Make Your List and Check It Twice: Holiday Checklist for Community Associations in Virginia | Woods Rogers Vandeventer Black

It’s the holiday season for community associations and end-of-year celebrations. With such festive and fun events come certain responsibilities and measures that the community association should consider. Below is a list of suggested items that should be reviewed prior to an association-sanctioned or hosted year-end party.

Comply with Virginia Alcoholic Beverage Control Authority (ABC) laws

If alcohol will be present at the association party or year-end party, it is important to determine if an ABC banquet license will be required. A banquet license is usually issued to individuals representing themselves or their organization for a private event where alcohol is provided free of charge to guests. This banquet license permits (a) free beer, wine, or mixed drinks, (b) BYOB, or (c) non-profit beer and/or wine sales. For Virginia ABC laws and community associations, however, there is an important exception to the banquet license requirement for community associations that meet the definition of “common interest communities” under Virginia Code § 54.1-2345.[1]provided that the following conditions are met:

  1. The party is limited to members of the community of common interest and their guests;
  2. alcoholic beverages are neither sold nor charged in any way;
  3. the premises where alcoholic beverages will be consumed are limited to the common area regularly occupied and used for such private meetings or private parties, and
  4. these meetings or parties are not open to the public.

If your community association is unsure whether a banquet license is required for an association-sanctioned party, the association may contact a Virginia ABC Special Agent in the applicable regional law enforcement office for assistance.

Acquire licenses to play music and/or movies

If a community organization plans to publicly release music and/or film at the party or holiday party, the required license(s) will be required. Most music and movies are protected by copyright laws and using these works without a license would be a violation of that copyright. It is important to note that a public execution license is required even if the plan is to play music on Pandora, Spotify or another streaming service, or even if the plan is to play music from a playlist of purchased and downloaded music. Statutory damages for copyright infringement can be high and range from $750 to $30,000, plus additional monetary damages and criminal penalties.

Public performance licenses for music can be obtained from any of the following performing rights organizations: the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers; Broadcast Music, Inc.; or Society of European Theater Authors and Composers [2]. Film licenses can be obtained from several sources, including Criterion Pictures USA, Inc., Motion Picture Licensing Corporation, and SWANK Motions Pictures, Inc.[3].

Community Associations should consult their legal counsel with any questions regarding the licensing of music and/or films. For more information on copyright infringement issues regarding community associations, see CAI Music and Film Licensing Guidance Document for Community Associations (May 2017). (pdf)

Obtain adequate insurance coverage

Fun times are meant to be had during community association holidays or holiday parties, but sometimes the holidays don’t go as planned. In the event of an incident, such as when someone is hurt or injured, the community association can be held liable or, at the very least, be named as a defendant in a legal action. In either scenario, the cost of defending the community association can be high. Community Associations should meet with their insurance broker or agent to discuss the types of insurance coverages and exclusions in place and whether additional policies and/or coverages should be purchased for additional protection. These insurance policies may include general liability insurance, special event insurance, workers’ compensation insurance and/or an umbrella policy.

Do not violate fair housing laws

All Virginia Community Associations are subject to the Federal Fair Housing Act (FHA) and the Virginia Fair Housing Act (VFHL) (FHA and VFHL collectively “Fair Housing Laws”). Fair housing laws prohibit housing practices that discriminate against people because of their race, color, religion, sex (including sexual orientation and gender identity), national origin, marital status, disability, or disability, and the VFHL provides additional protection for individuals based on their old age, source of funds, or military status.

So how can fair housing laws be implicated when it comes to a community association’s holiday or year-end party? An example of a potential fair housing violation is an “adults-only holiday party” or “21+ holiday party”. Typically, the reason for such an age restriction is that alcohol will be present at the event and the association wishes to prevent underage drinking. However, under fair housing laws, such a restriction can be problematic as it discriminates against people who may have family status.[4].

Associative associations have a legitimate concern in wanting to prevent minors from drinking during their demonstrations; however, prohibiting those under 21 from attending may violate fair housing laws because it treats people with family status differently and does not do so in the least restrictive means. Instead, community associations can implement other means of preventing underage drinking, such as providing wristbands to people 21 and older.

If a community association is considering imposing restrictions on who can attend certain association-sanctioned events, it should keep in mind that there may be fair housing implications and contact legal counsel to discuss it.

[1] Go. Code § 54.1-2345 defines “community of common interest” as real property subject to a declaration containing lots, at least some of which are residential or occupied for recreational purposes, and common areas to which a person, under the property of the person of a lot that is the subject of this declaration, is a member of the association and is required to pay the shares of common charges, it being understood that for the purposes of this chapter only, a community of Interest does not include any timeshare project registered under the Virginia Real Estate Time-Share Act (§ 55.1-2200 et seq.) or any additional land forming part of such registration. “Community of common interest” does not include an arrangement described in § 54.1-2345.1. Note that this same section defines “lot” as “Lot” means (i) any parcel or parcel of land designated for separate ownership or occupation shown on a registered plan of subdivision for a development or the boundaries of which are described in the declaration or in a registered instrument contemplated or expressly contemplated by the declaration, other than a common portion, and (ii) a unit of a condominium association or a unit of a housing cooperative.

[2] References to these organizations are not endorsements and the names are provided for informational purposes only.

[3] References to these sources are not endorsements and the names are provided for informational purposes only.

[4] “Family Status” means one or more persons under the age of 18 who live with (i) a parent or other person who has legal custody of the person(s) or (ii) any person whose parent or person having legal custody have designated in writing, and also includes any person who is pregnant or who is in the process of obtaining legal custody of a person under the age of 18. See 42 USC §3602(k); See Virginia Code § 36-96.1:1.

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