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Articles Posted in Renters

short-term-rentals-300x169-1*Unpublished Opinion

Short term rentals (“STRs”), which are generally defined as rentals for periods of thirty days or less, are lucrative investments that have withstood the economic impact of the pandemic far better than traditional hotels due to the perception of them being a safer alternative. However, STRs in residential homeowners associations are known for burdening said HOAs with a revolving door of transient occupants on vacation who often do not observe the community’s rules, disturb the quiet enjoyment of other residents, who place more wear and tear on community amenities, and who arguably detract from the residential character of the neighborhood. Homeowners associations may restrict such short term, transient use of property through express and explicit provisions contained in recorded Covenants, Conditions and Restrictions (“CC&Rs”).

California case law has upheld HOAs’ authority to restrict STRs. (See Watts v. Oak Shores Community Association (2015) 235 Cal. App. 4th 466.)  However, for such a restriction to be effective, the language in the CC&Rs must explicitly restrict STRs as demonstrated by a recent unpublished California Court of Appeals decision from the Fourth District, Lastavich v. Nob Hill Homeowners Association et al.(Case No. D075466) (“Nob Hill”), which held that the CC&Rs of a four-unit condominium HOA located in the City of Carlsbad did not operate to restrict STRs. The applicable language in the Nob Hill CC&Rs stated that each of the units were to “be used as a single family residence and for no other purpose or purposes.” The Nob Hill CC&Rs notably did not expressly prohibit commercial or business use of the property nor did they expressly prohibit STRs or transient use of the property.

Plaintiff, an owner in Nob Hill, sued the HOA and two other owners who had been regularly renting their units for less than thirty days, to enjoin such STRs claiming that the applicable restrictive language prohibited commercial enterprises including STRs. The trial court entered judgment in favor of the HOA and defendant owners, finding that “short term vacation rentals are not a business and that their use do[es] not violate the CC&Rs.” On appeal, the Fourth District affirmed the trial court’s decision. The appellate court’s decision was based on a “just and fair” interpretation of the CC&Rs conducted in favor of the unencumbered use of the property.  Key to this interpretation were the undisputed facts that the plain language of the CC&Rs allowed for leasing, did not expressly prohibit short term or vacation rentals, did not expressly prohibit business or commercial use of the property (nor did it define STRs as a business or commercial use of the property), that owners had been renting the property on a short term basis for many years out in the open and with Plaintiff’s knowledge, and that the Declarant testified that she did not intend to prohibit or restrict STRs when she established the HOA.

Ultimately, the appellate court held that restrictions on the use of land cannot be “read into” CC&Rs by implication and determined that the CC&Rs did not expressly or implicitly prohibit or restrict the use of the units as STRs. The court noted that to restrict STRs at Nob Hill, the CC&Rs would only need a single sentence in the CC&Rs, when originally drafted in 1986 or as amended, to limit the rental of the Nob Hill units to a certain minimum number of days. The absence of such language presented a fatal defect in Plaintiff’s case.

California HOA lawyers The key takeaway from Nob Hill for community associations is that California HOA’s cannot rely merely on a single-family use restriction in their CC&Rs to operate as a restriction on STRs. STRs do not automatically qualify as a business or commercial use of the property absent language in the CC&Rs defining them as such. Without language specifically prohibiting rentals for thirty days or less, a court will not likely read such a restriction into the CC&Rs. Although the passage of AB 3182, effective January 1, 2021, makes rental restrictions generally unenforceable, short term rental restrictions of thirty days or less are excepted. (Civil Code 4741(c)).  Amending governing documents to comply with this new law by December 31, 2021 is required or HOA’s are subject to fines. (Civ. Code §4741(f)&(g).) Associations are encouraged to contact their counsel, both to comply with this new law, but also to ensure that enforceable, well-drafted STR provisions are incorporated into their CC&Rs in the process of such compliance.

-Blog post authored by TLG Attorney, Carrie N. Heieck, Esq.

4e035fcb658a82042cd48a551b4f1b6b*New Case Law

Under California law, a Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation (“SLAPP”) is a lawsuit brought against a defendant as a form of punishment for engaging in protected activities. When such lawsuits are filed, the defendant may bring an “anti-SLAPP” motion to strike the plaintiff’s suit. In order to prevail on such a motion, the moving party must demonstrate that the plaintiff’s lawsuit arises from its protected activities. Once the moving party has made such a demonstration, the plaintiff may defeat the motion by showing the lawsuit has merit. Such a battle was recently fought in the case of Third Laguna Hills Mutual v. Joslin. ((2020) 49 Cal. App. 5th 336 (“Third Laguna”).)

In Third Laguna, a homeowners’ association, Third Laguna Hills Mutual – an active adult community (“Association”), brought an action against a homeowner, Jeff Joslin (“Owner”), alleging, among other things, violations of the Association’s governing documents. Joslin had apparently rented out his separate interest to unqualified persons (i.e., “nonseniors”) who then caused nuisance violations (e.g., playing loud music). In response, Joslin filed a cross-complaint against the Association, alleging various tort theories. The Association labeled Joslin’s cross-complaint as a SLAPP suit and filed an anti-SLAPP motion.

In support of its anti-SLAPP motion, the Association argued that Owner’s cross-complaint was in response to the Association’s “protected activities and communications;” in other words, the “pre-litigation threats and the filing of” the Association’s lawsuit. The Association further argued that enforcement of the Association’s CC&Rs “is a public issue and an issue of public interest” falling within the ambit of the anti-SLAPP statute. The Court disagreed, siding with the in pro per Owner.

In denying the Association’s anti-SLAPP motion, the Court reasoned that the tort claims alleged in Owner’s cross-complaint clearly “arose from the [Association’s] decisions and actions” (e.g., preventing Owner from renting out his unit), not “from the [Association’s] filing of the complaint.” Moreover, and although the Association is relatively large, enforcement of the CC&Rs “is not a public issue or an issue of public interest within the meaning of the anti-SLAPP statute.” Because Owner prevailed, he was awarded his costs on appeal.

California HOA lawyers This case is important because it highlights the need for a HOA to perform a careful and thorough evaluation, not only of the merits of a lawsuit prior to filing, but of all subsequent procedural actions taken during the pendency of the lawsuit.

-Blog post authored by TLG Attorney, Matthew T. Plaxton, Esq.

*New Legislation

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On January 1, 2012, Section 1360.2 (now Section 4740) was added to the California Civil Code to limit a HOA’s authority to adopt and enforce certain rental “prohibitions.”  The legislative intent behind the law was the recognition that “the rights of Owners in [a HOA] to rent or lease their properties, as the rights existed at the time the Owners acquired them, should be protected by the State of California…”  Nevertheless, by its own terms, Section 4740 applies to rental prohibitions, not necessarily less serious restrictions that are reasonably related to the Association’s interests in maintaining and preserving the community.  Thus, many HOAs adopted restrictions regulating the rental of separate interests within the development (e.g., one-year minimum term limit, owner-occupancy requirements, individual room rental restrictions, etc.).

On September 28, 2020, Governor Gavin Newsom signed Assembly Bill 3182 (“AB 3182”), which was introduced as another measure “to address the housing and homelessness crisis” in California. According to Assembly Member Phil Ting (the author of AB 3182), “[t]here are millions of homes across the state that have the potential to be rented to Californians in need of housing but that are prohibited from being leased under outdated [HOA] rules.” While the stated objective of providing more affordable housing units is a laudable goal, AB 3182 significantly limits the extent to which HOAs may impose rental restrictions and prohibitions.

Under AB 3182, California Civil Code section 4741 is added to the Davis-Stirling Common Interest Development Act and renders void and unenforceable any provision in a governing document or amendment thereto “that prohibits, has the effect of prohibiting, or unreasonably restricts the rental or leasing of” a separate interest “to a renter, lessee, or tenant.” Despite this prohibition, Section 4741 does authorize a HOA to adopt and enforce:

  • A rental cap of twenty-five percent (25%) of the separate interests (or greater); and
  • A provision “that prohibits transient or short-term rental of a separate…interest for a period of 30 days or less.”

Moreover, Section 4741 adds that a separate interest (including Accessory Dwelling Units and Junior Accessory Dwelling Units) is not considered “occupied by a renter” if the separate interest is also owner-occupied. Thus, for example, a cap on the number of rentals within a HOA would not apply to an owner renting out individual rooms within his or her separate interest.

Other than the rental restrictions specifically identified in Section 4741, there is much uncertainty as to the extent to which other common rental restrictions would be rendered unenforceable as a result of AB 3182. Indeed, the Legislature provides no guidance as to what would constitute an “unreasonable restriction” on the rental of a separate interest. Therefore, each rental restriction contained in a HOA’s governing documents must be evaluated in light of AB 3182’s intent: to increase the number of housing units made available.

California HOA lawyers There is much uncertainty that remains concerning the extent to which other typical rental restrictions remain valid and enforceable. To the extent certain rental restrictions are rendered unenforceable by AB 3182, same must be removed from the governing documents no later than December 31, 2021. Failure to comply with Section 4741 may result in a HOA being liable for actual damages (e.g., lost rental income) and a civil penalty of up to one thousand dollars ($1,000). It is therefore important for each HOA to consult with their attorney to determine whether the HOA’s rental restrictions are enforceable in light of AB 3182, and to take action to amend their governing documents to remove such unenforceable provisions.

-Blog post authored by TLG Attorney, Matthew T. Plaxton, Esq.

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.

hoa-coastal*New Case Law

The issue of short-term rentals (or “vacation rentals”) is becoming increasingly significant for homeowners associations (“HOAs”).  The concerns and problems that arise from having revolving groups of vacation renters in HOAs are well-documented, such as the fact that vacation renters are often “less careful in using the common facilities because they are not concerned with the long-term consequences of abuse.” Watts v. Oak Shores Community Assn. (2015) 235 Cal.App.4th 466, 473.

To avoid these problems, many HOAs have lease restrictions within their governing documents such as a restriction which prohibits the rental or leasing of a property for a period of less than thirty (30) days. Such a restriction was adopted in 2016 by the coastal community of Mandalay Shores Community Association (“Mandalay Shores”), together with a schedule of significant fines that may be imposed on the owners of the roughly 1,400 homes in Mandalay Shores who violate the short-term rental rule. Two owners filed suit against Mandalay Shores seeking an injunction to stay the enforcement of the short-term rental rule, contending that the rule violates the California Coastal Act (Pub. Resources Code Sec. 3000 et. seq) (the “Act”).

The injunction was ultimately granted on appeal.  The Court of Appeal noted that the Act was enacted to, among other things, “[m]aximize public access to and along the coast and maximize public recreational opportunities to the coastal zone consistent with sound resources conservation principles and constitutionally protected right of private property owners.” While Mandalay Shores did not erect a physical barrier to the beach, the Court believed that it erected a monetary barrier, which had the same effect.

The Court was not persuaded by Mandalay Shores’ argument that the short-term rental rule was to curtail parking, noise and trash problems. In his opinion, Acting Presiding Justice Yegan stated that such problems are to be addressed by the city and Coastal Commission: “The decision to ban or regulate [short-term rentals] must be made by the City and Coastal Commission, not a homeowner’s association.” Thus, in his opinion, a HOA may not adopt rules affecting “the intensity of use or access to single family residences in a coastal zone.” To read the Court’s holding in Greenfield v. Mandalay Shores Community Association, click here.

California HOA lawyers This case will have a profound effect on a HOA’s ability to adopt rules preventing short-term rentals in coastal communities. HOA attorneys and management professionals should be mindful of this case when receiving requests from coastal community clients to adopt/amend rules to include short-term rental restrictions.

-Blog post authored by TLG Attorney, Matthew T, Plaxton, Esq.

short-term-rental*Unpublished Case

Recently, many residential common interest developments have experienced an influx in the number of short-term rentals within their community. This problem is exacerbated by the increased popularity of websites such as Airbnb and HomeAway. Although profitable, short-term rentals have a significant negative impact on community associations, such as increased damage to common area and violations of the Association’s governing documents. To address these concerns, many associations are amending their CC&Rs to include restrictions imposing a minimum lease period (e.g., thirty days). In a recent unpublished opinion, the California Court of Appeal upheld such a restriction as reasonable.

In Ocean Windows Owners Association v. Spataro, the Court affirmed the decision of the trial court granting the Association’s petition to reduce the requisite approval necessary to amend their CC&Rs pursuant to Civil Code section 4275.  The proposed amended CC&Rs included, among other things, a provision imposing a minimum lease term of “thirty (30) consecutive days in any one (1) calendar year….” A homeowner filed an objection to the petition stating that the record was void of any facts sufficient to support a conclusion that the amendments “were necessary for the good of the community.” The Court of Appeal rejected this argument for two reasons.

At the outset, the Court noted that the homeowner had misstated the standard under Civil Code section 4275. Specifically, Civil Code section 4275(c)(5) requires that the “amendment is reasonable.” Reasonableness has been defined as:

Not arbitrary or capricious, rationally related to the protection, preservation and proper operation of the property and the purposes of the Association as set forth in its governing instruments, and is fair and non-discriminatory.

(Fourth La Costa Condominium Owners Assn. v. Seith (2008) 159 Cal. App. 4th 563, 577; see Nahrstedt v. Lakeside Village Condominium Assn. (1994) 8 Cal.4th 361, 382 (citations omitted).)

Using the appropriate standard, the Court concluded that the rental restriction was reasonable. The Court’s decision was predicated, in large part, on the declarations of the Association’s community manager and its general counsel. Both averred that short-term rentals had resulted in damage to the common area, increased costs and violations of the governing documents, and the inability or difficulty with obtaining financing due to the association’s appearance as a “condotel.” As such, the Court concluded that there was substantial evidence to support the conclusion that the rental restriction contained in the amended CC&Rs was reasonable (i.e., rationally related to the protection, preservation and operation of the community as a whole).

California HOA lawyers Although unpublished, this case underscores the courts’ awareness of problems affecting communities with short-term rentals, and their willingness to assist associations in addressing the issue.  HOA Boards that are dealing with these types of issues should consult with their HOA’s legal counsel for guidance and recommendations.

-Blog post authored by TLG Attorney, Matthew T. Plaxton, Esq.

first-time-homebuyerWe previously blogged about H.R. 3700, the “Housing Opportunity Through Modernization Act of 2016”, which was signed by the President on July 29, 2016.  H.R. 3700 required the Department of Housing and Urban Development (“HUD”) to streamline the Federal Housing Administration (“FHA”) recertification process, provide regulations for commercial space exemptions, allow for deed-based transfer fees, and lower the owner-occupancy requirement within ninety (90) days of the bill’s approval.  In response to these provisions and changes in the condominium market, HUD proposed a new rule governing the certification requirements for condominium associations.  The proposed rule includes the following reforms:

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familyOn January 20, 2015, a tragic fire ripped through a condominium complex in the city of San Juan Capistrano, killing three, injuring six, and displacing eighty residents living in eight units.  The decedents were three of seventeen individuals living in a four-bedroom condominium.  In light of the deaths and their relation to the number of occupants living in the unit, efforts are now underway to examine state and local occupancy restrictions with an eye towards preventing an incident like this from occurring in the future.  To that end, questions have surfaced with respect to an association’s ability to adopt and enforce state and local occupancy standards, as well as to promulgate operating rules regulating the number of occupants living within a unit.

An association’s “operating rules” are regulations adopted by the board that apply “generally to the management  and  operation  of the  common  interest  development  or the conduct  of the business and affairs of the association.” (Civ. Code § 4340(a)) They relate to things such as the use of common area and separate interests, member discipline, and procedures for elections. (Civ. Code § 4355(a)(1)-(7))  In order to be valid and enforceable, the operating rule must meet several requirements: the rule must be (1) in writing, (2) within the authority of the Board of Directors conferred by law or the governing documents, (3) not in conflict with governing law and the governing documents, (4) adopted in good faith and in compliance with the procedural requirements set forth in Civil Code section 4360, and (5) reasonable. (Civ. Code § 4350) Accordingly, presuming that an occupancy rule is adopted by an association’s board of directors pursuant to the powers granted to it under the governing documents, the primary focus is whether the occupancy rule conflicts with governing law (i.e., California law).

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*New Case Lawhoa-renter-fee.jpg

In the landmark case of Lamden v. La Jolla Shores Clubdominium Homeowners Assn. (1999) 21 Cal.4th 249 (“Lamden“), the California Supreme Court established what is known as the “Rule of Judicial Deference” or “Lamden Rule” that, in sum, requires courts to defer to decisions made by a HOA’s Board of Directors regarding “ordinary maintenance:”

“…We adopt today for California courts a rule of judicial deference to community association board decisionmaking that applies, regardless of an association’s corporate status, when owners in common interest developments seek to litigate ordinary maintenance decisions entrusted to the discretion of their associations’ boards of directors.” (Lamden, at 253.)

However, in a recently published opinion, the Court of Appeals expanded the scope of the Lamden Rule to include additional decisions made by a HOA’s Board, such as those to adopt rules and impose fees on members relating to short-term renters…

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eviction-hoa.jpg*Asked & Answered

Asked – A renter/tenant within our community is continually engaging in improper conduct, violating the governing documents, and causing nuisances that are impacting surrounding homeowners. Is there anything the HOA can do to evict the tenant? What steps can the Board of Directors take to prevent situations like this from happening in the future?

Answered – Improper conduct of tenants is a problematic situation commonly faced by homeowners associations (“HOAs”). Tenants often are not as involved in the affairs of the HOA as that of the HOA’s members, nor do tenants feel the same sense of investment in the community. Additionally, members who rent out their homes typically prioritize rental income over the concerns of neighboring homeowners.

The degree to which a HOA may take action directly against an unruly tenant will be principally governed by the HOA’s governing documents–specifically, the HOA’s recorded declaration of covenants, conditions and restrictions (a.k.a. “CC&Rs”). The restrictions in the CC&Rs are “equitable servitudes” that are enforceable against the owners of the “separate interests” within the HOA (the HOA’s members). Civ. Code § 5975. CC&Rs may contain provisions requiring tenants to comply with the HOA’s governing documents. However, those provisions essentially confer obligations upon the members to control the conduct of their respective tenants. Therefore, any remedies available to the HOA in response to tenant violations or nuisance activities must generally be pursued through action against the tenant’s landlord (the HOA member), not the tenant.

However, there are ways in which a HOA may broaden its ability to take action directly against a tenant. For example, a HOA can amend its CC&Rs to require any leases between a member and a third-party tenant to contain language which: (1) requires the tenant to comply with the governing documents, (2) grants the HOA the authority to take action directly against the tenant in response to violations, and (3) holds the landlord-member responsible for the HOA’s attorneys’ fees and costs incurred in taking such action. Such language would make the HOA a “third-party beneficiary” under the lease with the contractual right to enforce its terms through an eviction action or otherwise. Such language will also motivate members seeking to rent out their homes to secure higher-quality tenants at the outset.

hoa laws

In the absence of such language, the HOA should take formal action directly against the tenant’s landlord (the HOA member). Faced with the threat of fines and costly legal action, the member will likely realize that his/her financial interests are better served through securing a different tenant. A HOA dealing with unruly tenants should therefore seek the assistance of its legal counsel to determine the best course of action.

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

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