By Justin Bayer, Caretaker Landscape and Tree Management
By John O’Sullivan, VDA Elevator Consulting
There are not a lot of positive choices to finish that sentence with, so if you didn’t respond with a positive word or phrase in the blank, then you need to ask yourself a few questions.
Is my Elevator Service Provider doing their job properly?
Has my elevator reached the end of its life expectancy and is it just worn out?
Do my tenants abuse the equipment?
Do I have the wrong type of elevator to meet my needs?
Is my building properly elevatored?
These are some of the major issues that are discussed with property owners and managers every day. So often, they want their elevator equipment to run dependably, but just can’t seem to get the reliability they so badly need. Typically, they call their elevator contractor and place a service call, and the contractor comes out and fixes it. But, soon enough, it breaks down again. It’s a vicious cycle.
So how do we stop the cycle? Let’s talk about each of these scenarios separately.
Is my Elevator Service Provider doing their job properly?
Unfortunately, many companies throughout the industry perform “Call Back Maintenance” which means that they typically only perform routine maintenance when the unit breaks down and they must go there to repair it. The issue is, often they come in and return the elevator to service, and then quickly leave, never having actually fixed the problem or performed routine maintenance. Hence, the vicious cycle. A building manager needs to read their maintenance agreement and understand what the elevator contractor’s responsibilities are. If the maintenance agreement reads “regularly and systematically” as a definition for the frequency of maintenance, then that’s a big part of the problem. Your maintenance agreement is not written in your favor. It needs to have a clear and well-defined scope with performance requirements specific to your building. Too often owners and managers sign maintenance agreements that are written by the elevator contractor. These typically include automatic renewal clauses that lock you in for extended contract durations. Building management should only sign a maintenance agreement that is written in their favor, so that it protects the building owner’s investment and protects management’s best interests. The building management company should also meet with the elevator maintenance contractor quarterly if possible, but at least twice a year, to discuss reoccurring issues and develop strategies to help improve elevator performance. Annual “Quality Control Evaluations” by an independent elevator consultant can help keep your finger on the pulse and help prevent ever getting caught in this vicious cycle to begin with.
Has my elevator reached the end of its useful life expectance and is just worn out?
When an elevator starts reaching the end of its life expectancy, which is typically 20-25 years, then it is time to start planning for an Elevator Modernization. There are many factors that can contribute to the decision-making process, particularly in a commercial or residential building. Poor maintenance practices and a general dissatisfaction with elevator service are important, but not necessarily the primary reasons to modernize. Just like any other piece of machinery, it will reach a point where modernization must occur. It’s up to you to make sure that you have done your “Modernization Due Diligence” to confirm that you have reached that point. Obsolesce is a buzzword often thrown around in the industry. Remember, just because your Elevator Contractor says a component is obsolete, doesn’t necessarily make it true. In fact, it is seldom true and there are often other ways to repair and improve the equipment’s performance and maximize its life cycle until you can afford to modernize the elevator properly. There are usually several costly building related items that will need to be performed as well when a modernization takes place, so make sure to have all these items identified and budgeted for. This is an expensive undertaking and the process can be a very frustrating and confusing. Make sure to have someone experienced in your corner that will guide you through the process and help protect your interests and help to ensure that the project runs smoothly, as well as provides you with the best possible equipment for the next 20-25 years.
On occasion, no matter how well an elevator is maintained, or how new the equipment is, the elevator continues to shut down due to user abuse or “vandalism.” While this is extremely frustrating, it can be very difficult to control, and costly to repair. In certain situations, vandal resistant buttons and vandal resistant cab interiors can be installed to help minimize the damage. Cameras can also be installed to monitor the situation, but they do create added liability if you don’t monitor them properly. Adding card readers and key switches are often the best solution and keep the vandals out of your elevators.
Many times, owners try to take “Passenger Elevators” and make them perform like “Service Elevators” or “Freight Elevators.” Typically, passenger elevators are not designed to handle this type of abuse and will quickly become damaged and dilapidated. Modifications can be made to beef up a “Passenger Car” and convert it into a “Service Car,” improving its overall durability. A “Freight Elevator” is a completely different animal due to its vertical bi-parting doors and extra heavy-duty cab interior. This freight car transformation can be very costly and often isn’t necessary.
Is my building under elevatored?
Many buildings have been transformed since they were originally designed. Their tenant populations have dramatically increased and yet the quantity of elevators available to handle the increased traffic flow has remained the same. Some improvement can be obtained through modernization. The only way to tell for sure how much improvement can be obtained is by conducting a “Building Traffic Analysis” where the population and building layout are all taken into consideration and studied to determine what improvements are actually achievable. Advances in Destination Dispatching and increased elevator speed can add up to a significant improvement. A few seconds saved here and there at each stop can result in a dramatic improvement.
At the end of the day, it’s your responsibility to take control of your elevator situation. It will be through your diligence and proactive involvement that will allow you to someday honestly fill in the blank with: My elevator runs like a “A Champion”, “A Fine-Tuned Machine”, or “A Swiss Watch”.
VDA is the world’s largest elevator consulting firm that assists our clients with Project Design, Quality Control Evaluations, Maintenance Contract Documents, Modernization Documents, and Project Bids on new and existing elevator and escalator equipment. VDA has a local office in Littleton, CO. For more information, contact John at email@example.com.
By Bo Burns, SOLitude Lake Management
Algae: it comes in many forms and colors. It’s slimy, stinky and can ruin the beauty and function of your community lakes and ponds. It’s also one of the oldest known organisms on this planet, which might explain its knack for survival, even under the toughest conditions. Over time, HOAs and property management companies have learned to pick sides when it comes to the safe eradication of stubborn and harmful algal blooms—some in favor of natural management techniques; others in support of applying EPA-registered algaecides to ensure the job gets done. But this year, a new game changing technology will make the management of stubborn algae blooms a no-brainer with more long-lasting results that are beneficial for the environment.
Nanobubble aeration is a premium innovative technology designed to exceed the capabilities of traditional lake and pond aeration systems by providing up to 79,000x more oxygen! Put simply, nanobubbles are like traditional aeration systems on steroids. Produced by compact on-shore generators, these ultra-fine bubbles are completely invisible to the eye and about 1 million times smaller than ordinary bubbles. As a result of their tiny size, nanobubbles have no natural buoyancy and do not rise to the surface of the water and burst like you might expect. Amazingly, they remain within the water column for up to 2-3 months, providing unparalleled oxygenation to struggling lakes and stormwater ponds in your community.
The benefits of a continuously oxygenated lake or pond are enormous. First, oxygen is a key player in the battle against undesirable nutrients by facilitating the conversion of phosphorus to forms that do not sustain algae development. Excess nutrients can easily enter community lakes and ponds in the form of grass clippings, lawn fertilizers, trash, and droppings from dogs, geese and other wildlife. The presence of oxygen also helps to balance pH and other related water quality parameters that encourage the growth of fish, native organisms and beneficial phytoplankton – rather than detrimental bacteria like E. Coli, and cyanobacteria species that can be toxic to humans and wildlife and are believed to contribute to degenerative diseases like ALS, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.
Another amazing benefit of nanobubbles? In addition to engulfing an entire aquatic ecosystem in concentrated oxygen, nanobubbles are negatively charged and, therefore, attracted to positively charged organic matter in the water column. When they connect with positively charged metals and pollutants, including dangerous cyanobacteria toxins, nanobubbles cause them to implode(!), holistically cleansing the waterbody from the inside out.
This innovative water quality solution did not just appear overnight. Nanobubbles have been used in the medical field, the oil and gas business, food preparation areas, and even the beauty industry for purification purposes. However, SOLitude Lake Management is the first environmental firm to advance this technology for large-scale freshwater management applications through continuous research and development with select manufacturers and regulatory agencies.
Through many promising tests and trials, we’ve learned some exciting things: Property owners who utilize nanobubbles can expect to significantly reduce and even eliminate reliance on traditional algaecides. Nanobubbles have no negative impacts on fish and wildlife when monitoring and managing dissolved oxygen levels—in fact, research suggests nanobubbles help make fish more active, leading to better fishing and recreation. Nanobubbles help strengthen the health and longevity of the entire food chain, starting from the smallest beneficial organisms in your pond and ending with your family.
Nanobubble aeration isn’t just a quick fix or band-aid; it’s a custom, data-driven solution rooted in years of scientific study and first-hand monitoring experience. The technology doesn’t necessarily replace regular proactive management strategies, but it is truly one of the missing pieces to the puzzle of sustainable freshwater management. Used in conjunction with traditional tools like floating fountains, buffer management, mechanical hydro-raking and regular lake and pond inspections, nanobubbles can help keep your water resources healthier and prettier for much longer periods of time, while eliminating nuisance algae and dangerous cyanotoxins before they begin causing problems.
Nanobubble aeration is poised to transform the entire way we approach the management of lakes and ponds and will be an invaluable tool as urban development and undesirable nutrient loading continue to increase. We’re excited to shepherd this new technology in to the freshwater management realm and look forward to further enhancing water quality in your community and throughout the world.
Bo Burns is a Market Development Manager at SOLitude Lake Management, an industry-leading environmental firm. He specializes in the research and development of new technologies using more than 30 years of industry experience along with a Master of Environmental Management degree in Resource and Wetland Ecology from Duke University. This article is the first in a series featuring new break-through technologies that will revolutionize the management of lakes, stormwater ponds, wetlands and fisheries in 2019. Learn more at www.solitudelakemanagement.com/knowledge
By Shane Fleener, Hearn & Fleener, LLC
Most homeowners and community managers know that Colorado’s Common Interest Ownership Act (“CCIOA”) gives homeowner associations (“HOAs”) the right to assert a construction defect claim on behalf of the HOA and/or the community’s homeowners. However, there is a common assumption that this right only belongs to HOAs consisting of multi-family units (such as townhomes, row homes or condominiums). That assumption is incorrect. Single-family home HOAs have the same rights under CCIOA as any other HOA. This includes the ability to assert claims for defects impacting the single-family homes and lots that are otherwise owned and maintained by the homeowners.
The misconception that multi-family HOAs, but not single-family HOAs, have standing under CCIOA likely stems from the assumption that HOAs only have standing for common elements, or those portions of the community that the HOA otherwise owns or maintains. After all (when compared to their multi-family HOA counterparts), single-family home communities generally have fewer common elements that are owned and maintained by the HOA, and more lots / homes that are owned and maintained by the individual homeowners. However, none of this has any bearing on whether an HOA has standing under CCIOA. While some other states make exceptions for single-family home communities, Colorado is not one of them.
CCIOA states that an HOA has the power to assert claims “in its own name on behalf of itself or two or more-unit owners on matters affecting the common interest community.” C.R.S. § 38-33.3-302(1)(d). This is the only limitation to an HOA’s standing. Therefore, the question becomes: what is a “matter affecting the common interest community?”
First, common elements are not the only things that constitute a “matter affecting the common interest community,” as individual homes/units are also included. CCIOA defines a “unit” as “a physical portion of the common interest community which is designated for separate ownership or occupancy.” As a result, multiple courts have confirmed that defects impacting individual units are “matters affecting the common interest community” under CCIOA. Yacht Club II Homeowners Ass'n, Inc. v. A.C. Excavating, 94 P.3d 1177, 1179 (Colo. App. 2003). Detached single-family homes are “units” under CCIOA in the same way that condo and townhomes are.
Second, the fact that an HOA might not own the unit (or any other area of the community impacted by defects) is irrelevant to an HOA’s standing under CCIOA. In fact, the Uniform Act (upon which CCIOA is based) expressly states that an “association can sue or defend suits even though the suit may involve only units as to which the association has no ownership interest.” For this and other reasons, Colorado courts have confirmed that HOAs have the right “to pursue damage claims on behalf of two or more units’ owners with respect to matters affecting their individual units.” Id. at 1180.
Third, the manner in which a community’s governing documents happen to allocate repair and maintenance obligations between the HOA and the individual homeowners is irrelevant. As articulated by one court: “Provisions stating that the Association and individual owners have separate maintenance duties under the Declaration have no bearing on the Association’s standing under the CCIOA.” Heritage Vill. Owners Ass'n, Inc. v. Golden Heritage Inv'rs, Ltd., 89 P.3d 513, 515 (Colo. App. 2004).
The result of all this: Single-family home HOAs have the right under CCIOA to sue builders for construction defects impacting any portion of the common interest community, regardless of whether those defects are impacting individual homes or common elements and regardless of whether the HOA owns and/or is responsible for repairing and maintaining the impacted improvements. It is important that single-family home HOAs, and the community managers that work with them, be aware of these rights.
Shane Fleener is a partner and litigator at Hearn & Fleener, LLC located in Denver, Colorado. Hearn & Fleener is plaintiff’s law firm focused on housing and construction defect issues. For more information about Shane and his law firm, please check out their website www.HearnFleener.com
By Lindsay Smith, Winzenburg, Leff, Purvis & Payne, LLP.
“You work for me!”
Well, no, I actually don’t. Every community association professional has had a homeowner demand a particular action because, “You work for the homeowners, you work for me!” That isn’t exactly true, and it’s precisely false in the context of a community association attorney. Blurring a vendor’s lines between a homeowner’s request and a Board’s request might be a minor concern when planting annuals outside a patio home, but it is a major ethical problem if the “vendor” is an attorney.
Colorado attorneys are governed by the Colorado Rules of Professional Conduct. Rule 1.13 details an attorney’s duties and obligations when that attorney represents an organization – such as a homeowners association.
First and foremost, the attorney represents the corporate entity itself, “acting through its duly authorized constituents.” This is typically the Board of Directors, but the attorney does not represent the Board of Directors. As an organization’s attorney, I have additional ethical duties to homeowners and members of the public. Specifically, when dealing with directors, officers, members, or other constituents who may have interests adverse to my client’s interests, I must explain that I represent the corporate entity and not that director, officer, member, or other constituent.
This circumstance could arise when a homeowner attempts to initiate a popular Bylaw amendment at an annual meeting. I am obligated to explain that while an amendment to prevent Carol from serving on the Board because she snubbed Rose at bingo last month might sound like a good idea, it’s not an action that is legal to take at that meeting. While all the homeowners present might want to take that action (everyone really hates Carol), it is simply not legal. My duty is to help the corporate entity stay on the right side of the law – and the right side of the law does not include personally-motivated and improperly-noticed Bylaw amendments.
Similarly, other community association vendors need to keep their clients in mind. A paving contractor does not report to Carol or Rose; the contractor reports to the Board or the community association manager. The contractor needs to take direction from those who control the corporation (and its purse strings). If a contractor decides to follow Carol’s dictates, that contractor may find himself in breach of the contract with the community association. Carol might find herself personally liable for her instructions. Avoid this situation and protect yourself, your clients, your vendors, and your homeowners from confusion and unnecessary expenses by ensuring that only the parties who can bind the corporate entity attempt to do so.
Lindsay Smith is an attorney with Winzenburg, Leff, Purvis & Payne, LLP. She represents communities as general counsel in a variety of legal circumstances, from governance and policy considerations to litigation and enforcement. When not attending community association meetings for clients, she relaxes by attending community association meetings.
By Lisa Greenberg, Gravely Pearson
Catastrophic hail storms are an unfortunate and increasingly common reality throughout Colorado’s Front Range, causing hundreds of millions of dollars of damage every year. In 2017, a hail storm severely damaged the Colorado Mills mall in Lakewood, breaking open skylights and severely damaging the mall’s roof, allowing rainwater to flood the mall’s stores. It took more than six months for repairs to be completed before the mall could re-open. However, these hailstorms are indiscriminate, damaging condo and townhome communities as well. The increase in destructive storms has caused a simultaneous increase in large insurance claims. This has prompted insurance companies to push back on policyholders attempting to recover property loss benefits. That pushback has led to litigation, where homeowner associations have been forced to sue their insurance carriers. This insurance litigation has resulted in some interesting trends that multi-family communities and managers should be aware of as they work together during the insurance claims process:
These court rulings are of specific concern to multi-family communities because many hailstorms are not as obviously destructive as the one that hit the Colorado Mills. Instead, storms often damage roofing systems multiple stories off the ground and leave little evidence of damage to those observing from ground level. Because hailstorm damage is not always obvious, and the consequences of failing to report damage promptly can be significant, HOA owners, members of the Board of Directors, and management would be wise to implement measures that allow for the prompt discovery and reporting of hailstorm damage. In addition to being exceptionally vigilant and diligent in discovering and reporting damage, owners, Board members, and management should also be educated on when to investigate possible storm damage, even when such damage is not immediately visually apparent, so that insurance claims can be discovered and “promptly” made.
Notably, this contingent-fee “issue” shows up in other ways in some insurance-related disputes. For example, Public Adjusters, like management companies, also often forego immediate payment in lieu of a percentage of the amount of the claim ultimately paid by the insurance company. Similarly, some contractors may agree to repair the damage for whatever amount the insurance company ultimately decides to pay, regardless of the true value of the work. Some insurance companies argue that these contingent-type fee agreements also create the appearance of improper claim inflation. Regardless of its truth, this appearance can be damaging to the claims process and can create a significant roadblock to the policyholder collecting the full value of their claim.
Not surprisingly, allegations of fraud against an HOA are highly damaging both to a community’s ability to recover on a claim, and to the HOA industry in general. These counterclaims are changing the perception courts and laypeople have about insurer-insured disputes, suggesting the insurance company is the “victim” and the HOA is the perpetrator. Most importantly, insurance companies’ newfound boldness in bringing these fraud counterclaims, and their current success in doing so, has, from all appearances, inspired insurers to continue their practice of disputing and/or refusing to pay on legitimate insurance claims.
In order to more easily navigate the insurance claim system in light of the modern trends in Colorado’s insurance law, homeowners, Board members, and managers must strive to educate themselves on best practices in handling their insurance claims to prevent insurance companies from gaining additional leverage in court. With the concerns noted above in mind, multi-family communities are poised to turn the tide on insurance-related claims throughout the Front Range and Colorado in general.
By Damien Bielli, Vial Fotheringham
The annual meeting has concluded, and you find yourself on the Board of Directors of your community association. What now? Hopefully, the association has an orientation process in place to help new board members assimilate into a governing role in the community. If not, here are some helpful tips for board members:
If an association email address is not provided to a board member, create one. A separate and distinguishable email address for community association business is necessary for continuity of board communication and protection of personal email content.
Read and know your governing documents. The origin of association authority, its limitations, and permissible conduct comes directly from the association’s governing documents and applicable state and federal law. CCIOA (Colorado Common Interest Ownership Act) provides the statutory guidance for many associations with restrictions on governance that must be taken into consideration by acting board members.
The importance of knowing your governing documents cannot be understated. Board members should understand the hierarchy of governing documents and laws that regulate the association. At the highest level, the association must act in accordance with federal and state law. However, usually the most important and most relevant tool for governing an association is the declaration. A declaration, also known as the CC&Rs, is the primary governing document that creates the rights and obligations of owners in a homeowner’s association. This document provides a blueprint for the authority granted to the association, as well as its obligations to homeowners. As a board member, it is imperative that you are familiar with the declaration’s contents. Bylaws govern the operations of the association. Items such as board elections, meetings, voting and board member responsibilities are a few of the items bylaws may govern. Board members should be familiar with how the association is run so its operation does not run afoul of the stated procedures within the bylaws.
Board members also must remain knowledgeable of all aspects of association finances, including reserves, expenditures, assets, and budgets. As soon as is practicable, a new board member should request to review the finances and request clarification if necessary. This ensures that the new board member is speaking, acting, and voting from an informed position.
It is also wise to for board members to continually educate themselves about issues occurring outside the meeting room by walking the property, talking to members, talking to the manager, and participating in all meetings. This gives each board member an opportunity to see, hear, and discover issues within the community before they become a problem.
Finally, document, document, document. Failure to document is an association’s and, similarly, a board member’s Achilles’ heel. While a board member may have acted promptly, prudently, and in accordance with the governing documents, failure to produce documentation to that effect is difficult to explain and usually results in trouble for the association. Any documentation received by the association, especially opinions of experts (attorneys, contractors, accountants, etc.) should be shared with every board member and retained and filed where easily accessible. The board is entitled to rely on the opinion of experts in its decision-making and, therefore, should retain the opinion as evidence of good faith.
Having the right tools can ensure that being a Board member can be a rewarding and beneficial experience.
By Ashley Nichols, Cornerstone Law Firm, P.C.
According to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), in 2018, there were over one million registered consumer drones in the United States. If you are like me, you may not have known that if you have an unmanned aircraft system (UAS or drone), you are now required to register your drone with the FAA. The FAA estimates that the actual number of drones in the United States is closer to 1.5 million. Additionally, at the industry’s current pace for hobbyist drones, those numbers are expected to triple to over 3.5 million by 2021. Given those numbers, odds are good that you, or someone you know, owns and operates a drone.
The legal framework surrounding the drone industry is still developing. Many of the concerns are over privacy issues (flying over someone else’s property, catching a neighbor sunbathing in the buff, peeping in windows, etc.). Associations are starting to question how to address drone operations in their communities. One question is who owns the air where the drone is being flown? On paper, the concept of land is relatively simple – you pay money, and in return, you’re given unfettered access to a predetermined amount of land (but HA! Unfettered and HOA, as we know, don’t go hand in hand). But do you own the sky above? There is a Latin phrase that translated says, “whoever owns the soil, holds title all the way up to the heavens and down to the depths of hell.” However, today, you only really have the right to enough airspace to reasonably enjoy the land below that air. What does that mean? Well, that’s up for debate.
There is “navigable airspace” which is regulated by the FAA. “Navigable airspace” is “airspace at and above the minimum flight altitudes …, including airspace needed for safe takeoff and landing.” The minimum flight altitude while flying over congested areas is 1,000 feet above the highest obstacle within a horizontal radius of 2,000 feet; and in uncongested or sparsely populated areas, it is 500 feet above the surface.
As for regulation by the FAA, in addition to being registered, hobby drones are required to (a) fly below 400 feet and remain clear of surrounding obstacles; (b) remain well clear of and not interfere with manned aircraft operations; (c) not fly within 5 miles of an airport without the airport’s prior approval; (d) not fly near stadiums or people; (e) not operate drones weighing more than 55 pounds; and (f) always keep the drone in a line of sight. Drone operators who violate these regulations could be fined for endangering other people or aircrafts.
So, is it trespassing if you fly over your neighbor’s land? Unfortunately, as of now, the answer is not clear. A case that may have shed some light on the issue was dismissed by a federal judge for lack of jurisdiction. The following is some background: Boggs, the drone pilot, was flying his drone over property owned by Meridith. Meridith, alleging trespass and invasion of privacy, shot down the drone (he later began calling himself the “Drone Slayer”). Meridith was charged criminally, and those charges were dismissed by a Kentucky state court judge. The drone pilot, Boggs, later sued Meridith in federal court asking the court to make a legal determination as to whether his flight constituted trespassing. The suit was brought in federal court because Boggs’ lawyers argued that the drone was flying in airspace which was regulated by the FAA, and as such, the incident was subject to federal jurisdiction. The FAA was not a party to the suit and the judge, dismissing the case, stated that the state courts would be better suited to adjudicate the claim.
The best case law on the issue of whether a drone flying over private property is trespassing is an old case dating back to 1946. That year, the Supreme Court ruled in a case known as United States v. Causby that a farmer in North Carolina could assert property rights up to 83 feet in the air. In that case, the farmer was awarded damages for chickens that were killed when they flew into a wall due to the noise of a low flying plane (83 feet).
State legislatures across the country are debating if and how drone technology should be regulated, taking into account the benefits of their use, privacy concerns, and their potential economic impact. Forty-one states, including Colorado, have passed legislation addressing drones. However, Colorado’s legislation only addresses governmental use of drones.
What about the commercial side? The business applications of drone use are nearly limitless – from delivery of packages to your door to conducting roof inspections. Drones could be an excellent tool to help enforce violations within your community and provide efficiencies in doing so. Currently, commercial use of drones requires FAA approval. If your community is considering using drones for enforcement, make sure that your vendors are in compliance with federal laws and guidelines.
A March 2013 report from the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International projects that by 2025 more than 100,000 jobs will be created with an economic impact of $82 billion. This is certainly a growing industry and associations should ensure that they are proactively taking steps to address concerns over the use and operation of drones, rather than reacting. At the same time, associations wanting to regulate drone use in their communities should do so with care. Until a court conclusively finds that some portion of the airspace above private property is owned by the property owner, associations regulating said airspace will be subject to potential litigation.
Remember that many times, drone use and operations really come down to neighbor to neighbor disputes. An association’s best bet is to avoid provisions in a policy that are overly restrictive. Make sure to contact your association’s attorney to discuss prior to implementation in your community.
Ashley Nichols is the principal and founder of Cornerstone Law Firm, P.C. She has been in the community association industry for eleven years, providing associations with debt recovery solutions for their communities. Cornerstone Law Firm represents Colorado communities in all areas of common interest community law. You may find out more at www.yourcornerstoneteam.com.
By Tim Moeller, Moeller Graf, P.C.
One of the beautiful things about living in a community is the different perspectives, life experiences, and attitudes that the residents bring, which can contribute greatly to the quality of life for all. However, sometimes it is these differences that tear us apart. Within most communities, there will be one or more individuals who may not share the common goals of the community at large. Some of these types of individuals will actively seek out confrontation and negativity. These difficult individuals seem to thrive on pushing and invading reasonable boundaries and are typically very outspoken regarding their view of the management of the association. While not experts in civility, these individuals are experts at criticizing and pinpointing the errors of others, especially the Board and/or the manager. They will interrupt and make personal attacks and unfounded allegations.
By now, you may be picturing in your mind an individual that has checked all of the boxes of poor behavior mentioned above. So how do we best deal with these individuals to avoid unnecessary conflict and disruption to association business?
Here are some suggestions for dealing with the difficult homeowner:
Unfortunately, it is common for our office to be contacted about homeowners who are “harassing” one or more board members or the community manager. In fact, this seems to be more and more commonplace. At what point does lousy behavior rise to the level of harassment? After all, it is not against the law to act poorly or to have bad manners.
Colorado law defines criminal harassment in C.R.S. §18-9-111. For harassment under this statute to exist, there must be “intent to harass, annoy or alarm” another person in certain ways, including, but not limited to i) touching (striking) them; or ii) in public, directing obscene language or making obscene gestures to another person; or iii) following a person in or about a public place; or initiating communication by telephone, text, email, or other means in a manner intended to harass or threaten bodily injury or property damage, or iv) making any comment, request, suggestion, or proposal that is obscene; or v) repeatedly insulting, taunting, challenging, or making communications in offensive coarse language to another in a manner likely to provoke a violent or disorderly response.
Harassment as set forth above is a class 3 misdemeanor (unless the harassment pertains to race, color, religion, national origin or disability, which is a class 1 misdemeanor). So, while the association may contact law enforcement should it deem that the behavior of the individual has risen to criminal harassment, there may also be other ways to head-off the problem using the association’s existing governing documents.
Most covenants contain provisions pertaining to nuisances. While we can agree that bullies and difficult people seem to be a nuisance to all who come in contact with their abhorrent behavior, a legal nuisance is typically considered an activity which arises from unreasonable, unwarranted or unlawful use by a person of his/her own property, working obstruction or injury to the right of another such as smoke, odors, noise, or vibration.
Therefore, we may look to whether there exists more specific language in the covenants regarding harassing behavior. Short of amending your covenants to contain such language, broad language often exists in the covenants pertaining to “quiet enjoyment” which has nothing to do with noise but can pertain to harassment. Sometimes, a strong letter from the association’s attorney will be enough of a check on the bad behavior to alleviate some of the issues. This may escalate to the levy of fines or other specific sanctions. If this doesn’t work, the Board may discuss with its legal counsel the possibility of obtaining a civil restraining order in court or an injunction against their bad acts.
Ultimately, if you spend enough time as a manager or board member, you will eventually run into an individual who exhibits bad behavior. Do all that you can to diffuse the problem, but don’t let the issue get out of your control. Take whatever reasonable action is necessary to maintain control of the association and attempt to promote civility for the benefit of the homeowners that truly appreciate your time and effort spent on behalf of the community.
By Aaron Goodlock, Orten Cavanagh & Holmes, LLC
As banks, credit card companies, and financial service providers grapple with identify theft, so too must HOAs. Over the last several years, there has been a substantial increase in cyber-related crimes, resulting in increased identity theft and financial fraud. As a result, federal and state governments have been working to enact laws to reduce crime and protect constituents, primarily via statutes addressing consumer protection, data and cybersecurity requirements, and criminal sanctions.
In 2018, the Colorado legislature approved House Bill 18-1128, which was enacted and became effective September 1, 2018 to address privacy and cybersecurity protections. The new law applies to many entities in Colorado, including most HOAs and community association management companies.
HB 18-1128 has two primary components, including: (1) requirements for storing and protecting “personal identifying information” (as defined in the statute) and (2) changes to the Colorado’s breach notification laws.
Managing and Protecting “Personal Identifying Information”
HB 18-1128 applies to all “Covered Entities.” Covered entities include any individual or entity that maintains, owns, or licenses “personal identifying information” (PII). The statute defines PII to include social security numbers; personal identification numbers; passwords; passcodes; official state or government-issued driver’s licenses or identification card numbers; passport numbers; biometric data (such as fingerprints); employer, student, or military identification numbers; or financial transaction devices (such as credit or debit card numbers or bank account information).
Under the newly enacted laws, HOAs and management companies that store or maintain PII are required to implement and maintain reasonable security procedures and practices that are “appropriate to the nature of the personal identifying information and the nature and size of the business and its operations.” The statute also requires HOAs and management companies with access to PII to adopt written policies addressing the destruction of records containing PII when they are no longer needed.
A third requirement under the new statute is that HOAs that maintain PII must take measures to preserve the confidentiality of PII when transferring such data to third parties (such as the association’s manager or management company or another service provider). The statute provides that covered entities “shall require” third party service providers to implement and maintain reasonable security procedures and practices which are reasonably designed and tailored to protect against unauthorized access, use, modification, disclosure, or destruction of PII. One method to address this requirement is for associations to carefully review their management agreements and ensure that adequate protections are in place, including appropriate indemnification provisions. Associations are also encouraged to consult their attorneys when reviewing association contracts whenever the disclosure or transfer of PII is involved.
Compliance with Colorado’s Breach Notification Statute
The second primary component of HB 18-1128 deals with notification requirements in the event of a data or security breach that results in, or is likely to result in, the misuse of “personal information.”
For purposes of Colorado’s breach notification statute, “personal information” includes a Colorado resident’s first name or first initial and last name in combination with any of the following data: driver’s license number or identification card number; student, military or passport identification number; medical information; health insurance identification number; or biometric data. “Personal information” also includes a Colorado resident’s username or email address in combination with a password or security questions and answers that would permit access to an online account or a Colorado resident’s account number or credit or debit card number in combination with any required security code, access code, or password that would permit access to that account.
The statute requires that if a breach occurs, the covered entity (e.g., the association or the management company) is required to notify the affected individuals within 30 days. The statute also specifies certain information that must be included in the notice and disclosed to the affected individuals.
If a breach involves a compromise of personal information affecting 500 or more individuals, the association or management company is required to notify the Colorado Attorney General’s office. If the breach involves more than 1,000 individuals, notice is also required to be provided to the credit reporting agencies. Accordingly, large communities that include 500 or 1,000 homes or more, including the association’s board of directors and management, should be cognizant of their duties and responsibilities in the event of a breach and would be wise to address such requirements in the association’s written policies.
Good risk management practices for associations and management companies includes adopting and implementing appropriate written policies (pursuant to the statute), including policies for maintaining PII and other personal information and developing incident response plans in the event of a breach. By doing so, boards of directors and management companies can limit their risk of liability if and when a breach occurs.
Another method to limit risks involving data and security breaches is through obtaining and maintaining appropriate insurance including, without limitation, cyber liability insurance (cyber risk insurance), computer crime insurance, D&O insurance, and fidelity insurance. Associations should consult their insurance agents and advisors to determine the appropriate coverage based on the particular community’s needs.
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