An HOA Loan, a Viable Option for Funding an Association Project?

May 7, 2013

By Curtis G. Kimble.

Richards, Kimble and Winn held a brief seminar with Alan Seilhammer, Premier Association Lending, the other night where Alan discussed with many board members and managers the process of obtaining an HOA specific loan.  An HOA loan is not the answer to all of an association’s problems, it isn’t even the best choice in many cases, but it can be the best choice in certain situations.  It’s an important tool in any association’s financial toolbox.  Here’s a brief synopsis of Alan’s PowerPoint and of our discussion:

There are three unalterable truths when it comes to HOA maintenance:

1.  The project will not go away. Picture1

2.  The project will not get cheaper.

3.  Whether by reserves, special assessment or a loan, the money comes from the owners.

Because of these truths, when property condition reports and reserve studies uncover problems which require major capital expenditures, it’s important to deal with them. At the outset of any major maintenance project, the scope of the project must be defined, the options available and priorities must be known and understood (is insurance available, ramifications of not addressing entire project, etc.), legal issues must be known or anticipated, and funding options must be evaluated.  An evaluation of project funding options depends upon the project budget, project schedule, governing documents, legal review, and current cash reserves, among other things.

  • Utilize association’s reserves.
  • Special assessment.
  • Loan.

What Can be Funded?

1. Most anything you can imagine. Funding tools have become rather sophisticated.

a.  Capital maintenance projects are most common.
b.  Construction defects are largely the same but are thought of differently.
c.  Litigation Expenses: Construct defect, unconscionable leases.
d.  Real estate purchases: Units, contiguous property.
e.  Buy out of land leases.
f.  Emergency line of credit.
g.  Operating line of credit for a business need.

2. Operating Expenses are most often not fundable

a.  An association with an operating deficit needs to solve that problem internally
b.  Insurance premiums can be funded within the fiscal year: 10 months
c.  Emergency operating needs depending on the circumstance.

Why You Do Not Want to Wait Until Later:

  • Multi-family construction costs increased nationally 37.4% between 2008 and 2012.
  • Construction costs are forecast to increase 5.5% in 2013.
  • Association investments currently yield less than 1%.
  • Loan Rates are about 4.0% – 4.75% & holding steady.

Picture2

What is Used For Collateral?

1.  Assignment of association’s regular and special assessments. Generally an association’s regular deposits should not be posted as collateral since the association needs access to its liquidity.

2.  There is no lien or mortgage on the common area or property of the association or any unit (unless purchasing real estate as part of the transaction).

General Loan Parameters:

1.  Term. 1 to 15 years.
2.  Points. A fee of .5% to 1% (can often be negotiated away).
3.  Rate. Interest you pay on the loan. Fixed and variable interest rate programs available.
4.  No prepayment penalties for paying before the term ends.  Because of this, there is inherent flexibility allowing the association to payoff the loan when it suits them.  HOA loans are often for a 10 year term, but most are paid off after around 6 years.
5.  Typical Structure. Initially a “non-revolving” line of credit during construction phase of 6 months to 1 year. Converts to a variable or fixed rate term when construction is completed.
6.  Interest rate may be reduced if association maintains its other accounts with the bank.

Loan Parameters to Avoid:

1.  Pre-payment penalties of any kind.
2.  Interest rates that are hard to understand (SWAP rate, etc.).
3.  Yield maintenance fee.
4.  Changed financial statement requirements.
5.  Approval of contractors.
6.  Control of deposit accounts or a requirement that operating accounts are to be held at the bank.
7.  Balloon payments.
8.  Payable on demand.
9.  Loan default if delinquencies are over some number (know all the events of default).
10.  A debt coverage ratio.

There’s no question a reserve fund is the funding option of choice for major maintenance projects.  But when that’s not an option, a special assessment could be inevitable.  Unfortunately, special assessments are fraught with risks and are fundamentally unfair because only the owners at a specific date have to pay for improvements that benefited past and future owners.  A bank loan is definitely a viable option for funding a project.  While evaluating your possible maintenance project funding sources, make sure you understand the association’s options, including the possibility of a bank loan.

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Bills That Passed This Legislative Session and How to Comply

March 26, 2013

By Curtis G. Kimble.

The 2013 Utah General Legislative Session has ended and the bills that passed have been finalized in their enrolled form to await signature by the Governor. Which bills passed and which ones didn’t?

Only three of the six bills I discussed in my last post ended up passing the House and the Senate.  They all affect condo and non-condo HOAs in more or less the same way.

SB 64 Homeowner Association Reserve Account Amendments

As I noted before, this law will give the decision back to the board of whether and how to fund a reserve (as most CC&Rs require, and where the decision makers will be subject to fiduciary duties).  Specifically, the law:

  • Specifies that a reserve analysis must include certain things, such as a list of the maintenance items that will require reserve funds,  their remaining useful life, and their cost to repair or replace; an estimate of the contribution to a reserve fund necessary to meet the cost to repair or replace each component; and a reserve funding plan that recommends how the association may fund the annual contribution.
  • Requires an association to provide a summary each year of the reserve analysis to each owner (not just to those at the annual meeting) and a complete copy of the reserve analysis, including any updates, to an owner upon request.
  • Requires the board to include a reserve fund line item in the annual budget in the amount the board determines based on the reserve analysis and based on what “the board determines is prudent under the circumstances” (there is no requirement that the amount be higher than 1$ or even 0$ – not that I recommend that).  This is important because it is almost inevitable that the association will not agree with the amounts recommended by a professional reserve study.  Almost every association feels that their reserve professional has recommended that they set aside more than they really need.  This law allows flexibility so the board can fund reserves in the amount they deem is prudent with all things considered.   However, if the CC&Rs requires a certain level of reserve funding, the CC&Rs will control; this law does not authorize a board to fund reserves lower than what their governing documents might require.
  • Allows the homeowners to veto the reserve fund contribution if they don’t like it (whether too low or too high) by a 51% vote of the owners at a special meeting called within 45 days of when the annual budget is adopted.

Additionally, the law provides for specific enforcement procedures if the association fails to comply with certain of its provisions.  An owner can sue for a court order compelling the association to comply, for $500 or the owner’s actual damages, whichever is greater, other available remedies, and costs and attorney fees.

HB 101 Homeowners Association Amendments

This revision to the statute requiring all HOAs to register as an HOA with the state of Utah merely restates what it said before in a little different way. There is no change in the law’s requirements or implications.

SB 90 Condominium and Community Association Amendments

  • With this new law, an association cannot charge a fee for review and approval of plans for construction or improvement of a unit or lot that exceeds the actual cost of reviewing and approving the plans.
  • The law clarifies what happens when there’s a loss to a unit that initially doesn’t look like it will exceed the association’s deductible but then the loss ends up costing more than the amount of the deductible.  The law says that if the board determines that a covered loss is likely not to exceed the deductible, and until it becomes apparent the loss exceeds the deductible and a claim is submitted to the association’s insurer, the unit owner’s policy is the primary policy for coverage.  So, the unit owner’s policy is primary, but only until it becomes clear that the damage will cost more to repair than the deductible.
  • For commercial condominium projects ( projects with no residential units), the insurance requirements of Utah Code 57-8-43 no longer apply for insurance policies issued or renewed after July 1, 2013.  For mixed-use projects (projects with both commercial and residential units), a commercial unit, including any fixture, improvement or betterment therein and including appurtenant limited common area, does not have to be insured by the association, unless the CC&Rs require it.
  • The Community Association Act is now applicable to any association with at least one residential lot (not just associations made up entirely of residential lots).  So, it will generally apply to mixed-use (commercial/residential) projects (except the insurance provisions were amended to not be applicable to commercial lots, the same as with condominium projects).

The following changes will not take effect until July 1, 2014:

  • The law will now authorize not only condos, but non-condo HOAs as well to access a unit or lot as necessary for maintenance, repair or replacement of common areas or for making an emergency repair, provided that 24 hours’ notice is given, or reasonable notice is given (or attempted) in an emergency.  The association is liable to repair damage it causes to the common areas or to a lot or unit the association uses to access common areas, and it must repair that damage within a reasonable time, except in developer-controlled community associations (where many of the laws in the Community Association Act don’t apply, thanks to legislators favoring developers much more than homeowners (contact your legislator and let them know favoring developers over homeowners isn’t acceptable!)).
  • The law authorizes a unit or lot owner to remove or alter a wall between two units or lots if the owner owns both units/lots, even if the wall is common area, unless restricted by the CC&Rs (most condo CC&Rs do, in fact, restrict this) and unless it would impair the structural integrity, mechanical systems or support of the building, the common areas, or a unit/lot.  The board may require the owner to submit, at the owner’s expense, an engineer’s or architect’s opinion stating that a proposed change will not impair the structural integrity or mechanical systems of the building or either lot, reduce the support or integrity of common areas, or compromise structural components.  The board may require the owner to pay all of the association’s legal and other expenses related to the proposed alteration, as well.  The removal or alteration of the wall does not change the assessment or voting right attributable to either of the units/lots (unless the CC&Rs say so).
  • The law also contains a procedure for the unlikely event that two or more associations want to consolidate or merge together into one association.

While these bills are not actually law until signed by the Governor, there is little chance that the Governor will veto any of them (I will, of course, let you know if he does).   (UPDATE: Each of these bills were signed by the Governor and are now law.)   The laws take effect May 14, 2013, except the ones mentioned above that don’t take effect until July 1, 2014.

As always, please note that none of the above is legal advice and should not be relied on as statements of the requirements of the law applicable to any particular scenario or circumstance.  The statutes themselves should be referred to for their exact and full contents and an attorney consulted with for application of any relevant law to a particular set of facts.


Utah LAC Issues Statement on SB 64 (Reserves)

February 22, 2013

By Curtis G. Kimble.

As many of you may know, the 2013 General Session of the Utah Legislature is in full swing on Capitol Hill.  A few bills enacting or amending HOA laws are in the works and I’ll be summarizing and commenting on those over the next couple of weeks.

As to one such bill, SB 64, CAI’s Utah Legislative Action Committee issued a position statement today coming down quite aggressively against it.  SB 64 amends the reserve funding requirements of Utah Code Sections 57-8-7.5 and 57-8a-211 and, if passed, will require an association to begin funding the reserve fund in the manner and amount determined by the vote of the owners within 90 days after the vote, and to file a certificate of compliance with the Department of Commerce within 30 days of starting to fund a reserve fund.  It also requires that if an association does not file a certificate of compliance within the required 30 days, the association may not levy a special assessment until it files a certificate of compliance.  View SB 64 here.  View the position statement here (I am not a member of ULAC and their position is not necessarily mine, nor mine theirs).

UPDATE March 1: view the substitute bill SB 64 here and a comparison of the changes to the original SB 64 here.

The original requirement of this law requiring the decision of whether to fund a reserve account to be made by a majority of those owners who happen to show up at the annual meeting, is one that I’ve always been opposed to for various reasons, not the least of which is that it unconstitutionally interferes with the obligation contained almost universally in preexisting HOA contracts (CC&Rs) that the board establish a reasonable reserve.  For reasons similar to those contained in the ULAC position statement, I am opposed to SB 64, as well.

If you have an opinion one way or the other on pending legislation, don’t be afraid to voice it to your representatives in the Legislature.  Follow this link to identify who they are and contact them: Utah State District Maps


5 Ways to Reduce Assessment Delinquencies

January 7, 2013

By Curtis G. Kimble.

Our law firm helps many HOA boards and managers collect past-due assessments (dues) from members.  Collecting on delinquencies is not easy work in any event, but it can inadvertently be made even more difficult than necessary by a manager or board.  Here are 5 ways to help ensure delinquencies can be collected in a timely manner.

1.  Have a collection policy in place and let your owners know about it.  A collection policy should explain due dates, when late charges are incurred, the interest rate on late amounts, returned check charges, and what actions will be taken on delinquent accounts and when.  At the same time, a collection policy should be somewhat flexible, rather than taking a hardline approach requiring a series of actions taken at set-in-stone dates.  Seek the advice of the association’s attorney because many laws and the association’s governing documents must be taken into consideration.  Finally, follow all the steps in the policy.

2.  Ensure the names and addresses of owners are accurate and up to date.  Sure, it’s generally the job of the owner to ensure the association has an accurate mailing address.  But, a board can avoid some headache by doing what they can to ensure accurate contact information.  Try to ensure actual contact with an owner is made before sending their account to collection.  Be aware of returned mail and vacant properties.  The primary complaints we see from owners are, “I’ve never heard anything from the association” and “if they had just knocked on my door and talked to me about it.”

It’s not a volunteer board member’s job to go knocking on doors to collect money, rather, it’s the individual owner’s duty to make sure their debts are paid.  Additionally, casual collection procedures that embarrass owners should be avoided.  But, communication is key, and communication can’t occur without accurate owner information.

3.  Implement effective procedures that will identify accounting errors.  Every HOA must use good, basic accounting practices.  I’m not saying every small association must strictly use GAAP (Generally Accepted Accounting Principles), which is a codification of how CPA firms and large corporations prepare and present their business income and expense, assets and liabilities on their financial statements.  But using a homemade accounting system on a spreadsheet or hand-written ledger can be a recipe for a mess and can significantly delay proper collection remedies.

Ideally, use bookkeeping software that will give you reasonable reports of every individual property account with a history of charges, payments, and a running balance.  Make notes that identify payments by check numbers and sender’s identity.  Identify charges to the individual’s account by item or purpose.  Be able to provide an accounting that will clarify the what and why of an individual’s balance at any given time.  When switching accounting systems or switching property managers, make sure to have a means or require a means of providing the history for any balance forward carried into the new system.

4.  Take action when assessments remain unpaid.  The association has rights that should be preserved early on with a delinquent account.  Follow the association’s collection policy.  Ensure letters are sent to the owner, a lien is filed against the property, and additional remedies are being pursued, as appropriate.  The more time passes, the harder it will be to collect.

5.  Take collection action uniformly and consistently with all owners who are delinquent.  Do not let personality conflicts or personal relationships factor into the actions taken on a delinquent account.  Treat all owners equally and fairly.

Associations that consistently follow good and effective practices, such as the ones listed above, have more success obtaining the cooperation of the owners and collecting delinquent assessments without having to resort to extreme legal measures.  Contact us if you’d like assistance implementing any of these practices or to help your association collect on delinquencies.


Exposing Common Myths in HOA Operations

October 25, 2012

By Curtis G. Kimble.

We frequently hear about and see associations acting on myths that seem to persist despite being clearly incorrect. Here are some of those myths and misunderstandings and the truth behind them:

1. An association can deny a request of a members to view the records of the association.

False.  An association member is generally entitled to view and inspect the records of the association upon making a proper request (with limited exceptions, such as for confidential or privileged records).  An association must either maintain its records in written form or in another form capable of conversion into written form within a reasonable time.  Every association should have a records retention policy to ensure the association keeps records for the proper period of time, to provide for the proper disposal of records, and to assist in making and complying with records requests.

2.  An association can require pre-approval for, or prohibit, small satellite dishes installed on owners’ porches, balconies and patios.

False, except  an owner (or installer) cannot drill through an exterior wall to install the dish.

The FCC has adopted a rule applicable to “Over-the-Air-Reception Devices” (“OTARD”).  OTARD prohibits HOA restrictions that impair the installation, maintenance or use of small satellite dishes in areas that are within the exclusive use or control of the dish user (such as limited common area).

The rule prohibits restrictions as to such areas that:  (1) unreasonably delay or prevent installation, maintenance or use;  (2) unreasonably increase the cost of installation, maintenance or use; or (3) preclude reception of an acceptable quality signal.

The rule does not apply to common areas (such as the roofs and exterior walls of a condominium building).  It only applies to areas within the exclusive use or control of the dish user.  So, an association can certainly restrict or prohibit satellite dishes from being installed on common area roofs and walls.  Additionally, the association can regulate dishes on limited common area to some degree.

Contact us for assistance adopting a satellite dish and antenna installation policy if you don’t already have one in place.

3. A director must abstain from voting on matters that the director has a conflict of interest in.

False.  As long as the underlying transaction being voted on is fair to the association, a director can have a conflict and still vote.  (Utah Code Sec. 16-6a-825).  However, it is highly discouraged that the director vote for several reasons, not the least of which is the difficulty in establishing that a transaction is fair and defining exactly what fair is.  If the conflicted director simply abstains from voting after fully disclosing to the board the material facts as to the conflicting interest transaction, then most conflict of interest problems will be cured.

4.  The association president has authority to make decisions and take actions on behalf of the association.

False, except to the extent the president is authorized by the board or by the bylaws to make decisions and take actions.  All powers of an association must be exercised by or under the authority of the the board and the business and affairs of the association must be managed under the direction of the board.  (Utah Code Sec. 16-6a-801).  The president has no independent authority to exercise the powers of the association or manage the business and affairs of the association.

The bylaws may authorize a person to exercise some or all of the powers that would otherwise be exercised by the board.  (Utah Code Sec. 16-6a-801).  And, the board can delegate certain authority of the board to a person (including the president).  (Utah Code Sec. 16-6a-819).  But, otherwise, the president and any other officer have no more authority than any member of the association.  It’s very important a board clearly authorize a president to perform the actions and make the decisions they expect him or her to carry out.  This authorization should be in a board resolution or reflected in the minutes of a board meeting.

5.  A board can adopt a rule about any issue they deem necessary.

False.  The board must have authority to restrict or regulate the specific subject of the rule.  This authority usually comes from the law or from the CC&Rs.  A general provision in the CC&Rs granting the right to adopt rules does not give a board the unfettered authority to restrict rights of individual owners, especially as to units or lots.  On the other hand, a board will usually have authority to adopt reasonable rules to govern use of the common property, to govern the use of individually owned property to protect the common property, and to protect the members’ use and enjoyment of their own property and the common property from interference caused by use of other individually owned lots or units.

An association should have a qualified attorney review a proposed rule before it is adopted, and have the attorney review existing rules periodically to ensure the rules are authorized under the governing documents and the law and that they don’t open the association to discrimination claims or present other problems.

6. The law regarding rental restrictions in the Condo Act applies to all condo projects, or the  law regarding rental restrictions in the Community Association Act applies to all community associations.

False.   Those laws don’t apply to the vast majority of associations out there.  Each of those laws only apply to associations where the original declaration is recorded after May 12, 2009.  So, if the community is older than 2009 (if the original CC&Rs were recorded before May 12, 2009), the rental restriction requirements in those two statutes do not apply to that association.

UPDATE 2015:  The two referenced laws (Utah Code 57-8-10.1 for condos, and 57-8a-209 for non-condos) apply to all HOAs who, on or after May 12, 2015, (1) adopt a rental restriction or prohibition, or (2) amend an existing rental restriction or prohibition.

7. The Utah reserve analysis law requires an association to have reserves.

False.  There is no state or federal law requiring a Utah homeowners association to have a reserve fund.  In fact, the law specifically requires an association to provide an opportunity for homeowners to vote on whether to fund a reserve fund.  Of course, many lenders, as well as FHA, require reserves.


Don’t Forget to Conduct a Reserve Analysis by July 1!

June 12, 2012

By Curtis G. Kimble.

The deadline for all HOA and condominium boards in Utah to conduct a “reserve analysis” is fast approaching.  By July 1, every  board (except developer-controlled boards) needs to obtain or perform a reserve analysis if no reserve analysis has been conducted since March 1, 2008.

A reserve analysis is an analysis to determine:

(a)     the need for a reserve fund to accumulate money to cover the cost of repairing, replacing, and restoring common areas and facilities that have a useful life of three years or more, but excluding any cost that can reasonably be funded from the general budget or other funds of the association; and

(b)     the appropriate amount of any reserve fund.

So, each board must:

  1. determine which improvements have a useful life of 3 years or more, then
  2. determine what the cost is for maintaining those improvements over the next several years, and then
  3. determine what they think the appropriate amount of the reserve fund should be.

There are no requirements in the law as to who has to perform the reserve analysis.  So, a board can perform the analysis or it can engage a professional to perform it.  There are several competent reserve study professionals serving the state of Utah.  There are also websites that will create your reserve study for you based on your input, and some will allow users to run “what if” scenarios with their components and funding plans.  A simple Google search will lead to those sites (I cannot vouch for the quality or value of such online services since I’ve never personally used them or analyzed their results).

There are many options when it comes to fulfilling the requirements of this law.  Each association should find the option that works best for them.

Don’t forget the law also requires each board to, annually, present the reserve study to the homeowners at the annual homeowner meeting or at a special meeting of the homeowners, and provide an opportunity for homeowners to discuss reserves and to vote on whether to fund a reserve fund and, if so, how to fund it and in what amount.  The association must also prepare and keep minutes of the meeting and indicate in the minutes any decision relating to funding a reserve fund.


Some Topical Updates on HOA Issues

March 16, 2012

By Curtis G. Kimble.

On our Facebook page, we share information, articles, links, and developments in condo and HOA issues, in addition to our more detailed posts on this blog.  For those of you who don’t subscribe to our Facebook page, I thought I’d pass on some recent links and news we’ve shared recently:

  • Condo Association Settles Lawsuit with Veteran over Service Dog  By Erin Alberty | The Salt Lake Tribune

“A Park City condo association will pay $20,000 to a disabled veteran, ending a legal conflict over whether the man should be forced to pay fees to keep a service dog that helps him cope with depression and anxiety.

The U.S. Justice Department sued the Fox Point at Redstone condo association and its management company in November, alleging that Thomas Burton, a combat veteran of the first Gulf War, was forced to move out of his rented condo because the association would not waive its pet fees and insurance requirements for Burton’s service dog . . .”   Read more here

  • Who Prepares Your Association’s Tax Return?   by Lisa Magill, Florida Condo and HOA Law Blog

“A Las Vegas HOA is currently fighting with the IRS over the question of whether $2 million held in the HOA’s savings account is subject to income tax at the rate of 30%.

Associations are generally organized as not-for-profit corporations (some older associations are not incorporated) and therefore must file tax returns like other not-for-profit corporations. Associations are not entitled to tax exempt status like charitable organizations. To be tax-exempt under section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code, an organization must be organized and operated exclusively for exempt purposes set forth in the Code. To be tax exempt under IRC 501(c)(4), a homeowners’ association must operate for the benefit of the general public, i.e., it must provide a community benefit – not a benefit to the owners or residents . . .”  Read more here

  • Although written in Virginia, the same principles apply in Utah:  Is It Time for Your Community Association to Audit Its Governing Documents?  By Susan Bradford Tarley.

“Many communities were established 20-40 years ago with governing documents that worked well for the developer, and for the most part the community association. However, many of these governing documents are outdated. Virginia and federal laws pertaining to community associations have changed substantially. If your board of directors has not engaged in an audit of your communities governing documents in the past 5-7 years, it should.

When should documents be amended?  Although there are many reasons for amending documents, these 7 reasons are the most common: . . .”   Read more here

If you would like to see more information, links and updates on condo and HOA issues in addition to the posts on this blog, be sure to like us on Facebook and you’ll see our Facebook posts in your Facebook feed.  A direct link is on the right of this page, or our page can be found here Richards, Kimble & Winn on Facebook


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