Articles Posted in CC&R and Rule Enforcement

By David Swedelson, Partner at SwedelsonGottlieb, Community Association Attorneys

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Many homeowners want hard surface flooring instead of carpet. And they will often present a prescription from their doctor for a hard wood floor in an effort to get around their association’s restrictions or prohibitions on hard surface flooring. Yes, a prescription for a hard wood floor on a doctor’s prescription form. But anyone that works with condos knows that hard surface flooring may create nuisance problems for the downstairs neighbor. And when the downstairs neighbor complains to the board about the hard surface floor that was not approved and violates the CC&Rs, the board is sometimes reluctant to take legal action thinking that a court is not going to rule in its favor. The California Court of Appeal debunked that thinking in the case of Ryland Mews v. Munoz upholding a California condominium association’s ability to limit hard surface flooring in response to nuisance complaints.

The story in the Ryland Mews case is all too familiar. Munoz moved into their upstairs unit at Ryland Mews and replaced the carpets with hardwood floors allegedly to accommodate the wife’s severe dust allergy. And it was not to soon after that when the downstairs neighbors complained about the additional noise they were now hearing.

When the association’s manager wrote to Munoz regarding the complaints and the fact that the alteration of the flooring was made without prior approval of the association, Munoz did not respond within the 30 days Management had given them. Management wrote to Munoz again, this time requesting Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) under the Davis-Stirling Act. Munoz still did not respond to the Association’s Request for Resolution.
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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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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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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

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.”
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By David C. Swedelson, Esq. and Mark Petrie, Marketing Coordinator at SwedelsonGottlieb, Community Association Attorneys

united_at_laguna_woods_and_smoking_-_Google_Search.pngComplaints about secondhand smoke are increasing, and many associations are looking for options for dealing with the issue. Many boards want to propose an amendment to the association’s governing documents but are concerned about enforcement, as they know that there are some smokers living at their associations.

If your development is made up of several detached buildings, each of which contain multiple units, you may want to consider an innovative alternative – amending the governing documents to allow the owners of each individual building to self-determine that their building will be smoke free! We did this for one of our clients, setting up a process by which the owners of a building can unanimously apply to the board for designation as a permanently smoke-free building.

By David Swedelson, Partner, SwedelsonGottlieb, Community Association Attorneys

Is_This_a_Case_of_Too_Many_Cats____Steve_Dale_s_Pet_World.pngThe Los Angeles Times reports that the Los Angeles City Council is considering an increase in the number of cats that a Los Angeles City resident can own. Seriously? We are often called upon to deal with condo residents that have way too many cats in their units and are unable to properly care for them or their unit. As a result, neighbors complain of odors coming from these units. Not a healthy situation.

According to the article, the goal of the proposed rule change is not to encourage cat hoarding, but to save felines. “We want to give loving community members an opportunity to become part of the solution by adopting and/or fostering altered shelter cats in their homes,” said Brenda Barnette, General Manager, Los Angeles Animal Services. The article indicates that the city is seeking to increase the number of cats that one may own from three to five. The article also acknowledges that enforcement has been lax. I do not see this helping community associations.

By David Swedelson, Partner, SwedelsonGottlieb, Community Association Attorneys

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I was recently made aware of a lawsuit filed in Fayetteville, New York by an HOA against homeowners seeking to restrict them from parking their 2014 Ford F-150 pickup truck in their driveway. The association apparently has CC&Rs that limit parking in driveways to only “private, passenger-type, pleasure automobiles.” Many California HOAs have restrictions on the parking of commercial vehicles, and this often leads to debates as to what constitutes a commercial vehicle. At one association we represent, the board was having a serious debate on this, as one board member wanted to ban an owner’s truck merely because it was the kind of truck that is used for commercial purposes, but there were no observable indications that the truck was used for commercial purposes.

Follow this link to an article from a Syracuse newspaper on this story. The article has a photograph showing what appears to be a fairly typical pickup truck. The pickup truck in question does not have any markings on it showing that it is used for business, no racks on it for contractors to haul ladders or other equipment, etc. It looks like an everyday pickup truck that regular people use as their personal vehicles.
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By David Swedelson, Esq., SwedelsonGottlieb, Community Association Attorneys

Home.pngA manager at a planned development community association we represent contacted me regarding a dispute with an owner. The board was refusing to allow the owner to make a change to the common area solely because the owner had made a change without first submitting a plan and obtaining the required prior approval. I was informed that the board was refusing to provide approval as punishment for the owners’ actions. And the board was doing this despite the fact that the owner had come to them with two options that would have minimal impact on the common area and/or the aesthetics of the association, and the cost for the owner to bring the property back to its prior conditions would have been very expensive. The owner was not happy, and there were some rumblings of a lawsuit. I had to tell the manager and the board that their approach was not appropriate and that there was a possibility that the association could lose if a lawsuit were to be filed.

What I describe above is not an atypical board response to an owner’s failure to seek prior approval for a modification. It is not the correct response, and it can lead to lawsuits that associations may lose. We know this because the Court of Appeal has decided a similar case and told us that California community associations must consider the plans and approve or disapprove the proposed modification based on the usual and customary factors, such as impact on the common area, on the community, neighboring owners, etc. Boards need to show that their actions were regular, fair, and reasonable as a matter of law. Refusing to consider an owner’s plans for a modification because the owner had already made the modifications without approval is not a fair or reasonable response.

By: SwedelsonGottlieb, Community Association Attorneys

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On October 7, 2014, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors voted to legalize the use of residences in San Francisco for short-term vacation rentals, by passing what has been dubbed as the San Francisco “Airbnb law”. Follow this link to a news article. This new law has been more than two years in the making, and removes San Francisco’s long-standing ban on residential rentals of less than 30 days. The new legislation, integrated into the San Francisco Administrative Code, now allows short-term rentals of homes, imposes certain restrictions and requirements on that controversial and unregulated practice, and will take effect in February of 2015.

The stated goal of the legislation is to balance the preservation of affordable housing (by making sure landlords can’t convert permanent units to more lucrative vacation rentals) with allowing residents to earn extra income by renting to travelers for short-term vacation and business purposes. The Airbnb law allows only permanent residents to offer their homes for short-term rentals, establishes a new city registry for hosts, mandates the collection of hotel tax, limits entire-home rentals to 90 days per year, requires each short-term rental listing to carry $500,000 in liability insurance, and establishes guidelines for enforcement by the San Francisco Planning Department.
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