It is not a hoax; it is a pandemic. And as a result, we are receiving inquiries from board members and managers concerning what community associations should be doing to address the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic and the impact of same on their communities. To address these questions, SwedelsonGottlieb published a guidebook that explains, among other things, why we do not believe that community associations have any direct responsibility to deal with the coronavirus; rather it is each residents responsibility to take steps to limit their exposure to the virus to avoid contracting the virus. That said, there are some commonsense things that should be kept in mind. And there are employees and staff to consider. Follow this link& to read and download SwedelsonGottlieb’s Guidebook. And note that as the information that we are all receiving about the coronavirus and how governmental agencies are dealing with the disease keeps evolving, so will our advice. So be sure to visit HOAlawblog for the latest coronavirus information and advice as it relates to California community associations.
Prepared by the Community Association Attorneys at SwedelsonGottlieb
Senate Bill 323, proposed new law that would impact how California community association conduct elections, was approved by the Senate and Assembly was presented to Governor Newsom for his signature. This proposed legislation will impact and change the procedural requirements for most California community associations’ elections. Unfortunately, this proposed legislation goes too far and it is not the right solution to whatever it is that motivated Senator Wieckowski to author this new legislation.
For example, under current law, Civil Code Section 5200(a)(9), members of a community association can request their association’s list of members, including the members names and addresses. Currently Civil Code section 5220 allows members the ability to opt out and keep their contact information, which they deem private, off the list. SB 323 includes a loophole that effectively eliminates the ability for owners to opt out of having their name and personal contact information provided to another member. This proposed new law requires owners to provide their name and address on the envelope that includes the ballot, which SB 323 would make part of the list of records available for member inspection.
From the Community Association Attorneys at SwedelsonGottlieb
The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) has finally published the long-awaited final revisions to the Federal Housing Administration’s (FHA) condominium project approval rules. The FHA does not originate loans for purchasing condos, but rather insures these loans for borrowers who might not otherwise qualify for traditional financing requiring a 20% down payment. In practice, these changes will give more people access to FHA-insured financing, which should in turn provide many Californians with a better chance of purchasing a condo. The new rules go into effect on October 14, 2019. Some of the most significant changes in the FHA regulations include:
• The FHA is once again authorized to approve and insure up to 10% of individual loans in a condo project (formerly called “spot,” and now called “single-unit” approval), as long as the condo association as a whole is financially stable. The FHA may also insure these loans if the condo project itself has not obtained FHA approval, which can be an expensive and cumbersome process for many condo associations.
From the Community Association Attorneys at SwedelsonGottlieb
It is no secret that community associations are often targets for embezzlement. But they are not alone. Newspaper articles tell us that it happens to various types of businesses and organizations, even attorneys and lawyer/bar organizations. Fraud and embezzlement seems more likely to occur when no one is watching those that control the checkbooks. And unfortunately, many many condominium, stock cooperative and planned development boards of directors become too trusting and they don’t keep an eye on what their manager or treasurer are doing.
To ensure that community associations are better protected, the California legislature passed AB 2912, acknowledging that associations are susceptible to fraud and embezzlement, and that more is needed to completely achieve the goal of protecting community association funds. Pay close attention as there are new requirements for both managers and boards amending two sections of Civil Code and adding three new ones. AB 2912 made the following changes to the law:
By the Community Association Attorneys at SwedelsonGottlieb
Through SB 261, the California Legislature fixed some issues with prior legislation dealing with delivery of notices and related matters and generally fixed some issues that had come up after prior legislation was adopted. This bill became effective in January 1st and amends the following existing sections of the Civil Code as stated:
• Email Consent to Document Delivery — Civil Code §4040 (Individual Notice), which allows for individual delivery of notices and other documents by email if an owner consents to this in writing was amended to allow an individual owner to permit/revoke consent to allow individual notice by email. While most attorneys thought that an email was considered a writing, this amendment eliminates any confusion.
By Sandra Gottlieb and Alyssa Klausner, Community Association Attorneys at SwedelsonGottlieb
As many of you likely know, when a homeowner files a Chapter 7 bankruptcy, they may be able to “discharge” their obligation to pay the pre-bankruptcy petition debts including the assessments they owe their community association. And you likely know that when an owner files a Chapter 13 bankruptcy, they are looking for a way to reorganize and not discharge their debts. And we all understood, or at least thought we understood that the assessments that became due after the owner filed bankruptcy, the post-petition assessments, would not be discharged.
A new case in the 9th Circuit, Goudelock v. Sixty-01 Association of Apartment Owners, changes this understanding. The Court in that case held that post-petition assessments that become due after a debtor has filed for Chapter 13 bankruptcy are also dischargeable under Federal bankruptcy law (11 USC Section 1328 (a)). In the Goudelock case, the debtor/delinquent owner surrendered the property in her Chapter 13 Plan, and the lender subsequently foreclosed on the property. The association then sought to determine that the delinquent post-petition assessments from the date the debtor filed for bankruptcy until the date the lender foreclosed on the property were not dischargeable. While the bankruptcy court ruled in favor of the association, the Court of Appeal reversed the bankruptcy court holding that post-petition assessments arise from the pre-petition debt and therefore the debtor’s personal obligation to pay said debt (both the pre-petition and post-petition assessments) is eliminated when the debtor is granted discharge in his/her/its bankruptcy case.
A senate bill seeking to prohibit California community associations from establishing qualifications for candidates to run for their boards of directors among other changes and requirements (including possible invasion of owner privacy) is a dumb idea that would create bad law.
On April 5th, Los Angeles Times’ Sacramento columnist George Skelton noted that the California legislature passed nearly 1,000 bills in 2017: “A few were important. Most were not. Many were frivolous, some dumb – a waste of politicians’ time and public money. . . There are many bills pending in the legislature again this year that the state could do just fine without.”
One bill I think the State could do just fine without is SB1265. And if you live in a California community association, I think you’ll agree. You should IMMEDIATELY let the legislature know that this legislation is unnecessary, and that the State could do just fine without SB1265. Let me explain how I and many others in the industry came to this conclusion.
By Joseph L. Gilman, Esq., Associate at SwedelsonGottlieb, Community Association Attorneys
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
As 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:
By 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?