California Homeowners’ Association Lawyer in Los Angeles, Orange County, San Diego, Riverside, Palm Springs, San Bernardino, & Silicon Valley
What is an HOA?
A homeowners’ association (HOA) is a non-profit mutual benefit corporation or unincorporated association that governs and manages common interest developments. Common interest developments include planned developments, condominiums, community apartment projects, and stock cooperatives. All HOAs in California are governed by the Davis-Stirling Act, which was enacted in 1985. The Davis-Stirling Act addresses how HOAs can be governed, as well as the obligations and rights of both homeowners and HOAs. Anyone purchasing property in an HOA automatically becomes a member of the HOA, and is subject to the HOA’s governing documents, which includes its Covenants, Conditions and Restrictions (“CC&Rs”). The HOA and homeowner are both entitled to enforce the conditions in their CC&Rs.
Most Common Types of Disputes Concerning HOA
Many HOA disputes can arise while being a member of an HOA. Our attorneys handle a variety of HOA disputes, including:
- Failure to Repair and/or Maintain
- CC&R or Governing Document Violations
- Harassment / Discrimination
- Common Area Disputes
- Selective Enforcement of Rules/Governing Documents
- Davis-Stirling Act Violations
- Breach of Fiduciary Duties
- HOA Liens
Who Makes The Rules in an HOA?
The developer of the community establishes the CC&Rs before the first property in the community is even sold. These CC&Rs contain most rules and restrictions for homeowners to follow, but can be updated at a later date by the Board of Directors.
HOAs are most commonly formed as non-profit corporations. Like a typical corporation, an HOA is governed by a Board of Directors elected by its members. The Board of Directors is responsible for managing the HOA’s affairs and funds, conducting business, and creating and enforcing rules and regulations. The Board is also responsible for enforcing the HOA’s governing documents, which includes the CC&Rs, Bylaws, Articles of Incorporation, and Rules and Regulations. The Board also has the power to impose and change reasonable rules and regulations that homeowners must follow (Civ. Code § 4355(a); Liebler v. Point Loma Tennis Club (1995) 40 Cal.App.4th 1600).
What are the Pros of an HOA?
- Property Values. HOAs uphold guidelines with the goal of preserving and enhancing property values and the aesthetic harmony of the community. The overall property values in the community are maintained due to deed restrictions and rules that owners are contractually obligated to obey.
- Financial Stability. Common Areas eventually require repairs. Common Areas can include amenities such as swimming pools, but also roads, necessary building components such as roofs, plumbing, and balconies for Condominiums. HOAs provide assurance for future these Common Area repairs by having a reserve fund specifically for this purpose, which is funded by mandatory HOA dues (called “assessments”).
- Amenities and Services. Many HOAs provide services such as landscaping, or come with desirable common area facilities and amenities, such as club houses, barbeque picnic areas, swimming pools, tennis courts, and parks.
What are the Cons of an HOA?
- Assessment Dues. As a member of an HOA, members are obligated to pay HOA fees or “assessments”, usually on a monthly basis. These Assessments pay for the maintenance of Common Areas and others fees. Assessments are in addition to a homeowner’s other property expenses, such as mortgage, property tax, and insurance, and can make homeownership costly and unaffordable. Furthermore, the cost of assessments can be raised yearly, becoming a financial burden in the future.
- Potential Lien or Foreclosure. Assessment dues are mandatory for HOA members, even if the homeowner does not use any or all the amenities provided. If a homeowner fails to pay their assessments, the HOA can place a lien on their property, which can lead to foreclosure.
- Property Restrictions and Rules. Members of an HOA are bound to comply with the governing documents, which include restrictions on the use of your property. Certain freedoms that homeowners may want to exercise, such as painting their home a bright color, or smoking within their condo, may violate the HOA’s rules. Such violations can be subject to fines or suspension of Common Area privileges.
- Potential Mismanagement. Board Members of an HOA are usually unpaid volunteers, who face the challenging duty to manage an HOA’s funds, deal with complex financial issues as well as resolve issues with homeowners. While many Board Members are qualified and fulfill their duties competently, others may be inexperienced or may fail to serve on the Board in the best interest of the community.
Can I Sue My HOA?
California Civil Code Section 5975 provides that a homeowner may sue their HOA (or another homeowner) to enforce the CC&Rs or any other governing document. Governing documents include the bylaws, articles of incorporation and rules and regulations as well as the CC&Rs.
Can I Recover Attorneys’ Fees if I Sue My HOA?
There are two potential methods to recover attorneys’ fees in real estate litigation against an HOA:
- Under California Civil Code Section 5975(c), attorneys’ fees are available to a prevailing party in an action to enforce governing documents. Although Civil Code Section 5975(c) does not specifically define “prevailing party”, the term is generally interpreted to mean the party that achieved what they wanted “on a practical level.” (See Almanor Lakeside Villas Owners Assn. v. Carson (2016) 246 Cal.App.4th 761, 773).
- A party has the right to recover attorneys’ fees if the HOA’s CC&Rs provide that attorneys’ fees are available. As an alternative and independent basis for attorneys’ fees, homeowners may also be entitled to attorneys’ fees under the language of the CC&Rs. While not all CC&Rs contain language granting attorneys’ fees, most modern CC&Rs do.
Who Pays Attorneys’ Fees if The HOA Wins?
Although a homeowner may recover its attorneys’ fees if they win, the HOA may also do the same. If a homeowner sues the HOA and the HOA wins, the losing homeowner must pay the HOA for its attorneys’ fees. In some instances, the homeowner will owe the HOA money even if the homeowner voluntarily dismisses the lawsuit. (See, e.g., Parrott v. Mooring Townhomes Assn., Inc. (2003) 112 Cal.App.4th 873).
HOA litigation can become tedious and complex, making it expensive to resolve when parties cannot reach a resolution. It is important that homeowners seek legal advice from experienced attorneys who are familiar with the Davis-Stirling Act and HOA law to understand their rights.
Contact an Experienced California HOA Attorney Today!
Talkov Law defends parties involved in HOA disputes, including homeowners, a group of homeowners or even the HOA. With offices across southern California, our real estate attorneys in California serve clients in Los Angeles, Orange County, San Diego, Riverside, Palm Springs, San Bernardino, & Silicon Valley facing owning or managing single-family homes, town homes, condominiums and other HOA properties. Our team at Talkov Law is familiar with examining the specific laws and regulations that impact your case and enforcing your rights or defending your cases with creative yet practical techniques. With our counsel and representation, your matter will be resolved as efficiently and effectively as possible. For a free consultation, contact our attorneys at (844) 4-TALKOV (825568) or info(at)talkovlaw.com.