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Feldsott Lee Pagano & Canfield
Orange County Homeowners Association Law Firm

Laguna Hills California Homeowners' Association Law Blog

Sometimes homeowners' association members need to fight back

Living in one of California's residential communities often comes with paying for extras such as pools, landscaping and gyms, among other things. Homeowners' association members have the right to have their HOA payments spent appropriately. In some cases, the trust residents have for the board are misplaced, and when something is amiss, they need to fight back.

For instance, a member of an HOA board in another state was recently convicted in a California court for embezzling funds. By the time residents became aware of the theft, the man and another board member, a woman, had siphoned approximately $2.8 million from the association's accounts. The pair used false invoices in order to collect the funds.

What happens when homeowners' association members don't pay?

Whether due to forgetfulness or temporary inability, many California residents neglect to pay a bill at some point in their lives. In some cases, it is easy to resolve the issue by paying the bill as soon as possible. A late fee may have to be paid, but that puts an end to the matter. Unfortunately, when this happens to homeowners' association members, it may not be quite that simple.

For example, a woman who is a member of an HOA in another state says that she somehow forgot to pay her dues in Jan. 2017. The matter managed to slip her mind until October of that year when she received a letter from an attorney representing the HOA, along with a lawsuit filed against her. According to the lawsuit, her missed payment of $310 became $2,967.37.

Homeowners' association boards can go too far

Many of California's residential communities come with restrictions when it comes to the outward appearance of their homes. For instance, homeowners' association boards may enforce rules regarding keeping the grass cut, cars out of the yard and the trees trimmed. These may seem like reasonable expectations in order to keep the neighborhood looking well maintained, but sometimes, HOA boards can go too far.

For instance, a homeowner in another state recently found himself in a battle with his HOA over the paint color on his home. He claims that it is gray, but members of the board say that it is purple, which is a prohibited color. The HOA assessed the homeowner fines of around $1,000 already. The problem is that the home has been the same color for over 10 years now.

Recreational marijuana use: What is too far?

After years of back-and-forth, marijuana was legalized for recreational use in California on Jan. 1, 2018. The Medicinal and Adult-Use Marijuana Regulation and Safety Act (MAUCRSA) has presented Californians with new freedoms and restrictions on how they consume cannabis.

Understandably, this may raise concerns about what members of your homeowners association are doing. Here is a look at what is and is not acceptable use of marijuana under this new law.

Homeowners' association members upset about new speeding rule

Speeding is a problem in just about every California neighborhood. Each community addresses the issue in different ways. Last time, this blog addressed how some homeowners put out signs to get drivers to slow down that the HOA board rejected ("Homeowners' association members take a stand against speeders," April 24, 2018). This time, it is the HOA members who are fighting the measure that the board wants to put into place in order to curb speeding.

In this particular out-of-state neighborhood, residents have bar codes they use in order to enter and exit the community. The board wants to suspend the use of those codes by homeowners caught speeding for increasing increments for violations within the same year. That is only part of the problem since homeowners claim that would cause unnecessary congestion at the visitors' entrance.

Homeowners' association members take a stand against speeders

Part of the draw for parents to live in one of California's residential areas is that their children have a place to play with other kids in relative safety. When something threatens that safety, most homeowners' association members will do what they can to improve the conditions that may cause them harm. When an HOA board fails to allow parents to take those steps, it could start a conflict between members and the board.

In a residential community in another state, neighborhood parents noticed that people were driving well above the posted speed limit. In some cases, drivers were going anywhere from 10 to 20 mph faster than deemed safe for the area. They began to fear for their children's safety, and put up signs telling drivers to slow down.

When homeowners' association boards fall victim to others

Providing services and enforcing the covenants, conditions and restrictions, along with other rules, of a California residential community could take a toll on those responsible. Homeowners' association boards make numerous decisions regarding the communities they serve, but not all of those decisions work out as planned. In some cases, a board may fall victim to someone, and rectifying the situation may require involving the civil courts, or even the criminal courts in some instances.

For example, an HOA board in another state recently decided to involve law enforcement in its dispute with a former property manager. It became necessary to terminate that relationship and hire a new management company. When the board asked for its funds, books and records back, the company failed to comply with the request.

Not all homeowners' association members complain about the board

One concern that nearly every California property owner has involves property values. Making sure your home retains its value, or increases in value, may be one of your primary goals as well. What you may not realize is that goal often requires that everyone in the community follows certain rules. Even though many end up in public disputes, most homeowners' association members do not complain about the board since most boards work to make sure that everyone's property values remain healthy.

The stories that you hear about HOA boards ordinarily represent only a small portion of them. Petty disputes, huge fines and even suing homeowners over what may seem like trivial issues make for good news, but they often fail to provide a clear picture of how most boards operate. The vast majority simply want to help make the community a safe, pleasant and rewarding place to live.

Avoid community clashes

Upholding community standards in your homeowner’s association (HOA) is sometimes a thankless job. Your choice to take on the responsibility of an HOA board member position helps the community function at large, but clashing values and difficult personalities can take hold of the association and make it difficult to administrate the affairs of the property.

Precarious Situations

What homeowners' association boards can do to avoid liability

Safety is a major concern for most California parents. Back on Feb. 27, this blog discussed the case of a teenager who suffered devastating and permanent injuries on a swing set in the common area of his HOA-run residential community ("Can HOA members trust the board to keep common areas safe?"). The question of whether homeowners' association boards can keep the common areas of a community safe bears further discussion since the HOA, and possibly the board's individual members, could end up facing litigation.

The family in the case involving the teenager received an award of around $20 million from a jury. That verdict and award were based on the fact that the HOA knew the swing set was a danger and failed to properly maintain it. The fact is that it could have involved any equipment in a community's common areas, and the outcome may have been the same. HOA boards have a duty to properly maintain and repair equipment in common areas.

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