The Ups and Downs of the 2012 Utah Legislative Session

By Curtis G. Kimble.

As many of you know, we’re right in the middle of the the 2012 general session of the Utah Legislature, which is January 23 to March 8.

So far, the bills being proposed relating to HOAs are fairly minor, with one or two exceptions:

1.  H.B. 56 (the Ombudsman bill) proposes to require every Utah HOA (both condo and non-condo HOAs) to pay 2$ per unit or lot annually to yet another government bureaucracy, the Utah Office of the Property Rights Ombudsman.  The Ombudsman Office would be authorized to represent and advise a unit or lot owner who has a dispute with his or her homeowners association and force the association to mediate or arbitrate the dispute.  So, every unit and lot owner in Utah will be paying for these disputes, whether they’re involved or not.

Unfortunately, this bill is attempting to impose a mandatory solution that just doesn’t work.  There are already better remedies to the problem the bill is attempting to address.  Utah homeowners associations don’t need yet another tax or fee to deplete their already suffering budgets in this foreclosure ridden economy, especially for a program that will likely be less effective and more expensive than other solutions.   Yet another government bureaucracy simply isn’t the answer in this situation.

For more information on this bill, and for comments by our own John Richards, check out this article at the ParkRecord.com: “HOAs and condo owners at odds – Legislation heats debate on how HOAs handle owner disputes”

For the reasons above, I give H.B. 56 the thumbs down.

Other proposed bills include:

Thumbs Up   2.  H.B. 275 (Seismic Requirements for Condominium Conversion Projects) which requires the owner of a structure two or more stories high, and which was built before 1975, to cause a seismic evaluation of the structure to be performed if the owner converts the structure to a condominium.  Because the risk of collapse of a structure should be discovered and disclosed or fixed before selling converted condominiums, I give this bill the thumbs up.

3.  H.B. 406 (Homeowner Association Registration Amendments) which does virtually nothing.  The current law requiring every HOA to register with the state as an HOA gives an HOA 90 days to update its information with the state when any of the information changes or becomes outdated (e.g., the HOA changes property managers).

This bill says that an HOA that hasn’t updated is still in compliance with the law until that 90 days is up, as if that wasn’t already clear.  Why else would the 90 days have been given if it wasn’t as a safe harbor?  The answer is it wouldn’t have been.  If you weren’t in compliance the minute your information changed but before you updated your info with the state, there would be no point in giving 90 days to update your information.  Because this bill doesn’t change anything whether it passes or not, I don’t give it a thumbs up or a thumbs down.

Thumbs Down

4.  Finally, S.B. 56 (Homeowner Association Reserve Account Amendments) amends the current reserve analysis law by changing the required frequency of a reserve analysis (or reserve study) and the review and update of that reserve analysis.  The current requirement is to cause a reserve analysis to be conducted every five years and reviewed (and updated, if necessary) every two years.  S.B. 56 would require a reserve analysis to be conducted every six years and reviewed (and updated, if necessary) every three years.

This would fix what some might see as a mismatch of years between the analysis and the review and update in the current law so it would be more spread out.  However, in our experience, more frequent review and update of a reserve study is generally good practice and necessary, not less.  So, always remember, this law is only intended to establish a minimum requirement and every association should decide on their own what they need to be doing to protect the investments of their homes and the long term viability of their common area improvements and infrastructure.

Because this bill falls short of fixing the problems with the current law noted in my blog post here (link), I give it the thumbs down.

I know other bills are out there in the works (for better or for worse) that may or may not be run this legislative session.  I’ll provide updates as the legislative session progresses.

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