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Laguna Hills California Homeowners' Association Law Blog

What to know before becoming homeowners' association members

It seems as though there are good and bad points to just about everything. The same is true for becoming homeowners' association members. When California residents search for a new home, it may help to understand the major pros and cons of HOAs before making a decision about a certain property.

One of the primary functions of an HOA is to maintain the common areas of the community. Those common areas could include anything from landscaping to pools to tennis and basketball courts. The HOA also ensures the community maintains some sense of uniformity. For instance, a neighbor cannot let the lawn become unruly or paint the house an odd color. If a neighbor does one of these things, or something else that violates the HOA's rules or CC&Rs (covenants, conditions and restrictions), the HOA can deal with the situation, which helps maintain goodwill among neighbors. 

Homeowners' association members should review their statements

When hunting for a place to buy, many California residents look for certain amenities that communities provide. Those amenities are not free, however. More often than not, in order for homeowners to enjoy everything a community has to offer, they must become homeowners' association members and pay dues.

Most people just put their dues statements into a drawer, filing cabinet or even the trash without scrutinizing them. That could be a mistake. Some HOAs attempt to add in additional charges, often under the heading of "miscellaneous" charges.

Homeowners' association members face lawsuits -- over paint

When moving into a California housing community, residents may have had to agree to follow certain rules and adhere to covenants, conditions and restrictions. Many homeowners' association members do, but over time, as new boards are voted in, they may find themselves in trouble with the new regime. Even though some aspect of their property may have been the same for years, a new board may take issue with it -- and then take legal action when a homeowner fails to bend to its will.

For instance, the owners of a townhome in another state received permission to paint their deck white around 10 years ago. When they recently repainted it the same color in order to freshen it up so that it continued to look good, the HOA told the owners they did not like the color. According to the townhome owners, the board insisted they make their deck a natural wood color and claims they failed to obtain permission to paint the deck white.

Are your copper pipes affected by pinhole leaks?

Water departments in the Bay Area have recently changed the chemicals added to district water supplies. As a result, many Californians are experiencing pinhole leaks in their copper pipes.

Plumbing leaks can be a costly, time-consuming problem for homeowners. Even a small leak can cause big damage. Pinhole leaks can affect just about any residence that has copper pipes. As a property owner, it is important to know the process to handle pinhole leaks in your plumbing.

Can HOA members trust the board to keep common areas safe?

Part of what many California residents look for in a residence is a safe place to raise their children. HOA members rely on the boards to keep the common areas safe and free from hazards that could harm them or their children. When that does not happen, and injuries occur, some homeowners may look to the board for restitution.

This was the case for one family in a neighboring state whose teenage son suffered an injury that changed the course of his life and the family's life forever. The 15-year-old sat on a swing in order to send a text. He had no idea that the 42-pound crossbar above him was about to give way. When it did, it fell on his head and crushed a portion of his skull.

Homeowners' association boards and debt collection

One of the most unenviable jobs for any California business is collecting overdue debts. Homeowners' association boards are not immune to this task. Without the funds from homeowners' dues and assessments, boards cannot operate. This means that they will need to have a plan in place for collecting monies from homeowners who fail to meet their financial obligations to the HOA.

HOAs use three legal avenues for collecting past due assessments and debts. One option is to record an assessment lien on the home, which may later be used to file a judicial foreclosure. Another option is to file a court action against the owner personally. Finally, the board may use a private sale to foreclose on a lien.

What can homeowners' association boards do?

Living in certain California communities of single-family homes comes at a price. Every month, homeowners' association boards around the state collect monthly or quarterly dues. Many residents end up wondering just what bang they get for their bucks.

In addition to overseeing common area maintenance and certain amenities, an HOA board has substantial powers. It can make sure that residents follow the community's rules, including the upkeep on their homes. This includes assessing fines for failing to follow the rules. An HOA board can tell a homeowner what color to paint -- or repaint as the case may be -- the house.

Some homeowners' association boards have too much power

When California residents purchase a home, part of the reason they do so may be in order to have the freedom to decorate it as they wish. Painting the walls, the exterior and planting flowers, among other things, should be part of that experience. However, some homeowners' association boards have too much say in how homeowners can decorate their homes.

This is the problem one homeowner is having in another state. She decided to paint her shutters, and the HOA board told her that she failed to obtain the proper authorization. It began fining her and accusing her of negatively impacting the value of the homes in the community. Then, the HOA board began to threaten that it would place a lien on her home and file a foreclosure action against her. 

How HOA board members can collect delinquent dues

One of the main responsibilities of a solid HOA is to maintain the property values of the homes in the association. Collecting delinquent dues is one of the least pleasant jobs for HOA board members, but it is a necessary task in order to have funds available for maintaining the property. HOA dues are used to pay for operational expenses such as property upkeep and utilities in addition to building a reserve fund. When HOA members fail to pay their monthly dues, the association is at risk for financial hardship.


Homeowners' association members fight back

Living in a condominium often provides California residents with the amenities they want and the home maintenance that they do not want. More often than not, condo living requires dwellers to be homeowners' association members. Paying those monthly fees may not be ideal, but it is supposed to help ensure that the building is well-maintained.

This last point is one that HOA members are taking issue with in another state. Back in Dec. 2015, the facade of the building collapsed due to a construction defect. Renovations to the building were being done at the time, and the condo board fired the contractor responsible for the shoddy construction work. However, the board has yet to have the work completed to fix the construction problems.

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