Pop Quiz on New Utah HOA Laws

August 16, 2012

By Curtis G. Kimble.

Many changes were enacted to the laws that govern HOAs in Utah in 2011. We tested your knowledge a year ago soon after the changes went into effect.  How is your knowledge of these changes over a year later?  Take this short quiz and find out (answers at very bottom).

1. (First, a warm up question unrelated to the new laws) All homeowners associations in Utah are bound by the Utah Condominium Ownership Act.
 True

 False

2. In a condominium association, the management committee is required by law to keep detailed, accurate records in chronological order, of the receipts and expenditures affecting the common areas and facilities, specifying and itemizing the maintenance and repair expenses and any other expenses incurred, and is required to make those records available for examination by any unit owner at convenient hours of weekdays no later than _____ days after the unit owner makes a written request to examine the records:
 0, they must be available upon request

 5

 14

 30

3. In a community association (non-condo HOA), a rule ______ regulate the content of political signs and a rule ________ regulate the time, place, and manner of posting a political sign.
 may not . . . may not

 may not . . . may

 may . . . may not

 may . . . may

4. A rule may not be inconsistent with:
 the declaration (CC&Rs)

 the bylaws

 the articles of incorporation

 all of the above

 none of the above, a rule supersedes each of the above

5. In a community association (non-condo HOA), before adopting, modifying, or creating exceptions to the rules and design criteria of the association, the board must:
 A. at least 15 days before the board will meet to consider a change to a rule or design criterion, deliver notice to lot owners that the board is considering a change to a rule or design criterion

 B. provide an open forum at the board meeting giving lot owners an opportunity to be heard at a board meeting

 C. deliver a copy of the change in the rules or design criteria approved by the board to the lot owners within 15 days of adoption.

 D. all of the above

 E. A and C but not B

6. If provided in the declaration, articles, bylaws, or rules, an association may provide notice to its members by electronic means, including text message, email, or the association’s website.
 True

 False

 True, except as to a member who has made written demand to the association to provide notice to the member by mail.

 False, except as to members who have consented in writing beforehand.

 

Don’t look below until you’ve finished!  Warning – answers below!

Now grade yourself.  Here are the answers:

1.  False, only condominiums are governed by the Utah Condominium Ownership Act.

2.  14 days

3.  may not . . . may.

4.  D.  all of the above

5.  all of the above

6.  True, except as to a member who has made written demand to the association to provide notice to the member by mail

Thanks for playing!

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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.


Don’t be a Hater! Or Your Peeps Will Accuse the Board of Selective Enforcement

July 22, 2011

As illustrated in this comical but true story: “Chris Brown on Condo Complaints: I’m Being Setup by Haters!” it’s vitally important that an association’s governing documents are in order and that they clearly outline the rights of each owner, including rights to parking spaces.  If parking spaces must be used as handicap spaces at some point due to a Fair Housing request, ensure that the whole process is done legally and properly under the governing documents and the law.  Consult professionals as needed, especially an attorney in the case of a Fair Housing request for reasonable accommodation.

The story in that link above also brings to mind the importance of clear and specific enforcement provisions in the governing documents.  If someone scratches their initials in the elevator, can you fine them?  What about excessive noise or other vandalism?

Perhaps most importantly, this story shows the importance of treating members equally and fairly.  In HOAs, the stakes are high.  Financially, the home is a major investment.  Psychologically, it may be even more important as a safe haven and source of security.  On the other hand, living in an HOA requires some sacrifices of individual freedom for the communal good.  The sacrifices must be fairly shared, however.  Unequal treatment of members who are similarly situated will lead to issues more serious than being called a hater.  The number one problem we see is when personality issues are the impetus behind an enforcement issue, rather than the goal of equal, consistent and uniform enforcement.  Contact us for guidance in any enforcement situation where determining what is fair is causing or may cause difficulty.

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


New Laws on Rule-Making Procedures & Authority

May 2, 2011

Two new laws that go into effect on May 10, 2011, deal with rule-making authority and procedures in non-condo HOA’s.  These two new laws will become part of the Utah Community Association Act (but not part of the Utah Condo Act, so you condominiums can ignore them).

Utah Code § 57-8a-217.  From now on, before a board can adopt or change a rule (including architectural guidelines or design criteria), they have to provide an open forum at a board meeting giving lot owners an opportunity to be heard.  The board has to send out notice at least 15 days before that board meeting to every owner stating that the board is considering a change to a rule.  The board also has to send out notice within 15 days after a new rule is adopted.

This means a board has to listen to homeowner concerns before it makes a final decision.  The board does not need to conduct a vote of the homeowners to adopt a rule.  The decision to initially adopt a new rule is still entirely up to the board.

However,  the homeowners can disapprove a new rule by calling a special meeting within 60 days from the date it was adopted.  If 51% of the total votes in the association vote to disapprove the rule at the special meeting, then the rule will be nullified.  The procedure for lot owners to call a special meeting is usually set forth in the bylaws or CC&Rs.  The board has no obligation to call a meeting of the lot owners to consider disapproval unless lot owners submit a petition in accordance with the procedures in the bylaws or CC&Rs.

This is a big change, and an unfortunate one at that.  While it has value as a “checks and balances” type recourse for homeowners faced with unfair or inappropriate rules, it simply goes too far and is much too burdensome, especially for larger HOAs.  The law doesn’t go into effect until May 10, so it doesn’t apply to any rules a board adopts before then (so you’ve still got a few days to adopt that rule you’ve been putting off adopting without having to go through these new steps).

Utah Code § 57-8a-218.  This law mostly just restates common sense and common law principles regarding rules that I and other HOA attorneys have long been preaching (e.g., a rule must be reasonable, an association can adopt generally applicable rules for the use of common areas, and a rule can’t be contrary to the CC&Rs).

However, a couple of new things do come out of it.  For one, it states that an association may require a minimum lease term by rule alone (as long as it wouldn’t be contrary to the CC&Rs).  So, if you don’t have such a rental restriction in your CC&Rs already, the board can simply adopt a rule prohibiting rentals of less than X amount of time (e.g., 30 days, 6 months, 1 year).

Another thing that’s helpful in this law is that, even if not authorized in the CC&Rs, now an association may by rule:

  • impose a fee or charge 1. for the use, rental, or operation of the common areas, and 2. for a service provided to a lot owner, or
  • impose a late fee for late payments.

Finally, the law states that a rule may prohibit smoking inside attached dwellings (e.g., townhomes) if such smoking “creates the potential for smoke to enter a neighboring unit, the common areas, or limited common areas.”  So, for instance, without amending the CC&Rs, an association could adopt a policy stating that smoking is prohibited anywhere, including inside a unit, if it is possible that smoke will drift into another unit or into the common area or limited common area.

This new law parallels the existing law in the Utah Condo Act and it underscores the Utah Legislature’s position that smoking is a health and safety issue first and foremost.  Smoking is not a right, but rather it is every homeowner’s right to enjoy their dwelling free from the carcinogens and health hazards forced upon them at the whim of their smoking neighbors.  That is why the law provides that this is not an issue that needs to be voted on by the homeowners, a board can simply adopt a rule protecting the health of the residents and the livability of the units.

Curtis G. Kimble


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