A bill has just been passed which affects Homeowner Associations. The bill, titled HB 791, makes several changes to Virginia Code sections 16.1-106 and 55-513. A majority of these changes benefit Associations but owners benefit as well. The changes will go into effect July 1, 2014. The most notable changes that Associations should be aware of are as follows:
Perhaps the change which most benefits Associations is the allowance of Associations to file actions in general district courts as well as circuit courts. Before the passing of this bill, Associations were often left with no recourse when an owner violated community rules as they were forced to seek relief from circuit courts which was very costly and inconvenient. However, now Associations will be able to file in general district court which allows a greater ease of access to the court when an Association is in need of a resolution.
While this change allows for greater access to a judicial proceeding, it also requires that owners be notified of any alleged violations and have a reasonable opportunity to correct the violation. Thus, Associations must notify the owners of any violation and then give them an opportunity to fix the problem before filing an action. This change provides an opportunity for the parties to work out the situation on their own before heading to court. It also gives Associations more ground to stand on when confronting an owner with a violation and incentivizes the owner to fix the situation before having to appear before a judge and explain the issue to the court.
Another important change which may benefit owners is that if the court rules on a legal action involving rule enforcement, then court costs and reasonable attorney fees may be granted to the prevailing party in certain situations. This is a change from the old provision because costs and fees may now be awarded to owners as well and not just to Associations.
Again, these changes will be effective as of July 1, 2014. If you would like to learn more about the changes and how it affects your individual Association, please do not hesitate to contact us.