Neighbor Disputes  Continued From Page 27

Check your governing documents to determine whether a decision is final or is subject to a right to reconsider or appeal. Include a deadline for “restoring” compliance. Copy the complainant if appropriate. Be specific in future enforcement steps. Ensure that the account ledger properly reflects fines and other amounts levied. Keep in mind that a community needs specific language in its governing documents to have an absolute right to charge back enforcement costs.

Legal Action

If compliance is not achieved through the association’s internal enforcement processes, the board may want to consider legal action. Check to

ensure that no owner vote is required before litigating. If there is an emergency situation going on, the association may explore obtaining a temporary restraining order and later a protection order. Note that to obtain these orders you must file a summons and complaint and post a bond. Long-term relief may be obtained in the form of an injunction, by which the court requires someone to cease engaging in the non-compliant behavior. Note that small claims court is not likely an option, as associations are corporate entities rather than natural people. Be sure to seek recovery of expenses. Consider combining an enforcement action with a foreclosure action if appropriate.

If the association is not interested in taking legal action, it can be helpful to remind the complainant that they may have an independent right to seek legal relief.

Consider combining an enforcement action with a foreclosure action.


Often boards inquire about removing a tenant who is causing ongoing problems. There may be language

in the association’s governing documents authorizing the association to evict if the owner/landlord does not do so, but the procedures are often quite complicated. Another option is to have the landlord sign a power of attorney to authorize the association to evict if the landlord has a legal

28 Community Associations Journal | July-August 2021

right to do so. Another way to indirectly correct tenant misbehavior is through fining the landlord, which may help convince the landlord to remove the tenant or decide not to renew the lease. If all else fails, the association may consider taking legal action and filing a motion for “ejectment.” It is harder to remove a tenant who is a relative of the landlord without the landlord’s cooperation. WUCIOA addresses tenant removal at RCW 64.90.405(5). Note that there may be additional restrictions on tenant removals due to COVID-19 and legislation that arose from it.

Fair Housing

Be mindful of complaints and defenses to complaints that may trigger application of fair housing laws. For example, it is illegal to discriminate against families with children, which means that the association may not be able to enforce a compliant about children making typical children noise while in a home. Residents may also need a “reasonable accommodation” of a rule such as a prohibition on animals. Though sometimes fair housing claims may be pretextual, be sure to approach any potential such claim sensitively and appropriately. Consider each case on its specific facts. Remember that mental illnesses such as hoarding are considered protected disabilities. There are some exceptions to the duty to accommodate, but the presumption should be to grant the request.

Remember that mental illnesses such as hoarding are protected disabilities.

In somewhat rare situations there may be claims of “competing disabilities,” in which, for example, someone needs a service dog and a neighbor has a severe allergy to dogs. In such a situation, consider what practical options can be pursued to accommodate both disabilities to the extent it is reasonable to do so.

Anti-Harassment Protection Orders

In some cases involving harassment, an individual may seek a protection order against a neighbor. Per RCW 10.14.020, to obtain such an order, there needs to be a “knowing and willful course of conduct directed at a specific person which seriously alarms, annoys, harasses, or is detrimental to such person, and which serves no legitimate or lawful purpose.” A corporation such as a community association cannot obtain a traditional anti-harassment protection order.

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