April 18, 2016

Is Your Los Angeles Condo Association on the List Requiring Retrofitting of Wood-Frame Buildings to Better Withstand a Major Earthquake?

By David Swedelson, Partner at SwedelsonGottlieb, Community Association Attorneys

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The list is out, and an article in the LA Times reports that neighborhoods in the San Fernando Valley, Hollywood and the Westside will feel the biggest impact from Los Angeles' new law requiring the retrofitting of wood-frame apartment buildings to better withstand a major earthquake, according to a Times data analysis.

The article tells us that LA City inspectors spent about two years developing a list of 13,500 so-called soft-story buildings that will probably need seismic strengthening. And that list includes soft condominium associations, likely apartment buildings that were converted to condos. So, your condominium association may be on the list.


Continue reading "Is Your Los Angeles Condo Association on the List Requiring Retrofitting of Wood-Frame Buildings to Better Withstand a Major Earthquake?" »

April 13, 2016

Oppose California Assembly Bill 1720 Which Would Allow HOA/Condo Members the Right to Bring Their Attorney to an Association Board Meeting

By David Swedelson, Partner at SwedelsonGottlieb, Community Association Attorneys

california_legislation_-_Google_Search-1.pngI recently posted to HOALAWBLOG an article entitled California HOA/Condo Owners Do Not Have The Right To Have Their Attorney Attend The Association’s Board Meetings -- SB Liberty, LLC, v. Isla Verde Association, Inc. In that article, I addressed the question of whether homeowners have a right to have their attorney present at board meetings and addressed the Court of Appeal’s decision in the case of SB Liberty, LLC, v. Isla Verde Association, Inc. Based on this decision, we can definitively say that members do not have the right to bring their attorney to an association board meeting.

The Court ruled in SB Liberty that Section 1363.05 of the California Civil Code (now found in Civil Code Section 4925) specifically states that members may attend an association’s board meetings. This means that members cannot have their attorney, or any other nonmember, attend in their place.

We also recently posted an article entitled Oppose AB1720-HOA Members Should Not Be Able To Have Their Attorney Attend Community Association Board Meetings.

Here/below is my letter that I am sending to the legislature to let them know that I am opposed to AB1720 and with good reasons (and if you like my letter, follow this link for a similar one that I formatted for board members and managers to send):

Continue reading "Oppose California Assembly Bill 1720 Which Would Allow HOA/Condo Members the Right to Bring Their Attorney to an Association Board Meeting" »

April 11, 2016

Catch the Second Episode of The HOA Show with Sandra Gottlieb!

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SwedelsonGottlieb's Senior Partner Sandra Gottlieb is honored to make another appearance on the second "episode" of The HOA Show, an educational luncheon presented by the Channel Islands Chapter of Community Associations Institute. Join us on April 26th for this fun format, where you can find out more about the following topics:

• Current events, trends and ideas occurring in the HOA industry and your communities
• Is HOA living all negative? Navigating your way through Homeowner complaints, issues and demands.
• New industry developments & technology news: drones, electronic voting and dealing with issues of potential defamation on social media
• Privacy Issues: Can members record a board meeting and use it as evidence against the board? Can boards enforce a “no recording” policy?
• How to apply new case law decisions to your associations: reasonable rules and regulations for rentals; selective enforcement and looking at pending legislation; attorneys attending open board meetings and ballot procedures for uncontested elections
• Separating the roles, requirements and expectations of Managers and Boards: What Managers and Boards (should) each do
• How committees can benefit a Community while protecting the Association from liability

Follow this link to register for the event! Thanks, we'll see you there.

April 11, 2016

California HOAs Are Not Liable For Damages Caused by a Minor, Trivial, or Insignificant Defect in the Common Area

By David Swedelson, Senior Partner at SwedelsonGottlieb, Community Association Attorneys

trivial_walkway_defects_-_Google_Search.pngI recently assisted a large condominium association in dealing with a claim by an owner that she had fallen and injured herself after tripping on a common area walkway. Management looked at the area where this woman claimed to have fallen, and all they could find was a slightly raised area of concrete - a trivial defect. It reminded me of a 2011 Court of Appeal decision in the case of Cadam v. Somerset Gardens Townhouse HOA involving a 63-year-old woman who was injured when she fell after tripping on a separation in a concrete walkway next to the townhome she was leasing.

In that case, Cadam filed an action against the homeowner’s association and its management company claiming causes of action for premises liability and negligence. She alleged that the walkway had shifted and adjacent sections had separated such that they differed in height by three-fourths to seven-eighths of an inch, creating a dangerous condition.

Following a jury verdict in favor of the injured resident, the trial court granted the association’s motion for judgment notwithstanding the verdict (meaning that despite what the jury found, the judge felt that the evidence was not sufficient to justify the jury’s decision and set it aside). And the judge did this despite the fact that the association’s president had testified that a defect of one-half inch or more is “probably” dangerous. The court found that no reasonable person could find that the condition was not a trivial defect under the circumstances.

Continue reading "California HOAs Are Not Liable For Damages Caused by a Minor, Trivial, or Insignificant Defect in the Common Area" »

April 4, 2016

CAI Government Affairs Announces That Freddie Mac, Fannie Mae Release Uniform Condominium Questionnaire For Condominium Unit Loans

The following is reposted from Community Association Institute’s (CAI) Government Affairs Division:

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On March 29, federal housing agencies Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae released a standardized set of lender questionnaires for condominium unit mortgages. The Uniform Condominium Questionnaire is intended to reduce the burden on community associations that routinely provide condominium project information to mortgage lenders.

To comply with Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae mortgage purchase guidelines, mortgage lenders must verify financial and property standards for condominium projects. Over the past two years, Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae worked with CAI and the mortgage lender community to develop a uniform condominium questionnaire to ease the process of obtaining this information. Lenders will now have two options when requesting information from a condominium association.

“Condominium associations have been plagued by a multitude of questionnaires and forms used by lenders to underwrite mortgages. With the standard Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae condominium questionnaire, association boards and community management companies will no longer need to spend valuable time and resources completing multiple and conflicting questionnaires,” said Dawn M. Bauman, CAE, CAI’s Senior Vice President for Government and Public Affairs.

The first option, Form 1076, provides a broad overview of a condominium association’s financial, legal, and property status. Once a condominium association has completed a Form 1076 for a lender, it is anticipated the lender will not resubmit Form 1076 for subsequent inquiries.

A second, shorter form, Form 1077, is intended for use by lenders where a condominium association has previously completed a Form 1076. Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae have requested that lenders update Form 1076 only on a periodic basis.

“Community associations and community management companies want the simplified condominium questionnaire to be successful. We are ready to do our part,” said Bauman. “At this time, the form is not mandatory for lenders to use. Ultimately, lenders must commit to using the standardized forms and we hope they choose to use one standardized form.”

March 30, 2016

Oppose AB1720-HOA Members Should Not Be Able To Have Their Attorney Attend Community Association Board Meetings

By David Swedelson, Senior Partner at SwedelsonGottlieb, Community Association Attorneys

california_legislation_-_Google_Search.pngOn March 29, 2016, we posted an article regarding the SB Liberty, LLC, v. Isla Verde Association, Inc. Court of Appeal decision that confirms the law that only owners or members of an a California community association are entitled to attend association board meetings. Follow this link to review our prior post. As we stated in that article, it is not uncommon for a homeowner, usually disgruntled or in trouble with their association, to either want their attorney to attend a board meeting with them or in their place. Often, we hear about it after the meeting where the attorney appeared on behalf of their client and intimidated the board. The Court of Appeal confirmed that members do not have the right to have their attorney attend association board meetings.

Now, we want you to know that the legislature is considering new law that would allow an association member to bring their attorney to board meetings, which would make the foregoing case law no longer applicable. We and just about everyone in the community association industry oppose AB1720, and for good reason.

Continue reading "Oppose AB1720-HOA Members Should Not Be Able To Have Their Attorney Attend Community Association Board Meetings" »

March 29, 2016

California HOA/Condo Owners Do Not Have The Right To Have Their Attorney Attend The Association’s Board Meetings -- SB Liberty, LLC, v. Isla Verde Association, Inc.

By David Swedelson, Senior Partner at SwedelsonGottlieb, Community Association Attorneys

lawyers.pngIt is a common scenario. A homeowner (usually disgruntled or in trouble with their association) either wants their attorney to attend a board meeting with them or in their place. Often, we hear about it after the meeting where the attorney appeared on behalf of their client and intimidated the board. This situation raises three hotly contested issues: (1) Do homeowners have the right to have their attorney present at board meetings? (2) Can homeowners delegate their right to attend board meetings to nonmembers? and (3) Does it make a difference in delegating powers to attend board meetings if the owner of a unit is a natural person or an entity? We have not had a solid answer to these questions. That is, until the Court of Appeal came down with its decision in the case of SB Liberty, LLC, v. Isla Verde Association, Inc. Based on this decision, we can definitively say that the answer to all three questions is NO.

The Court ruled in SB Liberty (in May of 2013) that Section 1363.05 of the California Civil Code (now found in Civil Code Section 4925) specifically states that members may attend an association’s board meetings. This means that owners cannot have their attorney, or any other nonmember, attend in their place.

To download the rest of David's article, follow this link.

February 4, 2016

Is Sunday's Super Bowl Game Impacting Employee Performance At Your HOA/Condo Association?

By David C. Swedelson, Partner at SwedelsonGottlieb, Community Association Attorneys

super-bowl-50-hero.jpegMany of our condo and HOA association clients have employees. Some have many employees. And this week, many of those employees are talking about and betting on the game, oftentimes while at work. In fact, some employees have set up betting pools encouraging other staff members to place wagers on various aspects of the game. Legal? What about all that cash that is being passed amongst employees? And what about the lost productivity?

And talking about productivity, leading up to the game, employees will be reading articles about the game, texting friends about the game, etc. Many will be communicating with friends regarding Super Bowl parties. And they will be doing this while they should be working. Can or should your association enforce productivity standards?

And what about Monday morning absences? Or employees sitting around on Monday morning watching highlights, Super Bowl commercials, or generally talking about the game when they should be working?

Apparently, you are not alone if you have have concerns regarding these issues. I happened to come across this article that addresses these issues. As the article says, following the recommendations “should allow you to sit back, relax and actually enjoy the Super Bowl this year instead of worrying about the impact it will have on your association's workplace."

February 4, 2016

Good News For California Condo Associations; U.S. House Votes to Improve FHA Approval Process

By Mark Petrie, Marketing Coordinator at SwedelsonGottlieb

FHA-Loans-florida.jpgH.R. 3700 has passed the House of Representatives and now moves on to the Senate, to the cheer of affordable housing advocates and Community Associations Institute, which issued this letter of support to the bill’s sponsors. This is a positive development for condominium associations, as part of the bill directs the Secretary of the Department of Housing and Urban Development to implement and consider reasonable changes to the certification and recertification process for condominium FHA approval.

Although the details of exactly how the FHA approval requirements will be revised are largely to be determined by the Secretary, if the bill becomes law in its current form, it would likely be much easier to obtain and retain FHA approval. The bill directs the Secretary to:

- Consider reducing owner occupancy requirement from the current 50% to 35% (up to 65% could be leased)
- Streamline project recertification requirements to be substantially less burdensome than original certifications
- Consider lengthening the time between certifications for approved properties
- Allow for additional exceptions with respect to commercial space
- Reduce FHA mortgage insurance premiums

Follow this link to read the full text of Title III of H.R. 3700.

January 19, 2016

View Law in Laguna Beach Provides Some Good Ideas For California HOAs

By David Swedelson, Senior Partner at SwedelsonGottlieb, Community Association Attorneys

Laguna-Beach-Ocean-View-Homes.jpgThe City of Laguna Beach has for a long time had an ordinance that provided homeowners in that city some protection of their ocean and mountain views. According to a recent LA Times article, the City adopted a new view ordinance in 2014 that allows its residents “to use the date they purchased the home or Nov. 4, 2003, [the date used in the prior law] whichever is earlier, to establish a record of a view, usually through photographic evidence. Offending vegetation must be within 500 feet of the claimant's property line and at least 6 feet tall to be subject to a claim.”

The city’s new ordinance requires a property owner claiming an obstructed view to first attempt to work out a solution with his or her neighbor on whose property the trees/vegetation are located before the city has to get involved. If the homeowners can't reach an agreement to resolve the view issues, then the property owner pays $500 for a city-hired mediator to step in. This is a great idea and one that we have recommended to many of our clients. Mediation has proven to be a very effective tool for resolving owner-to-owner disputes such as view obstructions. According to the Times article, “[o]f the 25 view mediation applications (the city was expecting more, see below), a mediator resolved five cases while parties in two other cases worked out issues by themselves. Other cases are pending.”

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December 14, 2015

HAM Radio Legislation Passes the Senate Committee

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We received an urgent message from the office of Government Affairs at Community Associations Institute's national office regarding the federal legislation on HAM radios, H.R. 1301. We previously reported on this legislation but it has passed another hurdle, so we are again requesting that you contact your representative to voice your opposition to this legislation. The following is the message we received from CAI:

As you may recall, last month the Amateur Radio Parity Act of 2015 (S. 1685) passed the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation. Your action is needed today, as the bill will likely be referred to the Energy and Commerce Committee for debate.

H.R. 1301 invalidates community association rules and architectural standards that govern the installation and use of amateur radio towers and antennas. If this bill should become law, Congress will be able to rewrite the private, contractual agreement that you signed upon buying into your community association.

It is essential you voice your opposition to this bill. Senator Nelson (D- FL) spoke out against the bill stating it, “repealed private contracts…overrides guidelines agreed to by residents when voluntarily purchasing their home in a homeowners association”, and that the bill “goes a step too far.” Congress should not be rewriting private agreements. Further, community associations need to be able to create reasonable processes and aesthetic guidelines for HAM radios in order to preserve property values and ensure the safety of homeowners.

We urge you to contact your Representative and tell them you oppose H.R. 1301. Thank you for taking the time to protect and preserve America’s community associations. If you need additional information about this issue, please contact us anytime at government@caionline.org or (888) 224-4321.

November 12, 2015

Culver City Smoking Ordinance Impacts Condos; Upcoming Deadline & Questions of Enforcement

By David Swedelson and Kevin McNiff, Community Association Attorneys at SwedelsonGottlieb

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In August of 2014, we wrote about Culver City’s no-smoking ordinance that would affect common interest developments. The full text of the ordinance may be read through the city’s website here. We have recently received questions from concerned association managers and board members as to whether Culver City condo associations would be responsible for enforcing the ordinance. As the time nears for the smoking ban to go into effect, such questions and concerns will likely be more common for condo boards and managers who are affected. The short answer is yes, Culver City seems to have attempted to make the associations responsible for enforcing the City’s ban on smoking in buildings with multiple units, although it remains to be seen what level of enforcement will be required.

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