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

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:

Be sure to go to 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


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.


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!

August 27, 2015

New FHA/VA Disclosures Required in California Condo Annual Budget Reports

By Sandra L. Gottlieb, Esq., Senior Partner and Mark Petrie, Marketing Coordinator at SwedelsonGottlieb

FHA.jpgOn August 12, 2015, Governor Brown signed AB 596, which adds the following two new required disclosures to the Annual Budget Report for California condominium associations (this does not include planned developments or other common interest developments).

(10) When the common interest development is a condominium project, a statement describing the status of the common interest development as a Federal Housing Administration (FHA)-approved condominium project pursuant to FHA guidelines, including whether the common interest development is an FHA-approved condominium project. The statement shall be in at least 10-point font on a separate piece of paper and in the following form:

“Certification by the Federal Housing Administration may provide benefits to members of an association, including an improvement in an owner’s ability to refinance a mortgage or obtain secondary financing and an increase in the pool of potential buyers of the separate interest.

This common interest development [is/is not (circle one)] a condominium project. The association of this common interest development [is/is not (circle one)] certified by the Federal Housing Administration.”

(11) When the common interest development is a condominium project, a statement describing the status of the common interest development as a federal Department of Veterans Affairs (VA)-approved condominium project pursuant to VA guidelines, including whether the common interest development is a VA-approved condominium project. The statement shall be in at least 10-point font on a separate piece of paper and in the following form:

“Certification by the federal Department of Veterans Affairs may provide benefits to members of an association, including an improvement in an owner’s ability to refinance a mortgage or obtain secondary financing and an increase in the pool of potential buyers of the separate interest.

This common interest development [is/is not (circle one)] a condominium project. The association of this common interest development [is/is not (circle one)] certified by the federal Department of Veterans Affairs.”

Continue reading "New FHA/VA Disclosures Required in California Condo Annual Budget Reports" »

August 20, 2015

Good Fences and Bad Neighbors Impacting Your Homeowners Association

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

good_neighbor_fences_-_Google_Search.pngYour community association prides itself on how beautiful and well maintained the common area is. But the owner of the neighboring apartment/condominium/home/property is from Planet “Who Cares”. The fence that borders your property is an eyesore, and the neighboring property owner refuses to talk to the board or management about the situation. Is there anything you can do? This situation is more common than you might think, and the answer is yes!

On January 1, 2014, the California Legislature updated Section 841 of the California Civil Code regarding “good neighbor” fences, a common fence dividing two properties. The original law, in place since the 1870s, simply provided that both owners were mutually responsible for common fences. As a practical matter, if your neighbor paid to put up a fence, you were obligated to reimburse your neighbor for one-half of the “reasonable cost” of that fence. If you paid to put up the fence, your neighbor had to reimburse you. As for how to agree on the cost of the fence and how to collect your half, the law was silent. You were on your own.

The good news is that the new law does address these issues, and with more specificity. The 2014 law, like the 1870s law, operates on the presumption that neighbors benefit equally from a common fence, and that the cost for building or fixing a common fence should be shared equally even if the fence is on the neighbor’s property. But the 2014 law doesn’t stop there. It goes into detail, outlining a step-by-step process for erecting or repairing a common fence, and explains exactly how to recover half of the cost. The law also lays out exceptions to the equal-benefit, equal-cost assumption.

Continue reading "Good Fences and Bad Neighbors Impacting Your Homeowners Association" »

August 19, 2015

New Requirements for Pools at Your Common Interest Development

pool.jpgYes, it's true, California now requires associations with 25 or more separate interests that have a "public pool" must follow new (2015) daily and monthly testing requirements for the pool water. (Associations with less than 25 separate interests still have to test at least two times per week and at intervals no greater than four days apart.) There are no exceptions for homeowners associations; rather, the statute includes homeowners associations in the definition of "public pools". Although associations of all sizes should ensure compliance with the entirety of the Pool Maintenance and Operation requirements of the California Code of Regulations, the big ticket obligations are as follows:

1. New parameters for water characteristics
2. Strict monitoring of public pool facilities (daily if 25 or more separate interests) and requirements for written records
3. Enforcement of specific safety and first aid equipment
4. Requirements that newly constructed public pool enclosures have at least one keyless exit and self-closing latches
5. Imposition of health restrictions for employees or pool users.

As mentioned above, associations with 25 or more separate interests are now obligated, on a daily basis, to test pool and spa/jacuzzi water and to keep a log of the testing daily. Testing can be done automatically if local enforcing authorities allow for same; otherwise, the manual test results must be maintained onsite as part of the association's written records for at least a two-year period.

Other significant issues deal with the installation and maintenance of safety and first aid equipment, which, at a minimum, should include a rescue pole and a 17-inch minimum diameter life ring with a 3/16-inch diameter throw rope attached.

Also be aware that there are specific requirements for at least one pool enclosure which allows for egress, without a key, for emergency purposes. If all gates for egress allow for keyless exit, no special signage is necessary, but if not, then the non-key exit gate must have signage, in four-inch letters which states EMERGENCY EXIT.

And finally, health restrictions - last year, it was diarrhea, and this year, pool access is further limited for any person, including pool monitors, if they have infectious conditions such as a cough, cold sore, nasal or ear discharge or wear a bandage.

Needless to say - safety first! Make sure you are and remain compliant.

August 7, 2015

Turn That Thing Off! Why You Should Not Allow Recording of Association Meetings

By Sandra L. Gottlieb, Partner at SwedelsonGottlieb, California Community Association Attorneys

A regular question posed by the board members of our community association clients is, “Can or should Board meetings and/or meetings of members be recorded by audiotape or videotape?” While some members may advocate taping meetings in order to promote transparency, taping of association Board meetings and meetings of members is illegal, unless each and every attendee, including the Board members, approves of the recording, in advance. Regardless, it is our opinion that the Board should not allow taping of any association meetings.

California Penal Code, Section 632, states that it is a crime to record a conversation that would be expected to be confined to the parties present without the consent of those present. This statute makes exceptions to public gatherings that one would expect to be overheard, including any legislative, judicial or executive proceedings open to the public. But homeowners associations, unlike many other quasi-governmental agencies, are not required to have meetings open to the public. In fact, meetings are generally open only to members of the association. Thus, the statute supports the argument that there is an expectation of privacy among those in attendance at those meetings. Although minutes of meetings are to be made available, upon request, to homeowners within thirty (30) days after a meeting of the Board, thereby leading some to believe that the discussions are also intended to be made available to those attending the meeting, that is not the case. Minutes are only supposed to include brief descriptions of items of business, motions and resolutions, not discussion. Therefore, a recording of any meeting would include discussions, as well as back and forth banter and comments, not just resolutions. Further, free speech is inhibited if people know that their every word would be on the record. If a member insists on recording after being told to stop such recording so that the Board can conduct the business of the association, the Board should adjourn the meeting.

Although not a requirement and not always necessary, if a Board wants to affirmatively prohibit recordings at Board and/or member meetings, the Board could, in addition to or as an alternative to adopting an internal resolution that Board meetings will not be recorded, consider adopting a rule that clearly prohibits any audiotaping or videotaping of Board meetings and member meetings. This may assist in making clear to the membership that meetings may not be recorded. Make certain that you enact any such rule in accordance with Civil Code Sections 4340-4360, which requires the proposed rule be sent to the members for a thirty (30) day comment period before the Board approves the rule.

Finally, it is worth noting that some associations may allow a manager or Board Secretary to record meetings for the sole purpose of assisting in the preparation of the Board minutes at a later time, as long as those specific association-generated recordings are destroyed upon the approval of the minutes. It is our opinion that such a process still carries a high level of risk and would not be recommended, especially now that technological advances have made almost all forms of media easily retrievable or accessible, even after deletion. Refraining from the recording of Board meetings altogether is not only consistent with the law, but it also ensures that an association’s exposure to liability is limited.