2012 Case Law Affecting California Community Associations

January 8, 2013 by David C. Swedelson

articletitle.pngEach year, there are a number of cases, Court of Appeal or California Supreme Court decisions involving California community associations. These are cases that we lawyers rely upon. Last year (2012), there were several important cases that are important for community association managers and board members to know about. The details of the cases are discussed in an article that Sandra Gottlieb prepared for the Greater Los Angeles Chapter of Community Associations Institute. Below is a brief summary of the highlights:

• Arbitration clauses contained in CC&Rs are enforceable by a developer unless proven to be unreasonable. (Pinnacle Museum Tower Association v. Pinnacle Market Development)
• A board candidate who disparages another candidate is not protected by the First Amendment, litigation privilege or Anti-SLAPP statute. (Silk v. Feldman)
• If you have voter apathy and a supermajority requirement in your CC&Rs, consider utilizing Civil Code Section 1356, so long as you meet the six statutory requirements under same. (Quail Lakes Owners Association v. Kozina)
• A homeowners association cannot recover attorney’s fees for disputes under Civil Code Section 1363.09(b) (dealing with elections and meetings) as “costs” in that context do not include attorney’s fees. (Dinh Ton That v. Alders Maintenance Association)
• Be careful when a homeowner alleges discrimination when enforcing the CC&Rs against that homeowner. In Savoy Community Association v. Zhang, the court found that the association discriminated against the homeowner for enforcing its hardwood flooring prohibition against her, when she had a disability requiring her to live in a carpet-free environment. The court went as far as to award punitive damages against the association to punish the association for what was perceived as wrongful action by the board.
• So long as an association’s CC&Rs do not unreasonably increase cost or decrease efficiency, an association can consider the aesthetic impact of a solar energy system without violating Civil Code Section 714. (Teroso Del Valle Master Homeowners Association v. Griffin)