2017 Utah Legislative Session – HOA/Developer Issues

March 10, 2017

HOAs have not come out unscathed by the 2017 Utah general legislative session, which ended yesterday, March 9.  A new law was passed that requires an HOA to comply with rather onerous requirements before it may go after the developer for problems created by the developer.

House Bill 157 (HB 157 3rd Substitute) was passed stating that: (1) an HOA must comply with certain requirements before suing a declarant (the developer of the HOA) or a board related to a period of declarant control, and (2) certain provisions regarding open board meetings apply during the period of declarant control.

Requirements Before Association Can Sue Developer

The new laws enacted by HB 157 (Utah Code section 57-8-58 in the Condo Act and 57-8a-228 in the Community Association Act) require that an HOA may not, after the period of declarant control, sue a declarant (or a board of directors, or an employee, an independent contractor, or the agent of the declarant or the previous board of directors related to the period of declarant control), unless:

(1) the lawsuit is approved in advance at a meeting where owners of at least 51% of the allocated voting interests of the owners in the association are represented (i.e., a quorum of 51% of the voting interests);

(2) the lawsuit is approved either by (i) more than 75% of the voting interests of the owners who are represented (in person or by proxy) at the meeting; or by (ii) more than 51% of the total voting interests of the owners in the association; and

(3) the association first notifies the declarant (or person to be sued) and gives them an opportunity to cure the problem.

Additionally, before owners may vote to approve the lawsuit, the association must provide each owner:

(1) a written notice that the association is contemplating legal action; and

(2) after the association consults with an attorney, a written assessment of: (i) the likelihood that the legal action will succeed; (ii) the likely amount in controversy in the legal action; (iii) the likely cost of resolving the legal action to the association’s satisfaction; and (iv) the likely effect the legal action will have on an owner’s or prospective buyer’s ability to obtain financing for a lot or unit while the legal action is pending.

Finally, before the association commences the lawsuit, the association must allocate an amount equal to 10% of the cost estimated to resolve the lawsuit, not including attorney fees, and place it in a trust that the association may only use to pay the costs to resolve the lawsuit.

The statute does not apply to lawsuits where the amount being sued for is less than $75,000.

Open Board Meetings During Declarant Control

HB 157 also modifies Utah Code Section 57-8a-226 “Board meetings – Open meetings” which applies to community associations (inexplicably, the statute that applies to condominiums was not changed).

This statute requires every association except declarant-controlled associations to give 48 hours’ notice of board meetings to each owner who requests it, unless the meeting was provided for in a meeting schedule previously provided to the owner, or unless the meeting is to address an emergency.  The board meeting must be open to each owner, except for specific reasons (such as to discuss ongoing litigation or delinquent assessments).  The board must provide each owner an opportunity to offer comments at the board meeting.

The existing statute does not apply to an association during the period of declarant control, but the new statute requires that, during the period of declarant control, the association must hold at least one such board meeting a year as well as each time the association increases a fee or raises an assessment.  The requirements of Section 57-8a-226, subsections (1) through (3) (summarized above) will apply to such a board meeting.

Other laws were also passed which will be discussed in a different blog post.  Stay tuned.


New 2015 HOA Laws – Open Meetings

July 1, 2015

By Curtis G. Kimble.

Continuing our summary of the new laws affecting HOAs in 2015, effective July 1, 2015, both the Utah Condominium Ownership Act and the Utah Community Association Act require board meetings to be open to each homeowner (or homeowner’s designated representative).

Open Meetings; Exception.

Utah Code 57-8-57 (for condos) and 57-8a-226 (for non-condo HOAs) require open board meetings, with the exception that executive sessions may be closed to the owners for the following purposes: to consult with an attorney or to discuss ongoing litigation, personnel matters, contract negotiations, delinquencies, and matters involving an individual if privacy is required.

Comment Period at Meetings.

Additionally, at each board meeting, the board must provide each owner a reasonable opportunity to offer comments, but the board may limit the comments to one specific time period during the meeting and may limit the time allotted to each owner to comment.

Notice of Meetings.

If an owner has requested notice of a board meeting, the association must give written notice of a board meeting at least 48 hours before a meeting to the owner who requested it, unless notice of the meeting is included in a meeting schedule that was previously provided to that owner, or the meeting is to address an emergency and each board member receives notice of the meeting less than 48 hours before the meeting.

The notice to the owner must (i) be delivered to the owner by email, to the email address that the owner provides to the board or the association; (ii) state the time and date of the meeting; (iii) state the location of the meeting; and (iv) if a board member may participate by means of electronic communication, provide the information necessary to allow the owner to participate by the available means of electronic communication.

Exactly what constitutes a board meeting?

A board “meeting” means “a gathering of a board, whether in person or by means of electronic communication, at which the board can take binding action.”  (Utah Code 57-8a-102(16), 57-8-3(27)).  “Means of electronic communication” means an electronic system that allows individuals to communicate orally in real time, including web conferencing, video conferencing, and telephone conferencing (Utah Code 57-8a-102(15), 57-8-3(26)).

Action/decisions without a Meeting.

A meeting requires a gathering of the board in a way that they are communicating live and in real time.  It does not include actions or decisions taken without a meeting, as is commonly done by boards (most commonly through email).  However, specific requirements must be followed by a board in taking an action or making a decision without a meeting.  These requirements are spelled out (for associations that are nonprofit corporations) in Utah Code Section 16-6a-813, which, significantly, was also changed this year.

Under the prior law, a board could make decisions or take an action without a meeting if each member of the board either: (1) voted for the action, or (2) waived the right to demand that the decision/action be made or taken at a meeting and either voted against the action or abstained from voting.  Now, unanimous consent of the members of the board is needed for the action or decision being made or taken without a meeting, unless an association’s bylaws specifically provide that an action or decision may be taken without a meeting without the board unanimously consenting to the action or decision being made.

If the bylaws do authorize it, the statute sets out the required procedure for a board to make a decision or take an action without a meeting without the board unanimously consenting to the action or decision being made (regardless of any contrary procedure in your bylaws).  The statute requires notice to be sent to each member of the board containing certain items listed in the statute.   Then each member of the board has to either (1) sign a writing in favor of the action/decision, or (2) sign a writing against the action/decision, abstain in writing from voting, or fail to respond or vote or demand in writing that the action or decision be made at a meeting.  All of these “writings” and communications can be delivered electronically (e.g., as an email), in which case, the date on which such an electronic transmission is transmitted is considered the date on which the vote, abstention, demand, or revocation is signed.

Declarant/developer Controlled Associations.

The open meetings laws do not apply to associations that are still under “declarant” (developer) control (where the declarant appoints the board).

Penalty.

The law stipulates certain penalties and procedures if an association does not comply.  Essentially, an owner can make demand for compliance on the association stating which requirements the association has failed to comply with.  Then, if 90 days elapses without compliance after a proper demand, the owner may file an action in court for a court order requiring the association to comply and to pay a $500 penalty.  The court may also require that the prevailing party be reimbursed its costs and attorney fees by the non-prevailing party.


Free Movie Tickets to Max this Tuesday Night!

June 25, 2015

As many of you know, Richards, Kimble and Winn has merged with the national law firm Ball Janik LLP, although we are still the same people, same location, same great service!  As a thank you to our clients and potential clients, we are giving away 30 tickets to the showing of the movie Max on Tuesday, June 30, at 6:15 pm at Jordan Commons.

Each ticket includes one free popcorn and soda.  We will also be raffling off a $50 gift card before the movie starts.

See the trailer for Max.

The tickets will be given to the first 30 people who submit a request below.  You do not have to be a client, any HOA homeowner or board member (and guests) may request a ticket.

Request a Free Ticket to Max :

Date: Tues. 6/30/2015

Time: 6:15 pm

Location: Jordan Commons Megaplex, theater #16

Address: 9400 State St, Sandy, UT 84070

Fill in and submit this form.  If requesting more than one ticket fill in and submit the form for each person that will attend (the same email can be used).

(Submission Period Ended)


2015 Condo and HOA Laws – Fines

June 22, 2015

By Curtis G. Kimble.

This year was another busy year at the Utah legislature for the HOA world.  Many changes and additions were made to the statutes that govern condominiums, community associations and nonprofit corporations.  As always, refer to the UtahHOALaws app on your iOS device or Android device, or on the web at utahhoalaws.com for the current HOA statutes.

The most significant changes that affect HOAs are laws that:

  • Change how fines must be levied and collected,
  • Require board meetings to be open to the association membership,
  • Change what rental restrictions may be adopted by an association after May 12, 2015,
  • Set forth requirements and procedures for record keeping and making records available to members.

Fines.  

Utah Code 57-8a-208 for community associations (non-condo HOAs), and Utah Code 57-8-37 for condos, provides certain requirements for levying fines.  These laws went into effect May 12, 2015.

Before assessing a fine, the board must give the owner a written warning that:

  1. describes the violation;
  2. states the rule or provision of the association’s governing documents that the owner’s conduct violates;
  3. states that the board may assess fines against the owner if a continuing violation is not cured or if the owner commits similar violations within one year; and
  4. if the violation is a continuing violation, states a time that is not less than 48 hours after the day on which the board gives the owner the written warning by which the lot owner must cure the violation.

Then, a board may assess a fine if:

  1. within one year after the board gives written warning, the owner commits another violation of the same rule or provision identified in the written warning; or
  2. for a continuing violation, the owner does not cure the violation within the time period that is stated in the written warning.

Subsequent fines.  If permitted by the association’s governing documents, after the board assesses a fine against an owner, the board may, without further warning, assess an additional fine against the owner each time the owner:

  1. commits a violation of the same rule or provision within one year after the day on which the board assesses a fine for a violation of the same rule or provision; or
  2. allows a violation to continue for 10 days or longer after the day on which the board assesses the fine (thus, there must be a 10-day period between fines for continuous violations).

Note, as indicated for “subsequent fines,” it is important to have a schedule of fines or fining policy in place in the governing documents (if not in the CC&Rs, then in the rules or separate policy) that allows for levying more than one fine for the same violation without having to repeatedly provide notice first.  Contact us for help with that, if needed.

In my next post, I’ll discuss the new laws on open meetings and rentals.


New 2014 Utah HOA Laws

May 16, 2014

By Curtis G. Kimble.

A few new HOA laws went into effect earlier this week on May 13.  They are not too substantial and shouldn’t significantly alter your way of doing business, but they’re important to know about and comply with.

1.    S.B. 147 deals with rental restrictions.

This bill amended Utah Code Section 57-8-10 and enacted 57-8-10.1 in the Condo Act, and amended 57-8a-209 in the Community Association Act.  It prohibits an association from requiring a homeowner to:

A.  obtain the association’s approval of a prospective renter; or

B.  give the association:
(i) a copy of a rental application;
(ii) a copy of a renter’s or prospective renter’s credit information or credit report;
(iii) a copy of a renter’s or prospective renter’s background check; or
(iv) documentation to verify the renter’s age.

There is an exception if the association’s CC&Rs “prohibits or restricts occupancy of the lots by a certain class of individuals, the association may require a lot owner who owns a rental lot to give the association” those items in B above.  So, for instance, a 55 and older community could require a homeowner to give the association documentation to verify that at least one occupant is 55 or older.

2.    H.B. 26 deals with fines.

This bill amended Utah Code Sections 57-8a-208 and 57-8a-301 in the Community Association Act, and made a minor change in 57-8-37 and 57-8-44 in the Condo Act.

Appealing a Fine.  In the Community Association Act, it limits how and when an owner can appeal a fine that’s levied against the owner.  An owner has 30 days to request a hearing after a fine is levied, and then the owner has up to 6 months to appeal the fine by bringing a court action to challenge the fine.

When the Fine Becomes a Lien.  It further requires that a fine does not become a lien against a lot until, basically, seven months after the fine is levied (because the owner has 30 days to request a hearing before the board and then 180 days after that to bring a court action).   If, after that time, the owner has not sued to challenge the fine in court, the fine becomes a lien against the owner’s lot (if the owner has sued within that time, the fine does not become a lien until the court action is over).    Previously, the owner only had 14 days to request a hearing, an unpaid fine became a lien just like assessments (no 6-7 month waiting period), and the owner was not limited in the time they had to file a lawsuit to challenge the fine.

Condos.  There is nothing much new for condos.  The Condo Act already required that a fine does not become a lien against a unit until, basically, seven months after the fine is levied (because the owner has 30 days to request a hearing before the board and then 180 days after that to bring a court action) and limited an owner to a 6 month period to challenge the fine in court, but it’s now clear that if the owner has sued within that time, the fine does not become a lien until the court action is over.

3.    H.B. 350 deals with removal of board members.

This bill amended Utah Code Section 16-6a-808 in the Nonprofit Corporation Act.  This section provides the requirements to remove a board member (director) from office.  The old section was problematic because (a) it didn’t defer to the association’s bylaws if the bylaws provided a different method for removing a director (the Nonprofit Act should let associations decide for themselves how they want certain things handled and should simply be a default when an association’s bylaws are silent on an issue), and (b) it led to a great deal of confusion because it was not clear how many votes were necessary to remove a director when directors were elected by a plurality vote (where the candidates receiving the most votes win).  Most homeowner associations use plurality voting for electing directors.

The new law states that “unless otherwise provided in the bylaws,” a director may be removed by the vote of a majority of the members entitled to vote.  So, the provisions in your bylaws will govern and apply first and foremost, but if your bylaws are silent, more than 50% of the members have to vote to remove a director in order for that director to be removed from office.

The Utah HOA Law App has been updated with all the new laws and will automatically update on your iphone or Android device when you open the app.  iPad app users will have to update the app itself, which should be available in the App Store in the next week or two.


Construction Defects? Utah’s First Choice for Help

November 9, 2013

Let’s take care of your construction defect issues.

Construction defects can be extremely expensive to fix; can cause your property to deteriorate; decrease your property values; and can subject your community to substantial future special assessments!  Obviously, as a board, you want to do your best to avoid these problems – and fix them when they are discovered.

Kimble Law is pleased to announce the ability to handle your community’s construction defect issues!  Kimble Law has formed a strategic partnership with Ball Janik LLP, which has helped many associations obtain recoveries for construction defects.  While Kimble Law remains your “go to” general HOA law firm, we have teamed up with experienced, successful and knowledgeable attorneys who have a deep understanding of construction issues relating to HOAs of all types.


Keeping Your Board Together – End of Year Checklist

October 10, 2013

It is a familiar scene.  Something happens between Board members causing distrust, scrutiny and even rebellion.  As community leaders and as fiduciaries, Board members have an obligation to each other and to their communities to set aside differences that might arise and stay focused on community business.  The purpose of the brief article is to provide year-end tips for each Board to review to make sure their relationships stay in tact and to help ensure that the community’s interests remain paramount.

1.  Adopt a “code of conduct” for the Board.  This document, signed by each Board member, sets the standard of what the appropriate tone of discussions will be in meetings; reminds everyone to mutually respect differing viewpoints; commits Board members to fulfill their duties and assignments; and strongly outlines that rude, hurtful, or inflammatory comments will not be tolerated.

2.  Make sure that each Board member has a “job.”  Often times, the Board serves as the officers of the Association as well.  Review your Bylaws for such duties or adopt a job description for each officer and Board member.  Before you hold a Board member/officer accountable for their respective roles, you need to clearly define what is expected of each person and position.

3.  Before the end of each year and perhaps each quarter, review AS A GROUP the Board’s strengths and weaknesses.  Write them down (not in the minutes) and make it a goal to improve upon areas where the Board feels it can do better (such as communicate better with members; listen to other Board member’s perspectives more fully before voting on a matter; not spreading gossip or making disparaging comments about other Board members; even learning to read and understand financial statements better is a noble goal).  The variety of goals a Board might want to set for itself are truly limitless – the objective should be to start identifying GROUP weaknesses so improvements can follow.

3.  Request training from your attorney on the ever-changing state and federal laws and trends in the HOA industry.  You will be surprised that your attorney (of course, I’m speaking as an attorney) will likely be more than happy to have training sessions with the Board and provide legal and case law updates if you just ask.

4.  Create a Board member binder that contains yours Articles of Incorporation, CCRs, Bylaws, Rules and Regulations and applicable state codes.  This “Board Binder” should be brought to every meeting and, at random, an Article or Section should simply be reviewed quickly at each Board meeting.  Knowing your own documents, by reading them together, frequently keeps disputes from arising in the first place as you educate yourselves in a Board setting.  (I am not suggesting a lengthy reading of your governing documents at each Board meeting.  I am suggesting something as simple as a Board member is assigned to pick a specific provision in the CCRs – liens for example – and then the Board takes 5 minutes to read the “lien” section of the CCRs.  This process continues over and over with a new topic each meeting.)

5.  Community Surveys.  Do not be afraid to send out regular community surveys to the membership-at-large.  Such surveys are not to rate the performance of a particular Board member, but to rate the community in general…”Do you feel that snow is being adequately removed?”  “Do you like the new landscaping company?”  You get the gist.

6.  Board Surveys.  Rate yourselves as a Board.  I am not suggesting that this survey go out to the membership – this is done by the Board itself.  Did we accomplish X, Y and Z this year?  Why not?  What has been our biggest challenge?  How can we prevent such challenges from arising in the future?

7.  Adopt the following philosophy:  I may disagree from time to time, but I won’t be disagreeable.  In other words, vibrant Board discussions and even debate is healthy for your community.  However, Boards need to be trained to listen to all sides of an issue, compromise when they can, but don’t disagree just to disagree.  Board members must understand that once a majority has made a decision, a BOARD DECISION has now been made and you must stand behind it and not speak ill of those who voted in favor of action that you perhaps did not agree with.  In fact, I often find it helpful to have an agreed upon response if Board members are questioned if they supported an action such as “…we took the matter under serious consideration and had a lot of discussion on topics X and Y.  In the end, I stand by the Board’s decision…”  You can have your own variation on this concept.

These are just a few ideas.  I hope as 2013 is quickly coming to an end, each Board can evaluate its own performance but do so in a way that feelings are not hurt and that the community’s best interests stay above personal agendas and emotion.


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