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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

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