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Subject:  Chance to ask HOA attorney questions at no charge to HOA
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KerryL1
(California)

Posts:6350


10/19/2016 4:46 PM  
Our annual meeting is on 10/27. As a part of our retainer to his firm, our GC attends two meetings a year at no charge and one is the annual meeting.

He sits at the table with the Board, and while ballots are being counted, he fields questions from directors and members (Owners). He's friendly and approachable. If you had the opportunity to ask your HOA attorney any questions you like, what would they be??

Last year, I asked about vacation rentals. Other questions have been what to do about "dysfunctional boards," and if owners can review our vendors' employees' salaries.
MarkM31
(Washington)

Posts:443


10/19/2016 8:29 PM  
Posted By KerryL1 on 10/19/2016 4:46 PM
. Other questions have been what to do about "dysfunctional boards," and if owners can review our vendors' employees' salaries.




And what did he say? My guesses:
1) Run, and get like minded folks involved also
2) No
SheliaH
(Indiana)

Posts:2465


10/20/2016 6:38 AM  
I might ask about best practices regarding rules enforcement - documenting problems, appeal rights, alternative dispute resolution (I'm really interested in that being an alternative to court, whenever possible) and stuff like that there
KerryL1
(California)

Posts:6350


10/20/2016 8:47 AM  
I especially like the ADR question and related about IDR.

Those were his answers, Mark, but what would your questions be??
MarkM31
(Washington)

Posts:443


10/20/2016 8:55 AM  
I actually can't think of one right now. I like to keep up on the bylaws and CC&Rs, and don't feel the need to ask for somebodies interpretation of what they say when I could read it myself. Asking questions that one could be better off researching oneself is likely to get an answer that is either off the cuff, variable or not applicable because of the weird wording of the original question.
MelissaP1
(Alabama)

Posts:8082


10/20/2016 10:56 AM  
Are you the type of lawyer who will do what I tell you to do or will you discuss other options? What scope of work do you offer? How are we being charged? (Do they charge per phone call, email, or office consultation?).

I find that having a lawyer that says "I will do what you tell me to do" isn't the lawyer to have... You want a lawyer you can use as a tool to get things done. Example: Your HOA is better off filing a lien than lawsuit for unpaid dues. If the lawyer doesn't tell you about the lien process and goes with the lawsuit just because you tell him to.. It's time to find another lawyer... Most people think lawsuits are how one handle legal issues in a HOA. So they go to their lawyer and say "sue". They should be going to their lawyer and say "File a lien"....

Former HOA President
KerryL1
(California)

Posts:6350


10/20/2016 11:24 AM  
The Board has seen this attorney's work due to opinions he's written for us about our extremely complicated budgets, so we're not interviewing him at all. He's been our GC for about 3 years. The ways that we are charged are clearly stated in our contract with his firm. Phone calls are free in our $500/ann. retainer. Even if he writes a reply, if no research was involved, he hasn't charged us.

We have a separate collections legal firm for delinquencies, liens, etc.

Doubt, Mark, that any of us would have questions about our CC&Rs for the reason you state. And I'm pretty sure Owners won't either. But, when asked in the past what the most frequent legal questions are that he gets, he did reply interpretations of CC&Rs concerning maintenance obligations (in high rise condos) is very common.

But that reminds me that 2 years ago an the annual meeting, an Owner asked him his opinion of a particular CC&R of ours concerning the legit ways we can use dues; the Owner gave him a copy. Some directors wanted to include about $2,000/ann. in our budget for holiday bonuses for our appx. 15 staffers who work for our vendors. The CC&R didn't seem to indicate that we could. He did write an opinion saying the board had discretion in this area: If we felt bonuses could incentivize the workers, it was reasonable of have it in the Onwers' dues. He did charge for that, $225, I think. (The board ultimately voted against it.)

In CA, our state laws that govern CIDs (common interest developments) are numerous and I suspect some questions, at least from directors, will involve interpretations of state laws.
JohnC46
(South Carolina)

Posts:8268


10/20/2016 1:20 PM  
Difficult question to answer as it would depend on one deens. As an example in our single family HOA we could care less about elevators and parking garages by they could be hot buttons for others.

That said, I would ask how our BOD can raise assessments. Though I know the answer and I believe it is clear in our Covenants, it is my hot button as I believe we need an increase.
JeffT2
(Iowa)

Posts:465


10/20/2016 1:32 PM  
If a water leak starts in an owner's unit, does the owner have strict liability for all damage below? Is the answer the same for most associations, or just your association based on your documents?
KerryL1
(California)

Posts:6350


10/20/2016 3:51 PM  
Really like that question, Jeff. The biggest source of problems in high rises water leaks and the damage they may cause. Who's responsible for what kinds of leaks?? Our 200+ residential units probably generate 5-6 a year that emanate from unit's (vs common areas leaks). Usually overflowing kitchen sinks or washing machines. (We, of course, must determine if, say the sink overflow is due to a common area clog or is the Owner's issue.

I'm going to ask our GC that question at the annual meeting because I think his reply will be interesting & informative for Owners in attendance (probably 25 or so).
KerryL1
(California)

Posts:6350


10/20/2016 3:54 PM  
Really like that question, Jeff.

The biggest source of problems in high rises are water leaks and the damage they cause. Who's responsible for what kinds of leaks?? Our 200+ residential units probably generate 5-6 a year that emanate from unit's (vs common areas leaks). Usually overflowing kitchen sinks or washing machines. (We, of course, must determine if, say, the sink overflow is due to a common area clog or is the Owner's issue. The plumber's bill generally specifies the cause.

I'm going to ask our GC that question at the annual meeting because I think his reply will be interesting & informative for Owners in attendance (probably 25 or so).
JeffT2
(Iowa)

Posts:465


10/21/2016 9:20 AM  
Posted By KerryL1 on 10/20/2016 3:54 PM
Really like that question, Jeff.

The biggest source of problems in high rises are water leaks and the damage they cause. Who's responsible for what kinds of leaks?? Our 200+ residential units probably generate 5-6 a year that emanate from unit's (vs common areas leaks). Usually overflowing kitchen sinks or washing machines. (We, of course, must determine if, say, the sink overflow is due to a common area clog or is the Owner's issue. The plumber's bill generally specifies the cause.

I'm going to ask our GC that question at the annual meeting because I think his reply will be interesting & informative for Owners in attendance (probably 25 or so).



Kerry, in my association (and I think most that don't have a specific policy), the upstair's owner has to be careless or negligent in order to pay for damage downstairs. "Strict liability" is not in our governing docs, but I think it might be in your docs. Interesting to know for sure.

An overflowing kitchen sink is probably negligence on the part of the owner, who should watch to prevent it, but the unexpected failure of a washing machine is probably not negligence on the part of an owner. The kitchen sink owner would be liable, but the washing machine owner would not be liable (in my association).
KerryL1
(California)

Posts:6350


10/21/2016 12:54 PM  
Thanks, Jess. without going to my CC&Rs, I don't believe the term "strict liability" is used.

Owners or their insurance have paid for damage below done by overflowing washing machines. The most recent incident was a resident who decided to stuff a bunch of decorator pillows in her washer. If a washing machine fails, here, the Owner is responsible just as they are if their fridge icemaker connection fails or is installed improperly, or if their garbage disposal is old and fails causing flooding.
SheliaH
(Indiana)

Posts:2465


10/24/2016 1:09 PM  
Instead of a Q & A about anything and everything, how about having your attorney making a brief presentation on an issue like clarifying what the association is responsible for vs. the homeowner? If your association has some sort of list divving up that stuff, the attorney could make a few observations and then open up the floor to questions. Obviously, this could turn into an all night thing, so you may want to ask him to narrow the focus somewhat - additional questions might eventually morph into a special homeowner's meeting on the topic.

In fact, the annual meeting might be a good time to bring in all your vendors so everyone will know what they are and what they do. Every year, you could feature one who might give a presentation on something like - what you can do to keep your plumbing from becoming someone else's problem
KerryL1
(California)

Posts:6350


10/25/2016 6:49 PM  
You're always thinking, Sheila--in a good way.

I do think we can ask a few questions about Owner vs. HOA responsibility without getting too detailed. In these high rise condos, the responsibilities often seem ambiguous and, sad to say we don't have a good list divvying up the responsibilities--it's one reason our CC&Rs need to be re-written.

the setting this Th. is very informal, the GC'll sit at the conference table once balloting is closed and the inspectors outside in our lobby start counting. He leave the table from time to time to observe the inspectors a bit. The 25-50 Owners who'll attend also will come and go as a wine bar & some appetizers also willb win the lobby. In the past, very few questions have come to our attorney, but I think this year might be different. We have quite a few new owners who seem to wan to learn more about our HOA & have attnded a few open board meetings.

Because of our twin towers, we do have maybe 16-20 contracts & these don't seem to interest Owners at all.

I am actually going to ask him to explain a little to homeowners about directors's duty of loyalty and duty of care per the CA Biz. Judgement rule. Similar all over, I think. I especially want a couple of directors to hear this as they've acted contrary to it in the past couple of weeks.
JeffT2
(Iowa)

Posts:465


11/08/2016 3:33 PM  
Would love to hear how it went and any insights you have to share.
KerryL1
(California)

Posts:6350


11/10/2016 6:00 PM  
Not very interesting, Jeff. I did ask him to say a few words about directors' duty of loyalty toward the HOA and their duty of care. And he did a nice job. But the couple of directors who I really wanted to hear this, seemed pretty uninterested.

Otherwise a lot of talk again about short term rentals. They aren't much of an issue in our HOA, but our Owners seem to enjoy hearing the attorney's stories--some amusing-- about others' problems with them.
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