing statute, Utah Code Ann.  § 62A-5b-106, already made it a crime to interfere with the exercise of a disabled person's right to a service animal. The existing statute also made it a crime for someone to "intentionally and knowingly" represent to another that an animal is a service animal when the animal is not. It also made it a crime to misrepresent facts to a health care provider for the purpose of obtaining a service animal. H.B. 43 would modify the existing law to, for the first time, included emotional support animals along with service animals. The distinction is important because service animals are a carefully prescribed and easily identified category of animals that are typically trained and certified to provide very specific services to a disabled owner. Emotional support animals, on the other hand, have no specialized training or certifications because that is not necessary for their function. Although the benefit of emotional support animals can vary among their disabled owners, the typical benefit is a therapeutic and helpful calming of the symptoms of certain mental conditions, such as extreme anxiety and PTSD. In short, the presence and companionship of the animal provides the benefit.

In the world of condominiums, PUDs, Townhomes, HOAs, homeowners’ associations, and other community associations, this is a critically important issue. The federal Fair Housing Act and the Utah state Fair Housing Act both provide that owners and community associations must make reasonable accommodations for both service animals and emotional support animals. This means if an HOA has rules or covenants that prohibit animals or proscribe limitations on animals (such as their size or where they may go in the project), the owner or homeowners’ association may have to make exceptions to those rules under circumstances where a disabled individual needs the animal to assist with one or more of the disabled person's major life activities. A common example of this type of situation is a veteran who suffers from Post-Traumatic Stress Syndrome and has a dog who helps minimize the symptoms of that condition. That veteran may have the right to move into a condominium project that does not allow animals, and nonetheless keep her dog.

The big question for HOAs is how H.B. 43 will impact requests for accommodation and the responses of HOAs to those requests. If a condominium board of directors believes a request to keep an emotional support animal is not genuine, could they and should they file a criminal complaint? What is "enough" information to support the filing of a criminal complaint? Is the filing retaliation that is prohibited under federal law? Also, what about people who complain about an emotional support animal in a project or harass the owner who has one? Have they now violated a criminal law? What about Boards who deny a request for accommodation, are they now potentially liable criminally? Do the criminal provisions apply at all to an HOA board of trustees or an HOA board of directors? 

As other states have passed similar laws, the lawyers at Morris Sperry have been carefully watching this issue. They are prepared to assist their clients (owners requesting accommodations and HOAs responding to requests) with answers to the hard questions above. No firm in Utah has more experience with Fair Housing laws in homeowners’ associations. The lawyers at Morris Sperry will continue to monitor HB 43 in the 2019 Utah legislature and will be prepared to assist their clients with the nuances of this law and other Fair Housing laws.

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January 25, 2019

 

Five Morris Sperry lawyers are attending the National HOA law conference in New Orleans this week. This conference is one of the best opportunities to meet and learn from HOA lawyers from around the country. Morris Sperry lawyers get exposure to legal trends and new approaches to HOA problems. This ongoing dedication and focus on community association law is why Morris Sperry is the only law firm you want working for you when you have townhome, condominium, PUD, and other HOA legal issues. 

 

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January 14, 2019

 

John Morris and Quinn Sperry are preparing to present at the National HOA Law Seminar in New Orleans. Over 500 of the best HOA lawyers in the country get together once a year to discuss advanced community association law issues. A careful selection and vetting process occurs to select speakers for this advanced seminar. John Morris and Quinn Sperry have been selected multiple times. This year's presentation will focus on the lawyer's role in divisiveness and disputes among HOA participants, including the owners, board members, and managers. A particular focus will be on the ethical challenges lawyers face in these situations. This topic was undoubtedly selected because it is so timely given the extreme polarization of country on any number of political issues and the unfortunate impact that polarization can have on the leadership and operations of community organizations. With its exclusive focus on HOA law, Morris Sperry remains the only firm in Utah to call for help when you have disputes among and between board members and between board members and owners in an HOA. 

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October 8, 2018

 

Quinn Sperry was elected Second Vice Chair by the Community Association Section of the Utah State Bar. In the same meeting, Lauren DeVoe of Morris Sperry was elected by the section as Treasurer. Morris Sperry continues their service to the community, to their fellow HOA lawyers, and to the HOA and community association law industry as a whole through this service. Since John Morris of Morris Sperry came up with the idea for this section, lawyers from Morris Sperry have advocated for the section and have volunteered to serve.

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March 18, 2020

This article provides current information (as of 3/18/2020) regarding the Coronavirus Pandemic and offers suggestions to Utah HOAs (Condominiums, Associations, HOAs, and Homeowners Associations) on how to respond to this outbreak. Much of the information in this article is available and sourced from the CDC website: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/index.html. Other information is available at https://healthcare.utah.edu/coronavirus/https://health.utah.gov/coronavirushttps://www.cnn.com/2020/02/26/opinions/colleen-kraft-coronavirus-best-defense/index.htmlhttps://www.ready.gov/pandemic.

A very informative map and dashboard tracking system for the pandemic is available from the Johns Hopkins University Center for Science and Engineering. You can access it by clicking HERE.  

Utah HOAs should start planning and preparing for a more widespread outbreak (community transmission) in Utah because the CDC and almost all public officials are stating that it is not a matter of “if” it will occur, but more a matter of “when.” Moreover, there is now confirmed community transmission in various counties in Utah, including Davis, Summit, and Salt Lake counties.

Background on the new Coronavirus Pandemic

The CDC (Center for Disease Control) is monitoring an emerging and rapidly evolving outbreak of respiratory disease caused by a novel (new) virus that was initially detected in China. . This new Coronavirus has been named SARS-CoV-2. The World Health Organization (WHO) declared the outbreak a "public heatlh emergency of international concern on January 30, 2020 and declared the outbreak an official pandemic on March 11, 2020.

Coronavirus around the World

The virus has now infected more than 215,000 people in almost every country including the United States. More than 8,700 people have died from the virus. The virus has spread dramatically in several countries including China, Italy, South Korea, and Iran. In China and Itally hospitals have been overwhelmed. Many countries are closing schools, cancelling all public gatherings, and imposing restrictions on the movement of people. Almost every country affected is recommending that people shelter at home. 

Coronavirus in the United States

As of the last update of this article, there were over 7,700 confirmed cases of the new Coronavirus in the United States in every state and Washington D.C., with more than 118 deaths resulting from the infections. President Trump declared a national emergency on March 13, 2020. Many state governors and local authorities have also declared state and local emergencies. Schools are closing in many states and most sporting events and gatherings have been cancelled. The following is the latest reporting from the Johns Hopkins University tracking Website as of the last update of this article. Based on a press conference held by the President of the United States on March 18, 2020, it is expected that the number of confirmed cases in the United States will dramatically increase over the next week because testing kits are more widely available. 

The Coronavirus in Utah

There are now in excess of 51 reported and confirmed cases in Utah, although there are certainly more undetected and unconfirmed infections. Summit County has reported the first confirmed case of community spread with the positive test of a doorman at the Spur Bar and Grill in Park city. The man had no known contact with anyone infected and it is unclear how many people this man interacted with while infected and showing symptoms. The governor of Utah declared a state of emergency on Friday March 6, 2020 to facilitate emergency preparation. Hospitals in Utah are preparing for an increase in patients. All public schools (including university campuses) were closed for two weeks effective March 13, 2020 and all commencement ceremonies this spring will be postponed or cancelled. Almost all sporting events and gatherings of people have been cancelled. Almost every religious organization has cancelled all services and gatherings. The Utah Department of Health ordered all restuarants and bars to close their dining roomes, effective 11:59 p.m. March 17, 2020. Take-out, delivery, and grocery shopping is still permitted. Many health care providers are aksing people to reschedule non-essential vistis and call before visiting a walk-in clinic to allow medical staff to focus on the Covid-19 crisis. State officials are not encouraging everyone to take serious precautions, including staying at least six feet away from other people and staying home if showing any symptoms. 

Clinical Analysis

The complete clinical picture with regard to the new Coronavirus is not fully understood. Reported illnesses have ranged from mild to severe, including illness resulting in death. While information so far suggests that most new Coronavirus illness is mild, a report out of China suggests serious illness occurs in 16% of cases. Older people and people with certain underlying health conditions like heart disease, lung disease and diabetes, for example, seem to be at greater risk of serious illness. The potential public health threat posed by the new Coronavirus is very high in the United States, according to the CDC.

Symptoms

Symptoms of infection include fever (88% of people reporting), dry cough (68%), fatigue (38%), Sputum production (33%), shortness of breath (18%), muscle or joint pain (15%), sore throat (14%), headache (14%), chills (11%), nausea or vomiting (5%), nasal congestion (5%), Diarrhea (4%), Haemoptsis (1%), & Conjunctive congestion (1%). In more serious infections, symptoms include high fevers, coughing up blood, decreased while blood cells, and kidney failure. Some people who are infected will show no symptoms. 

Potential for Future Spreading of the Infection

According to the CDC, significantly more infections are likely to be identified in the coming days, including more cases in the United States. At this time, most people in the United States will have little immediate risk of exposure to this virus because the virus is not currently spreading widely in the United States. However, The CDC notes that current global circumstances suggest it is likely that this virus will cause a pandemic. It’s also likely that person-to-person spread will continue to occur, including in communities in the United States. It’s likely that at some point, widespread transmission of the new Coronavirus in the United States will occur.

General Effect of Widespread Spreading

According to the CDC, widespread transmission of the new Coronavirus would translate into large numbers of people needing medical care at the same time. Schools, childcare centers, workplaces, and other places for mass gatherings may experience more absenteeism. Public health and healthcare systems may become overloaded, with elevated rates of hospitalizations and deaths. Other critical infrastructure, such as law enforcement, emergency medical services, and transportation industry may also be affected. Health care providers and hospitals may be overwhelmed.

Treatment

At this time, there is no vaccine to protect against the New Coronavirus and no medications approved to treat it. There are multiple government/private parties working on a vaccine. The best estimate is that it will take at least one year to produce a vaccine. In the meantime, treatment for an infection is limited to supportive care to help relieve symptoms. In life threatening situations, hospitalization and care to support vital organ functions is necessary.

Individual Response

The CDC, other government agencies, and various experts recommend the following actions:

  1. Limit all travel, but certainly limit travel to certain locations in the World, including China, Hong Kong, Iran, Italy, Japan, and South Korea.
  2. Shelter in place. 
  3. Get a flu vaccine,
  4. Frequently and properly wash hands,
  5. Avoid in-person contact with people who are sick,
  6. Stay at least six feet away from other people,
  7. Stay at home if you are sick, along with taking other actions to prevent the spread of your illness,
  8. Avoid touching your eyes, mouth, and nose,
  9. Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces at home, work, school, and other locations,
  10. Get plenty of sleep, manage stress, drink fluids, eat nutritious foods, and be physically active.
  11. Prepare your household for a “pandemic Flu” https://www.cdc.gov/nonpharmaceutical-interventions/pdf/gr-pan-flu-ind-house.pdf
  12. Prepare for the closure of your child’s school or daycare.
  13. Have a minimum two-week supply of water, food, and over-the-counter medications you tend to take. A six-month supply of food and over-the-counter medication  in case of shortages and home sheltering is recommended by Morris Sperry. Rice, pasta, canned foods, and other non-perishables are recommended for long term home sheltering.
  14. Stock up on over-the-counter medications for the relief of flu-like symptoms in case you are infected and must treat at home.
  15. Obtain a several-month supply (at least 6 months) of normal medications, especially if you are over 60 years old or in another high risk category. 
  16. Consider updating computers, home WiFi networks, and internet access speeds in preparation for working from home and for more intensive use of computers and the internet in case of home sheltering recommendations or requirements.

HOA Response

HOA boards of directors and management committees can play a role in assisting owners in an HOA related to this outbreak. Each Board will have to decide how involved they want to be. Morris Sperry offers the following suggestions for Utah condominium associations, Utah homeowners associations, and Utah HOAs, depending on the level of involvement the HOA management committee wants to take.

Minimum Recommended Actions

  1. Confirm and/or start regular cleaning of frequently touched surfaces in common areas that could be a source of transmitting of the virus. This could include common area door handles, railings, doors, restrooms, mailbox surfaces, and counters.
  2. Cancel all in-person meetings of owners and board members and instead conduct meetings telephonically or electronically. All Utah HOA meetings in Utah can be conducted legally using telephonic and other electronic communications and Utah HOA boards can legally make decisions and take actions using email. There are multiple online services available to accomplish calls and meetings with any number of people, including Gotomeeting, WebEx, ezTalks Meetings, Teamview, join.me, Google Hangouts, and Megameeting. Some are free and some require a fee. They have varying levels of services and availability.
  3. Obtain extra supplies of common area cleaning materials and normal maintenance supplies to avoid the effects of shortages in stores and the need for employees or volunteers to have in-person contact in stores and supply houses.

Additional Possible Actions.

  1. In HOA newsletters or mailings, provide links to owners for government sources of information at the national, state, and local level, which could include those links identified in this article. The HOA should avoid any characterization of the outbreak not supported by information on these websites. There have been comments from some politicians and news sources clearly influenced by the potential political effect of the outbreak. The HOA board of directors should avoid using or adopting extreme or unfounded characterizations not supported on government websites.
  2. Provide daily or enhanced cleaning and/or disinfection of the common area surfaces described above under Minimum Recommended Actions.
  3. Provide cleaning of individual unit door handles and door surfaces that enter into common area such as doors to units in common area hallways.
  4. Increase stock of cleaning supplies for periods of shortages or delivery interruptions. 
  5. Identify and plan for any special procedures, actions, or precautions that should be taken in the HOA if community transmission starts in your area or if one or more persons becomes sick in your community and it is confirmed or suspected to be the New Coronavirus. This may include extra cleaning and potentially closing clubhouses, hot tubs, pools, and other community amenities.
  6. Identify and plan for any special procedures, actions, or precautions that need to be addressed in case home sheltering is recommended or becomes mandatory.
  7. Identify and plan for any special procedures, actions, or precautions that may need to be implemented to prevent risk of infection by guests in the community, cleaning persons, delivery persons, visiting health care providers, and other visitors.
  8. Discuss with essential vendors, managers, and employees how they are planning for the outbreak to find out if essential services or supplies may be interrupted and to plan on how to minimize or mitigate any potential interruption. This could include garbage removal services, maintenance services (elevator, boiler, etc.), management services, and snow or ice removal services.
  9. Identify and plan for how the HOA will prevent or minimize the potential for transmission of the new Coronavirus by or through any of its own employees, which may include the need for use of masks, gloves, sanitizers, and other precautionary measures.
  10. Consider organizing volunteers from the community to regularly, perhaps daily, check on those who are isolated or at high risk, including the elderly. These are people who need to avoid in-person contact as much as possible due to the increased risk of serious complications or death if they are infected. These checks can be performed by email or telephone to avoid in-person contact. Checks could include verifying the person is symptom free, has sufficient food and water, has sufficient regular medications, and has sufficient personal items to care for themselves. These volunteer groups should consider planning on a course of action if they encounter a person who develops symptoms, does not have sufficient food or personal items for personal care, or is unable to obtain regular medications without leaving their home and risking exposure. The course of action in case of problems could include calling relatives, police, health care providers, or other government agencies for assistance. Planning could include identifying the appropriate people and agencies to contact in case of problems.
  11. Evaluate HOA controlled or provided internet or WiFi networks for potential increased loads during periods of increased home sheltering. Upgrade now if necessary.
  12. Evaluate the potential effect of increased home deliveries of food and other items, and prepare for increased volume of such deliveries. This may include the need to evaluate increased consideration for security and storage of such items, the need to minimize in-person contact with delivery persons associated with such deliveries by establishing staging or delivery areas that minimize the exposure of the community, and the potential for increased cleaning associated with potential contamination to surfaces and door handles by delivery personnel. 

The lawyers at Morris Sperry will keep you updated on this serious issue and continue to provide practical advice and information on its website. For legal advice related to the new Coronavirus and how it might impact the operations of your Utah HOA, the lawyers at Morris Sperry are the lawyers to call in Utah.

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September 13, 2019

Lauren DeVoe of Morris Sperry presented for the Utah Community Law Section of the Utah State Bar. Her presentation discussed the appointment of receivers in homeowners associations. Homeowners associations include PUDs, condominiums, and condominium hotels. Morris Sperry has extensivel involvement in this issue and is currently working on a complex contested receivership matter in Park City. Receiverships are an important remedy, and sometimes the only practical remedy, when a majority of interests in an HOA act to undermine the interests of a minority of owners. Lauren's presentation focused on this issue and included discussions of important legal cases from around the country on this issue. Lauren's presentation also included a case study analysis of Utah receivership actions now pending before the courts. Morris Serry's experience with HOA receiverships is unmatched in Utah. Morris Sperry is capable of seeking the appointment of a receiver or defending against the appointment of a receiver. 

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June 17, 2019

 

John Morris and Quinn Sperry were selected to the 2019 Super Lawyers list for Utah. Super Lawyers selects attorneys using a patented multiphase selection process. Peer nominations and evaluations are combined with independent research. 5% of attorneys are selected to Super Lawyers. Each candidate is evaluated on 12 indicators of peer recognition and professional achievement. Selections are made on an annual, state-by-state basis. Both John Morris and Quinn Sperry have been selected for the list for several years. 

 

 

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June 5, 2019

 

The typical HOA has a variety of signs throughout the project. Utah Community Associations are governed by a web of laws that apply to signs, in some ways that are unexpected. For example, while it may seem obvious that the pool and spa signs must comply with Health Department regulations, it is not well known that they cannot be any more restrictive than those regulations without risk of violating the Fair Housing Act. Clubhouse and workout room signs must be carefully prepared to comply with the same federal and state Fair Housing laws. Towing and parking signs in an HOA must be consistent with applicable towing laws. All signs and notices must comply with the rules and governing documents in both condominium associations and townhome projects. Slight variances between the rules and signs can create problems for enforcement and the assessment of fines for violations. The lawyers at Morris Sperry can conduct a sign audit and identify problems with signs that can avoid litigation, UALD complaints, and enforcement problems.

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February 22, 2019

John Morris, Quinn Sperry, and Lauren DeVoe presented an HOA legislative and case law update to lawyers in the Utah State Bar on February 21, 2019. The Morris Sperry HOA attorneys explained and discussed new statutes affecting homeowners' associations including new laws and cases related to construction defects and requests for emotional support animals. The presentation was packed by Utah lawyers looking for an HOA update. When lawyers need an education on HOA issues, they go to the lawyers at Morris Sperry because they are focused exclusively on HOA law.  

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February 15, 2019

 

The Utah CAI Legislative Action Committee is running HB 329, that will have new HOA laws. The bill will make changes (some minor and some more important) to various sections of the Condominium Ownership Act and the Community Association Act. After negotiations with various constituents, the bill is in the process of being shortened from its current form but will still include some changes that Utah community associations and homeowners’ associations will need to know about. There will be some technical changes to Utah Code Ann. § 57-8-13.1 and § 57-8a-105 related to lien enforcement during periods when a homeowners’ association has failed to register with the Department of Commerce. The basic obligation of all Utah HOAs to register with the department of commerce remains. Utah Code Ann. § 57-8-54 will undergo substantial changes related to owners requesting payoff information from their HOA or the HOA's manager. The lawyers at Morris Sperry suspect this provision will have further modifications from its existing form before passage. The rules provisions in the community association act, Utah Code Ann. § 57-8a-217, will also undergo some significant changes. These changes include new definitional terms that could have significant effects on the validity of various HOA governing documents. In addition, these changes include limitations on the time period for challenging the adoption of a rule that does not comply with the notice and vetting periods allowed to owners before new rules are adopted in community associations. The lawyers at Morris Sperry are involved with these amendments through their service on the Utah CAI Legislative Action Committee and are closely watching the progress of these new 2019 Utah HOA laws. The time for this bill to get passed is slipping away, but there still remains a chance these provisions could go into law. Look for future updates from Morris Sperry on the status of this bill and the passage of other new laws in 2019 that affect HOAs.

 

 

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February 1, 2019

 

In the 2019 legislative session, the Utah legislature is considering House Bill 43 (HB 43) that would make certain actions involving emotional support animals (also known as support animals, companion animals, or comfort animals) a class C misdemeanor. HB 43 has passed the house and is under consideration in the senate. By all indications, this bill is set to sail through the legislature and to be signed by the governor. HB 43 is sponsored by Representative Dunnigan and Senator Bramble, both of whom sponsored the bills that formed the original laws that this is bill is modifying and expanding.

The existing statute, Utah Code Ann.  § 62A-5b-106, already made it a crime to interfere with the exercise of a disabled person's right to a service animal. The existing statute also made it a crime for someone to "intentionally and knowingly" represent to another that an animal is a service animal when the animal is not. It also made it a crime to misrepresent facts to a health care provider for the purpose of obtaining a service animal. H.B. 43 would modify the existing law to, for the first time, included emotional support animals along with service animals. The distinction is important because service animals are a carefully prescribed and easily identified category of animals that are typically trained and certified to provide very specific services to a disabled owner. Emotional support animals, on the other hand, have no specialized training or certifications because that is not necessary for their function. Although the benefit of emotional support animals can vary among their disabled owners, the typical benefit is a therapeutic and helpful calming of the symptoms of certain mental conditions, such as extreme anxiety and PTSD. In short, the presence and companionship of the animal provides the benefit.

In the world of condominiums, PUDs, Townhomes, HOAs, homeowners’ associations, and other community associations, this is a critically important issue. The federal Fair Housing Act and the Utah state Fair Housing Act both provide that owners and community associations must make reasonable accommodations for both service animals and emotional support animals. This means if an HOA has rules or covenants that prohibit animals or proscribe limitations on animals (such as their size or where they may go in the project), the owner or homeowners’ association may have to make exceptions to those rules under circumstances where a disabled individual needs the animal to assist with one or more of the disabled person's major life activities. A common example of this type of situation is a veteran who suffers from Post-Traumatic Stress Syndrome and has a dog who helps minimize the symptoms of that condition. That veteran may have the right to move into a condominium project that does not allow animals, and nonetheless keep her dog.

The big question for HOAs is how H.B. 43 will impact requests for accommodation and the responses of HOAs to those requests. If a condominium board of directors believes a request to keep an emotional support animal is not genuine, could they and should they file a criminal complaint? What is "enough" information to support the filing of a criminal complaint? Is the filing retaliation that is prohibited under federal law? Also, what about people who complain about an emotional support animal in a project or harass the owner who has one? Have they now violated a criminal law? What about Boards who deny a request for accommodation, are they now potentially liable criminally? Do the criminal provisions apply at all to an HOA board of trustees or an HOA board of directors? 

As other states have passed similar laws, the lawyers at Morris Sperry have been carefully watching this issue. They are prepared to assist their clients (owners requesting accommodations and HOAs responding to requests) with answers to the hard questions above. No firm in Utah has more experience with Fair Housing laws in homeowners’ associations. The lawyers at Morris Sperry will continue to monitor HB 43 in the 2019 Utah legislature and will be prepared to assist their clients with the nuances of this law and other Fair Housing laws.

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May 18, 2018

 

Quinn Sperry presented on disaster preparedness at the local CAI education event in Midvale, Utah. With Quinn's unique experience as a member of the Midvale City Counsel, he spoke on the intersection between local government and HOAs and the cutting-edge efforts by his city to ensure that HOAs can take advantage of federal funds after a natural disaster. Without proactive efforts like this, condominiums and PUDs suffering from earthquake, storm, or other natural disaster damage may be unable to obtain federal funds for cleanup. Morris Sperry lawyers are always looking for an angle to help their community association clients and all HOAs in Utah. That is why the Morris Sperry law firm is the best HOA law firm in Utah.

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May 16, 2018

On April 18, 2018, the Federal Communications Commission issued a Declaratory Ruling that reiterates the limitations on controls private and public entities can impose on the installation of satellite dishes and antennas. The FCC struck down a Philadelphia ordinance that attempted to impose limitations on the installation of satellite dishes on the front of homes and buildings. In its ruling, the FCC reiterated many well established principles from its Over-the-Air Reception Devices Rule, 47 C.F.R. § 1.4000, the (“OTARD Rule"). These principles apply directly in condominiums, townhomes, PUDs, and other community associations. In short, the OTARD Rule applies to direct broadcast satellite antennas that are one meter or less in diameter or diagonal measurement (except in Alaska) and are designed to receive or transmit video programming services through multipoint distribution services. The OTARD Rule also applies to antennas used to receive fixed wireless or broadband Internet signals. For the OTARD Rule to apply, the antenna must be installed “on property within the exclusive use or control of the antenna user where the user has a direct or indirect ownership or leasehold interest in the property” upon which the antenna is located. The OTARD Rule does not apply to restrictions on installations in common areas or elements. It provides that a restriction impairs installation, maintenance, or use of a protected antenna if it: (1) unreasonably delays or prevents installation, maintenance, or use; (2) unreasonably increases the cost of installation, maintenance, or use; or (3) precludes reception of an acceptable quality signal. There are exceptions to the rule for restrictions necessary to address clearly defined, legitimate safety or historic preservation issues, provided such restrictions are as narrowly tailored as possible, impose as little burden as necessary to achieve the foregoing objectives, and apply in a nondiscriminatory manner throughout the regulated area.

If you are unsure whether the OTARD Rule is implicated in a rule governing satellite dish installations in a Utah condominium association, townhome, PUD, or other community association, contact the HOA attorneys at Morris Sperry for advice. The Morris Sperry HOA law firm stays current on the law and has the best HOA lawyers in Utah to help you with these issues.

 

 

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November 16, 2017

John Morris presented today on new Fair Housing Act regulations that could dramatically change how HOAs look at housing discrimination. In the modification to the regulations, [81 FR 63074, Sept. 14, 2016], at 24 CFR § 100.7 - LIABILITY FOR DISCRIMINATORY HOUSING PRACTICES, HUD for the first time clearly defines the potential for direct liability for an HOA for the discriminatory actions of an Owner in the Association. A condominium association or homeowners association could be liable for "Failing to take prompt action to correct and end a discriminatory housing practice by a third party, where it knew or should have known of the conduct and had the power to correct it." It is now left to the HOAs to determine who the third parties are, what it means to "have the power to correct," and to figure out how to exercise that power in a way that satisfies the requirements of the Fair Housing Act. HUD also issued new regulations on Quid Pro Quo and Hostile Environment Harassment found at 24 CFR § 100.600. These new regulations made it clear that Pro Quo and Hostile Environment Harassment  is illegal under the Fair Housing Act.  John Morris discussed these issues at the CAI luncheon presentation along with other panelists who included Chris Robison from the Utah Antidiscrimination and Labor Division. Morris Sperry has as much or more experience with defending and prosecuting HOA Fair Housing complaints that any firm in Utah, and offers their homeowners association clients and owner clients solid advice and legal representation in these complicated and fact intensive matters.   

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March 18, 2020

This article provides current information (as of 3/18/2020) regarding the Coronavirus Pandemic and offers suggestions to Utah HOAs (Condominiums, Associations, HOAs, and Homeowners Associations) on how to respond to this outbreak. Much of the information in this article is available and sourced from the CDC website: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/index.html. Other information is available at https://healthcare.utah.edu/coronavirus/https://health.utah.gov/coronavirushttps://www.cnn.com/2020/02/26/opinions/colleen-kraft-coronavirus-best-defense/index.htmlhttps://www.ready.gov/pandemic.

A very informative map and dashboard tracking system for the pandemic is available from the Johns Hopkins University Center for Science and Engineering. You can access it by clicking HERE.  

Utah HOAs should start planning and preparing for a more widespread outbreak (community transmission) in Utah because the CDC and almost all public officials are stating that it is not a matter of “if” it will occur, but more a matter of “when.” Moreover, there is now confirmed community transmission in various counties in Utah, including Davis, Summit, and Salt Lake counties.

Background on the new Coronavirus Pandemic

The CDC (Center for Disease Control) is monitoring an emerging and rapidly evolving outbreak of respiratory disease caused by a novel (new) virus that was initially detected in China. . This new Coronavirus has been named SARS-CoV-2. The World Health Organization (WHO) declared the outbreak a "public heatlh emergency of international concern on January 30, 2020 and declared the outbreak an official pandemic on March 11, 2020.

Coronavirus around the World

The virus has now infected more than 215,000 people in almost every country including the United States. More than 8,700 people have died from the virus. The virus has spread dramatically in several countries including China, Italy, South Korea, and Iran. In China and Itally hospitals have been overwhelmed. Many countries are closing schools, cancelling all public gatherings, and imposing restrictions on the movement of people. Almost every country affected is recommending that people shelter at home. 

Coronavirus in the United States

As of the last update of this article, there were over 7,700 confirmed cases of the new Coronavirus in the United States in every state and Washington D.C., with more than 118 deaths resulting from the infections. President Trump declared a national emergency on March 13, 2020. Many state governors and local authorities have also declared state and local emergencies. Schools are closing in many states and most sporting events and gatherings have been cancelled. The following is the latest reporting from the Johns Hopkins University tracking Website as of the last update of this article. Based on a press conference held by the President of the United States on March 18, 2020, it is expected that the number of confirmed cases in the United States will dramatically increase over the next week because testing kits are more widely available. 

The Coronavirus in Utah

There are now in excess of 51 reported and confirmed cases in Utah, although there are certainly more undetected and unconfirmed infections. Summit County has reported the first confirmed case of community spread with the positive test of a doorman at the Spur Bar and Grill in Park city. The man had no known contact with anyone infected and it is unclear how many people this man interacted with while infected and showing symptoms. The governor of Utah declared a state of emergency on Friday March 6, 2020 to facilitate emergency preparation. Hospitals in Utah are preparing for an increase in patients. All public schools (including university campuses) were closed for two weeks effective March 13, 2020 and all commencement ceremonies this spring will be postponed or cancelled. Almost all sporting events and gatherings of people have been cancelled. Almost every religious organization has cancelled all services and gatherings. The Utah Department of Health ordered all restuarants and bars to close their dining roomes, effective 11:59 p.m. March 17, 2020. Take-out, delivery, and grocery shopping is still permitted. Many health care providers are aksing people to reschedule non-essential vistis and call before visiting a walk-in clinic to allow medical staff to focus on the Covid-19 crisis. State officials are not encouraging everyone to take serious precautions, including staying at least six feet away from other people and staying home if showing any symptoms. 

Clinical Analysis

The complete clinical picture with regard to the new Coronavirus is not fully understood. Reported illnesses have ranged from mild to severe, including illness resulting in death. While information so far suggests that most new Coronavirus illness is mild, a report out of China suggests serious illness occurs in 16% of cases. Older people and people with certain underlying health conditions like heart disease, lung disease and diabetes, for example, seem to be at greater risk of serious illness. The potential public health threat posed by the new Coronavirus is very high in the United States, according to the CDC.

Symptoms

Symptoms of infection include fever (88% of people reporting), dry cough (68%), fatigue (38%), Sputum production (33%), shortness of breath (18%), muscle or joint pain (15%), sore throat (14%), headache (14%), chills (11%), nausea or vomiting (5%), nasal congestion (5%), Diarrhea (4%), Haemoptsis (1%), & Conjunctive congestion (1%). In more serious infections, symptoms include high fevers, coughing up blood, decreased while blood cells, and kidney failure. Some people who are infected will show no symptoms. 

Potential for Future Spreading of the Infection

According to the CDC, significantly more infections are likely to be identified in the coming days, including more cases in the United States. At this time, most people in the United States will have little immediate risk of exposure to this virus because the virus is not currently spreading widely in the United States. However, The CDC notes that current global circumstances suggest it is likely that this virus will cause a pandemic. It’s also likely that person-to-person spread will continue to occur, including in communities in the United States. It’s likely that at some point, widespread transmission of the new Coronavirus in the United States will occur.

General Effect of Widespread Spreading

According to the CDC, widespread transmission of the new Coronavirus would translate into large numbers of people needing medical care at the same time. Schools, childcare centers, workplaces, and other places for mass gatherings may experience more absenteeism. Public health and healthcare systems may become overloaded, with elevated rates of hospitalizations and deaths. Other critical infrastructure, such as law enforcement, emergency medical services, and transportation industry may also be affected. Health care providers and hospitals may be overwhelmed.

Treatment

At this time, there is no vaccine to protect against the New Coronavirus and no medications approved to treat it. There are multiple government/private parties working on a vaccine. The best estimate is that it will take at least one year to produce a vaccine. In the meantime, treatment for an infection is limited to supportive care to help relieve symptoms. In life threatening situations, hospitalization and care to support vital organ functions is necessary.

Individual Response

The CDC, other government agencies, and various experts recommend the following actions:

  1. Limit all travel, but certainly limit travel to certain locations in the World, including China, Hong Kong, Iran, Italy, Japan, and South Korea.
  2. Shelter in place. 
  3. Get a flu vaccine,
  4. Frequently and properly wash hands,
  5. Avoid in-person contact with people who are sick,
  6. Stay at least six feet away from other people,
  7. Stay at home if you are sick, along with taking other actions to prevent the spread of your illness,
  8. Avoid touching your eyes, mouth, and nose,
  9. Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces at home, work, school, and other locations,
  10. Get plenty of sleep, manage stress, drink fluids, eat nutritious foods, and be physically active.
  11. Prepare your household for a “pandemic Flu” https://www.cdc.gov/nonpharmaceutical-interventions/pdf/gr-pan-flu-ind-house.pdf
  12. Prepare for the closure of your child’s school or daycare.
  13. Have a minimum two-week supply of water, food, and over-the-counter medications you tend to take. A six-month supply of food and over-the-counter medication  in case of shortages and home sheltering is recommended by Morris Sperry. Rice, pasta, canned foods, and other non-perishables are recommended for long term home sheltering.
  14. Stock up on over-the-counter medications for the relief of flu-like symptoms in case you are infected and must treat at home.
  15. Obtain a several-month supply (at least 6 months) of normal medications, especially if you are over 60 years old or in another high risk category. 
  16. Consider updating computers, home WiFi networks, and internet access speeds in preparation for working from home and for more intensive use of computers and the internet in case of home sheltering recommendations or requirements.

HOA Response

HOA boards of directors and management committees can play a role in assisting owners in an HOA related to this outbreak. Each Board will have to decide how involved they want to be. Morris Sperry offers the following suggestions for Utah condominium associations, Utah homeowners associations, and Utah HOAs, depending on the level of involvement the HOA management committee wants to take.

Minimum Recommended Actions

  1. Confirm and/or start regular cleaning of frequently touched surfaces in common areas that could be a source of transmitting of the virus. This could include common area door handles, railings, doors, restrooms, mailbox surfaces, and counters.
  2. Cancel all in-person meetings of owners and board members and instead conduct meetings telephonically or electronically. All Utah HOA meetings in Utah can be conducted legally using telephonic and other electronic communications and Utah HOA boards can legally make decisions and take actions using email. There are multiple online services available to accomplish calls and meetings with any number of people, including Gotomeeting, WebEx, ezTalks Meetings, Teamview, join.me, Google Hangouts, and Megameeting. Some are free and some require a fee. They have varying levels of services and availability.
  3. Obtain extra supplies of common area cleaning materials and normal maintenance supplies to avoid the effects of shortages in stores and the need for employees or volunteers to have in-person contact in stores and supply houses.

Additional Possible Actions.

  1. In HOA newsletters or mailings, provide links to owners for government sources of information at the national, state, and local level, which could include those links identified in this article. The HOA should avoid any characterization of the outbreak not supported by information on these websites. There have been comments from some politicians and news sources clearly influenced by the potential political effect of the outbreak. The HOA board of directors should avoid using or adopting extreme or unfounded characterizations not supported on government websites.
  2. Provide daily or enhanced cleaning and/or disinfection of the common area surfaces described above under Minimum Recommended Actions.
  3. Provide cleaning of individual unit door handles and door surfaces that enter into common area such as doors to units in common area hallways.
  4. Increase stock of cleaning supplies for periods of shortages or delivery interruptions. 
  5. Identify and plan for any special procedures, actions, or precautions that should be taken in the HOA if community transmission starts in your area or if one or more persons becomes sick in your community and it is confirmed or suspected to be the New Coronavirus. This may include extra cleaning and potentially closing clubhouses, hot tubs, pools, and other community amenities.
  6. Identify and plan for any special procedures, actions, or precautions that need to be addressed in case home sheltering is recommended or becomes mandatory.
  7. Identify and plan for any special procedures, actions, or precautions that may need to be implemented to prevent risk of infection by guests in the community, cleaning persons, delivery persons, visiting health care providers, and other visitors.
  8. Discuss with essential vendors, managers, and employees how they are planning for the outbreak to find out if essential services or supplies may be interrupted and to plan on how to minimize or mitigate any potential interruption. This could include garbage removal services, maintenance services (elevator, boiler, etc.), management services, and snow or ice removal services.
  9. Identify and plan for how the HOA will prevent or minimize the potential for transmission of the new Coronavirus by or through any of its own employees, which may include the need for use of masks, gloves, sanitizers, and other precautionary measures.
  10. Consider organizing volunteers from the community to regularly, perhaps daily, check on those who are isolated or at high risk, including the elderly. These are people who need to avoid in-person contact as much as possible due to the increased risk of serious complications or death if they are infected. These checks can be performed by email or telephone to avoid in-person contact. Checks could include verifying the person is symptom free, has sufficient food and water, has sufficient regular medications, and has sufficient personal items to care for themselves. These volunteer groups should consider planning on a course of action if they encounter a person who develops symptoms, does not have sufficient food or personal items for personal care, or is unable to obtain regular medications without leaving their home and risking exposure. The course of action in case of problems could include calling relatives, police, health care providers, or other government agencies for assistance. Planning could include identifying the appropriate people and agencies to contact in case of problems.
  11. Evaluate HOA controlled or provided internet or WiFi networks for potential increased loads during periods of increased home sheltering. Upgrade now if necessary.
  12. Evaluate the potential effect of increased home deliveries of food and other items, and prepare for increased volume of such deliveries. This may include the need to evaluate increased consideration for security and storage of such items, the need to minimize in-person contact with delivery persons associated with such deliveries by establishing staging or delivery areas that minimize the exposure of the community, and the potential for increased cleaning associated with potential contamination to surfaces and door handles by delivery personnel. 

The lawyers at Morris Sperry will keep you updated on this serious issue and continue to provide practical advice and information on its website. For legal advice related to the new Coronavirus and how it might impact the operations of your Utah HOA, the lawyers at Morris Sperry are the lawyers to call in Utah.

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February 22, 2019

John Morris, Quinn Sperry, and Lauren DeVoe presented an HOA legislative and case law update to lawyers in the Utah State Bar on February 21, 2019. The Morris Sperry HOA attorneys explained and discussed new statutes affecting homeowners' associations including new laws and cases related to construction defects and requests for emotional support animals. The presentation was packed by Utah lawyers looking for an HOA update. When lawyers need an education on HOA issues, they go to the lawyers at Morris Sperry because they are focused exclusively on HOA law.  

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February 15, 2019

 

The Utah CAI Legislative Action Committee is running HB 329, that will have new HOA laws. The bill will make changes (some minor and some more important) to various sections of the Condominium Ownership Act and the Community Association Act. After negotiations with various constituents, the bill is in the process of being shortened from its current form but will still include some changes that Utah community associations and homeowners’ associations will need to know about. There will be some technical changes to Utah Code Ann. § 57-8-13.1 and § 57-8a-105 related to lien enforcement during periods when a homeowners’ association has failed to register with the Department of Commerce. The basic obligation of all Utah HOAs to register with the department of commerce remains. Utah Code Ann. § 57-8-54 will undergo substantial changes related to owners requesting payoff information from their HOA or the HOA's manager. The lawyers at Morris Sperry suspect this provision will have further modifications from its existing form before passage. The rules provisions in the community association act, Utah Code Ann. § 57-8a-217, will also undergo some significant changes. These changes include new definitional terms that could have significant effects on the validity of various HOA governing documents. In addition, these changes include limitations on the time period for challenging the adoption of a rule that does not comply with the notice and vetting periods allowed to owners before new rules are adopted in community associations. The lawyers at Morris Sperry are involved with these amendments through their service on the Utah CAI Legislative Action Committee and are closely watching the progress of these new 2019 Utah HOA laws. The time for this bill to get passed is slipping away, but there still remains a chance these provisions could go into law. Look for future updates from Morris Sperry on the status of this bill and the passage of other new laws in 2019 that affect HOAs.

 

 

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February 1, 2019

 

In the 2019 legislative session, the Utah legislature is considering House Bill 43 (HB 43) that would make certain actions involving emotional support animals (also known as support animals, companion animals, or comfort animals) a class C misdemeanor. HB 43 has passed the house and is under consideration in the senate. By all indications, this bill is set to sail through the legislature and to be signed by the governor. HB 43 is sponsored by Representative Dunnigan and Senator Bramble, both of whom sponsored the bills that formed the original laws that this is bill is modifying and expanding.

The existing statute, Utah Code Ann.  § 62A-5b-106, already made it a crime to interfere with the exercise of a disabled person's right to a service animal. The existing statute also made it a crime for someone to "intentionally and knowingly" represent to another that an animal is a service animal when the animal is not. It also made it a crime to misrepresent facts to a health care provider for the purpose of obtaining a service animal. H.B. 43 would modify the existing law to, for the first time, included emotional support animals along with service animals. The distinction is important because service animals are a carefully prescribed and easily identified category of animals that are typically trained and certified to provide very specific services to a disabled owner. Emotional support animals, on the other hand, have no specialized training or certifications because that is not necessary for their function. Although the benefit of emotional support animals can vary among their disabled owners, the typical benefit is a therapeutic and helpful calming of the symptoms of certain mental conditions, such as extreme anxiety and PTSD. In short, the presence and companionship of the animal provides the benefit.

In the world of condominiums, PUDs, Townhomes, HOAs, homeowners’ associations, and other community associations, this is a critically important issue. The federal Fair Housing Act and the Utah state Fair Housing Act both provide that owners and community associations must make reasonable accommodations for both service animals and emotional support animals. This means if an HOA has rules or covenants that prohibit animals or proscribe limitations on animals (such as their size or where they may go in the project), the owner or homeowners’ association may have to make exceptions to those rules under circumstances where a disabled individual needs the animal to assist with one or more of the disabled person's major life activities. A common example of this type of situation is a veteran who suffers from Post-Traumatic Stress Syndrome and has a dog who helps minimize the symptoms of that condition. That veteran may have the right to move into a condominium project that does not allow animals, and nonetheless keep her dog.

The big question for HOAs is how H.B. 43 will impact requests for accommodation and the responses of HOAs to those requests. If a condominium board of directors believes a request to keep an emotional support animal is not genuine, could they and should they file a criminal complaint? What is "enough" information to support the filing of a criminal complaint? Is the filing retaliation that is prohibited under federal law? Also, what about people who complain about an emotional support animal in a project or harass the owner who has one? Have they now violated a criminal law? What about Boards who deny a request for accommodation, are they now potentially liable criminally? Do the criminal provisions apply at all to an HOA board of trustees or an HOA board of directors? 

As other states have passed similar laws, the lawyers at Morris Sperry have been carefully watching this issue. They are prepared to assist their clients (owners requesting accommodations and HOAs responding to requests) with answers to the hard questions above. No firm in Utah has more experience with Fair Housing laws in homeowners’ associations. The lawyers at Morris Sperry will continue to monitor HB 43 in the 2019 Utah legislature and will be prepared to assist their clients with the nuances of this law and other Fair Housing laws.

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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 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 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 18, 2020

This article provides current information (as of 3/18/2020) regarding the Coronavirus Pandemic and offers suggestions to Utah HOAs (Condominiums, Associations, HOAs, and Homeowners Associations) on how to respond to this outbreak. Much of the information in this article is available and sourced from the CDC website: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/index.html. Other information is available at https://healthcare.utah.edu/coronavirus/https://health.utah.gov/coronavirushttps://www.cnn.com/2020/02/26/opinions/colleen-kraft-coronavirus-best-defense/index.htmlhttps://www.ready.gov/pandemic.

A very informative map and dashboard tracking system for the pandemic is available from the Johns Hopkins University Center for Science and Engineering. You can access it by clicking HERE.  

Utah HOAs should start planning and preparing for a more widespread outbreak (community transmission) in Utah because the CDC and almost all public officials are stating that it is not a matter of “if” it will occur, but more a matter of “when.” Moreover, there is now confirmed community transmission in various counties in Utah, including Davis, Summit, and Salt Lake counties.

Background on the new Coronavirus Pandemic

The CDC (Center for Disease Control) is monitoring an emerging and rapidly evolving outbreak of respiratory disease caused by a novel (new) virus that was initially detected in China. . This new Coronavirus has been named SARS-CoV-2. The World Health Organization (WHO) declared the outbreak a "public heatlh emergency of international concern on January 30, 2020 and declared the outbreak an official pandemic on March 11, 2020.

Coronavirus around the World

The virus has now infected more than 215,000 people in almost every country including the United States. More than 8,700 people have died from the virus. The virus has spread dramatically in several countries including China, Italy, South Korea, and Iran. In China and Itally hospitals have been overwhelmed. Many countries are closing schools, cancelling all public gatherings, and imposing restrictions on the movement of people. Almost every country affected is recommending that people shelter at home. 

Coronavirus in the United States

As of the last update of this article, there were over 7,700 confirmed cases of the new Coronavirus in the United States in every state and Washington D.C., with more than 118 deaths resulting from the infections. President Trump declared a national emergency on March 13, 2020. Many state governors and local authorities have also declared state and local emergencies. Schools are closing in many states and most sporting events and gatherings have been cancelled. The following is the latest reporting from the Johns Hopkins University tracking Website as of the last update of this article. Based on a press conference held by the President of the United States on March 18, 2020, it is expected that the number of confirmed cases in the United States will dramatically increase over the next week because testing kits are more widely available. 

The Coronavirus in Utah

There are now in excess of 51 reported and confirmed cases in Utah, although there are certainly more undetected and unconfirmed infections. Summit County has reported the first confirmed case of community spread with the positive test of a doorman at the Spur Bar and Grill in Park city. The man had no known contact with anyone infected and it is unclear how many people this man interacted with while infected and showing symptoms. The governor of Utah declared a state of emergency on Friday March 6, 2020 to facilitate emergency preparation. Hospitals in Utah are preparing for an increase in patients. All public schools (including university campuses) were closed for two weeks effective March 13, 2020 and all commencement ceremonies this spring will be postponed or cancelled. Almost all sporting events and gatherings of people have been cancelled. Almost every religious organization has cancelled all services and gatherings. The Utah Department of Health ordered all restuarants and bars to close their dining roomes, effective 11:59 p.m. March 17, 2020. Take-out, delivery, and grocery shopping is still permitted. Many health care providers are aksing people to reschedule non-essential vistis and call before visiting a walk-in clinic to allow medical staff to focus on the Covid-19 crisis. State officials are not encouraging everyone to take serious precautions, including staying at least six feet away from other people and staying home if showing any symptoms. 

Clinical Analysis

The complete clinical picture with regard to the new Coronavirus is not fully understood. Reported illnesses have ranged from mild to severe, including illness resulting in death. While information so far suggests that most new Coronavirus illness is mild, a report out of China suggests serious illness occurs in 16% of cases. Older people and people with certain underlying health conditions like heart disease, lung disease and diabetes, for example, seem to be at greater risk of serious illness. The potential public health threat posed by the new Coronavirus is very high in the United States, according to the CDC.

Symptoms

Symptoms of infection include fever (88% of people reporting), dry cough (68%), fatigue (38%), Sputum production (33%), shortness of breath (18%), muscle or joint pain (15%), sore throat (14%), headache (14%), chills (11%), nausea or vomiting (5%), nasal congestion (5%), Diarrhea (4%), Haemoptsis (1%), & Conjunctive congestion (1%). In more serious infections, symptoms include high fevers, coughing up blood, decreased while blood cells, and kidney failure. Some people who are infected will show no symptoms. 

Potential for Future Spreading of the Infection

According to the CDC, significantly more infections are likely to be identified in the coming days, including more cases in the United States. At this time, most people in the United States will have little immediate risk of exposure to this virus because the virus is not currently spreading widely in the United States. However, The CDC notes that current global circumstances suggest it is likely that this virus will cause a pandemic. It’s also likely that person-to-person spread will continue to occur, including in communities in the United States. It’s likely that at some point, widespread transmission of the new Coronavirus in the United States will occur.

General Effect of Widespread Spreading

According to the CDC, widespread transmission of the new Coronavirus would translate into large numbers of people needing medical care at the same time. Schools, childcare centers, workplaces, and other places for mass gatherings may experience more absenteeism. Public health and healthcare systems may become overloaded, with elevated rates of hospitalizations and deaths. Other critical infrastructure, such as law enforcement, emergency medical services, and transportation industry may also be affected. Health care providers and hospitals may be overwhelmed.

Treatment

At this time, there is no vaccine to protect against the New Coronavirus and no medications approved to treat it. There are multiple government/private parties working on a vaccine. The best estimate is that it will take at least one year to produce a vaccine. In the meantime, treatment for an infection is limited to supportive care to help relieve symptoms. In life threatening situations, hospitalization and care to support vital organ functions is necessary.

Individual Response

The CDC, other government agencies, and various experts recommend the following actions:

  1. Limit all travel, but certainly limit travel to certain locations in the World, including China, Hong Kong, Iran, Italy, Japan, and South Korea.
  2. Shelter in place. 
  3. Get a flu vaccine,
  4. Frequently and properly wash hands,
  5. Avoid in-person contact with people who are sick,
  6. Stay at least six feet away from other people,
  7. Stay at home if you are sick, along with taking other actions to prevent the spread of your illness,
  8. Avoid touching your eyes, mouth, and nose,
  9. Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces at home, work, school, and other locations,
  10. Get plenty of sleep, manage stress, drink fluids, eat nutritious foods, and be physically active.
  11. Prepare your household for a “pandemic Flu” https://www.cdc.gov/nonpharmaceutical-interventions/pdf/gr-pan-flu-ind-house.pdf
  12. Prepare for the closure of your child’s school or daycare.
  13. Have a minimum two-week supply of water, food, and over-the-counter medications you tend to take. A six-month supply of food and over-the-counter medication  in case of shortages and home sheltering is recommended by Morris Sperry. Rice, pasta, canned foods, and other non-perishables are recommended for long term home sheltering.
  14. Stock up on over-the-counter medications for the relief of flu-like symptoms in case you are infected and must treat at home.
  15. Obtain a several-month supply (at least 6 months) of normal medications, especially if you are over 60 years old or in another high risk category. 
  16. Consider updating computers, home WiFi networks, and internet access speeds in preparation for working from home and for more intensive use of computers and the internet in case of home sheltering recommendations or requirements.

HOA Response

HOA boards of directors and management committees can play a role in assisting owners in an HOA related to this outbreak. Each Board will have to decide how involved they want to be. Morris Sperry offers the following suggestions for Utah condominium associations, Utah homeowners associations, and Utah HOAs, depending on the level of involvement the HOA management committee wants to take.

Minimum Recommended Actions

  1. Confirm and/or start regular cleaning of frequently touched surfaces in common areas that could be a source of transmitting of the virus. This could include common area door handles, railings, doors, restrooms, mailbox surfaces, and counters.
  2. Cancel all in-person meetings of owners and board members and instead conduct meetings telephonically or electronically. All Utah HOA meetings in Utah can be conducted legally using telephonic and other electronic communications and Utah HOA boards can legally make decisions and take actions using email. There are multiple online services available to accomplish calls and meetings with any number of people, including Gotomeeting, WebEx, ezTalks Meetings, Teamview, join.me, Google Hangouts, and Megameeting. Some are free and some require a fee. They have varying levels of services and availability.
  3. Obtain extra supplies of common area cleaning materials and normal maintenance supplies to avoid the effects of shortages in stores and the need for employees or volunteers to have in-person contact in stores and supply houses.

Additional Possible Actions.

  1. In HOA newsletters or mailings, provide links to owners for government sources of information at the national, state, and local level, which could include those links identified in this article. The HOA should avoid any characterization of the outbreak not supported by information on these websites. There have been comments from some politicians and news sources clearly influenced by the potential political effect of the outbreak. The HOA board of directors should avoid using or adopting extreme or unfounded characterizations not supported on government websites.
  2. Provide daily or enhanced cleaning and/or disinfection of the common area surfaces described above under Minimum Recommended Actions.
  3. Provide cleaning of individual unit door handles and door surfaces that enter into common area such as doors to units in common area hallways.
  4. Increase stock of cleaning supplies for periods of shortages or delivery interruptions. 
  5. Identify and plan for any special procedures, actions, or precautions that should be taken in the HOA if community transmission starts in your area or if one or more persons becomes sick in your community and it is confirmed or suspected to be the New Coronavirus. This may include extra cleaning and potentially closing clubhouses, hot tubs, pools, and other community amenities.
  6. Identify and plan for any special procedures, actions, or precautions that need to be addressed in case home sheltering is recommended or becomes mandatory.
  7. Identify and plan for any special procedures, actions, or precautions that may need to be implemented to prevent risk of infection by guests in the community, cleaning persons, delivery persons, visiting health care providers, and other visitors.
  8. Discuss with essential vendors, managers, and employees how they are planning for the outbreak to find out if essential services or supplies may be interrupted and to plan on how to minimize or mitigate any potential interruption. This could include garbage removal services, maintenance services (elevator, boiler, etc.), management services, and snow or ice removal services.
  9. Identify and plan for how the HOA will prevent or minimize the potential for transmission of the new Coronavirus by or through any of its own employees, which may include the need for use of masks, gloves, sanitizers, and other precautionary measures.
  10. Consider organizing volunteers from the community to regularly, perhaps daily, check on those who are isolated or at high risk, including the elderly. These are people who need to avoid in-person contact as much as possible due to the increased risk of serious complications or death if they are infected. These checks can be performed by email or telephone to avoid in-person contact. Checks could include verifying the person is symptom free, has sufficient food and water, has sufficient regular medications, and has sufficient personal items to care for themselves. These volunteer groups should consider planning on a course of action if they encounter a person who develops symptoms, does not have sufficient food or personal items for personal care, or is unable to obtain regular medications without leaving their home and risking exposure. The course of action in case of problems could include calling relatives, police, health care providers, or other government agencies for assistance. Planning could include identifying the appropriate people and agencies to contact in case of problems.
  11. Evaluate HOA controlled or provided internet or WiFi networks for potential increased loads during periods of increased home sheltering. Upgrade now if necessary.
  12. Evaluate the potential effect of increased home deliveries of food and other items, and prepare for increased volume of such deliveries. This may include the need to evaluate increased consideration for security and storage of such items, the need to minimize in-person contact with delivery persons associated with such deliveries by establishing staging or delivery areas that minimize the exposure of the community, and the potential for increased cleaning associated with potential contamination to surfaces and door handles by delivery personnel. 

The lawyers at Morris Sperry will keep you updated on this serious issue and continue to provide practical advice and information on its website. For legal advice related to the new Coronavirus and how it might impact the operations of your Utah HOA, the lawyers at Morris Sperry are the lawyers to call in Utah.

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September 13, 2019

Lauren DeVoe of Morris Sperry presented for the Utah Community Law Section of the Utah State Bar. Her presentation discussed the appointment of receivers in homeowners associations. Homeowners associations include PUDs, condominiums, and condominium hotels. Morris Sperry has extensivel involvement in this issue and is currently working on a complex contested receivership matter in Park City. Receiverships are an important remedy, and sometimes the only practical remedy, when a majority of interests in an HOA act to undermine the interests of a minority of owners. Lauren's presentation focused on this issue and included discussions of important legal cases from around the country on this issue. Lauren's presentation also included a case study analysis of Utah receivership actions now pending before the courts. Morris Serry's experience with HOA receiverships is unmatched in Utah. Morris Sperry is capable of seeking the appointment of a receiver or defending against the appointment of a receiver. 

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June 17, 2019

 

John Morris and Quinn Sperry were selected to the 2019 Super Lawyers list for Utah. Super Lawyers selects attorneys using a patented multiphase selection process. Peer nominations and evaluations are combined with independent research. 5% of attorneys are selected to Super Lawyers. Each candidate is evaluated on 12 indicators of peer recognition and professional achievement. Selections are made on an annual, state-by-state basis. Both John Morris and Quinn Sperry have been selected for the list for several years. 

 

 

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June 5, 2019

 

The typical HOA has a variety of signs throughout the project. Utah Community Associations are governed by a web of laws that apply to signs, in some ways that are unexpected. For example, while it may seem obvious that the pool and spa signs must comply with Health Department regulations, it is not well known that they cannot be any more restrictive than those regulations without risk of violating the Fair Housing Act. Clubhouse and workout room signs must be carefully prepared to comply with the same federal and state Fair Housing laws. Towing and parking signs in an HOA must be consistent with applicable towing laws. All signs and notices must comply with the rules and governing documents in both condominium associations and townhome projects. Slight variances between the rules and signs can create problems for enforcement and the assessment of fines for violations. The lawyers at Morris Sperry can conduct a sign audit and identify problems with signs that can avoid litigation, UALD complaints, and enforcement problems.

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February 22, 2019

John Morris, Quinn Sperry, and Lauren DeVoe presented an HOA legislative and case law update to lawyers in the Utah State Bar on February 21, 2019. The Morris Sperry HOA attorneys explained and discussed new statutes affecting homeowners' associations including new laws and cases related to construction defects and requests for emotional support animals. The presentation was packed by Utah lawyers looking for an HOA update. When lawyers need an education on HOA issues, they go to the lawyers at Morris Sperry because they are focused exclusively on HOA law.  

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February 15, 2019

 

The Utah CAI Legislative Action Committee is running HB 329, that will have new HOA laws. The bill will make changes (some minor and some more important) to various sections of the Condominium Ownership Act and the Community Association Act. After negotiations with various constituents, the bill is in the process of being shortened from its current form but will still include some changes that Utah community associations and homeowners’ associations will need to know about. There will be some technical changes to Utah Code Ann. § 57-8-13.1 and § 57-8a-105 related to lien enforcement during periods when a homeowners’ association has failed to register with the Department of Commerce. The basic obligation of all Utah HOAs to register with the department of commerce remains. Utah Code Ann. § 57-8-54 will undergo substantial changes related to owners requesting payoff information from their HOA or the HOA's manager. The lawyers at Morris Sperry suspect this provision will have further modifications from its existing form before passage. The rules provisions in the community association act, Utah Code Ann. § 57-8a-217, will also undergo some significant changes. These changes include new definitional terms that could have significant effects on the validity of various HOA governing documents. In addition, these changes include limitations on the time period for challenging the adoption of a rule that does not comply with the notice and vetting periods allowed to owners before new rules are adopted in community associations. The lawyers at Morris Sperry are involved with these amendments through their service on the Utah CAI Legislative Action Committee and are closely watching the progress of these new 2019 Utah HOA laws. The time for this bill to get passed is slipping away, but there still remains a chance these provisions could go into law. Look for future updates from Morris Sperry on the status of this bill and the passage of other new laws in 2019 that affect HOAs.

 

 

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February 1, 2019

 

In the 2019 legislative session, the Utah legislature is considering House Bill 43 (HB 43) that would make certain actions involving emotional support animals (also known as support animals, companion animals, or comfort animals) a class C misdemeanor. HB 43 has passed the house and is under consideration in the senate. By all indications, this bill is set to sail through the legislature and to be signed by the governor. HB 43 is sponsored by Representative Dunnigan and Senator Bramble, both of whom sponsored the bills that formed the original laws that this is bill is modifying and expanding.

The existing statute, Utah Code Ann.  § 62A-5b-106, already made it a crime to interfere with the exercise of a disabled person's right to a service animal. The existing statute also made it a crime for someone to "intentionally and knowingly" represent to another that an animal is a service animal when the animal is not. It also made it a crime to misrepresent facts to a health care provider for the purpose of obtaining a service animal. H.B. 43 would modify the existing law to, for the first time, included emotional support animals along with service animals. The distinction is important because service animals are a carefully prescribed and easily identified category of animals that are typically trained and certified to provide very specific services to a disabled owner. Emotional support animals, on the other hand, have no specialized training or certifications because that is not necessary for their function. Although the benefit of emotional support animals can vary among their disabled owners, the typical benefit is a therapeutic and helpful calming of the symptoms of certain mental conditions, such as extreme anxiety and PTSD. In short, the presence and companionship of the animal provides the benefit.

In the world of condominiums, PUDs, Townhomes, HOAs, homeowners’ associations, and other community associations, this is a critically important issue. The federal Fair Housing Act and the Utah state Fair Housing Act both provide that owners and community associations must make reasonable accommodations for both service animals and emotional support animals. This means if an HOA has rules or covenants that prohibit animals or proscribe limitations on animals (such as their size or where they may go in the project), the owner or homeowners’ association may have to make exceptions to those rules under circumstances where a disabled individual needs the animal to assist with one or more of the disabled person's major life activities. A common example of this type of situation is a veteran who suffers from Post-Traumatic Stress Syndrome and has a dog who helps minimize the symptoms of that condition. That veteran may have the right to move into a condominium project that does not allow animals, and nonetheless keep her dog.

The big question for HOAs is how H.B. 43 will impact requests for accommodation and the responses of HOAs to those requests. If a condominium board of directors believes a request to keep an emotional support animal is not genuine, could they and should they file a criminal complaint? What is "enough" information to support the filing of a criminal complaint? Is the filing retaliation that is prohibited under federal law? Also, what about people who complain about an emotional support animal in a project or harass the owner who has one? Have they now violated a criminal law? What about Boards who deny a request for accommodation, are they now potentially liable criminally? Do the criminal provisions apply at all to an HOA board of trustees or an HOA board of directors? 

As other states have passed similar laws, the lawyers at Morris Sperry have been carefully watching this issue. They are prepared to assist their clients (owners requesting accommodations and HOAs responding to requests) with answers to the hard questions above. No firm in Utah has more experience with Fair Housing laws in homeowners’ associations. The lawyers at Morris Sperry will continue to monitor HB 43 in the 2019 Utah legislature and will be prepared to assist their clients with the nuances of this law and other Fair Housing laws.

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January 26, 2019

 

John Morris and Quinn Sperry, Utah homeowners association lawyers, were selected to be two of the presenters for the CCAL national HOA law seminar in New Orleans. This seminar was attended by more than 400 HOA lawyers from around the country. They presented on how to deal with divisiveness and conflict in HOAs. This very interesting issue is at the forefront of the national political debate and is a commonly encountered problem in community associations around the country and in Utah. The topic included information and practical advice for dealing with board member verses board member disputes, board member verses owner disputes, HOA verses board member disputes, and other common types of disputes in HOAs. The presentation included a careful review of the ethical rules lawyers must deal with representing parties in these disputes, along with practical advice for minimizing, deescalating, and resolving these disputes. Morris Sperry lawyers and the Morris Sperry HOA law firm are committed to resolving disputes in condominium associations, PUDs, townhomes, and other community associations as quickly, efficiently, and amicably as possible. This is why both Quinn and John have completed mediation training and frequently suggest alternatives for resolving disputes other than litigation. Attorneys who focus in HOA law, like the attorneys at Morris Sperry, understand the importance of understanding, managing, and harnessing the benefits of different opinions in homeowners associations.  

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January 25, 2019

 

Five Morris Sperry lawyers are attending the National HOA law conference in New Orleans this week. This conference is one of the best opportunities to meet and learn from HOA lawyers from around the country. Morris Sperry lawyers get exposure to legal trends and new approaches to HOA problems. This ongoing dedication and focus on community association law is why Morris Sperry is the only law firm you want working for you when you have townhome, condominium, PUD, and other HOA legal issues. 

 

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January 14, 2019

 

John Morris and Quinn Sperry are preparing to present at the National HOA Law Seminar in New Orleans. Over 500 of the best HOA lawyers in the country get together once a year to discuss advanced community association law issues. A careful selection and vetting process occurs to select speakers for this advanced seminar. John Morris and Quinn Sperry have been selected multiple times. This year's presentation will focus on the lawyer's role in divisiveness and disputes among HOA participants, including the owners, board members, and managers. A particular focus will be on the ethical challenges lawyers face in these situations. This topic was undoubtedly selected because it is so timely given the extreme polarization of country on any number of political issues and the unfortunate impact that polarization can have on the leadership and operations of community organizations. With its exclusive focus on HOA law, Morris Sperry remains the only firm in Utah to call for help when you have disputes among and between board members and between board members and owners in an HOA. 

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March 18, 2020

This article provides current information (as of 3/18/2020) regarding the Coronavirus Pandemic and offers suggestions to Utah HOAs (Condominiums, Associations, HOAs, and Homeowners Associations) on how to respond to this outbreak. Much of the information in this article is available and sourced from the CDC website: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/index.html. Other information is available at https://healthcare.utah.edu/coronavirus/https://health.utah.gov/coronavirushttps://www.cnn.com/2020/02/26/opinions/colleen-kraft-coronavirus-best-defense/index.htmlhttps://www.ready.gov/pandemic.

A very informative map and dashboard tracking system for the pandemic is available from the Johns Hopkins University Center for Science and Engineering. You can access it by clicking HERE.  

Utah HOAs should start planning and preparing for a more widespread outbreak (community transmission) in Utah because the CDC and almost all public officials are stating that it is not a matter of “if” it will occur, but more a matter of “when.” Moreover, there is now confirmed community transmission in various counties in Utah, including Davis, Summit, and Salt Lake counties.

Background on the new Coronavirus Pandemic

The CDC (Center for Disease Control) is monitoring an emerging and rapidly evolving outbreak of respiratory disease caused by a novel (new) virus that was initially detected in China. . This new Coronavirus has been named SARS-CoV-2. The World Health Organization (WHO) declared the outbreak a "public heatlh emergency of international concern on January 30, 2020 and declared the outbreak an official pandemic on March 11, 2020.

Coronavirus around the World

The virus has now infected more than 215,000 people in almost every country including the United States. More than 8,700 people have died from the virus. The virus has spread dramatically in several countries including China, Italy, South Korea, and Iran. In China and Itally hospitals have been overwhelmed. Many countries are closing schools, cancelling all public gatherings, and imposing restrictions on the movement of people. Almost every country affected is recommending that people shelter at home. 

Coronavirus in the United States

As of the last update of this article, there were over 7,700 confirmed cases of the new Coronavirus in the United States in every state and Washington D.C., with more than 118 deaths resulting from the infections. President Trump declared a national emergency on March 13, 2020. Many state governors and local authorities have also declared state and local emergencies. Schools are closing in many states and most sporting events and gatherings have been cancelled. The following is the latest reporting from the Johns Hopkins University tracking Website as of the last update of this article. Based on a press conference held by the President of the United States on March 18, 2020, it is expected that the number of confirmed cases in the United States will dramatically increase over the next week because testing kits are more widely available. 

The Coronavirus in Utah

There are now in excess of 51 reported and confirmed cases in Utah, although there are certainly more undetected and unconfirmed infections. Summit County has reported the first confirmed case of community spread with the positive test of a doorman at the Spur Bar and Grill in Park city. The man had no known contact with anyone infected and it is unclear how many people this man interacted with while infected and showing symptoms. The governor of Utah declared a state of emergency on Friday March 6, 2020 to facilitate emergency preparation. Hospitals in Utah are preparing for an increase in patients. All public schools (including university campuses) were closed for two weeks effective March 13, 2020 and all commencement ceremonies this spring will be postponed or cancelled. Almost all sporting events and gatherings of people have been cancelled. Almost every religious organization has cancelled all services and gatherings. The Utah Department of Health ordered all restuarants and bars to close their dining roomes, effective 11:59 p.m. March 17, 2020. Take-out, delivery, and grocery shopping is still permitted. Many health care providers are aksing people to reschedule non-essential vistis and call before visiting a walk-in clinic to allow medical staff to focus on the Covid-19 crisis. State officials are not encouraging everyone to take serious precautions, including staying at least six feet away from other people and staying home if showing any symptoms. 

Clinical Analysis

The complete clinical picture with regard to the new Coronavirus is not fully understood. Reported illnesses have ranged from mild to severe, including illness resulting in death. While information so far suggests that most new Coronavirus illness is mild, a report out of China suggests serious illness occurs in 16% of cases. Older people and people with certain underlying health conditions like heart disease, lung disease and diabetes, for example, seem to be at greater risk of serious illness. The potential public health threat posed by the new Coronavirus is very high in the United States, according to the CDC.

Symptoms

Symptoms of infection include fever (88% of people reporting), dry cough (68%), fatigue (38%), Sputum production (33%), shortness of breath (18%), muscle or joint pain (15%), sore throat (14%), headache (14%), chills (11%), nausea or vomiting (5%), nasal congestion (5%), Diarrhea (4%), Haemoptsis (1%), & Conjunctive congestion (1%). In more serious infections, symptoms include high fevers, coughing up blood, decreased while blood cells, and kidney failure. Some people who are infected will show no symptoms. 

Potential for Future Spreading of the Infection

According to the CDC, significantly more infections are likely to be identified in the coming days, including more cases in the United States. At this time, most people in the United States will have little immediate risk of exposure to this virus because the virus is not currently spreading widely in the United States. However, The CDC notes that current global circumstances suggest it is likely that this virus will cause a pandemic. It’s also likely that person-to-person spread will continue to occur, including in communities in the United States. It’s likely that at some point, widespread transmission of the new Coronavirus in the United States will occur.

General Effect of Widespread Spreading

According to the CDC, widespread transmission of the new Coronavirus would translate into large numbers of people needing medical care at the same time. Schools, childcare centers, workplaces, and other places for mass gatherings may experience more absenteeism. Public health and healthcare systems may become overloaded, with elevated rates of hospitalizations and deaths. Other critical infrastructure, such as law enforcement, emergency medical services, and transportation industry may also be affected. Health care providers and hospitals may be overwhelmed.

Treatment

At this time, there is no vaccine to protect against the New Coronavirus and no medications approved to treat it. There are multiple government/private parties working on a vaccine. The best estimate is that it will take at least one year to produce a vaccine. In the meantime, treatment for an infection is limited to supportive care to help relieve symptoms. In life threatening situations, hospitalization and care to support vital organ functions is necessary.

Individual Response

The CDC, other government agencies, and various experts recommend the following actions:

  1. Limit all travel, but certainly limit travel to certain locations in the World, including China, Hong Kong, Iran, Italy, Japan, and South Korea.
  2. Shelter in place. 
  3. Get a flu vaccine,
  4. Frequently and properly wash hands,
  5. Avoid in-person contact with people who are sick,
  6. Stay at least six feet away from other people,
  7. Stay at home if you are sick, along with taking other actions to prevent the spread of your illness,
  8. Avoid touching your eyes, mouth, and nose,
  9. Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces at home, work, school, and other locations,
  10. Get plenty of sleep, manage stress, drink fluids, eat nutritious foods, and be physically active.
  11. Prepare your household for a “pandemic Flu” https://www.cdc.gov/nonpharmaceutical-interventions/pdf/gr-pan-flu-ind-house.pdf
  12. Prepare for the closure of your child’s school or daycare.
  13. Have a minimum two-week supply of water, food, and over-the-counter medications you tend to take. A six-month supply of food and over-the-counter medication  in case of shortages and home sheltering is recommended by Morris Sperry. Rice, pasta, canned foods, and other non-perishables are recommended for long term home sheltering.
  14. Stock up on over-the-counter medications for the relief of flu-like symptoms in case you are infected and must treat at home.
  15. Obtain a several-month supply (at least 6 months) of normal medications, especially if you are over 60 years old or in another high risk category. 
  16. Consider updating computers, home WiFi networks, and internet access speeds in preparation for working from home and for more intensive use of computers and the internet in case of home sheltering recommendations or requirements.

HOA Response

HOA boards of directors and management committees can play a role in assisting owners in an HOA related to this outbreak. Each Board will have to decide how involved they want to be. Morris Sperry offers the following suggestions for Utah condominium associations, Utah homeowners associations, and Utah HOAs, depending on the level of involvement the HOA management committee wants to take.

Minimum Recommended Actions

  1. Confirm and/or start regular cleaning of frequently touched surfaces in common areas that could be a source of transmitting of the virus. This could include common area door handles, railings, doors, restrooms, mailbox surfaces, and counters.
  2. Cancel all in-person meetings of owners and board members and instead conduct meetings telephonically or electronically. All Utah HOA meetings in Utah can be conducted legally using telephonic and other electronic communications and Utah HOA boards can legally make decisions and take actions using email. There are multiple online services available to accomplish calls and meetings with any number of people, including Gotomeeting, WebEx, ezTalks Meetings, Teamview, join.me, Google Hangouts, and Megameeting. Some are free and some require a fee. They have varying levels of services and availability.
  3. Obtain extra supplies of common area cleaning materials and normal maintenance supplies to avoid the effects of shortages in stores and the need for employees or volunteers to have in-person contact in stores and supply houses.

Additional Possible Actions.

  1. In HOA newsletters or mailings, provide links to owners for government sources of information at the national, state, and local level, which could include those links identified in this article. The HOA should avoid any characterization of the outbreak not supported by information on these websites. There have been comments from some politicians and news sources clearly influenced by the potential political effect of the outbreak. The HOA board of directors should avoid using or adopting extreme or unfounded characterizations not supported on government websites.
  2. Provide daily or enhanced cleaning and/or disinfection of the common area surfaces described above under Minimum Recommended Actions.
  3. Provide cleaning of individual unit door handles and door surfaces that enter into common area such as doors to units in common area hallways.
  4. Increase stock of cleaning supplies for periods of shortages or delivery interruptions. 
  5. Identify and plan for any special procedures, actions, or precautions that should be taken in the HOA if community transmission starts in your area or if one or more persons becomes sick in your community and it is confirmed or suspected to be the New Coronavirus. This may include extra cleaning and potentially closing clubhouses, hot tubs, pools, and other community amenities.
  6. Identify and plan for any special procedures, actions, or precautions that need to be addressed in case home sheltering is recommended or becomes mandatory.
  7. Identify and plan for any special procedures, actions, or precautions that may need to be implemented to prevent risk of infection by guests in the community, cleaning persons, delivery persons, visiting health care providers, and other visitors.
  8. Discuss with essential vendors, managers, and employees how they are planning for the outbreak to find out if essential services or supplies may be interrupted and to plan on how to minimize or mitigate any potential interruption. This could include garbage removal services, maintenance services (elevator, boiler, etc.), management services, and snow or ice removal services.
  9. Identify and plan for how the HOA will prevent or minimize the potential for transmission of the new Coronavirus by or through any of its own employees, which may include the need for use of masks, gloves, sanitizers, and other precautionary measures.
  10. Consider organizing volunteers from the community to regularly, perhaps daily, check on those who are isolated or at high risk, including the elderly. These are people who need to avoid in-person contact as much as possible due to the increased risk of serious complications or death if they are infected. These checks can be performed by email or telephone to avoid in-person contact. Checks could include verifying the person is symptom free, has sufficient food and water, has sufficient regular medications, and has sufficient personal items to care for themselves. These volunteer groups should consider planning on a course of action if they encounter a person who develops symptoms, does not have sufficient food or personal items for personal care, or is unable to obtain regular medications without leaving their home and risking exposure. The course of action in case of problems could include calling relatives, police, health care providers, or other government agencies for assistance. Planning could include identifying the appropriate people and agencies to contact in case of problems.
  11. Evaluate HOA controlled or provided internet or WiFi networks for potential increased loads during periods of increased home sheltering. Upgrade now if necessary.
  12. Evaluate the potential effect of increased home deliveries of food and other items, and prepare for increased volume of such deliveries. This may include the need to evaluate increased consideration for security and storage of such items, the need to minimize in-person contact with delivery persons associated with such deliveries by establishing staging or delivery areas that minimize the exposure of the community, and the potential for increased cleaning associated with potential contamination to surfaces and door handles by delivery personnel. 

The lawyers at Morris Sperry will keep you updated on this serious issue and continue to provide practical advice and information on its website. For legal advice related to the new Coronavirus and how it might impact the operations of your Utah HOA, the lawyers at Morris Sperry are the lawyers to call in Utah.

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February 22, 2019

John Morris, Quinn Sperry, and Lauren DeVoe presented an HOA legislative and case law update to lawyers in the Utah State Bar on February 21, 2019. The Morris Sperry HOA attorneys explained and discussed new statutes affecting homeowners' associations including new laws and cases related to construction defects and requests for emotional support animals. The presentation was packed by Utah lawyers looking for an HOA update. When lawyers need an education on HOA issues, they go to the lawyers at Morris Sperry because they are focused exclusively on HOA law.  

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February 15, 2019

 

The Utah CAI Legislative Action Committee is running HB 329, that will have new HOA laws. The bill will make changes (some minor and some more important) to various sections of the Condominium Ownership Act and the Community Association Act. After negotiations with various constituents, the bill is in the process of being shortened from its current form but will still include some changes that Utah community associations and homeowners’ associations will need to know about. There will be some technical changes to Utah Code Ann. § 57-8-13.1 and § 57-8a-105 related to lien enforcement during periods when a homeowners’ association has failed to register with the Department of Commerce. The basic obligation of all Utah HOAs to register with the department of commerce remains. Utah Code Ann. § 57-8-54 will undergo substantial changes related to owners requesting payoff information from their HOA or the HOA's manager. The lawyers at Morris Sperry suspect this provision will have further modifications from its existing form before passage. The rules provisions in the community association act, Utah Code Ann. § 57-8a-217, will also undergo some significant changes. These changes include new definitional terms that could have significant effects on the validity of various HOA governing documents. In addition, these changes include limitations on the time period for challenging the adoption of a rule that does not comply with the notice and vetting periods allowed to owners before new rules are adopted in community associations. The lawyers at Morris Sperry are involved with these amendments through their service on the Utah CAI Legislative Action Committee and are closely watching the progress of these new 2019 Utah HOA laws. The time for this bill to get passed is slipping away, but there still remains a chance these provisions could go into law. Look for future updates from Morris Sperry on the status of this bill and the passage of other new laws in 2019 that affect HOAs.

 

 

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February 1, 2019

 

In the 2019 legislative session, the Utah legislature is considering House Bill 43 (HB 43) that would make certain actions involving emotional support animals (also known as support animals, companion animals, or comfort animals) a class C misdemeanor. HB 43 has passed the house and is under consideration in the senate. By all indications, this bill is set to sail through the legislature and to be signed by the governor. HB 43 is sponsored by Representative Dunnigan and Senator Bramble, both of whom sponsored the bills that formed the original laws that this is bill is modifying and expanding.

The existing statute, Utah Code Ann.  § 62A-5b-106, already made it a crime to interfere with the exercise of a disabled person's right to a service animal. The existing statute also made it a crime for someone to "intentionally and knowingly" represent to another that an animal is a service animal when the animal is not. It also made it a crime to misrepresent facts to a health care provider for the purpose of obtaining a service animal. H.B. 43 would modify the existing law to, for the first time, included emotional support animals along with service animals. The distinction is important because service animals are a carefully prescribed and easily identified category of animals that are typically trained and certified to provide very specific services to a disabled owner. Emotional support animals, on the other hand, have no specialized training or certifications because that is not necessary for their function. Although the benefit of emotional support animals can vary among their disabled owners, the typical benefit is a therapeutic and helpful calming of the symptoms of certain mental conditions, such as extreme anxiety and PTSD. In short, the presence and companionship of the animal provides the benefit.

In the world of condominiums, PUDs, Townhomes, HOAs, homeowners’ associations, and other community associations, this is a critically important issue. The federal Fair Housing Act and the Utah state Fair Housing Act both provide that owners and community associations must make reasonable accommodations for both service animals and emotional support animals. This means if an HOA has rules or covenants that prohibit animals or proscribe limitations on animals (such as their size or where they may go in the project), the owner or homeowners’ association may have to make exceptions to those rules under circumstances where a disabled individual needs the animal to assist with one or more of the disabled person's major life activities. A common example of this type of situation is a veteran who suffers from Post-Traumatic Stress Syndrome and has a dog who helps minimize the symptoms of that condition. That veteran may have the right to move into a condominium project that does not allow animals, and nonetheless keep her dog.

The big question for HOAs is how H.B. 43 will impact requests for accommodation and the responses of HOAs to those requests. If a condominium board of directors believes a request to keep an emotional support animal is not genuine, could they and should they file a criminal complaint? What is "enough" information to support the filing of a criminal complaint? Is the filing retaliation that is prohibited under federal law? Also, what about people who complain about an emotional support animal in a project or harass the owner who has one? Have they now violated a criminal law? What about Boards who deny a request for accommodation, are they now potentially liable criminally? Do the criminal provisions apply at all to an HOA board of trustees or an HOA board of directors? 

As other states have passed similar laws, the lawyers at Morris Sperry have been carefully watching this issue. They are prepared to assist their clients (owners requesting accommodations and HOAs responding to requests) with answers to the hard questions above. No firm in Utah has more experience with Fair Housing laws in homeowners’ associations. The lawyers at Morris Sperry will continue to monitor HB 43 in the 2019 Utah legislature and will be prepared to assist their clients with the nuances of this law and other Fair Housing laws.

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January 26, 2019

 

John Morris and Quinn Sperry, Utah homeowners association lawyers, were selected to be two of the presenters for the CCAL national HOA law seminar in New Orleans. This seminar was attended by more than 400 HOA lawyers from around the country. They presented on how to deal with divisiveness and conflict in HOAs. This very interesting issue is at the forefront of the national political debate and is a commonly encountered problem in community associations around the country and in Utah. The topic included information and practical advice for dealing with board member verses board member disputes, board member verses owner disputes, HOA verses board member disputes, and other common types of disputes in HOAs. The presentation included a careful review of the ethical rules lawyers must deal with representing parties in these disputes, along with practical advice for minimizing, deescalating, and resolving these disputes. Morris Sperry lawyers and the Morris Sperry HOA law firm are committed to resolving disputes in condominium associations, PUDs, townhomes, and other community associations as quickly, efficiently, and amicably as possible. This is why both Quinn and John have completed mediation training and frequently suggest alternatives for resolving disputes other than litigation. Attorneys who focus in HOA law, like the attorneys at Morris Sperry, understand the importance of understanding, managing, and harnessing the benefits of different opinions in homeowners associations.  

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January 25, 2019

 

Five Morris Sperry lawyers are attending the National HOA law conference in New Orleans this week. This conference is one of the best opportunities to meet and learn from HOA lawyers from around the country. Morris Sperry lawyers get exposure to legal trends and new approaches to HOA problems. This ongoing dedication and focus on community association law is why Morris Sperry is the only law firm you want working for you when you have townhome, condominium, PUD, and other HOA legal issues. 

 

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January 14, 2019

 

John Morris and Quinn Sperry are preparing to present at the National HOA Law Seminar in New Orleans. Over 500 of the best HOA lawyers in the country get together once a year to discuss advanced community association law issues. A careful selection and vetting process occurs to select speakers for this advanced seminar. John Morris and Quinn Sperry have been selected multiple times. This year's presentation will focus on the lawyer's role in divisiveness and disputes among HOA participants, including the owners, board members, and managers. A particular focus will be on the ethical challenges lawyers face in these situations. This topic was undoubtedly selected because it is so timely given the extreme polarization of country on any number of political issues and the unfortunate impact that polarization can have on the leadership and operations of community organizations. With its exclusive focus on HOA law, Morris Sperry remains the only firm in Utah to call for help when you have disputes among and between board members and between board members and owners in an HOA. 

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October 8, 2018

 

Quinn Sperry was elected Second Vice Chair by the Community Association Section of the Utah State Bar. In the same meeting, Lauren DeVoe of Morris Sperry was elected by the section as Treasurer. Morris Sperry continues their service to the community, to their fellow HOA lawyers, and to the HOA and community association law industry as a whole through this service. Since John Morris of Morris Sperry came up with the idea for this section, lawyers from Morris Sperry have advocated for the section and have volunteered to serve.

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September 6, 2018

 

John Morris presented for the local Community Association Institute (CAI) chapter on the nuanced legal issues surrounding emotional support animals, sometimes referred to as "companion animals," "comfort animals," "ESA's," or even improperly as "service animals." This issue is exploding in Utah community associations, including condominium associations and PUDs. Not only is the issue arising more often, it is complicated and a potential trap for unadvised condominium associations and other community associations. The Fair Housing Act, both in Utah and federally, has very specific legal requirements that must be complied with when a request for accommodation has been made. Even the determination of whether a request for accommodation has been made or not can be difficult. The lawyers at Morris Sperry deal with the Fair Housing Act on a daily basis, both prosecuting and defending complaints with the Utah Antidiscrimination and Labor Division and with HUD (the Department of Housing and Urban Development). No other law firm in Utah has as much experience with community associations, emotional support animals, and the Fair Housing Act.

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May 18, 2018

 

Quinn Sperry presented on disaster preparedness at the local CAI education event in Midvale, Utah. With Quinn's unique experience as a member of the Midvale City Counsel, he spoke on the intersection between local government and HOAs and the cutting-edge efforts by his city to ensure that HOAs can take advantage of federal funds after a natural disaster. Without proactive efforts like this, condominiums and PUDs suffering from earthquake, storm, or other natural disaster damage may be unable to obtain federal funds for cleanup. Morris Sperry lawyers are always looking for an angle to help their community association clients and all HOAs in Utah. That is why the Morris Sperry law firm is the best HOA law firm in Utah.

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