experience & dedication...

Alkalay & Smillie, PLLC

in Mt. Washington Valley, New Hampshire

Office: (603) 447-8994
Fax: (603) 297-2866

Articles of Interest

Attorney Edward Alkalay writes a regular column for the Conway Daily Sun newspaper entitled "The Legal Corner." His articles address a wide variety of timely legal issues. Click on the titles below to review his past articles.

Back to Articles of Interest

The Legal Corner: The Legal Corner: What every Homeowner’s Association Needs to Know

July 11, 2011

I recently read an article on the increasing number of battles between homeowners and boards within homeowner’s associations. Battles within associations are becoming more and more common all over the country. Whether you live in Florida, Nebraska, Texas, California, or New Hampshire, association disputes have increased tenfold within the past decade. And Mount Washington Valley is no different from the rest of the country. I represent many associations and have seen some very strange disputes arise. Disputes have arisen about the weight of a dog, clothes lines, hugging or kissing (fully clothed) in a backyard, children’s lemonade stands, and whether or not you can hang an American flag. Most times, these disputes have more to do with personalities than they do with the actual dispute. In this article, I will discuss how to avoid association disputes, and what to do if one arises.
The first place to start regarding an association is the covenants and bylaws. These are the important operative documents of any association. These documents should be carefully drafted and reviewed yearly. If board members and owners are all familiar with these documents, many disputes will get resolved before they even start. Additionally, if the board implements rules (as is often their prerogative according to the bylaws) the board should ensure that all members receive copies of the rules with a letter explaining when and pursuant to what section of the bylaws the rules were adopted. Again, this can resolve disputes before they start.
Of course, even if you are intimately familiar with the condominium documents, problems may still arise. For example, the condominium documents typically have a provision that states: “No homeowner, their visitors or tenants shall do or cause to be done anything which in any manner restricts another resident’s peaceful enjoyment of the property.”
This provision is both subjective and ambiguous. Consequently, many association disputes arise from different interpretations of such a provision. Even though such conflicts may be unavoidable, they can be easily resolved if both parties approach the dispute reasonably. However, as stated above, personality differences often expand a relatively small issue into a major controversy. What can you do? Perhaps the best thing to do is to try and find a neutral party (either a neighbor or another board member) who both sides feel comfortable talking to about the problem. Oftentimes, talking with a third party defuses the emotional aspects of the disagreement and you can resolve the issue.
Often, however, associations (and the members within) are not always in any position to mediate disputes between members. If this attempt fails, you may want to contact an attorney. Your initial discussions with an attorney should not involve demands to “sue the whole lot of them!” Rather your attorney should analyze the facts that you present and make efforts to resolve the issue early on to save you costs, time, and needless litigation. When an association dispute goes to court, it is rare that either side achieves a clear victory.
Another important reason to try and reach a peaceful resolution of a dispute is that you will have to live with one another even after the dispute is resolved. If there are ill feelings between association members and/or the board members, it is likely that further disputes will arise. If the dispute is resolved satisfactorily, future disputes can be avoided or at least worked out quickly.

Edward D. Alkalay is a partner at Alkalay & Smillie PLLC and can be reached at (603)447-8994 or ed@northconwaylawyers.com. (This article conveys general information and should not be relied on for legal advice without further research and/or consultation with an attorney.)

Back to Articles of Interest

By: Edward D. Alkalay