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Neighbor-Disputes-8-Smart-Tips-to-Legally-Deal-with-Nuisance-Caused-by-Nasty-Neighbors*Unpublished Opinion

The Court of Appeals recently rendered an unpublished opinion in  Harbour Island Condominium Owners Association, Inc. v. Alexander (2019), which provides some clarity regarding a tenant’s right to attend board meetings and the ban on noxious activities within the community.

The Harbour Island Condominium Owners Association (“HOA”) sought a restraining order (known as a preliminary injunction) against two tenants and their landlord to abate the tenants’ noxious behavior.  The HOA relied on the provision in the CC&R’s, which stated that residents cannot disturb the neighborhood or occupants of a neighboring property or create a nuisance.

Neighboring residents made several complaints to the HOA about the tenants’ excessive and purposeful noise: the tenants consistently stomped on their floors and slammed their doors.  In addition to the noise complaints, tenants permitted their dog to urinate in the Common Area, despite the posted “No Dogs” signs.  Lastly, the tenants engaged in aggressive behavior against the Board of Directors in an apparent attempt to intimidate Board Members.  For example, the tenants secretly photographed a Board Member at the pool on different occasions.

The trial court granted the preliminary injunction, ordering the tenants and their landlord to install throw rugs throughout the unit and a sound-muffling device on the doors; to cease photographing Board Members; and to prevent their dog from urinating on the Common Area.  The trial court ruled in favor of the HOA because the tenants’ noxious behavior unfairly oppressed the rest of the community, while the ordered corrective measures were minimally oppressive to the tenants.

The Court of Appeals upheld the trial court’s decision.  Despite the fact that the HOA’s nuisance provision did not mention dogs, the Court broadly interpreted the existing provision to encompass the exclusion of dogs from the Common Area for health and safety reasons.

Furthermore, the Court held that the nuisance provision bans acoustic nuisances that interfere with a neighbor’s right to quiet enjoyment.  In this case, the nuisance claims were supported by credible witness testimony that the tenants’ noise was excessive.

Lastly, the Court of Appeals disagreed with the tenants that their due process rights had been violated since the tenants were not permitted to challenge the violation notices at hearings.  The Court held that only Owners with vested property rights are Members of the HOA.  As such, only Members may participate in HOA meetings.

California HOA lawyers The Harbour Island case highlights the broad reach of nuisance provisions in CC&Rs and serves as a reminder that Owners, not tenants, have the right to attend and participate in HOA meetings. 

-Blog post authored by TLG Attorney, Sarah A. Kyriakedes, Esq.

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Civil Code Section 4925 grants to each member of a homeowners association (“HOA”) the right to attend HOA board meetings (except for executive session meetings). Section 4925 also grants members with rights to speak at board meetings and to address the board during open forum. However, these rights are explicitly granted to the HOA’s “members” (the owners of lots or units within the HOA’s development), not to a member’s agent or attorney. The California Court of Appeal addressed this issue in the 2013 case of SB Liberty, LLC v. Isla Verde Assn. Inc., where it affirmed a HOA’s ability to prohibit a member’s attorney from attending a board meeting on the member’s behalf.

However, Assembly Bill 1720 (“AB 1720”) was just proposed by the California Legislature in order to change this structure by amending parts of Section 4925. If signed into law, AB 1720 will add new subpart (c) to Section 4925 to state:

“The board shall permit an attorney who represents a member to attend any board meeting that the member is permitted to attend, regardless of whether the member attends. Where possible, the member shall give the board at least 48 hours advance written notice that his or her attorney will attend the board meeting.”

AB 1720 follows in the same vein as legislation which became effective January 1, 2015. That legislation (AB 1738) was enacted to grant a HOA member the right to be assisted by an attorney when the member is participating in Internal Dispute Resolution (IDR) with a member of the board.

hoa laws AB 1720 could be problematic for HOAs by placing boards in a position of having their meetings observed or disrupted by the attorney of a member whom is, or is likely to become, involved in a dispute with the HOA. Such a situation will likely have a chilling effect on the discussions and actions taken at a board meeting where a member’s attorney is present, especially if the HOA’s attorney is not present. While AB 1720’s language currently requires the member to, “where possible,” give the board at least 48 hours written notice that his/her attorney will attend the board meeting, it does not clearly specify whether the attorney must be allowed to attend regardless of whether the member actually provides such notice. Moreover, this notice requirement is presumably intended to provide the HOA with enough time to arrange for its attorney to attend the meeting as well. A mere forty eight (48) hours notice may not be sufficient in this respect. If anything, members should be required to comply with the same timeline currently imposed upon the HOA when it provides notice of board meetings to its members: four (4) days. We will continue to track AB 1720 as it makes its way through the legislature.