While the butt of many jokes and a thorn in the side of some property owners, homeowners associations (“HOAs”) serve the vital function of collecting and disbursing funds to care for and maintain common areas of residential developments. Without HOAs, neighborhood open spaces, parks, and other amenities risk falling into disrepair through a type of tragedy of the commons, wherein residents use such amenities but refuse to subsidize care and maintenance for these common areas believing someone else will pony-up the funds. HOAs, when properly organized and managed, avoid this problem by ensuring everyone pays their fair shares for the common areas. Colorado’s Common Interest Ownership Act (“CCIOA”), C.R.S. § 38-33.3-101 et seq., sets forth the manner in which such common-interest communities, and their related associations, must be established.
Earlier this summer, the Colorado Supreme Court issued an opinion limiting the application of previous case law that allowed for the establishment of common-interest communities (and their related HOAs) by implication. See McMullin v. Hauer, 420 P.3d 271 (Colo. 2018). Prior to McMullin, Colorado courts had been increasing the number of factual scenarios implying the creation of common-interest communities under CCIOA. See e.g., Evergreen Highlands Assoc. v. West, 73 P.3d 1 (Colo. 2003) (finding an implied obligation of landowners to fund a pre-existing HOA’s obligations); DeJean v. Grosz, 412 P.3d 733 (Colo. App. 2015) (finding an implied right of a homeowner to found an HOA after the developer filed a declaration expressing an intent to form one but ultimately failed to do so); and Hiwan Homeowners Assoc. v. Knotts, 215 P.3d 1271 (Colo. App. 2009) (finding the existence of an HOA despite no common property existing within the development). The McMullin opinion highlights the importance of strict compliance with CCIOA to preserve common areas in a development, ensure the ability to fund maintenance of such areas, and avoid future litigation.