Owner Frustration With HOA or Condo Association is Clear

I get a lot of emails from people who are frustrated with their HOA or Condo Association. There are a lot of boards that just do not know what they are doing. And there are a lot of frustrated owners, some because they do not know what they were getting into, and some because they have been “studying up” by using the tools available on the Guru Website and trying to pass information on proper conduct on to the board. This email I received says it all

Here’s the problem for owners in complexes where boards don’t comply with state
law: The state has no enforcement authority for Davis-Stirling,
and the purported grievance procedures in the law are cumbersome or expensive or ineffective, or all three.

Compliance with Davis-Stirling is voluntary. When boards don’t comply, there’s really nothing owners can do about it. This is particularly true in complexes with a high percentage of absentee owners. All they want to do is keep halfway decent tenants and collect rent. They don’t much care about the complex, so the few resident owners are stuck being a small minority that has no effect on outlaw boards. The state should create an enforcement authority, but with California being deeply in the hole, that’s not likely to happen. My state senator and assemblyman have already said as much. If you want to be a white knight and fix something, fix that.”

Well I never fancied myself a white knight, but I have helped many owners figure out what they could do about a situation. There often are some steps owners can take to help themselves. Few know these things unless they have good guidance:

1. Owners, like Associations, have the right to enforce the CC&Rs. Where it does not work is Owners cannot collect assessments or pursue remedies when owners do not pay. But it does work for things like nuisance or rule violation situations. Owners can go to small claims and ask that fines be enforced, if the association has a fining policy, or ask for nuisance damages. It is hard to tell what any specific small claims court judge or hearing officer will do,  but calling the violator into court might make an honest person out of them.

2. Many laws to offer remedies. For example, Civil Code Section 1363.09 offers a possible fine for violations of the elections laws or meetings laws found in Civil Code Sections 1363.09 and 1363.05, respectively. Civil Code Section 1365.2 offers $500 fine remedies against associations/ boards that do not provide records that owners are entitled to see and copy. This is a powerful remedy. (You can find these laws through the Davis Stirling Act link on my Condo Guru website.)

3. There are many other possible remedies and solutions that you may not even have thought of in your particular situation.

I have advised and seen owners take the reins and exercise their rights and remedies, get elected to the board, and get others involved in their effort leading to either a change in board practices or a change in the board makeup. 

And don’t underestimate the value of ADR – alternative dispute resolution processes – I can advise on those possibilities.

So I don’t accept (and you don’t have to either) that there are no remedies. 

There is lots of free information on my website, and lots of affordable publications, and what you have to add is a little “elbow grease”. It is not always easy. If you need more help, consultations are available for owners. I realize that there are not many attorneys in this state who know homeowners association law intimately and are willing to help – but I am here and available.


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2 Responses to Owner Frustration With HOA or Condo Association is Clear
  1. Randy Boettjer
    November 30, 2011 | 3:56 am


    Thank you for your ever informative emails!

    Have you ever done one on guest parking spaces? Parking here is very tough, my HOA rents out the spaces for $15 to anyone who says their vehicle won’t fit in their garage, or have more than two cars. Sometimes there is no place for visitors to park, and then they tow the visitors cars at $250 a hit. Seems unfair to me. I live in San Clemente.

    Thanks again for all your guidance!

    • Beth Grimm
      December 6, 2011 | 5:06 am

      Most governing documents allow for at least some guest parking spaces. Whether it is required depends on what the association governing documents (especially the CC&Rs) or deeds say – but I will tell you that most documents give the board quite a bit of authority over common area parking. Garages stuffed with “stuff” is a common problem that leads to resident’s over-use of open parking spaces and while there are things boards can do to minimize it many are strapped with enough other problems and simply turn a cheek. These are the kinds of problems that lead owners to complain about common interest development living.