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Question: I'm trying to convince the rest of the Board not to hold a position on Committees unless we can't find any volunteers to serve. We are fortunate to have many volunteers. What do you think?

Answer: While it's great to involve other members, some committees shouldn't operate independently of the Board because they require historical information and perspective that only the Board can supply. This is particularly true of planning, architectural control and budgeting. For things like this, you have to know where you've been to know where you're going. This isn't quite as critical with, say, the Social or Grounds Committees. So the answer to your question is "Yes" and "No" depending on the committee.

Question: We currently have no policy as to who is authorized to contact the association attorney. In contested issues, several directors have run up attorney fees trying to establish a legal position for their argument. What do you suggest?

Answer: The Board should use attorney input when appropriate but for budget reasons needs to limit who has the authority to do so. If the matter involves a phone call and a couple of hundred dollars in expense, the Board President or a designated director should be authorized to make the call.

If the Board is considering litigation that potentially involves a large legal cost of thousands of dollars or more, the issue should be presented to the membership for majority approval. Unless the HOA wins the case including attorney fees, the members will end up holding the bag which likely will require a special assessment. If a majority of members would rather not risk the loss, the Board should honor that sentiment. Your attorney, of course, should be advised who has the authority to spin his meter.

Question: Each of our residents has two dedicated parking areas (one in their garage and one on their driveway. However some don't use the garage for vehicles or allow others to use the driveway while they park on our private streets. When we remind them they may be towed -- they threaten to sue!

Answer: You should have a clear parking policy that addresses these issues and the consequences for violation. However, be careful about towing unless you're prepared to patrol the neighborhood regularly and record all violators by location, make, model and license number. If you tow, tow consistently. But this is a very expensive and time consuming task.

It would be better for the Board President to personally visit the offender(s) and explain the problem with having a few disregard the policy. If they choose to pick and choose which rules they want to follow, so can everyone else. Most people, when confronted with the problem, will conform. For the rest, you may need to resort to fines or towing.

Question: From time to time, our high-rise condominium has suffered damage due to a unit water leak flooding units below. We are considering an inspection of all unit plumbing by a licensed plumber, followed by replacement of all hoses, valves, etc that need it. We're also considering water leak sensors and washing machine hoses that have a 20-year guarantee.

Answer: Rather than getting involved in unit plumbing repairs, the HOA should adopt a policy of making unit owners responsible for damage to common area and other units caused by unit plumbing failure. This kind of policy puts all unit owners and their insurance carriers on notice of their responsibility and limits the financial exposure to the HOA for something it has no control over.

While it seems reasonable for the HOA to install washer hoses, the HOA must be careful not to take on a unit owner's responsibility. Damage caused by failures of the hoses could be construed to be the HOA's responsibility to pay for including, possibly, unit owners' personal property damage.

It's better to advise unit owners periodically of maintenance like washer hose replacement while reiterating the financial implications for unit owners for plumbing failures that cause collateral damage. The Board should adopt an Areas of Responsibility Policy which clarifies for the unit owner and their insurance carrier which party, unit owner or HOA, is responsible.

See a sample Areas of Responsibility Checklist in the Planning Tools section of .

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