November Newsletter

November Newsletter

Avoiding Election Missteps: 8 Tips for a Winning Outcome By Matthew A. Gardner, Esq. and Alisa E. Sandoval, Esq. If practice makes perfect, association elections should be a breeze. However, overlooking even the smallest parts of the election can cause chaos. California Civil Code Sections 5100-5145 dictate the election process: when to use secret ballots; how to conduct elections; how to select inspectors; how to campaign; and how to conduct the ballot counting and understanding why the Civil Code requires these for fair elections, may help avoid some of those election day challenges. #1 Have election rules in place FIRST. All associations are required by Civil Code 5105 to adopt election rules. Without election rules, the owners, inspectors of election and board are all at-risk of mistakes that may result in costly legal challenges. Older CC&Rs and bylaws probably do not even require secret ballots, so it is important that the rules describe how elections are conducted. Election rules must comply with both Civil Code and your governing documents and should contain: Nomination procedures, Director qualifications, Method of selecting independent third parties as inspectors of election, Rules for access to association media during campaigns, Rules for access to common area meeting space during campaigns, Secret ballot instructions and procedures. Once you have the basics outlined above, make sure that the board and your owners are comfortable with how it is presented. Some associations will add additional details about candidate statements or “meet the candidate” events. Work with your owners so that the rules represent your community’s preferences regarding elections. #2 Identify candidate and director qualifications in the candidate nomination...
September Newsletter

September Newsletter

Electrifying California: The Role of Community Associations in Reducing Greenhouse Gases in California By Jonathan R. Davis, Esq.   Under the Global Warming Solutions Act of 1996, California law requires the state to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by at least 80% by 2050. Transportation is the leading contributor to California’s greenhouse gas emissions, so the state has aggressively adopted policies to incentivize Californians to use alternative energy vehicles. State incentives for such vehicles include allowing drivers of such vehicles to use carpool freeway lanes when driving alone, and generous tax credits to purchasers of new alternative energy vehicles. Unsurprisingly, alternative energy vehicles are quickly gaining popularity in the Golden State. While state incentives began with mild hybrid cars such as the Toyota Prius, technology has progressed substantially to the point where California incentives now focus primarily on plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs) like the Chevrolet Volt and battery electric vehicles (BEVs) like the Tesla Model 3. PHEVs and BEVS can be plugged into power outlets and run solely on electricity rather than gasoline. While most PHEVs and BEVs can be plugged into standard 120-volt wall outlets, such charging takes a substantial amount of time. Thus, many BEV and PHEV owners use special 208/240-volt electric power stations to charge more quickly. These charging stations typically require special wiring and professional installation. The impact of all this on California common interest developments (aka “HOAs”) is that associations will soon be fielding increasing requests from residents to install specialized car-charging stations — including requests to install charging stations in common area garages and exclusive use parking spaces. California law requires HOAs...
August Newsletter

August Newsletter

Community Association Fair Housing Update; Recent Fair Housing Claims By Matt D. Ober, Esq., CCAL   The Fair Housing Act (FHA) prohibits discrimination in housing on the basis of race; color; religion; sex; national origin; familial status; or disability. In Community Associations, the FHA allows a community to make an exception to a rule to accommodate a disabled resident. It isn’t always about service animals or comfort pets; it’s about providing all residents with an equal opportunity to use and enjoy their housing. Perhaps more than ever before, fair housing regulations are impacting community associations as to how boards govern, address common area modification requests, and enforce their rules. Communities are looking for ways to accommodate their residents who, for a variety of reasons, need to modify a common area or need an exception to a community rule to have equal use of their residence. The FHA requires that qualified resident with a disability be allowed a reasonable exception to a rule, or permission to make a reasonable modification to common areas at her expense i.e.; a reasonable accommodation. For some time now, the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH) has been working on changes to the California Code of Regulations covering the Fair Employment and Housing Act. Most recently, on June 22, 2018, DFEH issued a Notice of Modifications which will likely impact how community associations address resident requests for reasonable accommodations. While the proposed modifications are being developed, it is our hope that the modifications clearly address such critical issues as 1) who pays for the modifications; 2) who restores the property after the disabled resident vacates the property; 3) what...
July Newsletter

July Newsletter

You’re A Grand Ol’ Flag, But You Sure Come with A Lot of Rules! Displaying the American Flag in Community Associations By Diana C. Godoy, Esq. Fourth of July evokes thoughts of hot summer days, picnics, fireworks, and displays of the American flag. But for those living in a community association, displaying the American flag, even on the Fourth of July, might subject them to regulation under the guise of architectural uniformity and aesthetic harmony. Signs, flags, and banners allow residents in community associations a rare opportunity to express their individual beliefs, holidays, favorite seasons, and athletic teams. While unrestricted, these symbols of individuality can impact negatively a community’s aesthetic. Certainly, we can all agree on displaying Old Glory, or can we? Under federal and state law, community association homeowners have a right to display the American flag, and homeowners associations may not adopt or enforce any policy that prevents a homeowner from exercising that right. The federal Freedom to Display the American Flag Act protects the right of homeowners to display the American flag on their separate interest or exclusive use common area and prohibits restrictions on displaying the American flag on a homeowner’s unit, lot or exclusive use common area. Exclusive use common areas are those areas within association property in which a homeowner has a right to exclusive possession or use. The right of homeowners to display the American flag on their separate interest, however, is not unlimited. The extent of a homeowner’s right depends, in part, on the type of common interest development and what constitutes a homeowner’s separate interest and exclusive use common area. A homeowner’s...