Articles Posted in Legislative Developments

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.
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solar-energy-santa-rosa.pngRegular readers of may recall our prior blog post regarding the new law impacting architectural applications for and installation of solar energy systems. Since then, SwedelsonGottlieb’s new Senior Associate Attorney, Brian Moreno, joined the firm, and he penned his own in-depth look at what the new law means for California homeowner associations. Brian’s article appeared in a recent issue of The Communicator, published by the Bay Area / Central California Chapter of Community Associations Institute. Follow this link to read/download Brian’s informative article.

By David Swedelson, Partner at Swedelson Gottlieb, Community Association Attorneys

Hiding_Colors_for_Roof_Array_.pngFederal legislators are still trying to pass new law that would allow HAM radio antenas to be installed at homeowners associations despite any restrictions on same in an association’s CC&Rs. We addressed this in a blog post in September of 2014; follow this link. Although that bill failed, Representative Adam Kinzinger (R-IL) has reintroduced the same bill, now designated as H.R. 1301.

Community Associations Institute (CAI) has again issued a call to action to its members across the country claiming that “if a HAM radio ‘reasonable accommodation’ standard becomes federal law, community associations face the real prospect of having limited or even no say on the installation of towers and large, fixed antennas used in HAM radio broadcasting.”

By Sandra L. Gottlieb and David C. Swedelson, Partners and Community Association Attorneys at SwedelsonGottlieb

new_legislation_-_Google_Search.pngThere was not a lot of new legislation in 2014 impacting California Community Associations, and what changes there were seemed to be focused on dealing with the drought. There were also changes to the law relating to solar energy systems, the ability of residents to grow fruits and vegetables in their backyards, to bring their attorney to an IDR meeting, and defining responsibility for the repair and/or replacement of exclusive use common area.

The New Davis-Stirling Act:

The big story for 2014 was implementation of the complete rewrite of the Davis-Stirling Act (signed into law prior to 2014 and effective as of 1/1/14). If you have not been made aware of this by now, you likely live in a cave, as the Davis-Stirling Act has been rewritten and renumbered to Sections 4000 through 6150 of the California Civil Code and specifically excludes commercial associations, which now have their own set of laws that are much more abbreviated then the Act. Many association attorneys have prepared conversion charts for their clients which reference the old code sections and the applicable new sections. Contact your association’s legal counsel now if this is your first time hearing about the new Davis-Stirling Act.
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By David Swedelson, Partner and Community Association Attorney at SwedelsonGottlieb

balcony%20copy.jpgSince the inception of the Davis-Stirling Act in 1985, there has been confusion regarding owner vs. association responsibility for the repair or replacement of exclusive use common area. AB 968, legislation sponsored by the Educational Community for Homeowners (ECHO), signed into law by the Governor on September 18, 2014, brings us long-needed clarification. We strongly supported this legislation (surprisingly, as will be explained below, many others did not), as it clears up some of the ambiguities created by what was formerly Civil Code Section 1364, now Civil Code Section 4775.

Civil Code Section 4775 currently states that unless otherwise provided in the CC&Rs, a community association is responsible for repairing, replacing, or maintaining the common area, other than exclusive use common area. The homeowner of each separate interest is responsible for maintaining their separate interest (their unit or home) and any exclusive use appurtenant (attached or next to) their separate interest.

So, while Civil Code Section 4775 has addressed who is responsible for the maintenance, repair, and replacement of the common area, this code section only dealt with the responsibility for maintenance of the exclusive use common area, or so that is how many interpreted the code section.
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By David Swedelson, Esq. and Cyrus Koochek, Esq.; Community Association Attorneys at SwedelsonGottlieb

Benefits_of_Alternative_Dispute_Resolution___Lawyers_com.pngAB 1738 is new law that amends Civil Code Sections 5910 and 5915 and makes two major changes to the requirements of internal dispute resolution (IDR) meetings held between an association’s board and its members. We opposed the adoption of AB 1738 (like just about everyone else who works with California HOAs) and discussed the reasons why in our September 3, 2014 blog article. AB 1738 has since been signed into law and became effective California law as of January 1, 2015.

Here are the big changes – first, any agreement between the parties during IDR must be in writing and signed by both parties. This is a common sense requirement and will prevent any complaints about what was actually agreed to between an association and owner. More problematic, however, is the addition of language that now permits members to be represented by an attorney (or another person explaining the member’s position). The new changes that now allow members to bring an attorney will, without a doubt, end up costing community associations more money for legal fees, as more members may decide to be represented by their attorney, which will in turn require the association to have its attorney present.
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By the Community Association Attorneys at SwedelsonGottlieb

screen-capture-53.pngUnder Civil Code Section 714, a California community association can restrict its members’ installation and use of solar energy systems so long as the restrictions do not significantly increase the cost of the system or significantly decrease its efficiency or specified performance. “Significantly” used to be defined (through 12/31/14) as increasing the costs of the system by 20% (or $2,000 for photovoltaic systems) or decreasing the efficiency of the system by 20%.

AB 2188, effective January 1, 2015, redefines what reasonable restrictions an Association can require and amends Civil Code Section 714. Specifically, the new law has cut by half an association’s ability to restrict solar energy systems installed by members. A significant increase in the costs of a system will now mean an increase of 10% (or $1,000 for photovoltaic systems), and a significant decrease will now mean a reduction in the efficiency of the system by 10%. An association must now be even more careful with the conditions or limitations it places on an owner who wants to install a solar energy system.

By the Community Association Attorneys at SwedelsonGottlieb

solicitor-meeting.jpgMost associations have provided transfer disclosures/documents to an escrow at some point when an owner is selling his or her unit/home or property in a community association to a prospective purchaser. This task is usually completed by the association’s managing agent. Sections 4528 and 4530 of the Civil Code govern the requirements for complying with an Association’s escrow disclosure requirements. AB 2430, which amends Civil Code Sections 4528 and 4530 and is effective as of January 1, 2015, now provides some helpful points of clarification and one major affirmation of California case law.

First, AB 2430 now provides that it is the responsibility of a seller to compensate the association, person, or entity that provides the required documents to the prospective purchaser. This is the first time the Davis-Stirling Act has expressly made clear that the fees charged by an entity other than the association (e.g., management companies) are the responsibility of the seller. This change now makes the Civil Code on par with California case law. See our previous article to learn about the California cases which paved the way for this new legislation.

By David Swedelson, Partner, SwedelsonGottlieb, Community Association Attorneys

ammature_radio_tower_on_condo_-_Google_Search.pngGrowing up, there was a home in our neighborhood that had a massive radio antenna, much like the one in the photograph that is part of this blog post. As a kid, I was fascinated by the antenna. It was so big. Actually, I was captivated by the thought that I could talk to people around the world via a ham radio.

As an adult, while I may still be enamored by the prospect of communicating with people around the world, these days I do that via email, twitter and the telephone. While I have no problem with others wanting to be ham radio operators, I would not want to see one of these radio antennas on the roof of a home at my community association. And I know that many of you feel the same way about not allowing radio antennas, like the one in the photograph, at the associations you live in, manage or work with.

Benefits_of_Alternative_Dispute_Resolution___Lawyers_com.pngWho said you can’t trust lawyers? You can certainly trust SwedelsonGottlieb, as we are actively opposing proposed new legislation that would make us more money, AB 1738. This bill concerning internal dispute resolution (IDR) in common interest developments (Civil Code Sections 5900-5920) was recently passed by the the California State Assembly and the Senate unopposed. It’s clear that the legislators do not understand the implications of what may happen if this legislation is signed into law by the Governor. If signed into law, this new law will most certainly make more work for us community association attorneys, as owners will be bringing their attorneys to IDR meetings, and many boards will opt to do the same.

Review the proposed revised language to Civil Code Sections 5910 and 5915 by following this link. On its face, the revised language is pretty innocuous. However, those with real-world experience with IDR in community associations (such as board members, managers and the attorneys that guide them) realize that AB 1738 will end up costing community associations more money for legal fees if this bill becomes law. Why? Because, as CAI’s California Legislative Action Committee (CAI-CLAC) suggested in its Call To Action on this Bill, “AB 1738 encourages members to bring attorneys and others to their first meeting with a single board member who has volunteered to help work out the member’s problem or concern. These simple ‘meet-and-confer’ conversations over coffee most often resolve an issue. When they occasionally don’t, either party may pursue a more formal Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) process that does involve lawyers. Nothing in law prevents lawyers from attending IDR right now, but AB 1738 actually promotes having them present to argue the issue(s). This will invariably make the discussion adversarial.”
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