Barker Martin

Condo-HOA Blog - Homeowner Associations

Marijuana in Communities

We are often asked whether a condominium association may prohibit cigarette smoking in common areas, or in units or single family homes. Now that using marijuana is legal in Oregon and Washington, some associations are wondering if they can or should specifically ban marijuana usage too. There are several things to consider. Here are a few of the highlights to begin the discussion. read more

Strategies for Keeping Your Green When the Heat Goes Red

The California water crisis and the hot weather so far this year (and over the last week!) have highlighted the need to plan ahead for community associations' water consumption. For example, in California, where the state government recently mandated a 25% reduction in urban water use, new legislation prohibits HOAs from penalizing residents for replacing their lawns with low-water use plants over concerns about a neighborhood's character. Another California bill prohibits fines for residents who stop watering when a drought emergency has been declared. In other communities across the country, water restrictions have become the norm and residents and architectural review committees clash in disputes over things like the replacement of lawn with artificial turf to reduce water consumption. It may only be a matter of time before these legal issues trickle to Oregon and Washington. Whether you're motivated by the bottom line in the rising cost of water, a wish to help the environment through "greener" practices, or the simple desire to avoid future legal wrangling over landscaping compliance, there are proactive steps your community should think about taking: 1. Amend your community's plan and rules. Consider allowing or even requiring native plants or xeriscaping (sustainable landscaping that may reduce or eliminate the need for supplemental irrigation) in the community's landscaping plan and architectural guidelines. Application of such principles can reportedly reduce water consumption by up to two-thirds and may decrease the need for certain landscaping services. 2. Repair or upgrade irrigation equipment. Leaky and inefficient equipment can lead to costly waste. Efficient drip irrigation systems and soil moisture detectors are available at a reasonable cost. 3. Adjust the timing and frequency of irrigation. Qualified landscapers can recommend the most efficient timing and frequency for watering based upon a host of factors like exposure, season, soil conditions, type of plant etc. 4. Store rain water. The collection of rainwater in cisterns may conserve potable water and reduce water charges. The City of Portland reports that the cost ranges from $200 for a 250 gallon cistern to $5,000 for a 10,000 gallon cistern. Talk to a qualified landscaper if you have questions about these and other landscaping options. Other community and online resources may also be available. Of course don't hesitate to contact Barker Martin if you need assistance analyzing the rules and regulations applicable to your community. read more

The Tragic Effect of Building Rot

Many of you have probably read or heard about the tragic accident in Berkeley, California, where a residential balcony collapsed killing six students. According to reports, the balcony collapsed due to beams that were "extensively rotted" and balconies that exhibited "significant rot and decay." We have encountered many clients and potential clients whose decks and buildings exhibit similar rot. Fortunately, accidents such as the one in Berkley are not frequent, but they do present a significant risk to homeowners and homeowners associations. It is often the case that associations are responsible to maintain decks and balconies as limited common elements. If they are not properly maintained, a maintenance obligation can quickly become a significant liability concern for the association. If an association discovers rot in its buildings, it has several options. If the association is within the applicable statute of limitations, it may have a claim against the builder and/or its subcontractors. For older projects outside of the statute of limitations, the options are more limited. Homeowners associations can assess the owners or possibly secure a bank loan. Neither of these options are particularly popular. Another possibility is to pursue the first-part property insurance procured to cover the association's property. Many of these policies provide coverage for "collapse." Fortunately, associations may not have to wait until an actual collapse such as the one in Berkley to secure coverage. In Queen Anne Park Homeowners Association v. State Farm Fire and Casualty Company, the Washington Supreme Court recently confirmed that when insurers do not specifically define collapse, the term is interpreted to mean "substantial impairment of structural integrity." Translating that into English, the court ruled that a building (or parts of a building) do not actually have to fall down in order to be covered as a "collapse." Associations should be mindful of their maintenance obligations. If rot or damage is discovered, associations should act quickly to protect the safety of its residents and to avoid a significant liability risk to the association. If an association discovers rot or decay, Barker Martin is happy to provide a free consultation to ensure the association knows all of its options. read more

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