A 2014 report from the Foundation for Community Association Research determined that Washington
is home to more than 10,000 community associations, which have a total
of more than two million residents.
Meanwhile, the “community” of community association lawyers in Washington is relatively small. You could
probably fit us all into the lobby of
an office building at the same time,
which we would not likely object to
so long as drinks and light appetizers were served. Chances are, if your
condominium or HOA has a lawyer, it
is either me or someone I know.
The declaration of covenants is
the “constitution” of the community.
All actions of the board must comply
with the provisions of the declaration,
which can only be amended by a vote
of the owners. The bylaws are usually
easier to change and generally set forth
the procedural aspects of running an
association, including how voting and
meetings work. There are also “rules
and regulations” that tell owners and
occupants the specifics of what to do
and what not to do. (Sneak peek: Window coverings that are white or beige
when viewed from the exterior of the
home are good. Making lots of noise
at night is bad.) These papers together
are called the association’s “
governing documents,” a copy of which is
given to each new owner and promptly
shoved in a drawer somewhere, since
they are among the most boring and
tedious documents to read on the face
of the planet.
Governing documents are often
haphazardly updated over the years,
internally inconsistent, and fail to address critical issues. Community association lawyers have to spend a lot
. . . THERE IS USUALLY
ONE BOARD MEMBER
WHO DOES THE VAST
MAJORITY OF THE WORK,
JUST LIKE ANY HIGH-SCHOOL GROUP PROJECT.