Renters – Fines – Whose on First?

I received an email from a renter who received a fines notice of $100 for having a grill on the deck. He had the grill for a long time and was surprised to get the notice. He wanted to know whether to ignore it. He had a clause in his lease that said he was responsible for any fines, but he did not feel he had done anything wrong.

Should he ignore it? No.

How many things went wrong here?

One for sure. Communication. If the association sent the fine notice to the tenant, it should have instead gone to the owner. If there was a rule against barbecues on the deck the  association should have warned the owner and the owner should have notified the tenant.

Before an HOA or Condo Association can fine legally, there needs to be

(1) distribution of a fines schedule (Civil Code Section 1363(g) and

(2) proper notice of a hearing (Civil Code Section 1363(h).

An owner needs to let the renters know about the CC&Rs and any rules that apply to residents.

So, there is a possibility here that the HOA or Condo Association fell short of its legal obligations. There should have been some warning, again, from association to owner, and then owner to tenant, if the barbecues were not allowed.  There is a possibility that the HOA or Condo Board did fulfill its requirements and the owner did not pass on the fine schedule or tell the tenant about the hearing and get their “side” to present. There must be a hearing before any fine is imposed, again, association to owner – and whether the owner wants the tenant involved, or the association will allow it, is a question that needs to be answered.

And last but not least, if the association is going to add a rule about barbecues on the deck (such as prohibiting them), there are a number of necessary hoops to clear (Civil Code Section 1357.100 and following statutes).

That is not to say that if/when a hazard is created, the board’s hands are tied. What if the tenant had a habit of saturating charcoal with lighter fluid and “lighting up” and the structures were wooden.

Well, there ya go, an exception for every rule. Would the board need to wait 30 days for this and 10 days for that and on and on ….. ?

Probably not.

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2 Responses to Renters – Fines – Whose on First?
  1. mbernato
    July 10, 2010 | 3:28 pm had a similiar question. Our response was to contact the unit owner, and provide ten (10) days time to remove the barbeque. If after ten days the barbeque remained we advised the super, accompanied by Security or the Property Manager should remove it, log it in a book, label it and place it in storage under the name of the tenant.

    • Beth Grimm
      July 12, 2010 | 5:29 pm

      Speaking in terms of “super”, I can only assume that your situation is an apartment situation, but perhaps not. Owners/Landlords have more authority to do things and the leases generally spell out the rights of entry. In an HOA or Condo situation, the governing documents would spell out the available remedies (although they may be scattered and hard to find or hard to understand and apply as written – as often is the case). All HOAs and Condos are held to laws in California that require advance notice (a hearing notice, hearing and decision letter) before disciplinary action which might include fines and/or removal of the item can be legally imposed. The scoop on Enforcement is covered comprehensively in my Primers on Enforcement that are available in the webstore at the guru website.