I think a short blog is in order to give some information that might help anyone trying to solve a problem with their homeowners Association. I talk to many individuals each year who have had long-standing complaints about the Association and often times they are so general as to be convinced the board is dysfunctional, rude, biased, irresponsible, or some other adjective that really means the board is not responding to the owner the way the owner wants the board to respond. In other words, the board is not doing something the owner wants them to do. In many cases, there are not particular legal violations, just conduct the part of a board member or members, or a manager, that the individual does not like. Sometimes it’s for a good reason, and sometimes it’s just a personality conflict. Sometimes the owner has created the friction by approaching a problem in a manner that is offensive.

Here is one big tip:

To get a board’s attention and create the right kind of written record going forward (in case you want to initiate legal action in small claims or otherwise), it is important to formalize your procedures.  Complaining verbally and even engaging in many discussions, or what an owner perceives as a discussion when the board is really not listening, get lost in the wind. Emails are so informal as to often be disregarded, sometimes not even made a part of the record. When I say “formalize” procedures I mean put your demands or questions or suggestions in some official written form like a letter or a fancy looking “Demand”.  Yes, give it a heading. Send it by certified, return receipt requested mail or priority mail. The priority mail envelopes look official and delivery can be tracked.

When making demands make them reasonable, backed up with whatever facts and supporting documents you can gather. Give the board ideas. You may have thought of a good solution when the Board has not. After all, you are the one obsessing on the disagreement, not them. You are giving it a lot more time and energy.

If the Board is not following the law with regard to voting in elections, is not responding to records requests as required by law, or is not holding open meetings but hiding out instead, an owner can seek a $500 penalty per illegal act by filing an inexpensive small claims court action. But you have to write a letter demand first, and recite the right part of the law if the law speaks to your issue (and it does to those mentioned here).

This will lay the path for you should you want to go to small claims to pursue your rights.  I help people prepare for small claims court and figure out how to approach boards. If you went into a court and started out with the statement “this board has been acting illegally for years, and I have been telling them so.” The judge will not rule. The judge will ask for more from you. Like evidence. Like references to law. Like facts.

When I speak with owners and ask more of them, such as creating a timeline, taking a pragmatic course of action and creating the right kind of “record” with useful communications, I often get the response, “but that’s a lot of work.”

Yes, it is, but there are many situations where you could pay me a thousand dollars to write letters when you could make a difference yourself after a one hour $275 consultation, just by doing some work that I will suggest.

It is sad indeed when I spend an hour on the phone with an owner giving suggestions about how to get what they want only to realize that when I hang up they will likely return to victim mode and are not going to do one of the things I suggest. My clue is when, at the end of the call, the person says the same thing they said at the beginning, “It doesn’t matter, I can do all that and the Board still won’t listen to me. They never do. I’ve been arguing with them for 5 years.”  I know if they are still crying that same tune after spending an hour with them I have not gotten through to them and the person just threw away $275.00.

What keeps me coming back is that the majority of owners I counsel are thrilled to be armed with knowledge and a course of action that has promise. The promise comes from changing up their game to stop complaining and move into a course geared to make something happen. I call that “pushing the right buttons.”

I have spoken with many that will do the work, and are gratified that I can arm them with some viable tools. That is a good reason I keep doing the telephone consultations for individuals. You can read about consultations at www.californiacondoguru.com.


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Beth A. Grimm is an attorney who serves homeowner associations and homeowners alike. She is a frequent contributor to the Echo Journal and other similar publications in the State of California and on a national level. She provides several publications written in plain English to help people who need information about California law as it relates to homeowner and condominium associations.

Things to keep in mind about this site: Practical Nuts and Bolts Problems and Solutions are Discussed. Beth A. Grimm practices law in California ONLY! There is nothing in these blogs that is intended to constitute legal advice. You must consult with an attorney if you want legal advice!