Taylor Legal Blog

Community Associations Need a Lawyer. Here's Why.

Posted by Katherine L. Taylor, Attorney and CPA, Chief Problem SolverMar 05, 20240 Comments

Many neighborhoods or communities in Maryland have associations that help with things like overseeing common areas, enforcing rules or policies, or addressing various issues related to shared ownership or living. These community associations have their own rules and laws by which they must abide. When inappropriately handled or when mistakes are made, disputes can arise, and no one in a community wants the latter.

At Taylor Legal, our community association lawyers in Howard County help our clients by ensuring contracts are lawful and favorable, rules and laws are followed, and processes are properly undertaken. By being proactive and transparent, we help community associations thrive. Contact us at 443-420-4075 to schedule a Complimentary today.

Understanding Community Associations in Maryland

Community associations provide a legal structure for the functioning of shared communities, helping to establish clear guidelines for governance, financial management, and dispute resolution. Clear and enforceable rules contribute to property value preservation, the maintenance of community aesthetics, and the overall well-being of residents.  

Many federal laws impact community associations, and these include:

  • Fair Housing Act (FHA), which prohibits discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, national origin, disability, or familial status in housing-related transactions – Community associations must adhere to these anti-discrimination provisions in their rules, policies, and decision-making processes.
  • Federal Housing Administration Guidelines, which impact condominium associations by setting eligibility criteria for properties seeking approval for FHA-insured mortgages.
  • Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which prohibits discrimination against individuals with disabilities in public accommodations and services – While community associations are not considered public accommodations, certain common areas may fall under the ADA's purview, requiring reasonable accommodations for individuals with disabilities.
  • Telecommunications Act of 1996, which regulates the installation of satellite dishes and antennas on private property, including within community associations.
  • Internal Revenue Code (IRC), which includes tax laws that may affect the tax-exempt status of community associations – Associations must comply with tax regulations related to income, expenses, and filing requirements to maintain their tax-exempt status.
  • Bank Secrecy Act (BSA), which requires financial institutions, including community associations, to report certain transactions that may involve money laundering or other financial crimes – This can impact associations that handle large sums of money, such as through the collection of assessments.
  • National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP), which may require properties in flood-prone areas to participate if they want to obtain federally backed flood insurance – Community associations must comply with NFIP requirements, including maintaining floodplain management standards.

Though federal laws act as the baseline, state and local laws can also significantly impact community associations. State laws often govern matters such as the creation and operation of associations, dispute resolution processes, and the enforcement of governing documents.

At Taylor Legal, our legal practice aims to balance the interests of individual homeowners with the collective needs and goals of the community as a whole. We assist associations in interpreting and applying legal principles and represent the interests of either associations or homeowners when disputes arise.

General Rights and Obligations Related to Community Associations

The obligations of community associations and the rights of communities under community association laws vary by jurisdiction and the specific legal framework governing homeowners associations (HOAs), condominium associations, or other forms of community associations. However, common elements of community association laws often include the following obligations and rights for associations and their members:

General Obligations

  • Board of Directors. The association's board of directors is typically responsible for making decisions on behalf of the community. Board members must act in accordance with the association's governing documents and applicable laws.
  • Compliance with Applicable Laws. Community associations must comply with federal, state, and local laws, including fair housing laws, environmental regulations, and other applicable statutes.
  • Financial Responsibilities. Associations are usually responsible for managing the community's finances, including collecting assessments or fees from residents, budgeting, and financial reporting. They must act in a fiduciary capacity, meaning they must manage funds responsibly and in the best interest of the community.
  • Governing Documents. Community associations typically have governing documents, such as covenants, conditions, and restrictions (CC&R), bylaws, and articles of incorporation. These documents outline the structure, rules, and responsibilities of the association.
  • Insurance. Associations are often required to maintain appropriate insurance coverage to protect against potential liabilities, property damage, and other risks.
  • Maintenance of Common Areas. Associations often maintain common areas, such as parks, pools, sidewalks, and landscaping. Ensuring the proper upkeep of these areas is a legal obligation to preserve property values and enhance the quality of life for residents.
  • Meetings and Record-Keeping. Associations are usually required to hold regular meetings, including annual meetings, to update residents on community matters. They are also often obligated to keep accurate records of meetings, financial transactions, and official correspondence.
  • Rule Enforcement. Community associations typically have the authority to enforce rules and regulations outlined in their governing documents. This may include architectural guidelines, noise restrictions, parking rules, and other community-specific regulations.

General Rights of Community Members and Communities

  • Access to Records. The right of homeowners to access certain association records, such as financial statements, meeting minutes, and other documents related to the operation of the community.
  • Amendment of Governing Documents. The right to propose and vote on amendments to governing documents, allowing the community to adapt to changing needs and circumstances.
  • Architectural Review Process. The right to participate in an architectural or design review process, ensuring that proposed changes to property exteriors comply with community standards and aesthetics.
  • Board Representation. The right to elect and remove members of the board of directors, ensuring that the governing body of the association reflects the interests and concerns of the community.
  • Due Process. The right to due process in disciplinary actions or enforcement proceedings, including notice of alleged violations, an opportunity to be heard, and an appeal process.
  • Fair and Consistent Enforcement. The right to fair and consistent enforcement of community rules and regulations, ensuring that all members are treated equally and violations are addressed impartially.
  • Governing Documents. The right to create, amend, and enforce governing documents, including bylaws, covenants, conditions, and restrictions (CC&R), which outline the rules and regulations for the community.
  • Legal Recourse. The right to legal recourse in the event of disputes with the association, ensuring that community members have avenues to address grievances and resolve conflicts.
  • Membership Rights. The right of community members to participate in decision-making processes, attend meetings, and vote on association matters, including the election of the board of directors.
  • Meeting Attendance. The right of homeowners to attend and observe association meetings, providing transparency and accountability in the decision-making process.
  • Privacy and Property Rights. The right to privacy and enjoyment of one's property within the limits set by the governing documents, with reasonable restrictions to maintain community aesthetics and harmony.
  • Reasonable Assessment Practices. The right to reasonable assessment practices, including clear communication about assessments, proper notice of changes, and transparency in how funds are used for community maintenance and improvement.

Members of community associations should familiarize themselves with governing documents and applicable state laws to understand their specific rights and responsibilities within the community association.

Common Community Association Disputes in Maryland

Community association lawsuits and litigation can arise from various issues related to governance, enforcement of rules, maintenance, and conflicts between homeowners and the association.

ADA Compliance Issues

Lawsuits may arise if associations fail to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act, especially if common areas or facilities are not accessible to individuals with disabilities.

Amendment of Governing Documents

Homeowners may challenge attempts to amend governing documents, arguing that the proposed changes violate their rights or the terms of the original agreements.

Architectural Disputes

Lawsuits may arise over disputes regarding architectural guidelines, design review processes, or the approval or denial of architectural modifications to individual properties.

Assessment and Dues Collection

Associations may initiate legal proceedings to collect unpaid assessments and dues from homeowners who are delinquent in their payments. These legal proceedings could involve:

  • Filing liens
  • Foreclosing on properties
  • Pursuing other collection methods

Board Decision Challenges

Homeowners may challenge decisions made by the association's board of directors, claiming improper procedures, violations of governing documents, or breach of fiduciary duties.

Breach of Contract

Disputes over contracts between the association and vendors, service providers, or contractors may lead to breach of contract lawsuits. This can involve issues related to landscaping, maintenance, security services, and more.

Construction Defects

Associations may pursue legal action against developers or contractors for construction defects in common areas or individual properties, seeking compensation for repairs.

Discrimination Claims

Lawsuits may be filed alleging discrimination or unfair treatment by the association, such as claims based on race, gender, disability, or other protected characteristics.

Disputes Over Common Areas

Litigation may arise over the use, maintenance, or ownership of common areas within the community, including disputes over parks, recreational facilities, or shared amenities.

Election Challenges

Homeowners may challenge the results of association board elections, alleging irregularities, improper procedures, or violations of election rules.

Enforcement Actions

The association may take legal action to enforce community rules and regulations, including issues involving:

  • Property maintenance
  • Noise complaints
  • Violations of use restrictions

Nuisance and Neighbor Disputes

Legal action may be taken to address disputes between neighbors, such as noise complaints, boundary disputes, or disagreements over property use.

Legal Services We Provide to Community Associations in Maryland

A community association lawyer provides legal guidance and representation to community associations, such as homeowners associations (HOAs), condominium associations, and cooperative housing boards. At Taylor Legal, our community association attorney takes pride in playing an important role in helping community associations navigate complex legal issues, enforce rules and regulations, and protect the interests of the association and its members. The following are some of the legal services we provide our clients.

Collection of Assessments and Dues

We assist in the collection of assessments and dues from homeowners who may be delinquent. This may involve sending notices, negotiating payment plans, and taking legal action if necessary.

Compliance with Applicable Laws

We ensure that the community association complies with local, state, and federal laws governing homeowners associations. This includes staying informed about changes in legislation that may impact the association.

Contract Review and Negotiation

We review and negotiate contracts on behalf of the community association, like:

  • Contracts with vendors
  • Service providers
  • Contractors for maintenance
  • Landscaping
  • Other services

Developer Transition

We assist in the transition from developer control to homeowner control, ensuring a smooth transfer of responsibilities and addressing any legal issues that may arise during the process.

Dispute Resolution

We encourage alternative dispute resolution methods, such as mediation or arbitration, to resolve conflicts without resorting to litigation when appropriate. We will mediate and, if necessary, litigate disputes between the association and homeowners, contractors, or other parties. This includes addressing issues related to property maintenance, architectural modifications, and other conflicts. 

Drafting and Reviewing Governing Documents

We assist in the creation, amendment, and interpretation of the community association's governing documents, including:

  • Bylaws
  • Covenants
  • Conditions
  • Restrictions (CC&R)
  • Articles of incorporation

Educational Support

We provide educational support to board members and homeowners, helping them understand their rights, responsibilities, and the legal framework governing community associations.

Enforcement of Rules and Regulations

We advise the association on the enforcement of community rules and regulations, ensuring compliance by homeowners or residents. This may involve addressing violations, imposing fines, and, if necessary, pursuing legal action.

Insurance Matters

We provide guidance on insurance matters, including coverage for the association and potential liability issues. We will also assist in filing insurance claims and addressing issues related to coverage disputes.

Legal Counsel for Board Meetings

We provide legal counsel during board meetings, advising on procedural matters, legal compliance, and decision-making processes.

Why Choose Our Community Association Attorney in Maryland

Our clients hire us because of the real value we bring to their homeowners associations (HOAs), condominium associations, and other community associations. The top reasons community associations retain our legal services in Maryland include the following:

  • Our knowledge of federal, state, and local laws directly and indirectly related to community associations
  • Our commitment to compliance with state statutes, local ordinances, and federal laws that govern community associations
  • Our commitment to upholding the interests of your community through legally sound governing documents, including bylaws, covenants, conditions, and restrictions (CC&R)
  • Our commitment to amicably resolve disputes when they arise between homeowners, board members, or other parties without resorting to costly litigation
  • Our commitment to help community associations enforce rules and regulations fairly and consistently by providing guidance on proper procedures, notice requirements, and due process to avoid legal challenges
  • Our crucial role in the collection of assessments and dues, including handling delinquencies, filing liens, and pursuing legal actions if necessary so that our clients maintain the financial stability of the community
  • Our ability to ensure our clients' interests are protected and that the terms of contracts are fair and legally binding
  • Our guidance on best practices for board governance that helps ensure board members understand their roles and responsibilities

At Taylor Legal, we also help community members understand their rights, responsibilities, and the legal framework that governs the community association because we believe that a successful community association is one where all parties are well-informed and can participate in meaningful ways

Contact a Community Association Lawyer in Howard Today

Hiring a community association lawyer in Maryland is an investment in the proper governance, legal compliance, and the overall well-being of the community. At Taylor Legal, our community association lawyers will help prevent legal issues, mitigate risks, and ensure that the community operates per the law and its governing documents. Contact us today by using the online form or calling us at 443-420-4075 to schedule a complimentary consultation.