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Laguna Hills California Homeowners' Association Law Blog

Can homeowners' association boards ban certain people?

Federal law protects certain classes of people from discrimination. It does not matter whether the individual is in the workplace or applying for housing, those individuals covered by federal and/or California law may not be discriminated against. What about the people who are not part of any of those groups? Could homeowners' association boards ban certain people from living in their communities as long as they are not part of a protected group?

A certain HOA board in another state wants to keep registered sex offenders from living in its community. Board members have proposed an amendment to the community's rules in order to make it happen. Many homeowners in the neighborhood want more information before voting for or against the amendment. Registered sex offenders do not belong to any protected group under the law, so whether the HOA board can take this step could become a matter for the courts.

Homeowners' association boards ought to enforce the rules fairly

Uniformity is often desired in many California residential communities. Keeping the appearance of the neighborhood consistent often helps owners retain their property values and makes a neighborhood more desirable. When homeowners fail to adhere to the rules regarding the way their properties look, homeowners' association boards may contact them to request that they correct the problem.

Those actions may seem reasonable. Right? It would be if HOA boards enforced the community's rules equally.

Homeowners' association members want to save their trees

The landscaping of a California neighborhood can attract certain types of residents. Whether it is an older community with mature trees or a younger neighborhood with trees that will grow with their residents, the last thing homeowners' association members may want is for the board to unilaterally decide to change the landscaping. One community in the state is banding together in order to save the trees that the HOA wants to cut down.

The board sent notices to residents specifying the trees that would be cut down. It also indicated that a certain herbicide would be used on residents' property. Many of the homeowners in the community are banding together to prevent the trees from being cut down and to stop the use of the herbicide.

Homeowners associations can have some interesting rules

A homeowners associate is a group of people who come together to make sure that a neighborhood or specific area stays in good shape. These volunteers come up with rules and guidelines for what is acceptable and what isn't. Unfortunately, you are subjected to these HOA policies if you live in an area that is governed by them.

While there are small differences in every HOA, there are some points that are fairly universal. Here are some considerations:

Many homeowners' association members wish they had read ahead

When purchasing a residence here in California, buyers engage in a great deal of due diligence in order to make sure they are purchasing the property they believe they are. Title searches, home inspections and appraisals are just part of that process. However, one piece of advice that many homeowners' association members may give to prospective buyers is to read up on the rules, covenants, conditions and restrictions and bylaws, along with any other pertinent documentation, about the HOA before signing on the dotted line.

Without a thorough review of the HOA's governing documents, a buyer could end up having to give up the family pet or may not be able to have that annual holiday party. The fact is that homeowners who become members of HOAs may discover they are restricted from engaging in many activities. Most people know that they must pay dues and may not be able to paint their homes purple, but it is these more subtle rules that could make living in a certain community undesirable for an individual.

HOA members stand up against racial profiling by board member

Just about everyone knows that the federal government and the state of California prohibit employers from discriminating against people based on race, religion or gender, among other things. Those same prohibitions extend to housing, which includes homeowners' associations. Recently, HOA members in another state took a stand against a board member who was racially profiling a member of their community.

The woman and her children were spending a day at the community pool when a now-former board member, the pool chairman, asked her for identification. She asked the man why, and he responded by calling 911. When police arrived, they verified and showed the former pool chairman that she had a valid pool access card, which is only given to those who own homes in the community.

Homeowners' association members can incite changes in the rules

Many California homeowners live with the rules of their communities. Homeowners' association members may not be able to paint their homes a color they want to or may not be able to put in an addition to their home if the HOA board will not approve it. Sometimes, these rules seem unreasonable, and those who live in the community may be able to make changes. 

For instance, a woman in another state wanted to fly her American flag. The only problem was that it was not the size stipulated by the HOA board. She attempted to find a flag that fit within those limits but could not. She decided to fly her standard size American flag anyway.

Can the new HOA board change the old one's decisions?

Many California residents like to think that there is some semblance of democracy when living in a residential community. The homeowners elect the HOA board, which then enforces the community's laws. However, as is the case with any governing body, the newly elected officials sometimes attempt to reverse or otherwise override the decisions of the prior board.

For instance, a man in another state says that the previous HOA board approved a playground for his daughter, who was returning home soon after a kidney transplant. The man felt that his daughter needed something positive, normal and fun to come home to after her ordeal. The previous board agreed with him.

Yes, a sober-living home could be in your community

Living in a Homeowner's Association, you may assume that everyone has to be of a certain background. Maybe everyone would have to afford the home and work for a living, being quiet and supportive of the community, for example. That's not always how HOA's are, though. Sometimes, they contain other facilities, like residential care facilities.

By law, HOA governing documents can't ban the use of "residential care facilities" for six or fewer people. These care facilities may refer to family day care homes or drug and alcohol abuse or treatment facilities. A good example of a drug and alcohol-based treatment facility is a sober-living home.

Can homeowners' association boards prevent home sales?

When it comes time to sell a home in a California residential community, a seller may have quite a journey ahead. Preparing the home for sale and finding a buyer may seem like the most challenging part of the process, but one task may prove more problematic. Homeowners' association boards may prevent a sale if they fail to provide the seller with certification.

For instance, a man in another state is attempting to sell his home. He recently put a new roof on the home, and his HOA is telling him it needs to be replaced. Why? Because they say the color is not allowed. The seller has already gone back and forth with the HOA regarding the issue.

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