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Articles Posted in Litigation

HOA-IDR-Lawyers.jpg*New Legislation

Provisions of the Davis-Stirling Common Interest Development Act (Civ. Code §§ 4000 – 6150) currently require homeowners associations (“HOAs”) to “provide a fair, reasonable, and expeditious procedure for resolving a dispute” between a HOA and its members. Civ. Code §§ 5900, 5905. This procedure is commonly referred to as “Meet and Confer” or “Internal Dispute Resolution” (“IDR”). Its purpose is to provide a non-adversarial forum where a HOA member and a HOA Director can meet informally to see if a resolution to the dispute can be secured short of involving attorneys and taking legal action.

However, the passage of AB 1738 (Chau) will upset this non-adversarial and informal structure through providing a member with the right to have the member’s attorney present at the IDR meeting. While this may not seem problematic, HOAs and industry professionals that are familiar with the IDR process understand that AB 1738 will undoubtedly result in HOAs incurring greater attorney’s fees to resolve member disputes. CAI’s California Legislative Action Committee’s (CAI-CLAC) “Call to Action” on AB 1738 illustrated its inherent problems:

“AB 1738 encourages members to bring attorneys and others to their first meeting with a single board member who has volunteered to help work out the member’s problem or concern. These simple ‘meet-and-confer’ conversations over coffee most often resolve an issue. When they occasionally don’t, either party may pursue a more formal Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) process that does involve lawyers. Nothing in law prevents lawyers from attending IDR right now, but AB 1738 actually promotes having them present to argue the issue(s). This will invariably make the discussion adversarial…

…If a member brings an attorney [to IDR], the HOA will very likely bring an attorney. At $300 per hour, each IDR will cost HOAs a minimum of $900 when one considers the lawyer’s time preparing, attending and any follow-up actions. [AB 1378] will end up increasing assessments.”

These sentiments were echoed by the Educational Community for Homeowners (ECHO) in its opposition to AB 1738: “By default, associations will bring their attorneys to IDR. In order to protect themselves, owners will also bring their attorneys. This increases the expenses for both parties, and encourages an adversarial atmosphere.”

IDR is not mediation, but an informal meeting between the member and at least one (1) HOA Director. As such, the communications during the IDR meeting are generally not subject to the confidentiality requirements that cover the more formal “Alternative Dispute Resolution” (“ADR”) process. AB 1738 could allow for the communications and documents discussed at IDR to be admissible in future litigation, and thus serve as a significant problem for the HOA. This is one reason why our office, along with the majority of HOA attorneys, are advising our HOA clients engaged in IDR with a member to close and reschedule the IDR meeting if the member unexpectedly brings their attorney to the IDR meeting. If the member is represented by an attorney, the HOA should ensure that it is as well. Rescheduling the IDR meeting so that the HOA’s attorney can also be present is vital to protecting the HOA’s interests.

Despite overwhelming HOA industry opposition to AB 1738, it was signed into law by Governor Brown on September 18, 2014, and will take effect January 1, 2015. To read the text of AB 1738 and how it will amend the current provisions of Civil Code Sections 5910 and 5915, click here.

hoa laws

AB 1738 represents a tremendous setback for HOAs and their members in their efforts to resolve disputes in a quick and cost-effective manner. Where those efforts fail, the parties are free under current law to move to ADR (a form of mediation) in order to involve attorneys and see if a resolution can be secured short of litigation. As a result of AB 1738, HOA Boards of Directors and management professionals must be cognizant of the problems that could arise if a member’s attorney attends the IDR meeting without the HOA’s attorney also being present. HOAs seeking specific guidance and recommendations on this issue should consult their legal counsel.

*New Case Lawhoa-construction-defect-meeting.jpg

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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*New Case LawHOA-parking-structure.jpg

It is not uncommon for a homeowners association (“HOA”) to enter into contractual arrangements with a third party where the rights and responsibilities under that arrangement are between the third party and each of the HOA’s members. Under such circumstances, the HOA’s involvement may be limited solely to collecting fees from the members and passing them on to the third party. Because the HOA (as an entity) is not the beneficiary of the contract, there is uncertainty as to whether the HOA has standing to assert claims against the third party on behalf of the HOA’s members. California Civil Code Section 5980 provides a HOA with standing to initiate legal action “in its own name as the real party in interest and without joining with it the [HOA’s] members” in matters relating to enforcement of the HOA’s governing documents, as well as matters involving or arising out of damage to the common area and/or to a separate interest which the HOA is obligated to maintain or repair. However, there is no statutory provision clearly addressing whether a HOA has such standing in matters pertaining to the rights of the HOA’s members in contracts with third parties.

Fortunately, the recent case of Market Lofts Community Association v. 9th Street Market Lofts, LLC (2014) 222 Cal. App. 4th 924 (“Market Lofts”) provides some guidance on this issue.

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hoa-caregiver.jpgThe ability of California homeowners associations (“HOAs”) to adopt and enforce restrictions on the renting of units has been limited by changes in the law over the past couple of years. Those changes have purported to provide greater protections for homeowners seeking to rent out their units to third parties. HOAs have therefore been required to modify their approach to the enforcement of rent restrictions that may be contained in their governing documents, including the adoption of additional rent restrictions binding only on future homeowners.

However, a recent unpublished Appellate Court decision confirms the ability of a HOA to enforce rent restrictions adopted decades in the past that are intended to address the unique concerns and characteristics of the HOA’s development.

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hoa update 2014Our “Annual Legislative & Case Law Update” newsletter for the year 2014 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 2014. The new legislation includes, among other items, the re-organization of the Davis-Stirling Act (now in effect), and a bill that clarifies contractor licensing requirements for HOA managers. The new case law includes rulings that may impact HOA election rules, membership rights to attend Board meetings, use of HOA media outlets during election campaigns, insurance defense coverage, attorney’s fees recovery in HOA disputes, and assessment collection procedures.

Click here to read our Annual Legislative & Case Law Update (2014)

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

*New Case LawHOA-insurance-defense.jpg

In a recent blog post we addressed the importance of involving the HOA’s legal counsel in the decision as to whether a lawsuit brought against the HOA should be tendered to one or more of the HOA’s insurance carriers. The recent case of San Miguel Community Association v. State Farm General Ins. Co. (October 1, 2013) (Cal.App.4th, No. G047738) (“San Miguel”) touched on this issue. Although the ruling in San Miguel focused primarily upon the scope of an insurer’s obligation to defend a HOA under the HOA’s insurance policy, the ruling underscores the importance of reviewing, understanding, and if necessary, seeking professional guidance regarding the scope of insurance coverage afforded to a HOA under its insurance policies.

In San Miguel, two homeowners sought to force the HOA to take action to curb ongoing parking violations within the community. After the HOA refused to take action, the homeowners demanded the HOA’s participation in mediation, thereby prompting the HOA to tender the matter to its insurance carrier, State Farm. In responding to the HOA, State Farm noted that the claims brought by the homeowners did not seek the recovery of monetary damages, and were therefore insufficient to trigger State Farm’s obligation to defend the HOA or to reimburse the HOA for its defense costs…

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hoa insurance*New Library Article

There are instances where a disgruntled homeowner may file a lawsuit against his or her homeowners association (“HOA”). The lawsuit may be based on a variety of claims (i.e., claims involving property damage or alleged malfeasance on the part of the HOA’s Board of Directors). This is one of the reasons why HOAs are legally required to purchase and maintain certain insurance policies designed to protect the HOA and its membership from a variety of risks.

However, problems may arise in response to the actions taken by the HOA and its management once the lawsuit has been served. Those problems generally result from the way in which the lawsuit may have been “tendered” (sent to) to one or more of the HOA’s insurance carriers, including whether it was even appropriate to tender the lawsuit in the first place. This blog post addresses some of those problems and provides guidance to HOA Boards and their management with regard to this issue…

Our attorneys have also published this information in an article that is available for download from our Web site’s library.

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*New Case Lawhoa meeting

Membership rights with regard to the attendance and participation in Board meetings is an important component of the laws governing homeowners associations (“HOAs”). Civil Code Section 1363.05, known as the “Common Interest Development Open Meeting Act,” states that “any member of the [HOA] may attend meetings of the board of directions…” This right is central to keeping HOA members apprised of the issues affecting their community and the ways in which the Board is discharging its duties under the HOA’s governing documents.

However, one issue that surfaces from time to time deals with the extent to which a HOA is required to allow a member to attend a Board meeting with her attorney, or to allow the member’s attorney or agent to attend the Board meeting on the member’s behalf. This issue may be complicated further if the owner of a property (the “member” under the HOA’s governing documents) is an entity (i.e., a business organization or family trust).

Fortunately, the recent case of SB Liberty, LLC v. Isla Verde Association, Inc. (“SB Liberty”), will help resolve this issue and will provide valuable guidance for HOAs moving forward…

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*New Case Lawhoa foreclosure

The California Civil Code requires community associations (“HOAs”) to levy regular and special assessments as necessary to perform the HOA’s obligations under its governing documents. However, when a homeowner fails to pay those assessments, HOAs are often left with no alternative other than to pursue the owner in accordance with the collection methods sanctioned under the HOA’s governing documents and the Civil Code. Because those methods could result in the foreclosure of the delinquent homeowner’s property, it is paramount that HOAs strictly comply with the statutory procedures and requirements applicable to assessment collection (i.e., transmittal of notices, dispute resolution procedures, votes to initiate foreclosure, etc.).

The recent case of Diamond v. Casa Del Valle Homeowners Association 2013 DJDAR 9176, which has been certified for publication, illustrates how failing to comply with those procedures and requirements can result not only in the invalidation of a HOA’s assessment lien, but also an award of attorney’s fees and costs to the delinquent homeowner…

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accolade ribbon-blog.pngThe Tinnelly Law Group has secured a favorable settlement in a breach of contract case for one of our HOA clients located in Newport Beach, California.

The Defendant homeowner was refusing to grant the HOA access to the Owner’s condominium unit for the limited purpose of placing a protective safety barrier between the sliding glass balcony door and the balcony while the HOA performed structural repairs to the underside of the balcony. After Internal Dispute Resolution failed and all efforts were exhausted to secure a non-judicial resolution, the HOA was forced to file a lawsuit seeking injunctive relief. After securing injunctive relief for our client, our attorneys then obtained a 100% attorneys’ fees and costs award. Such 100% attorneys’ fees awards are incredibly rare.

condo lawyer

The Tinnelly Law Group strives to resolve our clients’ disputes through non-judicial means wherever possible. However, when issues do result in litigation, our clients take comfort in knowing that our attorneys provide the highest quality representation available, and that our entire team remains committed to securing the best possible outcome.