2019 Bills Proposing New HOA Laws Are A Mixed Bag

2019 Bills Proposing New HOA Laws Are A Mixed Bag

This year Sacramento presents another spring season full of ideas for HOAs – some bad, some good, and some well-intentioned but needing revision. SB 323 Senate Bill 323 is a recycle of last year’s SB 1265, a bill vetoed by Governor Brown in September 2018. SB 323 would add burdensome new elements to the HOA election process and dictate to HOAs who could or could not serve as directors. The bill is as bad an idea this year as it was last year. As Governor Brown wrote while vetoing its predecessor, SB 323 “takes a once-size-fits-all(sic) approach, but not all homeowner associations are alike. If changes to an election process are needed, they should be resolved by the members of that specific community.” Associations should set their board eligibility standards, not Sacramento. SB 652 SB 652 addresses the conflict between architectural conformity and religious observance. Does a Jewish Mezuzah or Christian cross violate rules banning alteration of doorways? SB 652 would add a new Civil Code 4706, prohibiting associations from limiting or prohibiting display of religious items on entry doors of a member’s residence. There is no limitation on size, number, or appearance of doorway decorations, so long as they are religious. Perhaps some reasonable limit could be stated. Coauthored by sixteen legislators, it awaits committee assignment. SB 434 SB 434, authored by Senator Archuleta of Southeastern L.A. County, proposes to add a new Civil Code 5382. The proposed statute would require managing agents to produce the association’s records and property (manuals, transponders and keys, for example) within a certain time after termination and/or association request. Managers could not...
Why Governing Documents Matter

Why Governing Documents Matter

Governing documents are critical for HOA communities and are literally the legal glue which holds the association together. Civil Code Section 4150 defines “governing documents” as articles of incorporation, CC&Rs, bylaws, and operating rules, but I think subdivision maps and condominium plans also should be regarded as governing documents. Each has a distinct purpose and function, and every HOA member should have copies. Subdivision map and condominium plan This document breaks up land into separate pieces of land or airspace sold to homeowners in planned development (“lots”) or condominium (“units”) projects. This document is recorded (i.e. filed) with the County Recorder, is easily retrieved, and defines the “common area” as well as the “separate interest” (i.e., the lot or unit). Sometimes it also delineates exclusive use common areas or maintenance easement areas. It establishes the real estate interests owned, so any amendment requires agreement of 100% of association members and their mortgage holders, and consequently amendment is highly unlikely. Articles of incorporation Articles of Incorporation establish the legal “person” of the association. Filed with the Secretary of State, this document can be retrieved from that office. Older Articles sometimes contain important information about limits on the association or board’s powers. The Articles list the association’s legal name and can be amended by membership vote, although amending is rarely necessary. Check the association’s corporate status at https://businesssearch.sos.ca.gov. CC&Rs The CC&Rs document is recorded (amendments also must be recorded), and therefore is also a public document. Associations often use unrecorded, unofficial copies, but official copies can be retrieved from the County Recorder. CC&Rs are a long contract automatically binding all owners,...
Make a Target! Goals for 2019

Make a Target! Goals for 2019

The late and legendary coach John Wooden said “The most important key to achieving great success is to decide upon your goal and launch, get started, take action, move.” Your association might benefit from setting a few goals, and then moving to achieve them. Here are some ideas for goals in the coming year: Increase the association’s reserve funds by 15%. The closer the association is to a fully funded reserve account, the more financially secure it is. Reduce assessment delinquencies by 20%. Make sure the association has all the Annual Budget Report (Civil 5300) and Annual Policy Statement (Civil 5310) items and annually provides them to owners. Improve member communication and save money by encouraging members to accept communications by email. The law now allows such a consent to be sent by electronic mail. Update the association CC&Rs and bylaws if they are the original documents or are at least 15 years old. Make sure the documents use the current Civil Code references which have been in effect since 2014. Updating the statutory references can be accomplished by board motion (in an open meeting) under Civil 4235. Review and update the rules. Remove rules discriminating against children or which are outdated and no longer enforced. Make sure the HOA has all the legally required rules. Hire an independent consultant to provide a comprehensive assessment of association maintenance and repair needs, to discover any overlooked problems before they become more expensive later. The consultant should NOT be a candidate for the work, so there is no mixed motive in their recommendations. Re-evaluate and update the association web site (or...
Should Our Assessments Increase?

Should Our Assessments Increase?

Hello Mr. Richardson, Our board is against raising our fees which have been the same for at least 10 years! Obviously we are not keeping up with inflation. According to our reserve study we are over $1000 per unit underfunded. We have [decades old] buildings. My concerns are falling on deaf ears despite the encouragement of our management company to raise fees. I would deeply appreciate your opinion. J.E., Irvine Dear J.E., Association boards are responsible to budget and spend association funds wisely. If a board decides in advance that it will not increase the budget, it is quite likely such a board has placed as its first priority the artificial preservation of assessments and that the upkeep of the property (and the association’s long-term financial health) is a lower priority. Properly caring for the common property and keeping vendor expenses flat for over ten years is unbelievable (and not in a good way). Because of the fact of inflation, cost increases should be factored into the healthy HOA budget. Otherwise, the association is probably deferring maintenance, hiring cheap (instead of the most competent and appropriate) vendors, and is not properly funding its reserve account. Such association are not financially healthy and are akin to people who live on credit cards. Such an association eventually has to face a day of unhappy reckoning when the deferred bills all come due and the association is forced to borrow. Qualified and certified managers are trained to prepare budgets and should be heeded in this regard. Maintaining property, keeping up with inflation, and depositing faithfully in reserves are all actions preserving the...