Saturday, September 20, 2008

Garage Condos

A company called GarageTown USA has developed a number of garage condominiums in Idaho and a few other states, and they have recently announced plans to franchise in other states, including Utah.

There are some very interesting ideas in their concept. As they describe it:

You own and control your space. Condo owners receive a titled deed, just like any other real estate.

You can gain access to your space 24 hours per day, 365 days per year.

You control the security level of your space.

You can totally customize your space to match your needs - from colors, flooring, mezzanine structures, etc.

Your space can include high speed Internet and cable T.V. at most GarageTown locations.

You decide what temperature is right for your space.

You benefit from all real estate appreciation and may sell your unit at any time. (The perfect starter real estate investment!)

You can participate in all real estate tax benefits which may include 1031 exchange, depreciation, mortgage interest and property tax deductions. Please check with your tax professional for your specific requirements.

You and your family enjoy the benefits of the Club House - climate controlled, big screen T.V., bathrooms, showers, mini-kitchen, high speed Internet.

You can become part of a community of like-minded people who have interests and hobbies similar to yours.

What their information doesn't disclose are the inevitable permitted and prohibited uses. My assumption is that their governing documents are opposite in almost every respect to what we are used to -- e.g. residential uses are prohibited; derelict cars are permitted, if not encouraged; and business uses appear to be expected.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Create a Wildlife Community

The National Wildlife Foundation has a program through which communities can create, and then receive recognition as, a certified Community Wildlife Habitat.

Here's how they describe a Community Wildlife Habitat:

A Community Wildlife Habitat is a community that provides habitat for wildlife throughout the community--in individual backyards, on school grounds and in public areas such as parks, community gardens, places of worship and businesses. It is a place where the residents make it a priority to provide habitat for wildlife by providing the four basic elements that all wildlife need: food, water, cover and places to raise young. The community also educates its residents about sustainable gardening practices such as reducing or eliminating chemical fertilizers and pesticides, conserving water, planting native plants, removing invasive plants and composting. It hosts workshops about gardening for wildlife, and holds community events such as stream or trail cleanups to make the community healthier for wildlife and people alike. A Community Wildlife Habitat project creates a place where people, flora and fauna can all flourish.

Participants in the program must earn a certain number of points, depending upon their size; thereafter, there are required post-certification goals.

Add this to Your Declaration...

Or at least seriously consider adding this, or something similar, to your declaration. The language below was recently upheld by the Georgia Supreme Court, which upheld the provision in protecting an association from a lawsuit filed by an owner.

The Declaration provided, in pertinent part:

From the time that the common area, or any portion thereof, is opened and put into use for the enjoyment of parcel owners, owner [developer] shall be and remain wholly free and clear of any and all liability to, or claims by, all parcel owners, and all persons and entities, of whatever kind or character, whether sounding in contract or tort, deriving from the occurrence of any injury or damage to any person or property on, or in respect of the use and operation of, the common area or any of its improvements, fixtures, and facilities; inasmuch as the control, operation, management, use and enjoyment, of the common area shall be within, under, and subject to the Association – and not owner [developer]. In this respect, it shall be the affirmative duty and responsibility of each parcel owner, and user of the common area facilities to continuously inspect the same for any defects or perils or other unsafe conditions or circumstances, prior to and during such use or enjoyment thereof; and all users of, and visitors to, the common area and its improvements and facilities shall use, enjoy, and visit, the same at their own risk and peril.

The Association successfully defended against a number of challenges to the language, ultimately succeeding in obtaining a dismissal of the Unit Owner's personal injury suit.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Security Information for Your Association

The Foundation for Community Association Research, a non-profit research affiliate of the Community Associations Institute, released a book earlier this year on association security. Here's info from the CAI press release:

The Foundation for Community Association Research has published Community Security, a 50-page resource that associations can use to determine their security obligations and decide which products and services can provide an appropriate level of security for their residents. Community Security is the eighth Best Practices report developed by the Foundation.

The new report addresses association security obligations; security services; video surveillance and alarm systems; access control systems for vehicles and pedestrians; automated gate systems, and more. The publication includes two case studies and a checklist for securing communities.

The report can be downloaded for free at or purchased in hard copy by CAI members for just 12.95 ($22 for nonmembers) through Community Associations Press at The complete collection of eight best practice reports can be purchased by CAI members for $24.95 ($42 for nonmembers).

Other free, downloadable Best Practice reports are:

* Financial Operations
* Governance, Resident Involvement and Conflict Resolution
* Community Harmony/Spirit/Involvement
* Strategic Planning
* Reserve Studies/Management
* Transition (from developer to homeowner control)
* Energy Efficiency

Best Practice reports have been downloaded almost 7,000 times this year alone.

"We develop Best Practice Reports so individual community associations don’t have to start from scratch," says Foundation President Robert Browning, PCAM, RS, of Browning Reserve Group in Sacramento. "Like all of our reports, Community Security was developed by leaders in their areas of expertise. For Community Security, we relied on the knowledge and experience of multiple contributors who share practical information that can save association boards time and unnecessary expense, not to mention missteps."

The Foundation is a nonprofit, research-driven group established in 1975 by Community Associations Institute (CAI). The Foundation supports and conducts research and makes that information available to professionals and volunteers involved in community association governance.

"We help volunteer community leaders and professionals better understand the increasingly sophisticated nature of community association management and
governance," says Executive Director David Jennings, CAE. "Our goal is to provide insight and information to those who work to make communities the best they can be."

The Foundation is supported by voluntary contributions that can be made on membership renewal applications.

CAI is a national organization dedicated to fostering vibrant, effective and harmonious community associations. CAI members include community association volunteer leaders, professional managers, management firms and businesses that provide a variety of products and services to community associations. More information on CAI and its 58 local, regional and state chapters is available at or by calling toll-free (888) 224-4321.

Monday, September 15, 2008

"Playing With Fire..."

An article that I just wrote with that title, dealing with avoiding lawsuits, has just been published in the September/October issue of Common Ground magazine. Members of CAI can read the article here. Nonmembers of CAI can join here. Or, you can get a subscription to Common Ground here.

Then again, if you'd rather hear about how to avoid lawsuits, you can keep an eye out for courses at our Community Learning Center, where we'll cover this material, and more, over the next several months.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Mark Your Calendar...

for the Utah Chapter of CAI's 2008 Trade Show.

Hobbs & Olson and are both proud sponsors, and I will be discussing environmental issues, and participating on the legal panel.

Admission is free for chapter members, and there will be prizes!

It's less than 90 miles from Pocatello, just slightly over 300 miles from Sun Valley, and 350 miles from Boise.

For more details, visit the Utah Chapter website.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

A Bit About This Site

This site is a sister site to two other blogs, and It is sponsored by the Salt Lake City based firm of Hobbs & Olson, L.C., which has lawyers who are licensed and practicing in Utah,Idaho and Wyoming.

The Utahcondolaw site will probably be the most frequently updated, but I'll try to keep you abreast of major developments in all three states, in each state's respective blog.