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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The Ups and Downs of the 2012 Utah Legislative Session

February 17, 2012

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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