Monday, March 28, 2011

Landslides: Nuisance or Construction Defect?

Sorting Out Liability and Damages

As I write this, northern California is experiencing the second straight week of rain in an otherwise very wet year.  Continuous rain soaks the ground and loosens unstable hillsides. Landslides can stay hidden for years until very wet weather suddenly breaks them loose. Also, slides can move very slowly, over long periods of time, gradually damaging the properties around them.

            In either case, earth movement can cause serious damage to buildings and other improvements on or adjacent to the unstable land. Mudslides, rockslides, and landslides are all versions of the same phenomenon—water plus gravity equals damage.

            We’ve seen slides gradually pull down the surrounding properties so slowly that trees growing on the hill have curved trunks. This is called soil creep and can last for years or decades. We’ve also represented clients whose homes were damaged in just a moment as a large landslide, hidden beneath the surface of the earth for centuries, comes down, bringing a large portion of the hillside with it.

            Property developers are required to obtain the advice of soil engineers when grading is done in a landslide-prone area, and most engineers are very good at detecting the presence of hidden slides. Aerial photo mapping, boring, or just reviewing the history of the area under development can do this. But regardless of the engineer or developer’s efforts, slides can still occur.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Is the Florida Legislature About to End Condo Dispute Arbitration?

(Editor's note: Florida has state licensing of condominium managers and arbitration of owner and board disputes. New proposed legislation would dismantle this system. This article recently appeared in the Fort Lauderdale Sun Sentinel)

By Daniel Vasquez 

A new Florida bill seeks to deregulate condominium community association managers and dismantle the state's arbitration system for settling owner and board disputes out of court.

What would that mean? Community association managers and companies, which often manage the finances and day-to-day operations of communities, would no longer be required to be licensed by the state or report crime convictions to state officials, critics say. In other words, virtually anyone - regardless of qualifications or criminal background - could become a manager in charge of what could be millions of dollars worth of property and assets.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Why Members Don't Care About Their Community Association

Many community association members are apathetic about association affairs because they don’t see their association as significant to their lives—that nothing the association does or doesn’t do will have a serious effect on them. This attitude often arises from the perception that a sale of their interest will pass any association problems on to someone else.

A community association is not the board of directors. It’s not management. It’s not legal counsel.  A community association is the sum of its members—nothing more, nothing less. The ultimate fate of a community association is always in the hands of the owners. An association is dependent upon its members in numerous ways. Funding is the most obvious example. Without member assessments an association will cease to function—those assessments are usually the sole source of cash flow to pay operational expenses, staff salaries, and to accumulate reserves for future maintenance and repair.