The Results Are In: The 2012 Utah Legislative Session

March 8, 2012

By Curtis G. Kimble.

The 2012 general session of the Utah Legislature ends tonight at midnight and only one small change to a current law and no new laws affecting condominiums and homeowners associations were passed this year.  This is probably welcome news to the many boards and management committees that were likely more than a little overwhelmed by last year’s many changes.

The only change this year is to the law regarding reserve studies.  A board is required to conduct a reserve study every five years and to review and update it every two years.  But, when S.B. 56 goes into effect on May 8 of this year (assuming it’s signed by the Governor), a board will only have to conduct a reserve study every six years and review and update it every three years.  While industry professionals generally agree that a reserve study should be updated more frequently than that, even annually, and many states require an annual review and update of a reserve study, this change to the law will take some pressure off boards.

No other new laws or changes affecting condos and HOAs will go into effect this year.  Next year, expect to see more significant changes proposed that haven’t been seen yet.  I have a feeling we can also expect to see that Ombudsman bill (H.B. 56) that I explained here proposed yet again.

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Home Ownership and Second Hand Smoke: the American Dream or a Health Nightmare?

January 20, 2012

By Curtis G. Kimble.

How far can a government or an HOA go to dictate what can and can’t be done inside of a homeowners own home? Is an owner of an attached dwelling or a condominium unit able to do whatever they want within the confines of their home as long as it’s not illegal? Is a homeowner entitled to create and distribute from their home a “Class A” carcinogenic substance, which causes cancer and respiratory diseases and disorders, among other problems and which is able to infiltrate neighboring homes?

This is a question being increasingly asked in other states where some state courts have held that smoke transferring between units is a nuisance. But others have determined that the cigarette smoke is like an odor intrusion, a condition of living in a community environment that residents simply have to put up with – a startlingly misguided mentality considering the fact that the EPA has determined that there is no acceptable level of exposure to Class A carcinogens, and considering that second hand smoke causes serious problems for children, including ear problems, middle ear disease, acute respiratory infections, wheeze illness, slowed lung growth, and more severe asthma, and that 430 American newborns die each year from Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) caused by second hand smoke.

Incentives offered by the Federal Government have led cities from Austin to Boston to prohibit smoking in public housing. In 2006, a judge ruled that secondhand smoke could be a breach of “warranty of habitability” under New York law.  At least six California cities and counties have banned smoking in all condo units.

Fortunately for Utah residents who don’t appreciate dangerous and toxic chemicals being forced down their breathing passages, Utah law clearly states that smoke transferring between dwelling units is a nuisance and may be the subject of an action brought by “any person whose property is injuriously affected, or whose personal enjoyment is lessened by the nuisance” and “upon judgment, the nuisance may be enjoined or abated, and damages may be recovered.”

A nuisance under Utah law includes tobacco smoke that drifts into any residential unit a person rents, leases, or owns, from another residential or commercial unit and the smoke drifts in more than once in each of two or more consecutive seven-day periods, and is injurious to health, indecent, offensive to the senses, or an obstruction to the free use of property, so as to interfere with the comfortable enjoyment of life or property.

The Utah Condominium Ownership Act states that restrictions in governing documents “regarding the use of the units may include other prohibitions on, or allowance of, smoking tobacco products.”

The Utah Community Association Act, which applies to non-condo HOAs, states that a rule of an association may prohibit an activity within a dwelling if there are attached dwellings, and the activity creates the potential for smoke to enter another lot owner’s dwelling, the common areas, or limited common areas.

Utah law is at the forefront of the national trend to protect the right of every individual to live in their own homes without being subjected to dangerous and toxic chemicals contained in second hand smoke. Contact us to take advantage of these laws and help your association adopt a policy regarding smoking.


It’s Annual Meeting Season

November 10, 2011

By Curtis G. Kimble

It’s that time of the year for many associations – annual meeting season – which means every board will need to remember the new Utah laws and how to comply with them as they prepare for their association’s annual meeting.

Here are some of the key points to remember:

1.  The association’s reserve analysis or reserve study has to be presented to the members at the annual meeting each year.  The members at the meeting vote on whether to fund a reserve account and, if so, how to fund it and in what amount.  The results of that vote have to be reflected in the minutes of the meeting.

Utah law requires that every five years, a homeowner-elected board must perform, or hire someone to perform, a reserve analysis by (1) determining which improvements have a useful life of 3 years or more, then (2) determining what the cost is for maintaining those improvements over the next several years, and (3) then determining what they think the appropriate amount of the reserve fund should be.

The reserve analysis has to be reviewed and, if needed, updated every two years.  The money in the reserve fund has to be kept separate from other funds and may not be used for daily maintenance expenses, unless approved by the owners, or for any other purpose other than the purpose for which the reserve fund was established.  For associations who haven’t conducted a reserve analysis since March 1, 2008 (or ever),  the law requires them to do one by July 1, 2012.

2.  Update your association’s registration info with Utah’s Homeowners Association Registry within 90 days of any change.  Be sure to update the information with the Registry if new directors or officers are elected, as appropriate.

The consequence for not registering an HOA and keeping the registration information current is that the HOA will not be able to enforce its liens against delinquent homeowners.  It’s imperative that every HOA register and keep their info current with the state or they will lose their lien rights when collecting past-due assessments, which could have drastic effects on the HOA’s operations and finances.

3.  For non-condominium homeowners associations (single family homes, PUDs, townhomes, etc.), every homeowner-elected board is required to adopt a budget annually and to then present that budget to the homeowners at a meeting.  Since the budget will have already been adopted by the board, there is no requirement that the homeowners vote to approve the budget at the meeting.   The homeowners can, however, call a special meeting within 45 days of the first meeting and vote to disapprove the budget.  The budget will be disapproved if 51% of the total votes in the association vote to disapprove it “at a special meeting specifically called for that purpose by the lot owners.”

While that budget law doesn’t apply to condominium associations, the bylaws may contain certain requirements regarding adopting a budget.  Do you know what your bylaws say regarding budgets?

4.  Don’t forget requirements in the bylaws or other governing documents.  For instance, do you know if your bylaws require the annual meeting to be on a certain date and at a certain time?  Or if a certain notice timeframe is required?  The overarching requirement applicable to all associations is that notice of the meeting must be given and the notice must be given in a fair and reasonable manner (mailing out notices the night before the meeting won’t cut it).

5.  Don’t forget the requirements of the Utah Nonprofit Corporation Act.  For incorporated associations, the notice of an annual meeting must include a description of any matter that must be approved by the members.  Also, unless otherwise provided by the bylaws, if a meeting of members is adjourned to a different date, notice does not have to be given of the new date, if the new date is announced at the meeting before adjournment.

What about when a home is in the middle of being sold, do you know who is entitled to notice and who is entitled to vote (the buyer or seller)?  The bylaws may fix a date as the record date for determining the members entitled to vote at, and to notice of, a members’ meeting.  If the bylaws do not provide for fixing a record date, the board of directors may fix a future date as the record date.  If a record date is not fixed by either of those methods, members entitled to notice of the meeting are the members at the close of business on the business day preceding the day on which notice is given and members entitled to vote at the meeting are the members on the date of the meeting and who are otherwise eligible to vote.

Contact us if you have questions about interpreting or complying with your governing documents or the law this annual meeting season.


Answers to the Quiz and Announcement of Experts

August 19, 2011

The results are in.  I purposely designed this quiz to be difficult with subtleties that almost amounted to trick questions, and sure enough, it was a difficult quiz.  But, a few experts emerged from the results (if you haven’t taken the quiz yet, go here (link), and take the quiz and then come back and review the answers below).

Congratulations to the following high scorers who have proven that they are not mere layman in the HOA realm:

  • Michael Johnson, FCS Community Management
  • Vernon Rice, Northpoint Homeowners Association
  • Harold Alston, The Cottonwoods Condominium Homes
The fastest submittal with the highest score and the winner of the grand prize $25 Amazon gift card is Michael Johnson (you should receive the gift card emailed to you shortly, contact me if you don’t).

DO NOT READ FURTHER if you haven’t taken the quiz yet!

Here are the answers (in bold):

1. Each board has to present the issue of reserve funding to the association members for discussion and a vote:

  •  √ every year. 
  •  every two years.
  •  never because the board decides reserve funding issues.
  •  never because the law has reserve funding requirements.

2. A board is required to conduct or have conducted a reserve study every _____ years and review and if necessary update it every ______ year(s).

  •  3 … 1
  •  √ 5 … 2 
  •  7 … 3
  •  It depends on the outcome of a vote of the members.

UPDATE:  As of May, 2012, a board is required to conduct or have conducted a reserve study every 6 years and review and if necessary update it every 3 years

3. Every HOA is now required by law to register both as an HOA and as a nonprofit corporation.

  •  True
  •   √ False  (it is not required by law that an HOA be a nonprofit corporation)

4. For claims on the association master insurance policy associated with a particular unit or lot, the association can require that unit owner to pay the deductible if:

  •  the association has set aside an amount equal to the deductible.
  •  it is authorized by a governing document of the association.
  •  the owner is at fault (caused the incident or was negligent).
  •  √ all owners had been notified of the deductible responsibility.

5. Every HOA in the state has to update their HOA registration information with the Department of Commerce:

  •  annually.
  •  within 30 days of a change in the information.
  •  within 90 days of a change in the information. 
  •  never because only an initial one-time registration is required.

6. A board can use reserves funds in an emergency for daily maintenance expenses:

  •  only once in a 2 year period.
  •  if authorized by the association governing documents.
  •  √ after receiving approval from a majority of the members. 
  •  Never.

7. During any period that an HOA fails to be properly registered with the state, the HOA:

  •  cannot file a lien against any unit or lot.
  •  cannot enforce a previous lien against a unit or lot.
  •  can seek a judgment against an owner for past due amounts.
  •  √ all of the above.  (The HOA can still pursue a personal judgment against a delinquent owner or past owner, even if it can’t enforce a lien.  Remember, assessments are both a personal obligation of an owner (meaning the HOA can pursue the personal assets of the owner for payment) and a lien on the property (meaning the HOA can pursue the property itself, by foreclosure or by effectively preventing its sale because of a recorded notice of lien)).

Thanks for playing!

Curtis G. Kimble


Test Your Knowledge of the New Utah HOA Laws (for a Prize!)

August 17, 2011

2011 was a significant year for HOAs in Utah and the laws that govern them.  Many new laws and changes were enacted.  How does your knowledge of these changes stack up?  Take this short quiz and find out!  (Note that the quiz is best taken and submitted on our blog itself, for those that receive this post by email).

A $25 Amazon gift card will be awarded to the person scoring the highest and submitting it the quickest after this post is published.  In a few days, I’ll post the answers, as well as the names of those that scored the highest so they can brag about their expertise to other board members, homeowners, or clients.  To submit your answers, fill in your name, email and association or management company and hit submit below.

1. Each board has to present the issue of reserve funding to the association members for discussion and a vote:
 every year.

 every two years.

 never because the board decides reserve funding issues.

 never because the law has reserve funding requirements.

2. A board is required to conduct or have conducted a reserve study every _____ years and review and if necessary update it every ______ year(s).
 3 … 1

 5 … 2

 7 … 3

 It depends on the outcome of a vote of the members.

3. Every HOA is now required by law to register both as an HOA and as a nonprofit corporation.

 True

 False

4. For claims on the association master insurance policy associated with a particular unit or lot, the association can require that unit owner to pay the deductible if:

 the association has set aside an amount equal to the deductible.

 it is authorized by a governing document of the association.

 the owner is at fault (caused the incident or was negligent).

 all owners had been notified of the deductible responsibility.

5. Every HOA in the state has to update their HOA registration information with the Department of Commerce:

 annually.

 within 30 days of a change in the information.

 within 90 days of a change in the information.

 never because only an initial one-time registration is required.

6. A board can use reserves funds in an emergency for daily maintenance expenses:

 only once in a 2 year period.

 if authorized by the association governing documents.

 after receiving approval from a majority of the members.

 Never.

7. During any period that an HOA fails to be properly registered with the state, the HOA:

 cannot file a lien against any unit or lot.

 cannot enforce a previous lien against a unit or lot.

 can seek a judgment against an owner for past due amounts.

 all of the above.

Update: The quiz is closed, but check out the answers to the quiz by clicking here.   Thanks for playing!

Curtis G. Kimble


Utah HOA Registry Now Operational

June 16, 2011

The Utah HOA Registry required by a new Utah law is now up and operational on the website of the Utah Department of Commerce.  As discussed in our blog entry (click here to read it), all HOAs must register with the Department of Commerce by July 1st.   Here’s a link to the registry (note that you do have to create an account to view or register an HOA, but creating an account is free): secure.utah.gov/hoa

It is crucial that you register using the exact same name as the corporate entity of the  HOA, as it is stated in the articles of incorporation and as it is registered with the Division of Corporations & Commercial Code.  For example, if an HOA is a nonprofit corporation with the name “Whiteacre Homeowners Association,” do not register the association in the HOA registry as “White Acre Homeowners Association.”  This is very important because a search on the HOA Registry for White Acre will not bring up Whiteacre.

This concept applies to all business dealings for an HOA.  It must conduct business using its proper corporate name, not the name of the subdivision itself or some other name or variation of the name that isn’t registered as a Utah business entity.  Click here to look up an incorporated HOA to see exactly how it is listed as a corporation:  https://secure.utah.gov/bes/action/index

Curtis G. Kimble


How the New Laws Affect You: Non-Condos

June 2, 2011

For non-condo HOAs (all HOAs except condominiums), here’s a summary of how the new Utah HOA laws that went into effect on May 10, 2011, affect you most, as well as some recommended “action items.”  Contact us for help with any action item.  Also, see the other posts on this blog for more detail on the new laws.  This blog does not contain a comprehensive list of the new laws, just those that affect your daily operations the most.

1.  Register or No Lien.  Register as an HOA (separate and apart from registering as a nonprofit corporation) with the State of Utah and keep it updated when directors change, or else you can’t enforce any liens against delinquent owners.  *Action item:  subscribe to this blog (on the right side of this page under “Email Subscription”) and we’ll post the info on how to register as soon as we know about it.

2.  Insurance.  All HOAs in Utah must have property and liability insurance coverage for their common areas (this was not required before in non-condominium HOAs).

Unless the CC&Rs require each homeowner to insure the homeowner’s dwelling, all HOAs with attached housing (such as townhomes) are required to have 100% replacement cost coverage for all permanent improvements, including fixtures and betterments to an attached dwelling made by a homeowner.  The association must set aside an amount equal to the amount of the deductible (or $10,000, whichever is less).  The master policy must be primary, even for unit related losses.   However, the law gives the HOA a method to allocate or transfer risk to the homeowner or homeowner’s policy.  For claims against the association’s master policy which are associated with a particular home, the association can require that homeowner to pay the deductible if a notice had already been sent to all homeowners stating they will be responsible for the deductible on the association’s master policy.  *Action item: send notice to all owners regarding payment of the deductible, and make sure your deductible is somewhere in the $2,500 to $10,000 range to reduce minor or frivolous claims against the master policy by homeowners that drive up the premiums.

3.  Rules.  As of May 10th, rules can no longer be changed or adopted without giving notice to all homeowners 15 days in advance of the board meeting where the rule change will be considered and allowing homeowners an opportunity to be heard at that meeting.  The new or changed rule must then be sent out to all homeowners within 15 days of being adopted.  The homeowners can call a special meeting and disapprove a new rule within 60 days from the date it was adopted, if 51% of the total votes in the association vote to disapprove at the special meeting.

4.  Payoff Info.  An association is now prohibited from charging a fee for providing payoff information needed for closing on a unit, unless the fee is authorized by the CC&Rs, bylaws or rules, and, no matter what, the fee can’t exceed $50.  Payoff information must be provided by the HOA within five business days from when a closing agent makes a proper request for it (has to be in writing, signed and dated by the owner, etc.), or the lien is not enforceable at closing.

When a unit owner is closing on a unit and the owner needs payoff information because he or she has not been paying their share of the common expenses, providing that payoff information is an administrative burden on the HOA that is appropriately paid for by the offending/delinquent owner, not by the other paying owners.   *Action item:  adopt a rule authorizing a fee for providing payoff information.

5.  Reserves.  Every five years, a homeowner-elected board must perform, or hire someone to perform, a reserve analysis by (1) determining which improvements have a useful life of 3 years or more, then (2) determining what the cost is for maintaining those improvements over the next several years, and (3) then determining what they think the appropriate amount of the reserve fund should be.

The reserve analysis has to be reviewed and, if needed, updated every two years.  The reserve analysis has to be presented to the homeowners at the annual meeting each year where the homeowners at the meeting vote on whether to fund a reserve account and, if so, how to fund it and in what amount.  The results of that vote have to be reflected in the minutes.

The money in the reserve fund has to be kept separate from other funds and may not be used for daily maintenance expenses, unless approved by the owners, or for any other purpose other than the purpose for which the reserve fund was established.  *Action Item: for those who haven’t conducted a reserve analysis since March 1, 2008,  the law requires you to do one by July 1, 2012.

6.  Budgets.  A new law requires a homeowner-elected board to adopt a budget annually and to then present that budget to the homeowners at a meeting.  Since the budget will have already been adopted by the board, there is no requirement that the homeowners vote to approve the budget at the meeting.   The homeowners can, however, call a special meeting within 45 days of the first meeting and vote to disapprove the budget.  The budget will be disapproved if 51% of the total votes in the association vote to disapprove it “at a special meeting specifically called for that purpose by the lot owners.”

7.  Electronic Notice.  A new law states that you can provide notice to homeowners solely by electronic means (e.g., email, website) if authorized by your CC&Rs, bylaws, or rules (unless a homeowner opts out in writing).  *Action Item: adopt a rule authorizing electronic notice instead of notice by mail, at least for certain things.

Curtis G. Kimble


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