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.”

Continue reading "View Law in Laguna Beach Provides Some Good Ideas For California HOAs" »

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.

Continue reading "Culver City Smoking Ordinance Impacts Condos; Upcoming Deadline & Questions of Enforcement" »

October 30, 2015

Aretha Franklin Sings The Blues Over Lawsuit Filed To Collect Her Unpaid HOA Assessments

By David Swedelson, Partner, Swedelson Gottlieb, California Community Association Attorneys

B99318139Z.1_20151027165337_000_GI0KKHP2.1-0.jpegI was alerted to a news story out of Detroit where legendary singer Aretha Franklin is being sued for her failure to pay more than $11,563 to the Hills of Lone Pine Association.

Interesting quotes from Ms. Franklin: “It is my property. I don’t live there and feel I have (been) overcharged for years,” Franklin said. “My attorney has been discussing this with them. And I have paid what I felt was credible and legitimate.” She has been “overcharged for years.” She has paid what she “felt was credible and legitimate.” Seriously?! She sounds like many of the delinquent owners we have had to deal with over the years.

This story proves that no one, not even legendary soul singer Aretha Franklin, is immune from assessment collection.

David Swedelson is a community association attorney and a condo lawyer that knows a thing or two about assessment collection. He can be contacted via email: dcs@sghoalaw.com

Be sure to go to alslien.com for information on assessment collection in California and the services offered by Association Lien Services.

October 21, 2015

California HOAs Cannot Restrict An Owner From Flying The American Flag

american_flag_-_Google_Search.pngInteresting article on restrictions on flying the American flag in Utah. Follow this link to read attorney Peter Harrison's article that addresses this issue. His article references the great respect that many of us share for our flag and what it stands for. According to Harrison's article, the Freedom to Display the Flag Act of 2005 (federal law) does not "completely override an HOA’s CC&Rs.”

Things are different here in California. Our Civil Code/Davis Stirling Act expressly prohibits California Community Associations from limiting or prohibiting the display of the flag of the United States on a member's separate interest or within their exclusive use common area. Follow this link to read our Civil Code Section 4705. We in California do respect our Flag and what it stands for, and no California community association should restrict any owner from flying the flag so long as it meets the requirements of the Code.

David Swedelson is a senior partner at SwedelsonGottlieb, Community Association Attorneys

October 20, 2015

Governor Brown Signs New Law Prohibiting Restrictions On Clotheslines

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California homeowner associations can no longer prohibit the drying of clothes on outdoor clotheslines after Gov. Jerry Brown signed a bill restricting homeowners associations from banning same. This legislation was opposed by a number of groups who felt that clotheslines are unsightly additions to neighborhoods.

Assemblywoman Patty López (D-San Fernando) announced Brown signed her bill, AB 1448, which will allow line drying for people once restricted by their property management organizations or homeowner associations.

"Growing up, my family and many of my neighbors used clotheslines as the way to dry their clothes and other laundry,” López said in a statement. “Californians can now do their part for the environment while saving money on their electric bill by using the sunlight to dry their laundry.”

The bill, titled “Personal energy conservation; real property restrictions” is meant to serve as a victory to conservationists and frugal Californians alike by allowing them to save money and energy.

AB 1448 adds new section 4750.10 to the Civil Code/Davis Stirling Act. While California homeowners associations must allow residents to air-dry their clothes, this new law only allows them to do this in their own backyard. New Civil Code Section 4750.10 will define a “clothesline” as including a cord, rope, or wire from which laundered items may be hung to dry. The good news is that this new law specifically prohibits a balcony, railing, awning, or other part of a structure from being part of a clothesline.

New Civil Code Section 4750.10 will allow California community associations to adopt reasonable restrictions on clotheslines and drying racks. It defines "reasonable restriction" as one that does not significantly increase the cost of using a clothesline or drying rack. We do not know what "reasonable" and "significant" means yet, and this will likely be defined by common sense and the courts.

New Civil Code Section 4750.10 goes into effect January 1, 2016. We suggest that Boards of developments with backyards appurtenant to each separate interest, which would include many planned developments, consider now what kind of reasonable regulations they may want to adopt to regulate clotheslines so that their rule is in effect when the statute takes effect.

California joins Florida, Maine, Utah, Vermont, Colorado and Hawaii as air-dry positive states.

This blog post was based on this article by Jenna Lyons, a San Francisco Chronicle staff writer.

September 16, 2015

It's 2015 - How Are You Communicating in Your Community?

Join SwedelsonGottlieb Senior Partner David Swedelson, co-presenter Karen Kokowicz of Coro Community Management & Consulting and the Channel Islands Chapter of Community Associations Institute on September 22, 2015, and learn how to communicate better in your association.

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Follow this link to register for this event.

This program will cover:

- Are board member email discussions off limits? What constitutes an emergency? Can vendor issues be discussed?

- How to handle the board member who refuses to stop doing board business by email.

- How to respond to inappropriate emails, mass emails from homeowners and web postings.

- Is board member voting by email allowed? What about taking the vote of the owners via an online service?

- Can Association documents and required disclosures be distributed using new technology?

- What are the legal risks and pitfalls of using NextDoor, chat rooms, social media and more?

- And learn the best methods to effectively communicate with your owners.

September 11, 2015

Governor Brown signs AB 349 Prohibiting HOA Prohibitions on Artificial Turf

By David Swedelson and Sandra Gottlieb, Partners at SwedelsonGottlieb, Community Association Attorneys

Screenshot_9_8_15__12_00_PM.pngGovernor Brown has signed AB 349, an urgency statute which takes effect immediately. AB 349 amends Section 4735 of the Civil Code, and it prevents associations from prohibiting the installation of artificial turf, or “any other synthetic surface that resembles grass.”

AB 349 also amends Civil Code Section 4735 to prohibit any requirement that an owner remove or reverse water-efficient landscaping measures that were installed in response to a declaration of a state of emergency, upon the conclusion of the state of emergency.

It should be noted that this is not the first time legislation has been introduced to address HOA bans on artificial turf. The California legislature passed similar proposed bills in 2010 and 2011, but then-Governor Schwarzenegger vetoed the 2010 bill, and current Governor Brown vetoed the 2011 bill.

Continue reading "Governor Brown signs AB 349 Prohibiting HOA Prohibitions on Artificial Turf" »

August 31, 2015

New Florida Law Regarding Fining and Suspending Use Rights Tells Us That They Do It Differently

By David Swedelson, Partner at SwedelsonGottlieb, Community Association Attorneys

hoa_fines_and_penalties_-_Google_Search.pngIf you thought that the laws in other states regarding condos and HOAs were the same as ours, you were way wrong. And that is certainly the case when it comes to fining and/or penalizing owners for violations. On July 1, 2015, new provisions which clarify the procedures in Florida for fining and use right suspensions for non-monetary violations became effective. An article by Florida community association attorney Jeffrey Rembaum describes this new law.

The term “non-monetary violations” refers to violations such as failing to pressure clean roofs (seriously?) and driveways, to remove dead trees, to bring in the garbage cans and to pick up after your pet, etc., and excludes penalties for delinquent payment of assessments.

According to Rembaum, “[t]hese new provisions were put into place to clarify the manner in which an association’s board of directors and its fining and suspensions committee coexist. Prior to these provisions, there were some who were unsure as to whether the fining and suspensions committee would first meet and then the board of directors would levy the fine, or if the board of directors would first meet, determine the amount of the fine, and then the fining committee would meet to provide the offending owner with the opportunity to be heard. Now, it is patently clear. The board must take action first.”

Continue reading "New Florida Law Regarding Fining and Suspending Use Rights Tells Us That They Do It Differently " »

August 31, 2015

Support Tracy R. Neal for Re-election to the CAI-Channel Islands Board of Directors

0f38fa82-181f-4a75-9174-048186cf72bd.png Are you a member of the Channel Islands Chapter of Community Associations Institute? We understand ballots for their annual board election will be arriving soon, so please support Tracy in her bid for re-election.

Tracy R. Neal is the Vice President and Supervising Attorney for Association Lien Services. She is a member of the Channel Islands Chapter and currently serves as the Chapter's Vice-President. Tracy can be spotted at most monthly luncheons near the door greeting attendees, chatting with Board members, managers and business partners, and at the Channel Islands Chapter's Managers Program where she has served as a co-chairperson for four of the past five years. Tracy represents ALS in its business partnership with the Channel Islands Chapter, often sponsoring and exhibiting at luncheons and the Chapter's annual community faires. Tracy is an industry educator on the non-judicial foreclosure process, assessment collections, bankruptcy, Board fiduciary responsibilities and hierarchy of laws. She frequently speaks at CAI chapter programs throughout California, including Channel Islands.

Tracy would very much like to continue to expand her commitment and service to the Channel Islands Chapter, helping the Chapter continue its growth and success, so she is asking for your vote for re-election to the Channel Islands Board of Directors. Thank you!