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Valerie Farris Oman

Valerie Oman’s Answers

257 total


  • Can an HOA bypass the Condominium Declaration regulating members of the Board?

    Condominium in Washington State has a declaration stating that the Board will consist of whole three (3) board members. The Board currently has four (4) members with each making decisions and votes. This 4th member ran for election and was defea...

    Valerie’s Answer

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    The hierarchy of your governing documents starts with the declaration with the bylaws being close behind. If the declaration caps your board membership at 3, there is a question as to whether having a 4th board member is a problem. However, the larger concern (to me, from reading your question) is that once the board decided to fill a 4th position, it may have acted contrary to the election procedures in your documents. If you want to know for sure whether they did anything wrong, you'll want to consult with a lawyer experienced in condominium law (see link below). Once you make that determination, your next step will be to figure out how strongly you feel about this. Enough to spend money on attorneys' fees? Enough to put in the time and effort required to recall one or all of the board members? How about being ON the board to take the place of those who have volunteered? Lots of questions for you to think through.

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  • Is it legal for me to install a security camera outside of my town home facing a shared driveway?

    Further details: I own and live in a town home complex that shares a driveway with the other town homes.

    Valerie’s Answer

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    It's hard to answer this question without knowing more. Do you own the part of the structure upon which you would install the camera? Is it pointing to an area where a neighbor has a reasonable expectation of privacy, or towards an area where anyone who is walking or driving by can already see?

    Also, even if you determine that installing a camera is permissible, just because you *can* do something does not necessarily mean you *should.* Consider the purpose for which you'd use the camera, and weigh it against the cost of installing it (not just financial cost, but cost in terms of neighborly relations, etc.).

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  • Can an HOA force a condo owner to appliances (water heater) within their unit?

    Our HOA is requiring that all of us condo owners replace our water heaters if they are over 10 years old. I have insurance that will cover any damage caused by my water heater, but they are holding their ground. I don't have an argument with ch...

    Valerie’s Answer

    The answer to this question lies in the governing documents for your association, so no one can answer your question without reviewing those. That being said, it is not unusual for a condo association to have that authority. As a practical matter, I certainly understand you not liking being told what to do inside your own home. On the other hand, the association has the duty to maintain the association and building as a whole, and if your water heater or another appliance malfunctions, it can damage common elements and other units. Also, even when an owner has insurance (as you do), typically the association's insurance is considered primary, so a loss even like a water heater malfunctioning and creating a large amount of water damage would end up being a claim on the association's insurance even though you do have your own insurance. So there are a lot of competing practical considerations to consider.

    Bottom line, though, to YOUR question, is that the answer probably lies in your association's governing documents.

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  • I need to ask a questions of real estate attorney that specializes in Condo Law.

    I am considering selling my condo. There is a potential special assessment for some major maintenance at the complex. Does the seller normally pay the entire special assessment or is it normal practice for the buyer to share in paying all or a ...

    Valerie’s Answer

    The link below will take you to a list of Washington State lawyers experienced with condominium law. The answer to your question depends on a number of factors, including when and how the special assessment is levied. Good luck.

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  • Do I have to respond to the Condo Boards Lawyers debt collection letter addressed to her estate seeking back maintenance dues?

    My mother died leaving no will or assets only debts and I'm not wanting to be Administrator or Executor since there is nothing to delegate. The condo had a mortgage and is in the foreclosure process. I am not in possession of the real property no...

    Valerie’s Answer

    I agree that you should consult with a probate attorney. Also, you might reach out (via your lawyer) to the association's attorney and offer to sign off on the association renting the unit and keeping the income until the lender forecloses. That would get you "off the hook" for any liability you might have, and would also help the association "stop the bleeding" on the delinquency. Just a thought. Good luck & I am very sorry for the loss of your mother.

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  • Accessibility laws and condo associations

    I live on the second floor in an eleven unit condo and I am now disabled and having trouble getting up the stairs to my unit. My disability is progressive and so eventually the stairs will be impossible for me. What if any accommodations does th...

    Valerie’s Answer

    I agree with the previous answer. If the stairs are difficult for you due to your disability, you should consider requesting a meeting with the board to discuss the options. Make a formal request for an "accommodation," with the understanding that in giving you a reasonable accommodation, the board does not have to give you exactly what you ask for - so long as the accommodation made is reasonable. It may also be that you will have to pay for the installation of whatever accommodation is made. If you can't have a productive conversation with your board, you should consider requesting the assistance of an attorney experienced in both community association law and disability/housing law.

    Good luck.

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  • HOA fee increases due to a number of units not paying due's.

    In my association there are approximately 30% of units that are not currently paying their monthly due's, some due to foreclosures and I believe some feel they don't have to pay them. Because of this the association is increasing the monthly due's...

    Valerie’s Answer

    Individual owners who are paying can't do much when other owners don't pay. However, you can encourage your board (by attending meetings, writing letters, etc.) to take aggressive legal action against the delinquent owners. You might even consider volunteering to be a board member yourself. The association has many options to collect on what's owed, including recording liens, pursuing personal judgments, and possibly foreclosing on the delinquent properties. Try to make sure your board is working with an attorney experienced in community association law to ensure they are getting the best possible advice. Good luck!

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  • My homeowners' association owes me money. Can I deduct my HOA dues in lieu of payment?

    I have asked a related question. I live in another state. Without my knowledge or consent, my HOA and their management company allowed two displaced tenants from another unit to stay in my vacant condo, complete with furniture and cat. The pair to...

    Valerie’s Answer

    The prior answer is correct, and there is case law squarely on point to this question. There is no right to "offset," and homeowners who have a dispute with their association are specifically NOT authorized to withhold payment of dues because of any such dispute.

    If you don't pay your dues and the association takes legal action to collect, you will be held liable, and you'll have to pay their costs/fees.

    Your best bet is to do small claims court when you are next in Washington. You can also hire a lawyer to send a demand letter and ask for attorneys' fees, but if that doesn't work, you'll be further in the hole because of those fees.

    Good luck.

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  • Our HOA Board wants to add an additional HOA fee on any unit with renters. Is there a limit to how high it can be?

    Proposed fee may be $200 per month, which seems excessive especially since several units have established renters. So interest if there something similar in Washington to California Civil Code 1366.1 An association shall not impose or collect an a...

    Valerie’s Answer

    There are two possible problems with the proposed fee that you have described. First, an association may have a hard time enforcing a fee that discriminates between tenant-occupied units and homeowner-occupied units. So a "tenancy" or "rental" fee may be impermissible, unless the association can show that the fee is reasonably related to costs it incurs in connection with rentals only. Related is the requirement that any fee charged by an association must be reasonably related to costs the association incurs in connection with the event that triggers the fee. So if the association can document costs of $200 in connection with a rental unit, the fee MIGHT be permissible.

    Most association choose to impose a "move in/move out" fee that applies anytime occupancy of a unit changes. That eliminates the concern about discriminating against non-resident (i.e., landlords) owners. So then the only remaining "hurdle" is whether the fee is in a reasonable amount.

    Associations should consult their legal counsel before adopting such fees so they can be advised as to whether the proposed fee is permissible and reasonable.

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  • Can the HOA evict me if my landlord is in arrears of the HOA fees. Can they demand I pay them my rent?

    according to 718.116 (11)

    Valerie’s Answer

    I don't practice in Florida, so hopefully a FL attorney will chime in soon. Here in Washington, if an owner fails to pay dues, the association can foreclose on the unit and evict any occupants who refuse to pay rent to the association. That ability is partially determined by our statutes (laws) but also depends on what is written in the governing documents for the association. If you've received a demand from the association/their attorney with these claims, you need to consult with a FL lawyer familiar with community association law to determine your response.

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