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Articles Posted in Architectural Control

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In its third consecutive year of severe drought, California faces a historic water shortage and wildfire danger. According to Mashable.com and US Drought Monitor, “The entire state is in some stage of drought, with 77% of the state suffering from ‘extreme’ to ‘exceptional’ drought conditions.” Matters are expected to worsen, as California continues to experience its hottest year on record.

In response to these conditions, Governor Brown signed an Emergency Drought Proclamation in January 2014 declaring a state of emergency and calling upon all Californians to voluntarily reduce their water usage by 20 percent. As residents of homeowners associations (“HOAs”) began responding to the Governor’s plea by reducing their irrigation, HOAs fined their members for failure to maintain their yards in accordance with the governing documents. This led to swift action by both the Governor and the California Legislature.

In April, Governor Brown signed an Executive Order which effectively prohibits HOAs from fining, or threatening to fine, homeowners “who comply with water conservation measures.” The Order further provides that “any provision of the governing document, architectural or landscaping guidelines, or policies of a common interest development will be void and unenforceable to the extent it has the effect of prohibiting compliance with the water-saving measures contained in this directive.” One of these water-saving measures is to limit outdoor watering to no more than twice per week.

The California Legislature is also considering three bills related to drought relief, which would impact HOAs. AB 2100 (Campos) and SB 992 (Nielsen) would prohibit HOAs from imposing a fine or assessment against a member for reducing or eliminating water of vegetation or lawns during a Governor-declared state of emergency, or a local government-declared emergency, due to drought. If passed, these bills would take effect immediately as urgency statutes. AB 2104 (Gonzalez) would provide that a provision of the governing documents, including the architectural or landscape guidelines, is void and unenforceable if it would have the effect of prohibiting low water-using plants as a group, or as a replacement of existing turf, or if it has the effect of restricting compliance with water conservation measures. The California Legislative Action Committee (“CAI-CLAC”) continues to seek amendments to these bills as they work their way through the legislature.

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It is important to note that both the Proclamation and the pending legislation are limited to periods of a Governor-declared drought. HOAs are still permitted to enforce other landscape maintenance issues, such as weeds, brush, tree trimming, etc. In addition, HOAs may continue to enforce irrigation provisions, provided they are within the parameters outlined in the Order or as set forth by the local water agency. HOAs considering changes to their architectural or landscape guidelines should seek the advice of their legal counsel.

Blog post authored by Tinnelly Law Group’s Director of Business Development, Ramona Acosta.

To submit questions to the HOA attorneys at Tinnelly Law Group, click here.

hoa-committee-meeting.jpg*Asked & Answered

Asked – Our HOA has established several working committees such as Finance and Compliance. Do these committees have to conduct meetings open to the public? Neither one has power to spend money but merely makes recommendations to the Board of Directors.

Answered – No. The provisions of the “Open Meeting Act” (Civil Code §4900) requiring open meetings apply only to “board meetings.” A “board meeting” is defined as “a congregation, at the same time and place, of a sufficient number of directors to establish a quorum of the board, to hear, discuss, or deliberate upon any item of business that is within the authority of the board.” Civil Code §4090(a) (Emphasis added). Therefore, provided that the committee is not comprised of a sufficient number of directors so as to constitute a quorum (typically a majority) of the board, the committee’s meetings are not required to be open to the membership.

As illustrated in your question, most committees are purely advisory in nature and provide their findings/recommendations to the board in an open board meeting. Even where a committee does have some decision-making authority (i.e., to approve homeowner architectural applications or expenditures for an ongoing HOA construction project), an “item of business” contemplated by the Open Meeting Act does not include “actions that the board has validly delegated to…. [a] committee of the board comprising less than a quorum of the board.” Civil Code §4155 (Emphasis added). Therefore, if the board has delegated an action or decision to a committee comprised of less than a quorum of the board, the committee’s decision-making authority would not in itself trigger the Open Meeting Act’s requirements.

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Even if your committee is not required to hold open meetings, it may be beneficial for committees with decision-making authority to provide notice to the membership and to post an agenda. Doing so will help prevent claims of impropriety on the part of the committee or the board in situations where a member may object to a decision or action by the committee. You should also refer to your HOA’s Bylaws to determine if there are any additional committee requirements.

Blog post authored by Tinnelly Law Group attorney, Terri Morris.

To submit questions to the HOA attorneys at Tinnelly Law Group, click here.

rules and regulations california hoa assocaition.png*Asked & Answered

Asked – Are there recognized models of well-written rules and regulations for homeowners associations?

Answered – No, there are not, and the reason is because homeowners association (“HOA”) CC&Rs typically leave the drafting and amending of rules and regulations to the HOA’s Board of Directors. The types of rules and regulations (defined as “operating rules” under the Civil Code) that a HOA may adopt will depend on the language contained in the HOA’s governing documents as well as the unique characteristics of the common interest development. For example, the CC&Rs for condominium developments usually contain provisions explicitly addressing the Board’s ability (and in many cases, the Board’s obligation) to adopt a set of parking rules that regulate the HOA’s finite number of common area parking spaces. By contrast, CC&Rs for single family home projects may broadly state the Board’s ability to adopt rules governing the use of the HOA’s streets.

Here are the common issues that HOA Boards should address in drafting a good set of rules and regulations: common area rules, parking restrictions, noise and nuisance guidelines, trash can rules, pet restrictions, tenant rules, sign restrictions, pool and clubhouse hours, and the association’s disciplinary policy. Many of our clients also choose to include within their rules and regulations a restatement of some of the important restrictions contained in their HOA’s CC&Rs. This provides a valuable “quick reference guide” for residents who may not take the time to read through the entire set of the HOA’s CC&Rs.

The Board may also include a copy of the following policies that are provided to members in the Annual Policy Statement pursuant to Civil Code § 5310 as part of the “quick reference guide:” Architectural Guidelines and Application Procedures, Neighbor-to-Neighbor Dispute Policy, Alternative Dispute Resolution Procedures, Election Policy, and Assessment Collection Policy.

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Rules and regulations are a valuable tool for resolving certain issues that are not explicitly addressed in a HOA’s CC&Rs. However, a Board must be aware of the limitations placed upon its rule-making authority under its HOA’s governing documents as well as the Civil Code. Therefore, where a Board’s authority to adopt or amend any particular rule or regulation is unclear, the Board should consult with the HOA’s legal counsel.

Blog post authored by Tinnelly Law Group attorney, Terri Morris.

To submit questions to the HOA attorneys at Tinnelly Law Group, click here.

hoa contractor.jpgWe recently blogged about some concerns which have surfaced in the HOA industry regarding the impact of new contractor licensing requirements. AB 2237 was passed in 2012 by the California Legislature to expand on the definition of the “contractors” who must be licensed by the state. That expanded definition includes language which could be read to require common interest development (“CID” aka “HOA”) managers to have a contractor’s license in order to perform common tasks such as obtaining bids and overseeing the progress of ongoing construction work.

Our blog post addressed how a careful reading of the statutes along with the legislative intent behind AB 2237 reveal that HOA managers are not intended to be “contractors” that are required to hold a license. Fortunately, SB 822, introduced earlier this year, now includes a clarifying amendment to specifically exclude HOA managers from the definition of a contractor:

“This bill would provide that the term ‘contractor’ or ‘consultant’ does not apply to a common interest development manager, and a common interest development manager is not required to have a contractor’s license when performing management services, as defined.”

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SB 822 validates our belief that HOA managers were not intended to be subject to the new contractor licensing requirements. SB 822 is likely to pass and you can track the bill’s progress by clicking here.

hoa_construction_manager.jpg*New Legislation

AB 2237 was passed in 2012 by the California Legislature to expand the legal requirements for the “contractors” who are required to have a General Contractor’s “B” license from the State of California.

The “contractors” who must be licensed are defined in Cal. Business and Professions Code Section 7026.1(b)(1). They include “[a]ny person, consultant to an owner-builder, firm, association, organization, partnership, business trust, corporation, or company, who or which undertakes, offers to undertake, purports to undertake, purports to have the capacity to undertake, or submits a bid to construct any building or home improvement project, or part thereof.” (Emphasis added.)

AB 2237 expands upon this definition by adding subsection (2) to Section 7026.1(b). Subsection (2) states that a “consultant” includes a person who either: (A) “Provides or oversees a bid for a construction project,” or (B) “Arranges for and sets up work schedules for contractors and subcontractors and maintains oversight of a construction project.” This language has spawned questions from community association/HOA managers who are concerned that, as a result of AB 2237, they may now be required to hold a license in order to perform common tasks such as obtaining bids and overseeing the progress of ongoing construction work.

A careful reading of Section 7026.1 and the legislative intent behind AB 2237 reveals that the answer to that question is generally “no.” …

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artificial-grass.jpg*Asked & Answered

Asked – Our HOA’s Architectural Committee received an application for a homeowner to install artificial grass in their front yard. Does Civil Code Section 1353.8 (Use of Low Water Using Plants) require us to approve it?

AnsweredNo. Civil Code Section 1353.8 renders void and unenforceable any restrictions in a HOA’s governing documents that prohibit the installation of low water-using “plants.” Artificial grass or synthetic turf is not a plant, but a synthetic material designed to look like grass.

The California Legislature has in the recent past proposed bills that would require HOAs to permit the installation of artificial grass in their communities. Those bills, however, were vetoed by California governors and ultimately never made it into law. The most recent veto by Governor Jerry Brown in 2011 was based on the Governor’s recognition that “[t]he decision about choosing synthetic turf instead of natural vegetation should be left to individual homeowners associations, not mandated by state law.”

HOAs may authorize the installation of artificial grass/synthetic turf, but they are not required to.

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Before deciding to authorize artificial grass, the Board will want to check local ordinances for any restrictions, and develop guidelines for such characteristics as color, pile and weight, toxic materials, permeability, water absorption, and drainage. Additionally, even where artificial grass is permitted, a HOA may still set standards for its appearance and quality, and thus require a homeowner to submit a sample of the artificial grass as part of the homeowner’s architectural application.

Content provided by TLG attorney Terri Morris

To submit questions to the HOA attorneys at Tinnelly Law Group, click here.

disabillity-residents-hoa.jpg*New Library Article

Civil Code Section 1360 generally requires homeowners associations (“HOA”) to allow a disabled owner to, at the owner’s expense, make modifications to the owner’s units and potentially to the HOA’s common areas in order to accommodate the owner’s disability. When a HOA receives a request for an accommodation, what steps can and should the HOA take to verify the owner’s disability and to determine whether or not the owner is indeed entitled to the accommodation? This article addresses three questions that may be useful to an Association in this regard.

Our HOA lawyers have also published this information in our new article entitled “Responding to Requests for Accommodation,” available for download from our library.

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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.

hoa attorney*New Resource

The 2012 amendments to the “Common Interest Development Open Meeting Act” have made it significantly more difficult for Boards to manage the affairs of their HOAs in a quick and efficient manner. Those amendments, as discussed in our previous resource,”Senate Bill 563: Boards and their Business,” made significant changes to the Civil Code, including, (1) revisions to the definition of meeting to include executive session meetings, (2) the inclusion of a new “No Action Without a Meeting” rule, (3) the implementation of a rule prohibiting Boards from considering items of business not noticed on a meeting agenda, and (4) a prohibition on meetings conducted or actions taken through email. As any Board Member or Manager knows, these changes have not only deprived Associations of many of the tools previously used to conduct business outside of regularly held Board meetings, but have also obstructed the channels and methods of communication that are necessary to effectively assign responsibilities and make ongoing mid-project decisions. Although HOAs are unfortunately bound to abide by these requirements, there are devices available to the Board that can significantly decrease the burdens these requirements impose. This blogpost discusses the use of one such device–the committee–and the various ways in which it may be used by Boards to address HOA business within the constraints imposed by the Civil Code.

Our HOA lawyers have also published this information in our new resource entitled “Committees: Delegating Authority to Achieve Efficiency,” available for download from our library.

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homeowners_association*New Resource

Various laws have been established to protect the rights of disabled individuals, such as the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”) and the Federal Fair Housing Act (“FFHA”). These laws govern both public and private facilities, and set forth the degree to which an entity, such as a homeowners association (“HOA”), is responsible for making modifications or improvements to accommodate individuals with disabilities. This blog post is in response to recent client inquiries relating to this issue; it addresses the applicability of each of these laws to HOAs and sheds some light on the potential issues that HOA Boards and Managers should be aware of.

Our HOA lawyers have also published this information in our new resource entitled “Disabled Residents and the Law,” available for download from our library.

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