Community Associations

Richardson|Ober provides outstanding counsel to common interest development communities throughout California. We serve both commercial and residential associations; condominiums and detached planned development residential communities; mixed-use and senior communities; small residential condominium associations to large-scale, master-planned recreational communities. As leaders in community association law, we counsel a diverse range of communities emphasizing practical approaches to somewhat complex legal and interpersonal legal issues. Using both time-tested legal theories and innovative trends, our team provides ongoing counsel to community association boards, providing directors with the tools they need to make decisions in the best interests of their communities and their members. Quality community association legal counsel entails not only a working knowledge of common interest development law but also the intuitive ability to apply the law effectively; always with an eye toward improving the value of and the quality of life within the community.

The members of our firm are active members of and contributors to the Community Associations Institute (“CAI”) and the California Association of Community Managers (“CACM”), and are deeply committed to the common interest development industry. Our background and experience in, and our commitment to, the community association industry demonstrates our recognition of the importance associations place on quality legal representation and we pride ourselves on maintaining a firm-wide standard of excellence on all aspects of community association representation.

We provide ongoing legal counsel and services on all community association matters including general corporate counsel; assessment collection using judicial foreclosure; CC&Rs amendment, interpretation and enforcement; maintenance and repair obligations; architectural compliance, and, if necessary, litigation.

 

Assessment Collection and Judgment Enforcement

ROcollect is simple, straightforward and successful. Our objective is to collect delinquent assessments as quickly and as cost effectively as possible using the judicial foreclosure model. Once judgment enters, we work with the association to determine whether to proceed with the foreclosure against the property or enforce the money judgment by garnishing wages, levying bank accounts, and other such enforcement methods. We operate on a deferred-fee basis, in which we bill hourly for our services; but defer payment until the conclusion of the file. We believe that association should not pay any fees up front. We also offer discounts on pursuing difficult files. Our goal is to recover money for your community.

Contract Drafting and Compliance

R|O attorneys draft, review, and negotiate all types of ongoing vendor service contracts or special projects contracts and community management agreements. We provide guidance in monitoring and enforcing contractor and vendor performance, and, if needed, termination of contracts to limit liability. In addition, our drafting team reviews all contracts to best protect the association from liability and damages caused by a contractor’s work. We believe no agreement or contract is too small when it comes to protecting the association and its members from liability but tailor each contract review to minimize expenses.

 

Election Rules, Voting Procedures and Meeting Protocol

We assist communities in complying with somewhat complex and confusing elections laws making sure the association has clear and concise elections rules in place that are required by law. We assist communities with preparing for and conducting community elections whether it be electing directors or passing a special assessment. In addition, our general counsel services include assistance with such matters as board meeting protocol and conduct rules, as well as annual meeting preparation.

Rules and Regulations, Policies and Resolutions

From essential resident conduct rules to water intrusion responsibility policies, R|O attorneys prepare rules, policies and resolutions that augment typical boilerplate CC&Rs. Rules should be drafted to fit the needs of your community; they must be clear, concise, understandable and easy to comply with. Our drafting team has significant expertise in revising existing complex, cumbersome or outdated rules to make them work for your community, and will draft fine and enforcement policies that meet current civil code requirements.

Dispute Resolution, Including Disciplinary Hearings, Internal Dispute Resolution, Mediation, Arbitration and Litigation

Community association governance must embrace an efficient and effective method of resolving conflict.  At R|O we believe that every community association member should be treated with respect when faced with a compliance issue or enforcement proceeding and that any form of due process should allow for a speedy, cost-effective way to resolve disputes, while ensuring compliance with the governing documents for the benefit of all residents.

While our focus is avoiding litigation if possible, our full-service community association team is well-equipped to successfully prosecute or defend the association and its directors, should they be faced with litigation. Our litigation team will evaluate your legal dispute and provide a litigation plan, staying mindful of the association’s goals and budget constraints. We have successfully handled the full spectrum of community association legal disputes including breach of fiduciary duty claims, governing document enforcement and injunction proceedings, easement disputes, judicial foreclosure, breach of contract and property damage claims.

When faced with an insurance claim against the association or its directors, a board must consider whether to seek coverage under the association’s liability policy. With R|O’s extensive experience in insurance policy interpretation and enforcement, we provide boards with the tools they need to evaluate the association’s coverage options and assist the association in obtaining the coverage expected. Further, when insurance defense counsel is appointed to defend the association, we provide ongoing monitoring of defense counsel and their handling of the action so that, as general counsel, we can guide the board in reaching a successful outcome to the litigation.

 

Governing Document Amendments, Interpretations and Enforcement

An association’s governing documents provide insight into the health of the community, and although voluntary compliance is expected, boards must be well-equipped with the tools necessary to enforce the governing documents in a fair, equitable and consistent manner. R|O attorneys provide ongoing assistance with drafting, interpreting, amending and, where necessary, enforcing an association’s governing documents, including drafting rules that comply with current law yet uniquely fit the rules of your community. In addition, we work with each community to ensure that enforcement methods are clear, consistent and equitable to all concerned, and encourage voluntary compliance.

General Counsel Services

The issues facing community association directors can be complex and varied. Associations require the steady hand of expert legal counsel well-versed in all matters that may come before the board. Our role is to provide directors with the tools it needs to make sound decisions, recognizing that, while exercising business judgment, directors must also be mindful of their decisions’ impact on the community and its residents.  The attorneys at R|O recognize this delicate balance.

Our philosophy is to partner with your association to build a long-term relationship on which your directors and community management can rely for all community association matters. Our attorneys are well-versed in and have extensive experience with governance, fiduciary duty, business judgment, management and compliance with the Davis-Stirling Common Interest Development Act. We assist with enforcement of your governing documents and compliance hearings, and offer well-reasoned, easy-to-understand legal opinions that provide guidance when you need it, and specific answers to difficult questions that allow you to make sound, informed decisions.

The role of a volunteer community association director can be challenging and time-consuming, as well as rewarding. In addition, we believe that board members benefit from ongoing education and keep stay apprised of legal updates. In addition to monthly newsletters, R|O provides regular and annual legislative updates, case law reviews, webinars and board orientations throughout the year and as needed, so that directors feel confident that they have the skills and general knowledge necessary to serve their communities effectively.

Fair Housing and Employment Issues

Among the more complex areas of community association law are fair housing and employment law issues. Fair housing laws prohibit unlawful discrimination by community associations and require communities to accommodate residents with disabilities so that they can fully access, enjoy and benefit from their housing. Our team is well-equipped to assist associations in analyzing fair housing claims and requests to properly determine whether an accommodation is needed to enable a resident to fully participate in daily community association living.

Equally complex are matters of employment for community associations. R|O’s expertise in community association matters enables us to assess risk and identify potential liability in hiring and firing. We are able to draft employment agreements to protect the association while respecting the employee. In addition, we consult on job descriptions, scope of employment, discipline, training and termination.

Contact Practice Group Chair, Matt D. Ober for more information about our Community Association Law group.

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