The intent of this blog is to provide straightforward, clear information for board members and owners in community associations in Oregon. In addition to routine information, I also intend to provide less obvious information and experiences that I think will be helpful for owners and boards.
Let’s talk about the phrase “Community Association” and what it means. In the State of Oregon, there are three community association types, only two of which I’ll deal with on this blog: condominiums, planned unit developments, and timeshare communities. Since I’ve not dealt with timeshares, this blog will deal exclusively with condominiums and planned unit developments, both of which are also commonly referred to as HOAs.
There are three statutes in the State of Oregon that are applicable to community associations:
ORS Chapter 65 - Nonprofit Corporations
ORS Chapter 94 - Real Property Development
ORS Chapter 100 - Condominiums
All of these statutes are available online:
All community associations must follow ORS Chapter 65, regardless of whether or not they have been incorporated. Then, depending on the type of association, they must also follow either ORS Chapter 94 (for planned unit developments, also known as PUDs) or ORS Chapter 100 (for condominiums). With very few exceptions (and those generally being very old communities), the simplest way to determine if your community is a PUD or a condominium is by looking at the legal name: if “condominium” or “condominiums” is in the entity’s legal name, then your community is a condominium and follows ORS 100; otherwise it is a PUD. Some owners mistakenly believe that it is possible to tell simply by looking at how a community is constructed or by the items maintained by the HOA to determine the community type, but that is not the case. I have managed condominiums that were all single-family, detached homes (and the HOA had no maintenance responsibilities for those homes) and I have managed PUDs that were entirely responsible for the exterior of the home. If in doubt, consult your attorney to determine whether your community is bound by ORS 94 or ORS 100.
There are many important items that boards must follow in these statutes, so I generally recommend, especially if a community board is mostly or completely self-managed, that each board member have a copy of the current statutes in a notebook or other easy to access location. As a community manager, I find myself frequently reaching for statute to ensure I am providing proper guidance. It is critical that board members follow statute as well as the governing documents for the community; these should be thought of as the three most important documents in your possession.
What’s in these statutes that is so important? Truthfully I could discuss any number of the provisions that I’ve found boards either don’t know about or don’t understand, but one of the biggest ones that I have seen (usually unintentionally) missed has to do with open meeting laws. In the State of Oregon, all board meetings are open to owners. That does not mean that owners can take over board meetings and interrupt whenever they want, but it does mean that they have the right to be in the room and listening to the discussions and decisions being made. These meetings require proper notice to all owners (which could be as simple as posting a notice at least three days before by the mailboxes or setting out a A-frame sign with the meeting details) and should be held in a location that is near the community and is easily accessible to all owners. Board members cannot by chance (or intent) thwart holding board meetings or discussing business outside of those meetings. For example, let’s say your three member board all shows up independently (but at the same time) at the local Starbucks and you begin discussing the proposals for gutter cleaning. Whether or not a decision is reached, this case is a DIRECT violation of the open meeting laws.
Board members should also use great caution when discussing HOA business via e-mail. While e-mail can be a great tool, it also should not be used to circumvent holding open board meetings. I recommend that boards primarily use e-mail to distribute information, set meeting times/dates/locations (if these are not set in advance), and otherwise wait for the meeting to discuss or consider the items before the board.
For more information about the open meeting laws, please refer to ORS 94.640 or ORS 100.420.
Statutes can (potentially) change with every legislative session, which will now be every year. So it is prudent for boards to follow the changes and understand how the changes may affect them.
How can you find out about changes to the laws? There are educational opportunities for board members who would like to know more about community associations, including the laws. One of the best sources is Community Association Institute (CAI), which has chapters nationwide. The Oregon chapter, known as CAI-Oregon, holds luncheons at the MAC to discuss and explain changes in the laws and a variety of other important information about HOAs. October’s presentation was called “Nuts and Bolts of Rules, Fines, and Effective Enforcement.” You can find out more about CAI-Oregon at its website:
The next luncheon will be held in January. In addition to the luncheons, classes are also held at other times throughout the year to provide board members more educational opportunities.
To recap on today’s blog: 1) obtain a copy of ORS 65 and either ORS 94 or 100, depending on your community type; 2) read and understand how the provisions of these statutes affect the board and the community; and 3) if in doubt, consult your community manager or an attorney that specializes in community associations.