Tuesday, August 25, 2020

Fire Season Is (Sadly) Upon Us: How Should You Prepare?

Wildfires are currently starting to rage throughout the state, forcing thousands to evacuate their homes. In fact, as of the date of this publication and only since August 15th, over a million acres have been burned in Northern California. Read more . . .

Friday, August 14, 2020

A Step-by-Step Approach to Amending and Restating Governing Documents

It seems as though the laws change as frequently as the tides. Some years see more legal changes than others – changes that greatly affect the way boards manage the association’s affairs. The laws governing community associations have experienced so much change within the past three to four years alone that it may make your community’s governing documents unreliable, especially as they relate to homeowner rights and the functions of the board, officers, and management. It only makes sense to have governing documents that are updated and reflect modern law. Moreover, relying on outdated, antiquated governing documents may expose associations, board members and even management to liability.

Step #1: Evaluate the Existing Governing Documents

The first step in amending or restating governing documents, whether the CC&Rs or Bylaws, is to review and evaluate the documents to determine whether any provisions are inconsistent with laws. To the extent there is any conflict or inconsistency between the law and the CC&Rs, the law will prevail. To the extent there is any conflict or inconsistency between the CC&Rs and Bylaws, the CC&Rs will prevail. Reliance on a provision of the CC&Rs or Bylaws that is inconsistent with the law exposes the association to liability. For example, many older Bylaws allow the board of directors to make decisions outside of a duly noticed meeting provided all directors unanimously consent. However, the Open Meeting Act now prohibits directors from taking action outside of a duly noticed meeting, unless in the event of emergency. 

Read more . . .

Friday, July 24, 2020

Assembly Bill 3182: The Undoing of Rental Restrictions in Common Interest Developments

Rental restrictions have long been a hot button issue and source of debate, from the state/legislative level, down to the rules in your unique community’s governing documents. California law currently allows homeowners’ associations to adopt reasonable rental restrictions, such as minimum lease terms, occupancy requirements prior to leasing and caps on the total number of homes in the community that can be rented at a given time. Generally speaking, as long as the restrictions and limitations the board chooses to adopt are reasonable and consistent across the governing documents, a court would uphold them.


Rental restrictions, and the broad discretion the board is given to adopt and enforce them, are intended to preserve the residential character of the community by promoting stability, minimizing increases in insurance premiums, maintaining property values and avoiding transient tenancy. Assembly Bill 3182 (“AB 3182”), if chaptered in its current form, would limit this discretion and prohibit certain types of rental restrictions.
Read more . . .

Monday, July 13, 2020

COVID-19: Fitness Center Closures Per Governor Newsom's July 13, 2020 Announcement

As of July 13, 2020, California Governor Gavin Newsom announced that all counties must close their indoor operations in the following sectors:

  • Dine-in restaurants;

  • Wineries and tasting rooms;

  • Movie theaters;

  • Family entertainment centers (e.g., bowling alleys, miniature golf, batting cages and arcades);

  • Zoos and museums; and

  • Cardrooms. 

Bars and pubs across all counties must also close, whether or not they are indoors or outdoors. What is more, counties on the State’s “County Monitoring List”, which include, among others, Los Angeles, Orange, San Bernardino, San Diego, Santa Barbara, Riverside and Ventura, must close the following facilities, unless they can be modified to operate outside:

  • Fitness centers;

  • Worship services;

  • Protests;

  • Offices for non-essential sectors;

  • Personal care services, like nail salons, body waxing and tattoo parlors;

  • Hair salons and barbershops; and

  • Malls. 

Read more . . .

Friday, July 10, 2020

Pandemic Awareness: Helping Boards be Adaptable to Government Orders and Future Health Crises

As the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic remains very much a part of our lives at the time of this publication, community association leaders are undoubtedly straining to maintain a sense of normalcy while transitioning to virtual meetings, new common area rules and restrictions, sanitization and other health/safety protocols, etc. Complicating matters further, state and local health officials seem to be revising their pandemic guidelines, recommendations and/or mandates weekly (if not daily). Government orders are regularly either tightened or relaxed, depending on the rise and fall of the infection rate. These reactive responses are difficult to keep track of for community association boards and managers (and attorneys!). 

While the infection rate and government responses to the statistics are unpredictable, what can be controlled is the association’s preparedness for all scenarios.
Read more . . .

Tuesday, July 7, 2020

Solar Energy Systems: What Can an Association Do to Best Protect the Community?

In recent years, the laws governing homeowners’ installation of Solar Energy Systems, or “SES” have been updated in order to address evolving technology and the increasing popularity of solar panels.  Under California Civil Code Section 714(a), owners’ associations are barred from adopting any regulations, restrictions or covenants that effectively prohibit the installation or use of a SES.  Any such restrictions are deemed “void and unenforceable” as a matter of law.

However, this does not mean that associations are unable to regulate the installation of SES in their community. Civil Code Section 714(b) allows associations to impose “reasonable” restrictions on the installation of SES.  “Reasonable” restrictions are those defined as “restrictions that do not significantly increase the cost of the system or significantly decrease its efficiency or specified performance, or that allow for an alternative system of comparable cost, efficiency, and energy conservation benefits.”

With SES installations come a variety of concerns. These concerns can include risk of property damage, as well as roof access, workmanship, conformity with legal requirements, protecting existing building improvements, protecting existing roof warranties and effecting repairs – especially with respect to an association’s ability to repair common area roofs and building components that may be covered by SES installations.

Read more . . .

Wednesday, May 27, 2020

COVID-19: Reopening the Common Facilities Per Los Angeles County’s

As of May 26, 2020, Los Angeles County has issued a revised Order, also referred to as a “Resilience Roadmap,” to safely reopening various facilities within the County, in conjunction with the State Health Officer’s Orders. Of significance to your community association are the following:

  • People leaving their residences are still required to wear cloth face coverings;
  • Recreational sites, such as fitness centers, children’s playgrounds and movie theaters, must still remain closed;
  • All events and gatherings remain prohibited;
  • Homeowners association pools may be opened;
  • Outdoor recreation activities at parks, trails, beaches and other open spaces are permitted, subject to “Social (Physical) Distancing”;
  • Shared outdoor facilities are permitted to be used, subject to Social (Physical) Distancing, such as tennis and pickleball courts, model airplane areas, community gardens, bike parks and equestrian centers.

With this said, “Social (Physical) Distancing” remains defined as: a) maintaining six (6)-feet of physical distance from individuals who are not members of the same household; b) frequently washing hands with soap and water for at least twenty (20) seconds, or using hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol; c) wearing a cloth face covering when in contact with others who do not live in the same household; and d) avoiding all physical interaction outside the household when sick with a fever or cough, except for necessary medical care.

Significantly, based on Los Angeles County’s most recent guidance, community association boards and managers may begin to implement plans for reopening certain common area facilities as described above, including pools. But note, boards should continue to consult with legal counsel and factor in the demographics of the community as well as the feasibility of ensuring Social (Physical) Distancing, prior to making any decision on reopening.
Read more . . .

Thursday, May 14, 2020

COVID-19 Pandemic Aftermath: Re-Opening the Common Facilities

It is no secret that the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has thrusted our community into the throes of an unprecedented situation, forcing community leaders to make timely, sweeping, and in many cases, inconvenient decisions. 

On the heels of California Governor Gavin Newsom’s Executive Order N-33-20, which ordered all California residents to stay at home and practice safe social distancing to help “flatten the curve,” many managers and board members worked together to take immediate action and heed the directives of public health officials. This included effectively shutting down access to all association common facilities, such as fitness centers, parks, pools and spas, screening rooms, etc. 

As we have progressed through the pandemic and seen some state and local municipality officials suggest re-opening certain aspects of society to the public, community association residents may be taking note, wondering when their common area facilities will re-open as well. Re-opening facilities may be of particular concern, in light of the impending summer weather.

Read more . . .

Monday, April 27, 2020

Preparing for the Aftermath of COVID-19

As we continue to adjust to social distancing practices and strive toward pushing forward with operations in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, it is important to consider what issues, questions and concerns may arise in the coming weeks when California's Stay at Home and other similar orders are lifted. Although orders may be lifted in the coming weeks, some form of social distancing is expected, recommended and may even be required to prevent another similar outbreak. With that said, associations should consider how to mitigate the possible transmission of the virus once orders are lifted and how to ease back into "normal" operations. We recommend adopting policies and procedures for post-quarantine operations in the community.

Read more . . .

Friday, February 21, 2020

The Coronavirus, Flu and What You Can Do

As of the time this article is written, documented cases of Coronavirus (COVID-19) are 90,000 worldwide, and counting, with over 3,000 deaths. These numbers pale in comparison to the flu, which kills an estimated 250,000 to 500,000 people worldwide each year. With this in mind, community association leaders can and should take extra precautions to protect themselves and their communities.

First, associations can use this as an opportunity to connect with their members and residents, through weekly newsletters, emails, flyers or common area postings, updating them about the virus, notifying them of any reported incidences in the community at large, and if necessary, informing them that there may be an immediate threat to the community. Boards and managers should also begin directing vendors and cleaning staff to focus frequently on particularly high-traffic common areas (gym, clubhouse, pool, sauna), which may be more susceptible to harboring the virus or other germs. Installation of hand sanitizer dispensers or wipes in these locations is also recommended.

Read more . . .

Wednesday, January 8, 2020

Accessory Dwelling Units: How Association’s Governing Documents are Impacted by AB 670

In 2017, legislation was passed, making accessory dwelling units legal in California.  However, strict permitting regulations previously made accessory dwelling units difficult and expensive to construct. Recently, a number of bills were passed, making the process to construct accessory dwelling units easier and more affordable.

Effective January 1, 2020, an association’s governing documents may not prohibit or unreasonably restrict the construction or use of an accessory dwelling unit. Specifically, Assembly Bill 670 (AB 670) voids any provision of an association’s covenants, conditions and restrictions or rules and regulations that prohibit the construction of an accessory dwelling unit on a lot zoned for single-family residential use. 

The California Legislature passed this bill in response to California’s affordable housing shortage. AB 670 is intended to encourage owners to convert and/or construct additional living spaces within their property by removing the many obstacles that previously hindered the process of building accessory dwelling units.  The Legislature did so by reducing permitting fees, minimizing setback and lot size requirements, and eliminating parking requirements.

While associations may not effectively prohibit accessory dwelling units, they are permitted to adopt “reasonable restrictions”, which is defined to mean restrictions that do not unreasonably increase the cost to construct, effectively prohibit the construction of, or extinguish the ability to otherwise construct, an accessory dwelling unit or junior accessory dwelling unit.

An “Accessory Dwelling Unit” (ADU) means an attached or a detached residential dwelling unit that provides complete independent living facilities for one or more persons and is located on a lot with a proposed or existing primary residence. It also includes permanent provisions for living, sleeping, eating, cooking, and sanitation on the same parcel as the single-family or multifamily dwelling is situated. A “Junior Accessory Dwelling Unit” (JADU) is a unit that is no more than 500 square feet in size and contained entirely within a single-family residence. A JADU can include separate sanitation facilities or may share sanitation facilities with the existing structure.

Read more . . .

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