Introduction to Community Association Laws

Welcome to the Condominium Law Group Blog!

Welcome to the newly minted Condominium Law Group, PLLC blog.  We are the newest condo law blog in Washington State, and we are excited to provide our readers with valuable information in the field of community association law.  Wait, community association law?  What’s that?  We think our first post is a great place to start walking you through the two main types of community associations and the laws that govern them in Washington State.

Condominium Law

There are two main statutes in Washington State that govern condominiums.  All condominiums formed before July 1, 1990 were formed under the Horizontal Property Regimes Act, which is codified in the Revised Code of Washington (RCW) at Chapter 64.32.  Otherwise known as the “Old Act,” this statute was the first condominium statute in Washington State.

What about condos formed after July 1, 1990?  A new statute was adopted into law, and that statute is called the Condominium Act.  The Condo Act, or “New Act,” is codified at RCW 64.34, and was modeled after the Uniform Condominium Act, which is a model statute adopted by about 17 states – with or without revisions by each state.

Be careful, though – many provisions of the New Act automatically apply to Old Act condos.  Here’s how that works: with respect to events that take place after July 1, 1990, and only to the extent that they don’t invalidate or supersede existing, inconsistent provisions in the Declaration (see our recent post on Governing Documents), some portion of the New Act also apply to Old Act condos.

It may seem confusing, and it is.  If you are a homeowner or board member at a condominium association, the best thing to do is to work with an attorney that is experienced in condominium law.  It’s not enough to work with a real estate attorney, even if they are excellent at what they do.  Condominium law is a highly specialized area of the law, and your association will be better served by a lawyer with experience in this field.

Homeowners’ Association Law

What if you live in a homeowners’ association (HOA) instead of a condominium?  HOAs are an entirely different “beast.”  They are governed by the very short Homeowners’ Associations Act, which is codified at RCW 64.38.  Unfortunately, the HOA Act doesn’t really say very much about many of the issues that can come up in running an HOA.  Fortunately, associations aren’t governed only by the laws they’re created under; they are also subject to their own governing documents, including the CC&Rs.

Other Community Types and Applicable Laws

There are other types of community associations that are not governed by the Old Act, the New Act, or the HOA Act.  For example, co-ops have been around far longer than condominiums, and are generally governed by corporations law.  In Washington, the applicable statute is the Non-Profit Corporations Act (RCW  24.03).  This statue and other corporations statutes can also apply to condos and HOAs in some situations.

In addition, there are other federal and state laws that can apply to all community association types.  The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) governs what actions third-party debt collectors (such as your association attorney) can and cannot take when attempting to collect unpaid association dues from homeowners.  The Fair Housing Act and federal regulations about satellite dishes are other examples.

Conclusion

As you can guess, there are many federal and state laws that may apply to specific issues facing your community association, and sometimes figuring out which ones are relevant is difficult.  We’re glad you’ve found us and hope that this article, along with the other information on our blog, provides you with useful and valuable information.  If you have any questions we can answer, please feel free to leave a comment or contact us directly.  We look forward to continuing this conversation with you in our future posts!

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12 Responses to Introduction to Community Association Laws
  1. cynthia soike
    December 14, 2010 | 12:31 am

    Am sharing your blog with others. Thank you.

    Our condo has had 3 injuries. One resident tripped on a crack in her front sidewalk and broke a hip. A second owner slipped on the front sidewalk on the green slime…and broke her hip. What is the best way to keep sidewalks maintained in our climate? Fortunately, there was no legal action. Also, a bonded painter fell off a roof and was not hurt. Could we have been held responsible? How do I research the condo responsibility and how would that be affected if the acting board was not legally voted in during each occurance? Any comments appreciated. Thanks

  2. Valerie Farris Oman
    December 14, 2010 | 12:38 am

    Hi, Cynthia,

    Glad you are reading! You are asking fairly complex questions that depend on a variety of factors in order to be answered. I would encourage your association to consult with an association attorney that is experienced enough to handle these questions. Are you located in Washington State? If so, please feel free to give us a call. We do not recommend that homeowners or board members research issues of liability on their own without legal experience specific to community association law. Because the field is very specialized, making the right decisions requires legal counsel from an attorney with the “right” experience.

    Best wishes to you!
    Valerie Farris Oman recently posted..FHA Recertification Deadlines

  3. Nadine Scott
    May 5, 2012 | 9:42 pm

    The Supreme Court ruling on the minimum number of units in a condominium complex that should be delegated as rental units was 10%. I have been told that the WSCA has a different ruling for condominium associations with less than 50 units. I have been unable to find anything under WSCA regarding this.
    Can you help solve this problem as we are amending our Declarations at this time.

    Thank You

  4. Matt Harrison
    May 31, 2012 | 4:02 am

    Recently our homeowners association made an addition of a fence that blocked our ability to access and move the trash cans that are kept in the backyard. We were never notified about the proposed fence, or we would have certainly voiced our concern that the new fence would limit our normal garbage access. They left a small gap, large enough for a person, but several inches smaller than the size of the garbage and recycling cans in use in our community. Aren’t they required to notify owners before modifications are made that affect the owner? Are there a list of regulations and requirements gift all homeowners association that I can refer to?

  5. Valerie Farris Oman
    June 11, 2012 | 4:29 pm

    Matt, the first thing you should try is to ask your board if they are willing to move the fence just enough to get your trash cans through the opening. It may be that you have already done this.

    Your association is probably not required not notify homeowners of modifications to the fence. As to the requirements the board must follow, those are found in your CC&Rs.

  6. philip adams
    July 26, 2012 | 9:42 pm

    under the old act, can the board (house rules) limit as to what can be left on a (limited common area) deck that is on the ground floor?

  7. Judy Carrick
    September 8, 2012 | 8:02 pm

    I do not fully understand, I bought my condo 7 years ago because of the way it looked on the outside, it was wood nope it is vial siding they said wood was rotten and would cost 500,000.00 to repair so they took 500,000.00 and covered it up, I voted no and most of the people I talked to said they said no, we do not get a sheet showing who voted what way but we get a sheet showing who owes what, no privacy there, they removed trees and replaced with a bush, I did find out I don’t own the grounds they can do what they want but know, I bought the place and it said no water bill just sewer now they want to make us pay them the water bill but they my owe back bill and said we would have to pay extra 25 a quater for 4 quarters I fell we pay them each month so how can there be a back bill,? They sent a sheet and said to insert in by laws but that should be filed with the county and retted correct? I tried the better business burea but they don’t want to get involved, should I hire an attorney?

  8. Valerie Farris Oman
    September 12, 2012 | 5:15 pm

    Philip, provided the Declaration for your condo is silent on the issue of deck rules, the board can adopt reasonable rules to govern owner conduct in common and limited common areas.

  9. Valerie Farris Oman
    September 12, 2012 | 5:16 pm

    Judy, it sounds like you should at least consult with a lawyer who can take the time to understand your specific situation and answer the questions you have about your condo association. I wish you all the best.

  10. Jude Cormier
    January 24, 2013 | 4:01 am

    I live in a Condo that is under the Horizontal Property Regimes Act. Is there a Condominium Association Law(RCW)for us like there is a Homeowners Association LAW(RCW)? As you know, under the old Condo laws, there is little for us to go on. If an owner has had an unlisted phone number- not listed in the condo phone directory that is given to ALL residents, which was given out at the last annual meeting, is that a violation of my rights? My phone number is listed as non-published in the phone book. What can I do about this. Thank you.

  11. Valerie Farris Oman
    January 25, 2013 | 12:00 am

    Hello Jude,

    The RCW for “old act” condos like yours is RCW 64.32. It is actually quite robust, and your governing documents may cover much of what the statute is silent on. As to whether your rights have been violated, that is a very fact-specific question that would require me to (a) know a lot more and (b) establish an attorney-client relationship with you before I can answer. If you would like to consult a community association attorney on this issue, feel free to call us or one of the attorneys on this list.

  12. Jeannette E Booth
    August 3, 2016 | 2:52 pm

    We are currently renting our unit out, my husband is active duty military so we are always on the move. Our tenant is great and we don’t want to lose her. She’s a great person, we have zero complaints about her. We are afraid of losing her though because about every month she is getting violation notices on her door about what she has on her private, fenced in patio. The regulations state that only patio furniture and a grill can be on the patio, we lived there for 10 years without it ever being an issue, I’ve seen several different items on other owners patios, some patios looked to be used as storage. But recently they’ve been cracking down I guess. We think the rules are very unreasonable. The violations Haber been for a dust pan, a small toy box, and sleeping bags being hung out to dry. Is there anything we can do living so far away for our tenant? Is there as
    A way to get the regulations changed?

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Introduction to Community Association Laws

Welcome to the Condominium Law Group Blog!

Welcome to the newly minted Condominium Law Group, PLLC blog.  We are the newest condo law blog in Washington State, and we are excited to provide our readers with valuable information in the field of community association law.  Wait, community association law?  What’s that?  We think our first post is a great place to start walking you through the two main types of community associations and the laws that govern them in Washington State.

Condominium Law

There are two main statutes in Washington State that govern condominiums.  All condominiums formed before July 1, 1990 were formed under the Horizontal Property Regimes Act, which is codified in the Revised Code of Washington (RCW) at Chapter 64.32.  Otherwise known as the “Old Act,” this statute was the first condominium statute in Washington State.

What about condos formed after July 1, 1990?  A new statute was adopted into law, and that statute is called the Condominium Act.  The Condo Act, or “New Act,” is codified at RCW 64.34, and was modeled after the Uniform Condominium Act, which is a model statute adopted by about 17 states – with or without revisions by each state.

Be careful, though – many provisions of the New Act automatically apply to Old Act condos.  Here’s how that works: with respect to events that take place after July 1, 1990, and only to the extent that they don’t invalidate or supersede existing, inconsistent provisions in the Declaration (see our recent post on Governing Documents), some portion of the New Act also apply to Old Act condos.

It may seem confusing, and it is.  If you are a homeowner or board member at a condominium association, the best thing to do is to work with an attorney that is experienced in condominium law.  It’s not enough to work with a real estate attorney, even if they are excellent at what they do.  Condominium law is a highly specialized area of the law, and your association will be better served by a lawyer with experience in this field.

Homeowners’ Association Law

What if you live in a homeowners’ association (HOA) instead of a condominium?  HOAs are an entirely different “beast.”  They are governed by the very short Homeowners’ Associations Act, which is codified at RCW 64.38.  Unfortunately, the HOA Act doesn’t really say very much about many of the issues that can come up in running an HOA.  Fortunately, associations aren’t governed only by the laws they’re created under; they are also subject to their own governing documents, including the CC&Rs.

Other Community Types and Applicable Laws

There are other types of community associations that are not governed by the Old Act, the New Act, or the HOA Act.  For example, co-ops have been around far longer than condominiums, and are generally governed by corporations law.  In Washington, the applicable statute is the Non-Profit Corporations Act (RCW  24.03).  This statue and other corporations statutes can also apply to condos and HOAs in some situations.

In addition, there are other federal and state laws that can apply to all community association types.  The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) governs what actions third-party debt collectors (such as your association attorney) can and cannot take when attempting to collect unpaid association dues from homeowners.  The Fair Housing Act and federal regulations about satellite dishes are other examples.

Conclusion

As you can guess, there are many federal and state laws that may apply to specific issues facing your community association, and sometimes figuring out which ones are relevant is difficult.  We’re glad you’ve found us and hope that this article, along with the other information on our blog, provides you with useful and valuable information.  If you have any questions we can answer, please feel free to leave a comment or contact us directly.  We look forward to continuing this conversation with you in our future posts!

Share and Enjoy:
  • Print
  • Digg
  • StumbleUpon
  • del.icio.us
  • Facebook
  • Yahoo! Buzz
  • Twitter
  • Google Bookmarks
12 Responses to Introduction to Community Association Laws
  1. cynthia soike
    December 14, 2010 | 12:31 am

    Am sharing your blog with others. Thank you.

    Our condo has had 3 injuries. One resident tripped on a crack in her front sidewalk and broke a hip. A second owner slipped on the front sidewalk on the green slime…and broke her hip. What is the best way to keep sidewalks maintained in our climate? Fortunately, there was no legal action. Also, a bonded painter fell off a roof and was not hurt. Could we have been held responsible? How do I research the condo responsibility and how would that be affected if the acting board was not legally voted in during each occurance? Any comments appreciated. Thanks

  2. Valerie Farris Oman
    December 14, 2010 | 12:38 am

    Hi, Cynthia,

    Glad you are reading! You are asking fairly complex questions that depend on a variety of factors in order to be answered. I would encourage your association to consult with an association attorney that is experienced enough to handle these questions. Are you located in Washington State? If so, please feel free to give us a call. We do not recommend that homeowners or board members research issues of liability on their own without legal experience specific to community association law. Because the field is very specialized, making the right decisions requires legal counsel from an attorney with the “right” experience.

    Best wishes to you!
    Valerie Farris Oman recently posted..FHA Recertification Deadlines

  3. Nadine Scott
    May 5, 2012 | 9:42 pm

    The Supreme Court ruling on the minimum number of units in a condominium complex that should be delegated as rental units was 10%. I have been told that the WSCA has a different ruling for condominium associations with less than 50 units. I have been unable to find anything under WSCA regarding this.
    Can you help solve this problem as we are amending our Declarations at this time.

    Thank You

  4. Matt Harrison
    May 31, 2012 | 4:02 am

    Recently our homeowners association made an addition of a fence that blocked our ability to access and move the trash cans that are kept in the backyard. We were never notified about the proposed fence, or we would have certainly voiced our concern that the new fence would limit our normal garbage access. They left a small gap, large enough for a person, but several inches smaller than the size of the garbage and recycling cans in use in our community. Aren’t they required to notify owners before modifications are made that affect the owner? Are there a list of regulations and requirements gift all homeowners association that I can refer to?

  5. Valerie Farris Oman
    June 11, 2012 | 4:29 pm

    Matt, the first thing you should try is to ask your board if they are willing to move the fence just enough to get your trash cans through the opening. It may be that you have already done this.

    Your association is probably not required not notify homeowners of modifications to the fence. As to the requirements the board must follow, those are found in your CC&Rs.

  6. philip adams
    July 26, 2012 | 9:42 pm

    under the old act, can the board (house rules) limit as to what can be left on a (limited common area) deck that is on the ground floor?

  7. Judy Carrick
    September 8, 2012 | 8:02 pm

    I do not fully understand, I bought my condo 7 years ago because of the way it looked on the outside, it was wood nope it is vial siding they said wood was rotten and would cost 500,000.00 to repair so they took 500,000.00 and covered it up, I voted no and most of the people I talked to said they said no, we do not get a sheet showing who voted what way but we get a sheet showing who owes what, no privacy there, they removed trees and replaced with a bush, I did find out I don’t own the grounds they can do what they want but know, I bought the place and it said no water bill just sewer now they want to make us pay them the water bill but they my owe back bill and said we would have to pay extra 25 a quater for 4 quarters I fell we pay them each month so how can there be a back bill,? They sent a sheet and said to insert in by laws but that should be filed with the county and retted correct? I tried the better business burea but they don’t want to get involved, should I hire an attorney?

  8. Valerie Farris Oman
    September 12, 2012 | 5:15 pm

    Philip, provided the Declaration for your condo is silent on the issue of deck rules, the board can adopt reasonable rules to govern owner conduct in common and limited common areas.

  9. Valerie Farris Oman
    September 12, 2012 | 5:16 pm

    Judy, it sounds like you should at least consult with a lawyer who can take the time to understand your specific situation and answer the questions you have about your condo association. I wish you all the best.

  10. Jude Cormier
    January 24, 2013 | 4:01 am

    I live in a Condo that is under the Horizontal Property Regimes Act. Is there a Condominium Association Law(RCW)for us like there is a Homeowners Association LAW(RCW)? As you know, under the old Condo laws, there is little for us to go on. If an owner has had an unlisted phone number- not listed in the condo phone directory that is given to ALL residents, which was given out at the last annual meeting, is that a violation of my rights? My phone number is listed as non-published in the phone book. What can I do about this. Thank you.

  11. Valerie Farris Oman
    January 25, 2013 | 12:00 am

    Hello Jude,

    The RCW for “old act” condos like yours is RCW 64.32. It is actually quite robust, and your governing documents may cover much of what the statute is silent on. As to whether your rights have been violated, that is a very fact-specific question that would require me to (a) know a lot more and (b) establish an attorney-client relationship with you before I can answer. If you would like to consult a community association attorney on this issue, feel free to call us or one of the attorneys on this list.

  12. Jeannette E Booth
    August 3, 2016 | 2:52 pm

    We are currently renting our unit out, my husband is active duty military so we are always on the move. Our tenant is great and we don’t want to lose her. She’s a great person, we have zero complaints about her. We are afraid of losing her though because about every month she is getting violation notices on her door about what she has on her private, fenced in patio. The regulations state that only patio furniture and a grill can be on the patio, we lived there for 10 years without it ever being an issue, I’ve seen several different items on other owners patios, some patios looked to be used as storage. But recently they’ve been cracking down I guess. We think the rules are very unreasonable. The violations Haber been for a dust pan, a small toy box, and sleeping bags being hung out to dry. Is there anything we can do living so far away for our tenant? Is there as
    A way to get the regulations changed?

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