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New-Newsletter-Template-300x167In case you missed it, Issue # 56 of our ‘Community Association Update’ newsletter is available now!

Topics covered in this issue include:

  • Should an HOA Interfere with Parental Rights? NO!
  • Retain Your HOA Counsel Throughout Insurance Claim Matters
  • “Evergreen” Clauses – Avoiding Self-Renewing Contracts
  • Non-Compete Clauses

A link to the newsletter is here.

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Summerwind-300x169It’s our privilege to welcome Summerwind Townhomes of Anaheim Association to Tinnelly Law Group’s growing family of HOA clients.

Summerwind is a Mediterranean inspired condominium community located within minutes to stores, restaurants, services, and entertainment in the Anaheim East of Harbor region of Anaheim.  Residents enjoy a community pool and spa.

hoa law firm Our HOA lawyers and staff look forward to working with Summerwind’s Board and management.

Pelican-Ridge-Estates-300x169It’s our privilege to welcome Pelican Ridge Estates Community Association to Tinnelly Law Group’s growing family of HOA clients.

Pelican Ridge Estates is located in the Pelican Hill Communities in Newport Coast. With its spectacular views of Newport Beach, Newport Coastline, Catalina Island, City Night Lights, the Pacific Ocean and beautiful sunsets, Pelican Ridge Estates is home to some of the most sought after luxury real estate in Southern California. Residents enjoy a 24-hour guarded gate, clubhouse, pool and tennis courts.

hoa law firm Our HOA lawyers and staff look forward to working with Pelican Ridge Estates’ Board and management.

downloadHomeowner and tenant complaints filed with California’s Department of Fair Employment and Housing (“DFEH”) are on the rise and are increasingly lodged against Associations, Boards, and management companies.  The complaints are generally directly filed with the DFEH on a variety of grounds, but occasionally involve certain fair housing claims that are referred to the department by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (“HUD”).

The DFEH is responsible for enforcing state fair housing laws that make it illegal to discriminate on the basis of categories like sex, race, color, religion, ancestry, national origin, disability, medical condition, marital status, or sexual orientation.  The department’s broad enforcement authority applies to housing providers including common interest developments, landlords, and property management companies.

A typical DFEH complaint process commences with DFEH complaint including service of a short statement of allegations from the homeowner or tenant.  This usually signals the beginning of a rigorous inquiry and investigation for the Association, its Board, and the management company, all of whom may be initially identified as actual or potential respondents.

While the DFEH in theory is supposed to be neutral in its investigations, the investigators working for the department often tend to be sympathetic to the complainant(s) by virtue of the tenets of the department and may therefore adopt the role of an advocate when serving severe demands and questionnaires on the respondent(s).

Moreover, it is important to note that the initial complaint filing with the DFEH does not mean that the DFEH has already determined whether there is reasonable cause to believe any laws have been violated or that the DFEH will in fact prosecute a legal action against the named respondent(s).  Rather, it means that the DFEH has preliminarily determined that the received complaint, the allegations, and the named parties fall within the investigative purview of the department and are subject to the laws that the DFEH is tasked to enforce.

Nonetheless, because this process tends to be quite involved with numerous nuanced considerations and legal implications for the Association, its Board, management, and the Association’s insurance carrier, Boards should immediately engage the Association’s legal counsel at the very outset to help it navigate the DFEH’s demanding process and help formulate a comprehensive legal strategy.

The above notwithstanding, as an alternative to the department’s active investigation, the DFEH also has a mediation program, whereby it attempts to resolve complaints through free internal dispute resolution services.  If the parties mutually agree to mediate, then the complaint response and the active investigation is stayed pending the outcome of the DFEH mediation.

Otherwise, the DFEH investigation continues, and the department will assess the facts and legal issues of the case.  These investigations include, among other things, reviewing information and evidence from complainants, respondents, or other sources.  When a respondent answers a complaint, the DFEH investigator reviews it with the complainant.  Meanwhile, the respondent(s) may contact the assigned investigator to discuss the complaint, request any needed extension of time to respond to the department’s investigative questionnaires, or to address any other concerns.

Thereafter, the DFEH uses the facts obtained through its investigation to determine if there is reasonable cause to believe that a law the department enforces has been violated.  If not, the case is closed.  If there is reasonable cause, the investigator notifies the parties of this determination, may advise that the department intends to file a lawsuit in court, wherein the department replaces the complainant(s) as the moving party and substitute in as the Plaintiff, and the DFEH’s legal department will then take over the matter for further handling.

However, before the DFEH files a lawsuit, it typically requires the parties to go to mediation.  If the case is not settled during this mediation, the DFEH may proceed with filing its lawsuit in court.

Typical settlement remedies at mediation and/or relief sought in DFEH actions include payment of statutory monetary fines and other damages, attorney’s fees and costs, amendment of Association’s CC&Rs and rules, Board and management staff undergoing fair housing training regarding the rights and responsibilities of housing providers, posting of DFEH fair housing posters throughout the community and/or distributing fair housing brochures to all residents, etc.

Based on the above rigorous DFEH process and the range of challenges it presents, it is imperative that the Association’s Board and management stay ahead of the problem by ensuring that their actions and policies are in accordance with the California Unruh Civil Rights Act, the Federal Fair Housing Act, and that they do not inadvertently run contrary to state and federal laws that prohibit discrimination based on the above cited categories.

California HOA lawyers Moreover, the Association’s legal counsel should be engaged at the very outset of any DFEH complaint process so it may duly protect the Association’s interests and help the Board navigate the above-outlined demanding process. 

-Blog post authored by TLG Attorney, Vivian X. Tran, Esq.

4S-Ranch-300x169It’s our privilege to welcome 4S Ranch Master Association to Tinnelly Law Group’s growing family of HOA clients.

Nestled in the scenic hills just north of San Diego, the 1700-acre, master-planned community of 4S Ranch includes more than 3,700 homes (4,015 at build-out).  Set on the original 3,600 acres purchased in 1938 by Albert Ralphs, head of the Los Angeles-based grocery store chain, 4S Ranch offers a diversity of natural elements, with more than 10 miles of walking trails, plenty of park land, and 1,600 acres of dedicated open space. Additionally, 4S Ranch boasts a brand new Boys & Girls Club with a $1M Junior Olympic pool and huge indoor gymnasium, available to all families living in the community. 4S Ranch is home to more than 3,500 families, in neighborhoods of spacious condos as well as single-family houses that boast plans of up to 5,300 square feet and expansive lots that permit lush views of the landscaping. With dozens of completed phases, and more homes to come, 4S Ranch attracts a global market and boasts one of the most diverse populations of the coastal regions.

hoa law firm Our HOA lawyers and staff look forward to working with 4S Ranch’s Board and management.

Niguel-Coast-300x169It’s our privilege to welcome Niguel Coast Homeowners Association to Tinnelly Law Group’s growing family of HOA clients.

Niguel Coast homes are located in the coastal community of Laguna Niguel.  Residents enjoy a community pool, spa, tennis courts, sport court, and a community park area.

hoa law firm Our HOA lawyers and staff look forward to working with Niguel Coast’s Board and management.

pexels-kindel-media-7105828Children are usually considered blessings and a joy to be around.  Unfortunately, there is always one slightly rambunctious child who may be prone to causing trouble in Homeowners Associations (“HOAs”).  What should an HOA and/or Board of Directors (“Board”) do in such scenarios?  Is there anything the HOA can legally do?

The U.S. Supreme Court and federal court recognize parents’ constitutional rights to the care, custody, and control of their children.  The Supreme Court explained that the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment protects “the right to marry, establish a home, and bring up children.”  (Meyer v. Nebraska (1923) 262 U.S. 390.)

While we understand that disturbances to other members and common areas caused by a child might place everyone in a state of discomfort, the HOA should not interfere in situations where parental rights might be in question—especially in situations where there have been no obvious or implied threats to the community members’ health and safety.

Even should management report the incident(s) to the police (on the theory that the child might be a danger to the community) or child protective services (on the theory that the child might be in an unhealthy home environment causing the child to act in such a way), it is unlikely for the government to take any action beyond filing a report at such an early stage.  Unless the situation is dire, the government usually prefers to remain out of familial matters.  The Second Circuit held “[T]he right of the family to remain together without the coercive interference of the awesome power of the state . . .encompasses the reciprocal rights of both parent and child.” (Duchesne v. Sugarman (1977) 566 F.2d 817, 825.)  The Supreme Court held that even after parents are found unfit in a contested court proceeding, they retain constitutionally protected parental rights. (Santosky v. Kramer (1982) 455 U.S. 745.)

HOAs should not assume the powers of the U.S. government and place themselves in a situation of interference with parental rights.  Such a scenario could cause unwanted liabilities for HOAs.  If the child at question has a disability/special needs, that child and its family would be a protected class under the law.  Protected classes may not be discriminated against and, in most cases, may be granted reasonable accommodations from governing document provisions.  The parents and child might sue the HOA for discrimination and harassment, especially if the parent of the child has already warned the HOA to refrain from approaching the parent and/or child.  Such a lawsuit would not be favorable to any HOAs.

Accordingly, we advise HOAs to proceed with caution and to start with a simple reminder of obligations letter to the Owner of a property within community if the Board believes it would be in the best interests of the HOA to take action (i.e., benefit the health and safety of all HOA members/residents).  It might even be better to wait until another incident with the child occurs before sending the reminder of obligations letter.

California HOA lawyers Of course, should any individual member feel as if their safety is being compromised at any time, we would recommend for the Board to inform that specific member to contact local law enforcement authorities to file an appropriate report.  Barring any such scenario, we would advise for HOAs, as entities, to refrain from all involvement pertaining to parental rights unless absolutely necessary.

-Blog post authored by TLG Attorney, Vivian X. Tran, Esq.

Pelican-Hill-300x169It’s our privilege to welcome Pelican Hill Community Association to Tinnelly Law Group’s growing family of HOA clients.

Situated up the hill from the luxury Pelican Hill Resort & Spa is the signature community based off the hotel.  The homes feature large Mediterranean style estates that often have stunning Pacific Ocean, Catalina Island, Newport Bay and Golf Course Views.

hoa law firm Our HOA lawyers and staff look forward to working with Pelican Hill’s Board and management.

Westpark-Tiempo-300x169It’s our privilege to welcome Westpark Tiempo Community Association to Tinnelly Law Group’s growing family of HOA clients.

Westpark Tiempo is a Spanish inspired condominium community located in the Westpark region of Irvine. Residents enjoy a community pool, spa, tennis court and greenbelt views.

hoa law firm Our HOA lawyers and staff look forward to working with Westpark Tiempo’s Board and management.

unnamedHomeowners Associations (“HOA”) are encouraged to report potential and actual claims to their insurance carriers.  In fact, there is usually a provision within the HOA’s Declaration of Covenants, Conditions, and Restrictions (“CC&Rs”) that delineate the circumstances when an HOA’s manager should report a claim.  If there isn’t such a provision, HOAs should adopt standard protocols regarding reporting a claim with its insurance carrier in situations where there may be coverage while also immediately taking action to mitigate any damages internally.

In most instances after a claim is reported to the HOA’s insurance carrier, an adjuster would be assigned.  If the situation may be resolved with only the insurance adjuster, the HOA’s general counsel, the Board of Directors (“Board”), and HOA’s manager involved, then great.  Oftentimes though, the insurance adjuster will assign insurance defense counsel as the claim might be a bit more complicated.  In most cases, insurance assigned defense counsel will take over the matter and be the point of contact between the HOA and the insurance adjuster.  HOAs will usually opt to not have their general counsel remain on the case as the HOA’s insurance carrier only covers insurance defense counsel’s attorney’s fees not the HOA’s general counsel fees.  While that is understandable, we would urge Boards to reconsider taking the HOA’s general counsel completely off an insurance handled matter simply to conserve costs.  In the long run, such a decision might end up causing greater liability and headaches for the HOA.

To provide a bit of background, attorneys in California are required to follow what is known as the California Rules of Professional Conduct (“Rules”).  As a matter of fact, these Rules are so important that they are tested on the California State Bar and attorneys are required to complete continuing education courses pertaining to ethics every few years.  These Rules serve to protect the public, the courts, and the legal profession.  Thanks to cinematic arts and social media platforms, attorneys are already viewed as “sharks,” so these Rules promote the administration of justice and confidence in the legal profession.  An attorney’s failure to comply with an obligation or prohibition imposed by a rule is a basis for invoking the California State Bar’s disciplinary process.  It is important for HOAs and their Boards to know and understand the foundation of a good attorney-client relationship and why an HOA’s general counsel will usually be more invested than an HOA’s insurance defense counsel.

When a Board decides to forego having their general counsel involved in an insurance matter until resolution is achieved, the HOA might be resolving the claim in such a way that is not in the best interests of the HOA.  For example, if insurance defense counsel fails to keep communications lines open between insurance defense counsel and the Board as required by Rule 1.4, when it becomes time to settle, the Board does not fully understand what they are agreeing to settle.  Most insurance defense counsels work in some capacity for the HOA’s insurance carrier therefore, even though they have an attorney-client relationship with the HOA and should advocate zealously on the HOA’s behalf, the reality is the HOA’s insurance carriers are their bosses.  As such, there is a slight conflict of interest.  If the HOA’s general counsel is not involved in mediation, settlement negotiations, or preparation of the settlement agreement, the HOA’s Board might end up agreeing to something detrimental to the HOA.  At that point, damage control would necessitate a malpractice lawsuit concerning insurance defense counsel and a bad faith insurance lawsuit—neither of which any Board wants a part of.

California HOA lawyers To avoid such an outcome, HOA Boards should at least retain their general counsel on major decisions throughout the duration of the insurance claim.  If the Board does not want HOA general counsel to be directly involved, then the Board should routinely update their general counsel to obtain appropriate advice and risk mitigation strategies.

-Blog post authored by TLG Attorney, Vivian X. Tran, Esq.

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