Condominium And Homeowners Associations In Washington State
In Washington State, residential communities made up of single-family homes, townhouses, or apartment units frequently arrange themselves into associations to address the common interests and liabilities of the property owners. These community associations often take the form of condominium associations (“CAs”) or homeowners associations (“HOAs”). While the two are often named interchangeably, the differences between condominiums and other communities are significant. It is thus crucial to understand not only the differences between them, but the distinctions between various condominiums as well.
A principal difference in Washington State between community organizations comes from the statutes that govern them. For example, condominiums created after July 1, 1990 are generally governed by RCW 64.34 (the “Condominium Act”), while condominiums created prior to that are generally governed under RCW 64.32 (the “Horizontal Property Regimes Act”). Homeowners’ Associations (not condominiums), on the other hand, are governed under RCW 64.38.
The statutory schemes for these different community associations can vary greatly, and it is important to understand the structure of each chapter. Even general rules within the statutes contain exceptions that must be well understood. For example, several sections of the Condominium Act (i.e. sections on voting, tort and contract liability, common expenses/assessments, and association records) apply to condominiums created before July 1, 1990 as well. However, these sections only apply if they do not invalidate or supersede existing provisions of the declaration, bylaws, or survey maps or plans of the condominium. In other words, the mere fact that a condominium was created prior to July 1, 1990, does not mean that the Condominium Act can be wholly ignored by that condominium’s governing association.
Frequently, an association’s governing documents (i.e. the declaration or bylaws) can have provisions that preclude the application of certain statutory protections. A good example of this is RCW 64.34.364(3), which allows an association (under certain circumstances) to collect six months of assessments from a lender even where that lender’s deed of trust has priority. Even though the Condominium Act applies this provision to condominiums established prior to July 1, 1990, many older condominiums contain inconsistent provisions in their governing documents that preclude utilization of this benefit. In addition, governing documents can often be outdated and cause an association consternation when issues arise, such as problems pertaining to insurance coverage and payment, damage, and destruction.
To address the issues that may arise from outdated governing documents, and to better navigate the various entanglements of the community association statutes, it is advisable to seek competent legal counsel. At Beresford Booth, our lawyers hold years of experience in counseling condominium and homeowners’ associations. We would be pleased to assist you with addressing the needs of your community.