Barker Martin

Condo-HOA Blog

Supreme Court Publishes Filmore Opinion

Today, the Washington State Supreme Court published its ruling in Filmore LLLP v. Unit Owners Association of Centre Pointe Condominium. The opinion may be found here.

For condominium owners and managers within the State of Washington, this is one of the most highly anticipated court decisions in years.

The issue before the Court was whether a declaration amendment that imposes a rental cap, or ceiling, requires 67% approval, or constitutes a change in use, requiring a supermajority 90% approval of unit owners. The Court had an opportunity to decide what constitutes a “use,” as that term is used in the Washington Condominium Act (“WCA”), but sidestepped the question, and instead, limited its analysis to the specific language of Centre Pointe Condominium’s declaration. The court stated:

But we need not interpret the WCA here because, in contrast to RCW 64.34.264(4), the Declaration itself identifies a number of “uses” that come within the special supermajority voting requirement in [the Declaration].

Where does the ruling leave condominium associations within Washington today?

1. The ruling is limited to condominiums governed by the WCA; thus, “Old Act” condominiums and homeowner associations should remain unaffected.

2. The Filmore decision turned on specific language of the Declaration. Consequently, all WCA, or “New Act”, condominium associations will have to look beyond RCW 64.34.264(4), and consider how their particular Declaration defines or refers to “uses” in determining what percentage of owner vote is required to approve a Declaration amendment.

3. Piggybacking on number (2) above, it is conceivable that persons will use the Filmore opinion to challenge almost any Declaration amendment, arguing the amendment changes the “use” of a unit, thus triggering a 90% supermajority approval; especially in instances where the proposed amendment covers a provision identified or referred to in the Declaration as a “use.”

Given the differences in language utilized in various condominium Declarations, any New Act condominium that is contemplating amending its declaration should consider the impact of Filmore on its proposed changes or modifications. If you have questions, we highly recommend you seek qualified legal assistance. I or one of my colleagues at Barker Martin remain available for assistance on this, or any related community association matters.