1. Obvious and objective
The first category is obvious, such as when the association receives a letter from an attorney requesting, threatening or demanding action, or when the association is served with a summons and complaint. The association should not delay in forwarding the document(s) to its attorney, as deadlines may be missed which could significantly prejudice or harm the association.
2. Less evident and subjective.
The second category is less apparent and often comes down to the judgment of the professional association manager. On one hand, the manager does not want to unnecessarily involve legal counsel incurring unbudgeted costs for the association. On the other hand, seasoned managers know that legal rights, remedies and negotiating leverage may be lost if legal counsel is not brought in early in a dispute.
To assist boards and managers, the following general guidelines may be helpful in determining when to call their attorney. Other than category (1) above, call if the issue involves:
- A governmental agency
- Imminent or pending risk of harm to persons or property
- A dispute with an insurer where resolution has not been accomplished early on
- Monetary or financial losses or claims.
I purposely omitted a third category of circumstances, that is, when an owner threatens the board or manager with the statement, “If you don’t do what I say, I’m going to call my attorney [or, I’m going to sue you]!” If I had a dollar for every time I heard that claim, I could have retired years ago!
Lastly, please keep in mind that many association attorneys do not charge for a quick consultation. The attorney should be able to tell a board member or manager within a few minutes if they should handle the matter, and if so, when to meter will be turned on.
This guest article was written by Daniel Zimberoff, a community association attorney representing condominium and homeowner association owners. The information contained in this article is provided for informational purposes only, and should not be construed as legal advice on any subject matter.
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