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Make your Voices Known

This is a very busy time of the year if you have support from other members of your HOA or Condo Association that could improve State laws that affect members of these Associations. The Legislatures in WA and Oregon usually begin drafting bills in the Fall at this time of the year, a few months before the cutoff date when members of the Legislature cannot submit additional new legislative measures for consideration. That does not mean that the legislative measures cannot be amended. But, if you have Senators or House Representatives who may support your proposal, it would be a good time to contact them about sponsoring your proposal or an amendment to an existing proposal.

During this past year, I read many comments from people who were alarmed that their property rights, protected by the U.S. Constitution, are not protected as members of HOAs and Condo Associations. However, based on a little research of a number of existing State Laws that govern HOAs and Condo Associations, you may find that only a few sentences in an existing State law could be added that will stop an abusive Board from violating your rights. In other words, it should not be necessary to file a civil lawsuit that could cost thousands of dollars when a few sentences could make it impossible for Boards to circumvent State laws or governing documents that may have to many loopholes.

One of the easiest ways for members to get the attention and respect from a Board is to gain more control over the Budget and Disbursements from Reserve Funds. For example, in WA an HOA's members can reject the Board's proposed budget; but it takes a vote from the owners of 51 percent of the lots in the HOA. This requirement seems unreasonable to me because if the members cannot satisfy this requirement, the Board's budget is adopted. However, consider how much better members would be treated if the Board also needed a vote of the owners of 51 percent of the lots in an HOA. In Oregon, I believe that the Board adopts the Budget,which means that members have to either replace a Board of live with the consequences of the Board's budget.

Even without relying on the changing State laws, if members carefully read their governing documents and State Laws that govern HOAs and Condo Associations, members will find laws that protect members. But, it is best to find support from other members when presenting concerns to their Boards, because one person can be dismissed as a trouble-maker even if one person is stating a legitimate concern that the Board opposes.

For example, WA's Case Law refers to important lawsuits that eventually are presented to the WA Appellate Court or WA Supreme Court where the judges can rule on issues that may not have been addressed by WA's laws that govern HOA and Condo Associations. For example, the WA Appellate Court established Case Law prohibiting the adoption of amendments that add burdensome changes to an HOA’s original covenants addressed in (Meresse v. Stelma (2000); and the WA Supreme Court's ruling for Wilkinson v. Chiwawa Communities Association (2014) in supported the Appellate Court's decision set for Meresse v. Stelma (2000) by stating “The law will not subject a minority of landowners to unlimited and unexpected restrictions on the use of their land merely because the covenant agreement permitted a majority to make changes to existing covenants”. The WA Supreme Court also added for Wilkinson v. Chiwawa Communities Association (2014) that if an amendment to the HOA's governing documents changes the stated purpose of the HOA such that a single member is adversely impacted by it, then the amendment is null and void unless owners of 100% of HOA's lots adopt it.


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