Articles Posted in Construction Defect

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Civil Code Section 6150 requires that a homeowners association (“HOA”) make various disclosures to its membership in the context of construction defect litigation. The HOA is further required to hold a meeting of its membership to “discuss problems that may lead to the filing” of a construction defect action, as well as the options available to the members to address those problems.

Such a meeting will likely involve communications between the HOA’s construction defect attorney and individual members of the HOA whom are not the attorney’s direct clients. Therefore, the extent to which those communications are protected by the attorney-client privilege may be uncertain. Fortunately, the recent case of Seahaus La Jolla Owners Association v. La Jolla View LTD addressed this issue and clarified the privileged nature of communications between a HOA’s attorneys and its membership in the context of construction defect litigation…

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California’s 1st District Court of Appeal recently ruled that “design professionals” may be liable under both common law and Senate Bill No. 800 (“SB 800”) to third party purchasers for construction defects.

In Beacon Residential Community Association v. Skidmore, Owings & Merrill LLP et al., the defendants (the “Architects”) had performed architectural and engineering services, as well as construction administration and construction contract management, for a 595 unit condominium project located in San Francisco. The plaintiff homeowners association (the “HOA”) alleged that multiple construction defects in the project were caused in part by negligent architectural and engineering design. Included in those defects was the presence of “solar heat gain” allegedly caused by the Architects’ approval of cheap and non-functional windows paired with a defective design that failed to provide for adequate ventilation within the units. During periods of high temperatures, the solar heat gain had rendered many of the units “uninhabitable, unhealthy and unsafe.”

The Architects successfully argued at the trial court level that they could not be held liable for the alleged defects because, under common law, the Architects owed no duty of care to third parties (to the HOA or its members). The trial court agreed, holding that the Architect could not be held liable for negligent design and that the HOA was required to show that the Architects had “control” in the construction process; the Architects had to have “assum[ed] a role beyond that of providing design recommendations to the [developer].” Accordingly, the trial court sustained the Architects’ demurrers and the HOA then appealed…

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hoa lawsOur annual “Legislative & Case Law Update” newsletter for the year 2013 is now available in our library!

The Legislative & Case Law Update provides an overview of the new legislation and case law impacting California Homeowners Associations (“HOAs”) as we head into 2013. The new legislation includes, among other items, bills that impact Bank foreclosures, the re-organization of the Davis-Stirling Act, EV Charging Stations and fees charged by HOAs in producing certain records. The new case law includes rulings that may impact the architectural restrictions placed on the installation of solar panels, arbitration provisions for construction defect disputes, “no-cost” HOA collections contracts, election disputes and defamation claims. The Legislative & Case Law Update also addresses some new Fannie Mae and FHA regulations impacting condominium insurance and certification requirements.

Click here to read our Legislative & Case Law Update (2013)

Have questions on any of the new legislation or case law? Click here to send us a question online.

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On August 16, 2012 the California Supreme Court announced its decision in a case that will undoubtedly impact homeowners associations (“HOAs”), developers, owners and insurers in disputes arising from construction defects. The ruling in Pinnacle Museum Tower Association v. Pinnacle Market Development (US) LLC sets the stage for construction defect disputes to be resolved via binding arbitration as opposed to jury trials.

The Court’s ruling in Pinnacle reverses the lower courts’ decisions which previously hampered the enforceability of arbitration provisions contained in recorded Declarations of Covenants, Conditions and Restrictions (“CC&Rs”). Central to the Court’s ruling was its recognition that CC&Rs constitute a contract and that there is strong public policy favoring arbitration/alternative dispute resolution over litigation–a public policy which is embodied in various Civil Code provisions pertaining to HOAs.

In reaching its conclusion, the Court reasoned that “the Davis-Stirling Act ensures that [CC&Rs]–which manifest the intent and expectations of the developer and those who take title to property in a [HOA]–will be honored and enforced unless proven unreasonable. Here, the expectation of all concerned is that construction disputes involving the developer must be resolved by the expeditious and judicially favored method of binding arbitration.” Accordingly, unless an arbitration provision contained in the CC&Rs is deemed “unreasonable,” a developer is entitled to rely on the terms of the contract and the enforcement of the arbitration provision.

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The ruling in Pinnacle will create far-reaching and immediate impacts in the HOA industry. Depending on the terms of the CCRs, HOAs and owners seeking to pursue claims against the original developer may now be contractually obligated to forego litigation for binding arbitration. However, Developers wishing to compel binding arbitration may be precluded from doing so to the extent that the binding arbitration provision at issue fails to meet the “reasonableness” test implied by the Court.

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As communities mature, the need for major repairs or renovations can become a major concern. Often because of unforeseen problems or insufficiently funded reserves, community associations (associations) are not capable of funding the necessary repairs immediately. In order to avoid a piecemeal repair effort in such situations, or the possibility of additional problems arising from the postponement of the repairs, it may become necessary for an association to borrow money. Fortunately, many banks have recognized this need and are willing to lend to associations for major repairs and renovations.

This blog post addresses some of the more frequently asked questions and important issues relating to association borrowing, such as the common reasons for borrowing, what a bank uses for collateral, and what effect the loan has on individual homeowners.

Our HOA attorneys have also published this information in our new resource entitled “Association Repair and Renovation Loans”, available for download from our library.

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Binding arbitration provisions contained in a HOA’s CC&Rs may not be enforceable in a construction defect action against the HOA’s developer…

In Pinnacle Museum Tower Association v. Pinnacle Market Development (US), LLC, 187 Cal.App.4th 24 (2010), a HOA sued its developer for construction defects. Both the HOA’s CC&Rs and the homeowners’ purchase and sale agreements required binding arbitration instead of a jury trial. These documents were prepared by the developer and could not be modified without the developer’s consent.

In response to the developer’s motion to compel arbitration of the case, the court held that the binding arbitration provision of the CC&Rs was not enforceable to the extent of denying a jury trial, because the CC&Rs did not constitute an “agreement” to waive the HOA’s fundamental right to a jury trial. Though CC&Rs typically have the force of contract, the court asserted that the developer is the only actual “party” to the agreement when disputes arise between the HOA and the developer.

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Though this case is being appealed, if the ruling stands it will effectively invalidate most binding arbitration provisions contained in CC&Rs with respect to HOA disputes with developers.

**Note: The ruling in Pinnacle has been expanded by the even more recent case of Villa Vicenza HOA v. Nobel Ct. Dev. LLC (2011). To read our blog post on this new development, click here.

To read the full text of the holding, click here.