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Flat Fee Services

Community Association Law Group provides the following services for a flat fee: Standard Resolutions: $250

Vendor Contract Review: $300

Incorporation: $450

Chair & Conduct Association Meeting: $500

Governing Document Assessment & Review: $800

Enforcement Letter: $250

ARC Guideline Creation: $500

Condominium Purchase Review: $1200

Basic Opinion Letter: $500

Lien preparation and filing (plus county recording fee): $125

Online voting: $650

 

If you have questions about any of the services we provide, please send us an email, info@calaw.attorney, or call, (503) 922-1939 and we’d be happy to assist. 

Adverse Possession and Community Associations

There are several ways to acquire ownership of land.  The most common form, of course, is by purchase.  A buyer and seller enter into an agreement, and at the closing of the transaction title is conveyed to the new owner. But there’s another way to get land—without an agreement and without consent.  It’s called adverse possession.   

In Nickell v. Southview HOA, the owners purchased a lot in the subdivision in 1989. At the edge of their lot, shrubs and trees marked what they thought was the boundary of their lot. For many years the owners maintained the vegetation and even installed a sprinkler system.  Years later an adjacent owner surveyed their property. The surveyor found that the shrubs and tress maintained by the owners was actually on the HOA’s property.  The Washington Court of Appeals found that the owners had present sufficient evidence to establish a claim of adverse possession.

In a Maryland case, the court also found that owners in a subdivision acquired common property through adverse possession.  The HOA was created in 1959.  Much of the draw to the community was beachfront access.  The HOA common property included the strip of land between the water and the subdivision, and all owners were authorized to use the area.

The lots of most of the beachfront lots were marked and bounded by trees and shrubs. However, after a hurricane most of the vegetation was destroyed.  Several owners then built bulkheads, or retaining walls on the front of their property.  However, the bulkheads were actually constructed on the HOA’s common property.  The court found that the owners had title and ownership of the common property where the bulkheads were built.

Here’s what adverse possession requires:

1. Actual use or possession

2. Open and notorious

3. Exclusive

4. Hostile

5. Continuous

6. At least 10 years

If your association comes across an adverse possession claim, consider your options.  The association may demand removal of a fence or other improvement built on common property. If the owner refuses, the association would file a "quiet title" lawsuit.

The association could possibly enter into an easement agreement with the owner. The owner would be obligated to maintain the area and assume all liability for their use.  Another option is selling the portion of the common property which an owner claims they adversely possess.  These options often required a vote of the entire ownership.

In any event, consult qualified legal counsel to discuss the association's legal rights and options.

Creating A Business Metric Dashboard

I'm a big fan of business metrics dashboards.  A couple of months ago I put together a digital dashboard that is displayed on a large TV screen in the office. Screen Shot 2016-03-19 at 6.49.31 PM

The dashboard displays the following information:

  1. Weekly calendar and appointments;
  2. Daily amount billed by each firm member;
  3. Monthly amount billed by each firm member;
  4. Total amount of monthly billings;
  5. Google analytics data from firm website;
  6. Constant contact email marketing data;
  7. Time & weather.

Our firm uses Clio for our law practice management, including contacts, documents, billing, and time keeping. Because Clio has an API, you can access your data however you'd like. I'm not much of a programmer, though, so I use Zapier to pull data from Clio. Using Zapier, each time a firm user creates a time entry, that data goes to a private Google Spreadsheet:

Screen Shot 2016-03-19 at 6.47.42 PM

 

 

 

Once the data is in Google Sheets, you can display the information in a variety of ways on a dashboard.  I use Cyfe, which has dozens of "widgets" to connect to your data.

Here's a look at the current dashboard design:

Screen Shot 2016-03-19 at 6.38.59 PM

Conflict Resolution In Community Associations

At some point, board members and owners within condominium or homeowner associations will face conflict. Knowing how to effectively resolve conflict will maintain civility and harmony in the community. Generally, there are four steps to resolving conflict: 1) negotiation, 2) mediation, 3) arbitration and 4) litigation. 1. Negotiation

Prior to more formal alternative dispute resolution, the parties engage in negotiation. Each party attempts to educate the other about the position they are taking, their needs and their interests. The most important part of negotiation is the ability to listen to the other side and attempt to come to a mutual understanding.

2. Mediation

Mediation involves the parties in dispute and a neutral, third-party mediator. Mediation does not require the parties to come to any formal agreement, but that’s the end goal. There are many community mediation services with trained mediators. However, if the dispute involves complicated legal issues, a mediator with a legal background is often preferable.

During mediation the parties get to explain their positions and tell their side of the story. The mediator’s job is to find common ground and see what (if anything) the parties can agree to.

Besides potentially resolving the conflict, mediation can expose your side’s weaknesses, which may influence your decision to arbitrate or litigate the dispute in the future. Keep in mind, Oregon law requires (in most circumstances) that the party initiating the claim offer mediation prior to filing an arbitration or litigation claim. (See ORS 100.405 and ORS 94.630)

3. Arbitration

Arbitration is much more formal than mediation. Some governing documents require the parties (association vs. owner or association vs. developer) to submit all disputes to binding arbitration. The arbitrator, or panel of arbitrators, conduct the arbitration similar to a court trial. If the arbitration is binding, the ruling of the arbitrator is the final ruling on the issue and the parties are bound to the decision.

Some state courts require arbitration of all cases less than a certain dollar amount. In court mandated arbitration, the losing party may appeal the decision of the arbitrator and continue to a judicial or jury trial.

4. Litigation

When all else fails, sometimes litigation is the only avenue to pursue. Litigation means filing a lawsuit in court and a trial in front of a judge or jury. Attorney fees for litigating an issue through trial can be very expensive. However, depending on the claim, an association may recover its attorneys fees if it’s the prevailing party.