What Amount of Reserves Does the Law Require?

What Amount of Reserves Does the Law Require?

Dear Kelly, Is there any legal requirement for the reserves to be at any levels or is it a recommendation by the state? Can an HOA be taken over by the state if it is underfunded and if so, at what percentage? Thank you, S.P., Newport Beach Mr. Richardson, Please tell me if there is a Civil Code requiring a certain percentage of funds to be kept in the HOA reserve fund? Also, would you know if there is an average or median level that is known for California HOA’s.? Ours is over 100 percent. J.D., El Cajon Dear S.P. and J.D., The Davis-Stirling Act contains several requirements regarding reserves. Civil Code Section 5550 requires a full study be performed every three years, with annual reviews in-between. Civil 5550(b)(5) requires a long-term funding plan, and Civil 5560 requires that plan include scheduled assessment increases and be adopted in an open board meeting. Civil 5565 requires a detailed written disclosure of the status of each common area component in the reserve study, which disclosure must be in the form prescribed by Civil 5570. This disclosure, per Civil 5300(b)(2) is part of the Annual Budget Report, and so is distributed annually to members and to prospective buyers. Civil 5510(b) requires that reserve funds be spent only on the items they are reserved for, and per Civil 5515 any other withdrawal of reserve funds is considered borrowing which must be disclosed to the members per Civil 5520. The Davis-Stirling Act does not specify any minimum funding of reserve accounts and does not specify a percentage the fund must be in comparison to...
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...
How Much Reserve Money Does Our HOA Need?

How Much Reserve Money Does Our HOA Need?

Hello Kelly, I enjoy and learn from your column on HOA’s. I live in small resident-managed HOA. Our reserves are very low. Is there a minimum amount or percentage for reserves required by law? Also, is there a legal requirement for a regular audit? Is there a resource I can access for basic legal requirements for HOAs? My sense is we are not fully complying with regulations and laws. Thank you, F.S., Carlsbad Dear F.S., No, there is no specific minimum percentage or amount of money required to be in an association’s reserve account, and the law does not specifically require that ANY money must be in the account. Instead, the law focuses on disclosure, in the hope that savvy homebuyers will realize that purchasing a home in a poorly funded association is less desirable. Civil Code Sections 5550, 5560, 5565 and 5570 require, among other things, that all associations obtain a reserve study each three years, review it annually, and make extensive disclosures about the extent to which the HOA is accumulating the amounts of money recommended by the reserve study. Many boards feel they are helping the members by keeping monthly assessments lower and not building the association’s reserve account each month. This is not help, any more than it helps to borrow each month to pay one’s bills. Reserve accounts keep homeowner associations financially stable by accumulating money each month to roughly offset the ongoing deterioration of capital common assets – such as, for example, roofs, railings, decks, asphalt and other items which deteriorate with the passage of time. An association which does not faithfully build...

New Year’s Resolutions [Part 2] – The HOA Member

I, the HOA member, resolve to: Number one: Follow the Golden Rule: treat others as you would like to be treated. My attitude: Not refer to the HOA or board as “they,” since it is all “us.” The directors are also members who pay assessments and give their time to benefit us all. Be neighborly, because shared ownership fails without cooperation. Assume our directors are doing their best as volunteers, and give them the benefit of the doubt. Not first assume the board is incompetent or dishonest when I believe it is overspending. Avoid the “my home, my castle” attitude. We share the benefits of common interest ownership, which means we also agree to share the control of our property. Ask questions before making statements, criticizing, or even accusing. Acknowledge the board may have more information than me. This doesn’t mean the board is right, but it does mean my opinion might not be fully informed. Take the long view of our association property, supporting growth of our capital reserves fund and maintaining our buildings. Be knowledgeable: Read the information the HOA sends to me. Be familiar with the CC&R’s, bylaws, and rules. I will reduce confusion and disputes by understanding the use restrictions and rules. Read the association budget and reserve study. I will ask informed questions, particularly about deviations from budget. If I ask to review financial documents, I will not ask for “everything,” and request only documents which I really need, acknowledging my manager is not a librarian. Help board meetings: Insist the board follow the Open Meeting Act, and only handle in closed session the...