WHAT'S THE LAW?
Homeowners association restart steps
Question: Our deed says that we have a homeowners association for our condominium complex, but it has not met for more than 20 years. I would like to restart the association. How can I do this legally? The storm drains in our area are deteriorating, and there are other problems in the common areas. Former directors have either moved or are not interested in restarting the association. Do I have to have a lawyer to help do this? Can the homeowners in the condominium complex be assessed for the costs of hiring a lawyer?
Answer: From Legal Aid's housing unit: The documents that govern homeowners associations are known, not surprisingly, as "association documents." The association documents might include the following: articles of incorporation (the document that started the association in the first place); bylaws (a document that contains many of the rules governing how the association should operate); any rules related to the use of the common areas, to architectural control, to the maintenance of units or to the restrictions on the use of units; and, finally, any amendments to any of these documents.
You will most likely want to begin your search for answers on reviving your homeowners association at the Bureau of Conveyances where the association documents are recorded and should be on file (you can check online at www.state.hi.us/dlnr/bc/bc.html).
However, forming a homeowners association-or restarting one can be complicated, and you will probably need the assistance of an attorney. Generally, the costs of hiring an attorney can be paid by the association as long as the association has money to pay. Many attorneys offer free consultations during which they will be able to tell you whether they can help you do what you want, how much it will cost and perhaps even whether the homeowners association could pay the bill. You can locate an attorney that has experience with homeowners associations by contacting the Hawaii State Bar Association's Lawyer and Information Service at 537-9140.
Legal Aid Society of Hawaii operates statewide. Practice areas include housing, public benefits, consumer and family law but not criminal law. For information, call 536-4302. Submit questions by e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org or by U.S. mail to Legal Aid Q&A, 924 Bethel St., Honolulu, HI 96813.