By Joseph L. Gilman, Esq., Associate at SwedelsonGottlieb, Community Association Attorneys

peaceful_assembly_-_Google_Search-300x211 Effective January 1, 2018, Civil Code Section 4515 was added to the Davis-Stirling Act to protect certain rights of political speech and peaceful assembly within the boundaries of a common interest development.

Senator Bob Wieckowski originally presented new Civil Code Section 4515 to California’s legislature as Senate Bill 407. Remarking on his proposed legislation, Senator Wieckowski stated that it “will prevent HOA boards and management from denying basic rights to their residents” as “Boards have fined and threatened legal action against homeowners for simply exercising basic political free speech rights. Millions of Californians live in these associations and SB 407 is needed to prevent these abuses.” While we have no experience with these types of “abuses,” we understand the basis for this new legislation.

As enacted by California’s legislature, Civil Code Section 4515 (which became effective January 1, 2018) protects political speech and assembly rights by invalidating any provision of an association’s governing documents (which includes rules) that prohibits the following:

• Peacefully assembling or meeting, at reasonable hours and in a reasonable manner, for purposes related to common interest development living, association elections, legislation, election to public office, or the initiative, referendum or recall process.

• Inviting public officials, candidates for public office, and representatives of homeowner organizations to meet with members and residents and speak on matters of public interest.

• Canvassing and petitioning the members and residents for purposes related to the topics listed above.

• Distributing or circulating, without prior permission, information about the topics listed above or other issues of concern to the members or residents, at reasonable hours and in a reasonable manner.

Civil Code Section 4515 also invalidates any provision requiring a member or resident to pay a fee, make a deposit, obtain liability insurance, or pay the premium or deductible on the association’s insurance policy, in order to use a common area for any of the meetings described above. Continue reading

By Nicholas Marfori, Esq. and David Swedelson, Esq., Community Association Attorneys at SwedelsonGottlieb

ugly_solar_panels_on_roof_-_Google_Search-300x224As you may have heard, the Governor signed into law new legislation that now changes a California condominium’s associations ability to prohibit an owner from installing a solar energy system on the common area roof. AB 634, which went into effect on January 1, 2018, amended several provisions of the California Civil Code to set forth language that further clarifies what condominium associations can and cannot do with respect to the installation of an owners own solar energy system on a common area roof and exclusive use common.

As originally enacted, Civil Code § 714 and § 714.1 already prohibited associations from imposing unreasonable restrictions against the installation of solar energy systems on common areas and on a separate interest owned by another owner. AB 634 amends Civil Code § 714.1 to further clarify that associations are prohibited from doing the following:

equitable_foreclosure_-_Google_Search-300x180By Brian Moreno, Senior Associate at SwedelsonGottlieb, Community Association Attorneys

In the assessment collection arena, there have been a number of pro-homeowner court decisions that affect a community association’s ability to collect unpaid HOA/Condo assessments. First, courts have held that associations must accept partial payments, which has allowed homeowners to attempt to avoid foreclosure by paying only delinquent assessments reducing the assessment balance below the $1,800 (or 12-month) threshold. Second, courts have held that an association must strictly comply with the Davis-Stirling Act with regard to imposing an assessment lien against a delinquent owner’s property and foreclosing that lien. These rulings create additional challenges for an association attempting to collect delinquent assessments.

Consequently, in recent years, community associations have attempted to adjust their collection policies and procedures in response to these court decisions; however, owners are continuing to take advantage of these new laws for purposes of challenging assessment liens and tendering partial payments to reduce their assessment balance, leaving attorney fees, costs, interest and trustees fees unpaid. Homeowners are becoming more savvy in challenging assessment liens and obstructing the association’s attempts to foreclose.

Given this, what are an association’s options if a seemingly defective lien has been recorded? What if an owner pays only assessments in an attempt to avoid paying the collection fees? What are the association’s options?

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By Sandra Gottlieb, Esq. CCAL, Senior/Managing Partner, SwedelsonGottlieb, Community Association Attorneys

The_Communicator_-_Volume_10__Issue_1-300x185Recent legal Developments affect community association interests in a variety of ways. In 2017, the California Court of Appeal decided several cases concerning such issues as title to common area and board member liability. These cases may be instructive to board members and managers. Meanwhile, on the legislative front, new and pending laws affect association interests in the areas of governance, business dealing, FHA certification, annual notifications and use restrictions. Though not a complete or authoritative guide, we hope this article (published in the Winter 2017 Volume 10, Issue 1 of the Communicator, Community Association Institute/Bay Area/Central California Chapter’s news magazine) can be a useful resource for the most relevant legal updates this year. Follow this link or click here to download the article.

Sandra Gottlieb is a community association legal expert who has devoted her practice and that of SwedelsonGottlieb to the representation of California CIDs and HOAs. She can be contacted via email at

checklist_-_Google_SearchSwedelsonGottlieb annually updates and publishes its Disclosure and Notice Checklist as a resource for Managers and Board Members of California Community Associations. The updated Checklist is 14 pages (there are a lot of things that California community associations are required to give notice of or disclose) and sets out what disclosures and notices California community associations are to provide to homeowners, when and how they are to be provided, as well as other considerations. Included is information regarding the Code requirements for the Annual Budget Report, the Annual Policy Statement, Fiscal Year End Disclosures, and other Additional Disclosures/Notices. We have included information regarding the recent changes to Civil Code Section 4041 relating to the solicitation of owner mailing addresses, etc. and the required New Management Disclosures. Follow this link to download your copy of this important resource.

balcony_waterproofing_-_Google_Search-300x232By David C. Swedelson, Community Association Attorney at SwedelsonGottlieb

Many California community association’s CC&Rs, particularly those in older communities, do not clearly state who is responsible for the repair or replacement of exclusive use common area. This typically relates to the waterproofing of patios and balconies at most condo associations. That is the exclusive use area defined in the CC&Rs that requires repair and/or replacement (for most condominium associations, exclusive use common area is limited to balconies, patios and parking spaces). Before January 1st of 2017, there was some uncertainty as to who is responsible for the repair or replacement of exclusive use common area which led to disputes between associations and owners.

Fortunately, amended Civil Code Section 4775 helps clarify this issue. If the CC&Rs are not clear, we look to Civil Code Section 4775. That section, like former Civil Code section 1364, its predecessor, had since the mid 1980s provided that the association is responsible for repairing, replacing, or maintaining the common area, other than exclusive use common area, and the owner of each separate interest is responsible for maintaining that separate interest and any exclusive use common area appurtenant to the separate interest.

ugly_solar_panels_on_roof_-_Google_Search-300x195According to CAI’s California Legislative Action Committee, there is still time to stop AB 634, a bill that impacts a condominium association’s ability to control the placement of solar panels in common interest developments. BUT YOU MUST ACT TODAY BEFORE THE GOVERNOR SIGNS THIS BILL INTO LAW.

CAI reports that “AB 634 has passed the state legislature and, if signed by the Governor, will eliminate local association-approved rules and replace them with statewide mandates that allow a single homeowner to monopolize a common area roof with solar panels for their sole benefit.”

It also allows the installation of panels without regard for their impact on our community’s architectural guidelines, suitability for that particular building or roof, or any adequate protections from property or water damage.

PLEASE click here to easily email Governor Brown and ask him to VETO this bill that will hurt all of those living in our communities!

Below is SwedelsonGottlieb’s letter to the Governor:

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Title VIII of the Civil Rights of 1968, also known as the Fair Housing Act (“FHA”), is a federal law which prohibits discrimination in housing and housing-related services due to race, color, religion, sex, national origin, disability, and familial status. Because the FHA applies to entities that set terms and conditions for housing and provide services and facilities in connection with housing, it applies to HOAs and other community associations. By now, most HOAs across the country are already aware (or should be aware) that, in 2016, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (“HUD”) amended its federal housing regulations to firmly establish association liability for discriminatory conduct by its Board, directors, employees, and even by residents. Particularly concerning to HOAs are the new regulations regarding discriminatory harassment and third-party liability, which may also be the most difficult sections to understand for Board members and management.

Quid Pro Quo and Hostile Environment Harassment

Suppose that Happy Acres HOA’s on-site manager Mark has openly expressed his fondness for homeowner Helga by whistling and making cat-calls at her when she passes his office on her way to the gym. He has asked her out on dates several times, even after she declined and explained that she was married with three kids. One day, when Helga emailed Mark to request guest passes for her son’s birthday party, he responded by saying, “come see me in my office in your gym clothes and we’ll see what we can ‘work out.’”

Community Associations Institute’s Greater Los Angeles Chapter held its Annual Awards Gala on Saturday, November 5, 2016. SwedelsonGottlieb congratulates firm client Harbor Gate Homeowners Association (San Pedro, California) for receiving the Chapter’s award for Excellence in Community Leadership.
Harbor_Gate_HOA_Receives_Prestigious_Award___Entries___HOA_Law_Blog___Movable_Type_Publishing_Platform.pngBoard members Betsy Koehler, Lois Riopelle and Carolyn Cooper were present to accept this prestigious award from Chapter President-Elect Joanne Pena, which was given to this Association because of the hard work and effort the Board undertook to pass a large special assessment for needed common area repairs and renovation work.

This Board undertook the task of pulling the membership together after several failed attempts to obtain member approval and financing for a $4 million dollar renovation project due to years of deferred maintenance. By not giving up on getting the members to see the benefits of investing in their Association and in turn their units, this Board went above and beyond for the betterment of their Association and its homeowners. The Board was successful in the passage of the special assessment and obtaining the homeowners approval to authorize the Association taking out a loan to help the owners pay the special assessment for the work. To date, the Association has completed the repairs to their roof, chimneys, siding and trim, replaced elevated walkways, waterproofing planters and decks, termite treatment, and installation of drought-tolerant plant material. SwedelsonGottlieb Senior Partner Sandra Gottlieb and associate Kevin McNiff worked with the Board to achieve it’s goals. Harbor Gate Homeowners Association is managed by Scott Management,Torrance, California whose efforts were also essential to the Board’s success.

By David Swedelson, Esq. Senior Partner, SwedelsonGottlieb, Community Association Attorneys

Posting Political Signs in the Window Considering how contentious the campaigns for president have been for the election of our next president, it is amazing that we have not received more requests from our California community association/HOA clients for advice on how to deal with political signs. The fact is that we have generally seen less political signs posted on properties then I remember in past elections. With respect to the presidential election, that may have something to do with people not really wanting to out themselves as a supporter of one candidate versus another.

Don’t get me wrong as we have received a few requests for advice from some of our association clients, just not as many as I remember from past presidential elections. In all but one of the matters that we have been requested to consult on did we find that the homeowner did not have the right to post their sign. At one association, the board did not want the owner to have their sign posted prominently in the front window of the owner’s condominium. One of the board members forwarded to me the attached article that appeared in the New York Times indicating that in New York, homeowners do not have the right to place political signs in their windows or on their property unless permitted by their association. The article (follow this link) questioned whether a resident at a community association in New York has a constitutional right to post a political sign on their property. Apparently in New York, a community association can have rules prohibiting political signs or other types of signs placed in the windows or elsewhere, depending on the associations rules.

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