Condo & HOA Owner Rights – Overview

There is not an abundance of information on the web about Condo & HOA Owner rights, or well, I guess I should say “correct and helpful advice”. There is sure a lot of “stuff”, much of it negative, and that is, in my view, not very helpful.

Anyway, this new blog will be geared toward getting owners in condos and HOAs more specific information about more specific problems. I have produced lots of general information in a couple of books including a book published last year called “The Condo Owners Answer Book“, more than 30 educational “Primers”, a free monthly E-Newsletter, and another blogsite which has been available for about 5 years called California Condo and HOA Law Blog.

Now, its time to get down to nuts and bolts. Here are some questions I plan to cover in the coming weeks with some of the “short” answers, but you will have to come back again and again to learn the “finer points” which relate to the “ifs”, “ands”, and “buts”.  

Is an Owner in a Condo or HOA “King of their Castle?” Yes, if they exercise their “Kingness” within the rules of the HOA or Condo.

May an Owner do anything they want to or in their unit as long as it’s within the proverbial “4 walls?” No. (Much more on this in the weeks to come.)

May an Owner park as many vehicles as the unit residents need within the complex? No, not always. (More on parking rules, towing, rights, etc., in the weeks to come.)

May an Owner have access to financial and other records of the Association? Yes, to many of the items, no to some. (Much more on this to come.)

May an Owner attend meetings of the HOA or Condo Association? Yes to some, no to others. (More to come.)

May an Owner have a pet in an HOA or Condo development? In most cases in California, yes, but it is important to know when it is not the case, what limits can be placed, and what rules can be enforced.

May any Owner, resident or tenant serve on the Board? It depends … and there will be more on this in the coming months.

May any Owner start a voting campaign on some change he or she wants?  There are ways to trigger a vote, but limitations on what an individual owner or group of owners can do.

May an Owner run a business or park their commercial vehicle in their unit/driveway respectively? Maybe not, illustrations will be explored.

May an Owner choose their own landscaping or construct any gazebo or any other outdoor item they crave? It depends on the rules and restrictions, and architectural considerations.

May an Owner be kicked out or evicted from their home? In some cases such as foreclosure, yes, in others such as eviction, it is not likely, especially not in California. But that does not mean that restrictions and restraining orders are out of the question.

Stay tuned!!!

This is the place to come for more than you are likely to find anywhere else on the web.

Send questions (but please try to keep them generic enough to help others too – this is not the place to come for legal advice on a particular scenario in a particular association).

And look for answers. I’m here to serve.

If you don’t find it here, there is always the californiacondoguru website, which contains a wealth of free information and affordable publications and resources.

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9 Responses to Condo & HOA Owner Rights – Overview
  1. A J Hazle
    October 15, 2009 | 12:53 am

    Hi Beth,

    I’ve followed your blogs for several years, have learned a lot and am looking forward to your new blog – I have a question that I’ve raised before that seems ideal for it.

    If a board member has repeatedly pointed out to the other members of the board that their practices are contrary to Sterling-Davis (email votes on substantive issues as a simple example) what further steps should or could such a member take.

    Thanks, Jim

    • Beth Grimm
      October 15, 2009 | 6:43 pm

      Thanks AJ. I cannot stress enough how important it is to get educated. On my other blog (California Condo & HOA Law Blog) I did a blog on dealing with bullies and people who are resistent and abusive. Being smarter than them is one of the best defenses (or offenses for that matter).

      It would take me a lot of typing here to tell about all the remedies for resistence to following the law. You can check out all the resources on my website (free articles, Primers. books, etc.). I will give a couple of quick tips though. One can go to small claims court and seek $500 penalties for failure of boards to provide records owners are entitled to, and $500 penalties for violation of the Open Meetings laws. These two areas are covered in Civil Code Sections 1365.2 (records inspection law) and 1363.05 and 1363.09 (the Common Interest Development Open Meetings Act) which can be found on my website by clicking on “The Davis Stirling Act”. And, you have clued me in that it is time to work on a “Remedies” Primer. Please know that there are many more possibilities short of this drastic one Going to court will put more distance between the Board and owners advocating change. ADR (Mediation) and IDR (Internal Dispute Resolution) are both better ways to address differences. I will try to cover these in a later blog.

  2. Dorothy Mediate
    October 15, 2009 | 2:36 pm

    Is there a statute of limitations in California Hoa law that limits the amount of time an association can go back and place an architectural violation on a property when the violation was committed by a previous owner more than five years prior?

  3. Beth Grimm
    October 15, 2009 | 6:52 pm

    There is generally a statute of limitations on any enforcement action of 5 years. But you know what they say, for every rule there is an exception. So it is quite a bit more complicated than that. Intervening factors such as whether the matter is continuing, is detrimental to other neighboring properties, or was done at a point in time, whether it was ignored or whether the violation could not be seen from common areas (in other words, could have been discovered easily), and such might apply. So it is not safe to make assumptions that any violation lasting more than 5 years is untouchable.

  4. Linda Lai
    October 17, 2009 | 3:26 am

    Hi Beth,
    Does a homeowner have the right to contact a vendor directly if they wish to ask questions about their property AND can the association legally refuse to allow this. Can they legally tell vendors to not talk to any of the homeowners even if it’s a “legit” question, such as questions about their roof?

    • Beth Grimm
      October 22, 2009 | 8:05 pm

      Owners should present their questions and points to the board or management to transmit to the contractor if the board has taken the position that vendors are not to converse with owners while on the job. The Condo or HOA board will want a record of these kinds of communications anyway as it is important that the board or management know about any issues related to the properties.

      • Beth Grimm
        November 13, 2009 | 4:54 am

        I believe that when an HOA or Condo Association gets a mold report, and the owner is concerned about mold, the board ought to share it. If it does not, and the owner goes out and gets their own report, then it becomes a battle of the experts, and a fight over costs. If there is any litigation or subpena power, I believe an owner would not have a problem getting a copy, unless the lawyer has hired an expert with the idea of testifying and wants to keep the information confidential. Sometimes there is a good reason for doing so if there is a legal battle looming. If the report shows a problem, it ought to be addressed, so why not be transparent about it? That’s my position.

  5. David Win
    October 24, 2009 | 7:23 pm

    Our HOA Board President has refused, by return email, to answer my emailed questions regarding HOA confidentiality. I therefore emailed the same questions to other members of the Board. The Board President then emailed me, forbidding me to communicate directly with other Board members and threatening me by implying that I could be found guilty of harassment and violation of privacy if I sent any more emails to other Board members. Can he make himself into the only point of contact? Don’t Owners have the right to communicate with any Board member?

    • Beth Grimm
      October 31, 2009 | 5:50 am

      Sometimes board members do not want to receive personal emails. They are volunteers and may not want to engage in a form of communication where people expect an immediate response. The Board can set some parameters for accepting communications, and if they are too limiting for someone’s taste, in California, there is a law thiat requires boards to allow owners to speak to them at some time during the board meetings. The board can set the time for the “forum time” for this.