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.’”

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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. www.ScottMgmt.com

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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outlandish_drying_clotheslines_-_Google_Search.png From the Community Association Attorneys at SwedelsonGottlieb

California law now limits a community association’s ability to restrict the use of clotheslines and drying racks. Effective January 1, 2017, Civil Code 4750.10 invalidates any provision of a governing document that effectively prohibits or unreasonably restricts an owner’s ability to use a clothesline or drying rack in their backyard. This law reflects California’s tendency toward energy conscious legislation, and in fact, the law originally referred to clotheslines as “solar energy systems.”

As applied to community associations, the new law has some important limitations. For example, it only protects an owner’s ability to use a clothesline in a backyard designated for exclusive use. So, the law does not sanction an owner’s ability to use clotheslines in other areas, such as their front yard or a shared rear yard. Further, the law explicitly states a balcony, railing, awning, or other part of a structure or building does not qualify as a clothesline. So, the new law does not protect owners who string wet clothes over their balcony railing to dry.

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From the Community Association Attorneys at SwedelsonGottlieb

The minimum wage is going up. As a result of a change in the law to take effect on January 1, 2017, the statewide minimum wage will gradually increase over the next six years until it hits $15 per hour. Further, Los Angeles and San Francisco already have their own laws in place to hit this mark even sooner and may see higher increases depending on the rate of inflation as measured by the Consumer Price Index (CPI).

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The wage increase will affect an associations existing employees and will likely impact any association’s existing and potential vendor contracts. Roughly one-third of all California employees are paid minimum wage, and many vendors serving associations rely heavily on minimum wage employees. In the past, California has increased the minimum wage by 1-3% annually, but the pending increase represents a 50% rise over six years, which represents a considerable cost for any vendor to absorb. As a result, vendors will undoubtedly pass along their higher labor costs to the associations they serve.

new_leglisation_notice_to_owners_to_provide_contact_information_-_Google_Search.pngBy the Community Association Attorneys at SwedelsonGottlieb.

Starting January 1, 2017, every California community association will be required to ask its members to provide their contact information and property status. New Civil Code § 4041 will require, starting January 1, 2017, that each association must solicit the following information from its members:

1. The mailing address where notices from the association are to be delivered;

fair_housing_harassment_-_Google_Search.pngFrom the Community Association Attorneys at SwedelsonGottlieb

An update to the Fair Housing Act, effective October 14, 2016, clarifies an association’s responsibility to address discriminatory conduct and harassment by its residents. The Fair Housing Act prohibits discrimination in housing and housing-related services due to race, color, religion, sex, national origin, disability, and familial status (42 U.S.C. 3601 et seq.). Quid Pro Quo and Hostile Environment Harassment and Liability for Discriminatory Housing Practices Under the Fair Housing Act

This update to the Fair Housing Act clarifies that an association is directly liable for failing to take prompt action to end any third party’s discriminatory housing practice if the association knew or should have know about it and had the power to correct it. A commentator for the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development stated, “a community association generally has the power to respond to third-party harassment by imposing conditions authorized by the association’s CC&Rs or by other legal authority […].”* Accordingly, an association must take some action to address any alleged discrimination by residents or other people within its authority.

By David Swedelson, Senior Partner at Swedelson & Gottlieb, California Community Association Attorneys

Protect_your_condo__co-op_or_apartment_building_with_commercial_umbrella_insurance_-_Mackoul___Associates__Inc_.png We are often asked how much insurance a condo or coop association should carry. I often respond by saying as much as the association can afford. Here is a great example of a situation involving one of our firms clients (the facts have been altered to maintain confidentiality). A woman was trying to get into a condo association and the parking arm was stuck. She and her entourage were physically trying to get the arm to move when it dropped hitting her in the leg. It hit an artery and she almost died. She suffered some permanent disabilities and then she sued the association.

Turns out the association knew about the problem and its maintenance guy had been fiddling with the equipment to get it to work. Long story short, there was little question that the association was negligent and the association’s insurance carrier paid out almost 3 million to settle the claim just before trial was supposed to start. The association had a $2 million general liability policy. Fortunately, the association also had a $1 million umbrella policy and with that additional money was able to settle a claim that had the potential for damages that could have exceed the association’s insurance coverage. This is just one of many other examples.

So, what is an umbrella policy?
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By David Swedelson, Partner at SwedelsonGottlieb, Community Association Attorneys

Google_Image_Result_for_http___blogs-images_forbes_com_olliebarder_files_2015_09_pokemon_go_title_jpg.pngHave you noticed some unusual behavior from some association residents lately? You may have seen them walking outside swiping their smartphones. They may have a newfound interest in going to parks. And when they talk, they use unfamiliar words like Pikachu, Snorlax, and Pokéstops. If this sounds familiar, then your residents are into Pokémon GO.

I have heard about this new phenomena, but knew little about it. I saw an article entitled Back In The Race: The Employer’s Guide To Understanding (And Dealing With) Pokemon GO that was directed to law firms and decided to use it as the basis for this blog post as to how Pokemon GO would impact California community associations. (Follow this link to read the article)

By David Swedelson, Partner at SwedelsonGottlieb, Community Association Attorneys

communityassociationlawblog_com-Zika_Virus_and_Your_Community_Association__1_page_.png Although the Zika Virus has not yet been found in California, that does not mean that it will not find it’s way here. Florida community association attorney and blogger Donna DiMaggio Berger addresses a community association’s obligation to protect owners and residents from the foreseeable risk of harm from something inside the community and adds the Zika Virus to the list. Maybe we in California should take note. (follow this link to read Donna’s blog)

As Donna states regarding an association’s obligation to protect residents from harm, “[w]hether or not that duty is spelled out in the governing documents, there is the expectation that the association will ensure that residents do not get sucked into a non-compliant pool drain and drowned, trapped inside an unsafe elevator or mugged in the parking lot.”

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