Service Members’ Right to Interest Reduction to 6%

Under the Servicemembers Civil relief act (SCRA), the maximum interest rate that may be charged on certain VA loans is 6 percent during the period of the servicemember’s qualifying military service.  Also established with the foregoing, the SCRA restricts foreclosures on obligations held or guaranteed by servicemembers, provides protections against default judgments, and permits early termination of certain leases, including motor vehicle leases. Under most circumstances, the loan holder, your loan servicer, will determine automatically whether the borrower might qualify for this interest rate limitation and apply any reduced rate. In the past several years this has not been an … Continue reading

Parliamentary Authorities: Robert’s Rules of Order vs Sturgis vs The AIP Standard Code

In my work as an attorney, Professional Registered Parliamentarian, and Certified Professional Parliamentarian-Teacher, I work with quite a few different parliamentary manuals. That’s because different organizations use different books as their procedural guide for membership and board meetings. I’m often asked about differences, so here’s a guide to the three parliamentary books most likely to be encountered. (If more information is needed, my Notes and Comments on Robert’s Rules, Fifth Edition goes into greater detail as well as compares specific practices between the books.) A “parliamentary authority” is a book on meeting procedure an organization follows because of a state … Continue reading

Reviews Are in for New Parliamentary Procedure Books!

The reviewing side of Publisher’s Weekly recently posted great reviews of my latest books, Robert’s Rules of Order Fast Track and Notes and Comments on Robert’s Rules, Fifth Edition. Each was also selected as an “Editor’s Pick,” which is described as “a book of outstanding quality.” Because the reviews are on a scrolling site (with latest reviews on top), the reviews are reprinted below. Read these and other reviews at Latest Reviews. Robert’s Rules of Order Fast Track: The Brief and Easy Guide to Parliamentary Procedure for the Modern Meeting Crisp, clear, and always on-point, Slaughter’s “fast track” guide to … Continue reading

Are Pickup Trucks “Commercial Vehicles” and Can HOAs Ban Them? Florida Pickup Man Says “No.”

In North Carolina, many Associations have covenants that prohibit “commercial vehicles” or “trucks.” In North Carolina, the top two best-selling vehicles and three of the top five vehicles in the state are pickup trucks. With the volume of pickups on North Carolina roads, and the number of truck-related covenants in place, the intersection is a common one to encounter, and the HOA is the traffic cop that is stationed at that intersection. Recently in Florida, this intersection was the subject of a dispute between an HOA and a homeowner. The homeowner purchased a 2022 Rivian R1T, which recently was named MotorTrend’s Truck of … Continue reading

What Can Members Vote on at an HOA or Condo Membership Meeting?

A question came up during a recent online discussion about “what members can do at an HOA or condo membership meeting?” Specifically, the questioner wondered if a member could seek recognition and unexpectedly make a motion to “make the association do most anything.” It’s a good question, and one we community association lawyers spend time analyzing. Hate to say, “It depends,” but facts matters. This is not a question that can be answered in a vacuum without specifics. State statutes and governing documents (usually the bylaws or articles of incorporation) vary as to what authority the membership has versus the … Continue reading

Board of Directors vs. Officers: How to Tell the Difference

What is the difference between the Board of Directors and corporate Officers?  In the community association world there can be some confusion regarding these distinct corporate roles because they can often be the same individuals. However, if we take a step back we can see that they are actually very distinct roles. Here is some guidance as to North Carolina distinctions. Duties: Board members are tasked with guiding the direction of the corporation. They set the broader vision for the corporation. For example, the Board would be responsible for adopting corporate resolutions, rules and regulations, and other policies and procedures … Continue reading

Best Practices for Board Meeting Minutes

A question came up during a recent online discussion about “best practices” for board meeting minutes. The answer to questions of what should (or should not) be included in minutes is more complicated than it seems. This article will give a broad answer, but I have to mention there are chapters in both my recent books, Robert’s Rules of Order Fast Track and Notes and Comments on Robert’s Rules, Fifth Edition, on what to include (or not) in minutes, approving minutes, changing minutes after the fact, handling closed/executive session meeting minutes, as well as model minutes templates and skeletal minutes (writing minutes before … Continue reading

Social Host Liability: Avoiding an Unwanted End to the Fun

After two years of being locked down or having to utilize caution and restraint when visiting and socializing with friends and family, North and South Carolinians are, understandably, ready to again indulge in and enjoy gatherings and, in particular, the festivities and frivolity of the holiday season!  Regrettably, parties, gatherings and other seasonal festivities can also create ripe opportunities for civil and, on occasion, criminal liability.  To avoid an un-jolly ending to the holiday season, property owners and hosts should keep in mind the following potential issues and obligations to minimize their personal liability: Premises Liability North Carolina property owners … Continue reading

Tenants-in-Common: A Common Complaint and an Untenable Affair

With my primary areas of practice in estate planning, estates and real estate, co-owned real estate is a frequently discussed topic with clients.  North Carolina recognizes three types of co-ownership in real estate.  First, tenancy-by-the-entirety is a type of co-ownership in real property reserved exclusively for spouses.  Tenancy-by-the-entirety has built in rights of survivorship and protections against the creditors of one spouse.  Second, joint tenancy is a type of co-ownership for non-spouses with rights of survivorship which means when one co-owner dies, their share is automatically vested in the surviving owner/s.  Joint tenancy in North Carolina at one time required … Continue reading

Estate Planning and Capacity: In Theory and in Practice

North Carolina requires the requisite capacity for an individual to sign legal documents.  Different legal documents require different levels of capacity.  Executing a Last Will and Testament requires testamentary capacity.  Executing a power of attorney requires contractual capacity.  Other legal instruments such as executing a deed require their own type of capacity.  Of importance, there is a presumption that every individual has capacity.  Declining mental and physical health are not enough to overcome this presumption, but clear indications of incapacity derived through conversations with an individual or medical information may overcome such presumption.   Additionally, capacity is not always fixed but … Continue reading

Health Care and Estate Planning: Legal Documents versus Medical Orders

The two primary health care documents attorneys prepare for clients as part of an estate plan are a health care power of attorney and an advance directive.  An advance directive is also referred to as a “living will” or a “declaration for a natural death.”  A health care power of attorney may contain an advance directive, in which case there may be only one multipurpose health care document in an estate plan. Health Care Powers of Attorney A health care power of attorney is a document where the principal appoints an agent to make major medical decisions on their behalf … Continue reading

Can, or Should, My Community Association Prohibit “Group Homes”?

With the passage of federal and State laws protecting disabled individuals, we see a societal push away from institutionalized living arrangements and towards community based, group home settings. This firm is frequently asked how, or if, an association can prohibit these group living arrangements within their community. Sometimes residents are worried that the group home occupants will pose a safety risk; there are also concerns about parking and transient residents; and fundamentally, associations may question whether this type of group living arrangement is consistent with single family residential use. The purpose of this blog is to provide a broad overview … Continue reading

Health Care and Estate Planning: Legal Documents versus Medical Orders

The two primary health care documents attorneys prepare for clients as part of an estate plan are a health care power of attorney and an advance directive.  An advance directive is also referred to as a “living will” or a “declaration for a natural death.”  A health care power of attorney may contain an advance directive, in which case there may be only one multipurpose health care document in an estate plan. Health Care Powers of Attorney A health care power of attorney is a document where the principal appoints an agent to make health care decisions on their behalf … Continue reading

Court of Appeals Confirm Vagueness and Ambiguity in Zoning Ordinance Will be Viewed in Favor of Free Use of Property

This week the North Carolina Court of Appeals issued a ruling in Frazier v. Town of Blowing Rock, 2022-NCCOA-782, that confirms the views of the Courts in this State that vague terms or ambiguity in language, in this case relating to a local zoning ordinance, will be viewed in favor of the free use of an owner’s property. In the community and association world (HOA and Condominiums) we have seen this line of decisions from the courts before as they deem vague restrictions or covenants in association governing documents as void and unenforceable for vagueness.  This holds true for local … Continue reading

Physiology and Estate Planning: An Imperfect Pair

Early in my career and as I began specializing my practice in estate planning, I always found aspects of drafting and explaining health care powers of attorney and advance directives to be peculiar to my background.  Using terminology such as “persistent vegetative state”, “advanced dementia” and “artificial hydration and nutrition” felt out of place in a law office.  Additionally, evaluating a person’s mental capacity requisite to execute certain legal documents was daunting with no academic background in physiology.  I had not taken so much as a basic biology course since my freshman year at North Carolina State University circa 2002/2003.  … Continue reading

Robert’s Rules of Order in US Court of Appeals Decision

This case mentioning Robert’s Rules of Order appeared in the “Roberts Rules in the News” page of my parliamentary website at The decision is a bit of a unicorn. While many news articles mention Robert’s and meetings issues, few court cases do. (Court decisions that make it to published appellate decisions tend to go on for longer and cost more money than most meetings disputes warrant.) Far fewer federal court opinions deal with Robert’s disputes, and this is from a U.S. Court of Appeals, which is shockingly rare. So even though the decision may not be that significant to … Continue reading

HOA/Condo Rental Restrictions, Corporate Owners & Institutional Investors

Requests for amendments to declarations tend to go in waves. Twenty years ago many associations were concerned about certain categories of sex offenders living in their communities. For several years now, the declaration amendment our firm most often gets asked about has to do with rental restrictions. Such questions arise out of concern that too many rentals or certain types of rentals will impact the “character” of neighborhoods. As a result, associations regularly approach our firm for advice on rental bans, rental caps, or restrictions on short-term/transient rentals like Airbnb or VRBO. (See Top Declaration Amendments for an HOA or … Continue reading

Conflicts of Interests: What Community Association Directors Should Know

Are you a director on your community association executive board?  If so, you may be wondering about conflicts of interest.  When do you as a board member have a conflict of interest? First, what is a conflict of interest?  The North Carolina Non-profit Act defines a conflict of interest transaction as “a transaction with the corporation in which a director of the corporation has a direct or indirect interest.”  A direct or indirect interest means that you have some personal interest in the transaction beyond your interest as a member of the Association.  Basically, the question is will you (or … Continue reading

New Announcement by HUD Means More Options for Flood Insurance

All community association boards want to be good stewards of the funds collected from their homeowners.  Sometimes, when finances are tight, a board has to face hard choices about how to reduce costs.  That might mean reducing services or even deferring needed maintenance for a period of time where that maintenance is not essential to safety or structural integrity.  As with all contracts, boards want to find the insurance that best suits their community and offers the best protection—at the best price.  For those townhome and condo communities located in a flood zone, the question often arises whether they must … Continue reading

Non-Foreign Affidavits / FIRPTA When the Seller Is a Foreign National

You may be asked to sign a non-foreign affidavit, also called a FIRPTA, if you are selling property.  It is one of the many documents that will be a part of your set of seller documents.  People can get a little confused or upset when they see language on the affidavit concerning a 10% or 15% IRS withholding.  The FIRPTA does not apply to everyone and is a common form to help the closing attorney confirm whether there will be an IRS withholding at closing.  It’s simple enough to follow the guidelines but I find it’s a bit better to … Continue reading