Stone & Sallus represent both developers, homeowners, and board members of the associations who dispute construction defects, enforcements, compliance issues, common areas, annual reporting, and disclosures. If you are thinking of purchasing in a development with an HOA or need clarification about an HOA issue, please call us before you purchase. Stone & Sallus attorneys have helped both Los Angeles residents and HOAs with related disputes. We handle HOA cases in Los Angeles and throughout California. If you are a Homeowners Association or you have a problem with a Homeowner’s Association and need help to resolve it, call the HOA attorneys at Stone & Sallus.
What is an HOA?
The California state assembly enacted the Davis-Stirling Act in 1985, which allows developers of a common interest development to create a Homeowners Association to govern the development. HOAs are set up as non-profit mutual benefit corporations. Real estate developers form Homeowners Association when planning subdivisions, planned communities, and condominiums. Anyone purchasing in a planned unit community will receive a copy of the covenants, conditions, and restrictions (CC&R) for the HOA. A copy should be given to the purchaser of the title before the actual closing. It is important to read and understand this mandatory agreement of the HOA. Please read it thoroughly. When you purchase a property in a HOA, you become a member automatically. The members vote on their board of directors and the board of directors are volunteers, managing the homeowners association.
What are the Advantages of HOAs
- Community Pride having a well-managed HOA has its benefits, good neighborhood relations with event planning. Keeping a positive atmosphere for the community.
- Finance stability for future common area repairs assurance comes with having reserves (monies/fees) that are mandatory.
- Property Values are maintained due to deed restriction and rules that owners need to obey.
- Access to amenities many HOAs come with common areas like swimming pools, tennis courts, and walking trails amongst other community amenities.
What are Disadvantages of HOAs
- Maintenance fees joining an HOAs comes with an obligation to pay for common areas and others agreed to fees. Sometimes these fees can be high making it unaffordable for the residents.
- Enforced rules and regulations remember your HOA is a “mini-government” for the community to stay within the rules.
- Disagreements with other homeowners in the community. It happens neighbors sometimes do not like each other.
- Non-Compliance of neighbors who jeopardize the HOA, such as liens resulting from non-payment of fees.
- Property Restrictions painting your home a certain color might not be allowed or watering your lawn every day or hanging a holiday wreath or decorative flags outside your home. Make sure you know the restrictions and rules of your HOA concerning your home and property.
New Laws that Affect HOAs in Los Angeles 2020
- Labor Code Section 275030 – Independent contractors who work for the homeowner’s association might be reclassified as employees. This would change the HOAs obligation to pay for sick leave and payroll withholding if conversion occurs.
- Civil Code 1940.45 under Davis Stirling Act – This act now says display of religious items cannot be prohibited and gives guidelines to associations on how to inform homeowners to take down religious items due to repair or exchange of door frames. Change also gives allowable dimensions (36” by 12”) for religious displays on front doors.
- Civil Code 323 Common Interest Developments – This made many changes to rules and procedures that relate to elections in the associations.
Most Common Types of Disputes Concerning HOA
Many homeowner associations file lawsuits over things like harassment within the community, neighbor disputes, CC&R violations, constitutional issues amongst other conflicts that can and do occur. Here is a california case that exhibits many problems that sometimes occur within HOAs:
Boswell v. The Retreat Community Assn., (July 11, 2016) David and Melina Boswell moved into the gated community, “The Retreat,” with 571 single-family homes in Corona California. Carl S. Schmidt is the President of the Homeowner Association and heads the Architectural Committee. This escalating conflict between the two parties and others within the association went to trial then to an appellate court which in the end reversed on part the trial court’s decision granting the Boswell the right to sue for negligent infliction of emotional distress.
Moreover, The Appellants (HOA) entered an anti-SLAPP motion. SLAPP is an acronym for “strategic lawsuits against public participation.” It is used to help dispose of frivolous free speech (constitutional) suits based on an opinion. Furthermore, having the right not to be sued because you exercised your constitutional right to say what you think by filing a lawsuit. The Boswells (respondents) were granted a new motion to sue for “Infliction of emotional distress.” Judge Craig Riemer awarded The Retreat Community (Appellants) cost on appeal including attorney fees against the Boswells in the amount to be determined by the trial court. Boswell stated he was not recognized as a member, was refused voting privileges and was not allowed to attend meetings. He gave 19 examples of how he was harassed by the president of the HOA (Carl S. Schmidt). President accused Boswell of violating the rules of the HOA and running a business out of the home. Carl S. Schmidt (President of HOA) did not consider Boswell a homeowner but a renter (Boswell was attempting to purchase property while renting).
The above case shows how disagreements can escalate into personal conflicts and not addressing the issue in a correct manner can cause time, money, and stress to the parties. If you find that you are being harassed, or notice violations are occurring within the HOA, meetings are not being held, reckless management, amenities are not being taken care of properly or possible falsification of reports, contact Stone & Sallus. We are HOA lawyers in Los Angeles knowledgeable in Homeowners Association disputes.
How HOAs Can Avoid Disputes
Board of directors, the board, are members voted on by members of the Homeowners Association, they are volunteers. California state law limits liability on nonprofit corporations. “The board” must serve responsibly. It is important to take your volunteering obligations seriously. To avoid disputes as a board member, remember your obligations to the association:
- Obligation of Care making sure that you understand the rules of HOA, clarity is key and important. Directors on the board are limited on how they can enforce rules in the community.
- Obligation of Loyalty making decisions ensuing your acting in the best interest, on behalf of the community.
- Obligation of Scope powers which encompasses the documents of incorporation (filed with the state), conditions, covenants, and restrictions (CC&R) and (bylaws) that govern the community. These are guidelines for HOA members and board of directors which reference obligations under the HOA. It grants the board of directors authority to collect fees, hold meetings, and create operating statements for its members.
Homeowners Associations are a great way to live with wonderful amenities, beautiful green spaces, and tranquil lifestyles when everyone plays by the rules. The board of directors and the members of HOAs must remember the contract signed by all parties to create a harmonious living environment and avoid legal disputes.
How Homeowners Can Avoid Disputes with Their HOA
- Homeowners should get involved in your community. Community involvement within HOAs allows members to create lasting memorable events, which helps to create a harmonious existence.
- Homeowners should read and understand the governing documents of the associations. This prevents misunderstanding within the community.
- Maintain your property value and seek any approvals for repairs and keeping your property in good condition by the rules of the association and laws.
- Pay obligated fees on time to your association. Make sure all fees are paid on time associations can put liens for these fees on homeowners who are delinquent.
- Know your rights as a member of the association. As a member of the association, if you feel that the board of directors are not doing a good job, common areas are not being maintained, falsification of records, harassment, and overreaching occurring within the community, do not be silenced.
Stone & Sallus, HOA attorneys represent disputes in Los Angeles. Call us for a free consultation with a law firm that understands HOAs.
Additional HOA Resources
If you’re planning on purchasing in the Los Angeles area here is a resource that can help you locate the Homeowners Associations Covenants, Conditions, and Restrictions. http://california-homeowners-associations.com/california_counties_list.php.