May a Homeowner Leave An HOA or Condo Association?

 Here are a couple of straightforward questions that I received on my other blog at California Condo & HOA Law

 “- Is it mandatory by any law that i have to be part of a HOA?
  – Is there any legal way that a home owner can choose NOT to be  part of and association he/she doesn’t believe in?”

The way that a property owner becomes part of an HOA or Condo or other residential owners association is because covenants, conditions and/or restrictions are recorded against the property that provides for sharing of something. It could be amenities like pools, roads, recreational facilities, parks, open spaces, trails or the like. Or it could simply be architectural restrictions. Sometimes the owners association is noted in those recorded restrictions, and sometimes an owners association is formed by the owners approving amendments to the restrictions. In California, this document to which I am referring is commonly called CC&Rs (for covenants, conditions and restrictions).

Owners usually cannot get out although there are some exceptions where individual properties have been “deannexed” for various reasons. One example is when a developer put the property in the development when it was approved by the DRE (Dept, of Real Estate) but it had certain characteristics that lead to a conclusion the property did not belong in the development. Sometimes a group of properties is “deannexed” and forms its own association or goes on its own. Sometimes the entire development is terminated, although deannexation and termination of an existing HOA or Condo association is a complicated and sometimes expensive process. It usually takes owner approval (unless it is in the early stages and the developer can make changes without taking a vote of owners).

So the simple answer is “no”, it is not likely that any owner can pull out because they are unhappy … though I have seen it accomplished, in practice and in one arbitration years ago when I represented a small group of homeowners in litigation that was the subject of unfair treatment by a larger group of owners. The larger group was trying to burden the smaller group with higher assessments and the arbitrator let the owners opt out. I think the other attorney, and I, were both surprised at the bold move (even though I had asked for it as one possible remedy).

It was a very unusual situation and since I do not get involved in litigation any more, it is unlikely I will see it happen that way again. The more likely remedy today (this was 10 years ago) when one group is by majority vote trying to impose an unfair burden on a smaller group is some other court remedy such as an order not to do it, or a ruling involving the “burden” itself.

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