DO YOU WANT A GOOD HOA LAWYER – OR JUST FREE ADVICE?

You might wonder where I get the topics for my blog. Within the last couple of days, my writing stimulus has been tickled by a couple of emails and a couple of telephone calls. Every time I send out an E newsletter that targets one group, the most recent being bad boards, I get a flurry of calls from people who can relate and want to talk to me about their problems. When they find out have to pay for a consultation, I often get answers like this: I have an attorney friend, we have an on-staff business attorney, I looked on the web and got some answers I just want to run by you, my brother in law is a family attorney, or we really are not prepared to spend $275 for legal advice.

Believe me, I understand, I make no judgments, and I apply no pressure. However, I do tend to point out some things that the caller might want to know. Like these:

I’ve had people come to me after spending thousands on a lawyer (or friend) who doesn’t really know homeowner association law very well, or persons who have spent hours and hours of personal time trying to fight with their board,  or if the caller is from the board perspective, to fight with an owner. Naturally, they are hesitant to spend $275 for a consultation with someone they don’t know – and on the telephone??!!!** What is this world coming to. However, after speaking with me for one hour, clients often tell me that they wish they had found me in the beginning.

Attorneys or wanna-be attorneys who don’t know California homeowner association law intimately can and often do cause a board or homeowner to take the wrong fork in the road and heaven knows, trying to do an about-face or rollback from an aggressive (but incorrect) campaign is a lot harder than choosing the right path in the beginning.

I don’t expect everyone with a problem to come flocking to me to be excited about paying $275 for legal consultation. There is even a lot of information available on my website (www.californiacondoguru.com)

for Free!! And there is a lot of information available on the web from others, some trusted sources, some not.  However, when you have a problem, there is generally more than meets the eye going on and you are usually only able to see through blinders from your particular perspective. That can present a serious problem. And, you can’t go to the Civil Code Davis Stirling Act or the Corporations code and find strategies, you can only find laws. You can’t always know how they are applied, why they were passed, and what things are misunderstood. You can purchase a book from my website called the Davis Stirling act in Plain English – the PDF version is $95 – and learn a lot more than you will learn from any lawyer about what the law actually says and what it means. You can choose a primer from my website for $25 that goes into practical and legal difficulties and solutions on almost any topic, but you can’t usually find strategies that will give you thefull gamut of options or solutions and the likelihood, or not, of their success that someone like myself will give you, who counsels homeowners as well as homeowners associations on a regular basis.

I’m not bragging, but I am telling you that solving homeowner associations issues, whether approaching it from the board or owner perspective, takes a lot more than book learning, and a lot more than seeing only one side clearly and not knowing what to expect from the other. Boards and owners are wildcards. Resolving disputes is often like a difficult chess game and the more you know what is going in, the more likely you are to have successes, whether you can reach Checkmate or not. Sometimes the pragmatic route and will give way to sufficient frustration from the other side to elicit some concessions. Every action leads to a reaction and if you are not understanding that going on, you might be completely blown away at the reaction, and find yourself in a much protracted fight that could’ve been avoided by using calculated moves. Yes, I play chess, and I know HOA law inside and out, and can help you understand how strategy and options need to be considered in the bigger picture. Taking the aggressive approach doesn’t scare everyone off, particularly if the holes in your arguments can be enlarged sufficiently to open up the path to a check mate position.

Get responsible, not cheap, advice if you’re in a difficult situation is all I really think needs to be said. And of course, you get what you pay for so free is not always the best route.

 

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2 Responses to DO YOU WANT A GOOD HOA LAWYER – OR JUST FREE ADVICE?
  1. Holland Marshall
    February 5, 2016 | 12:44 am

    Well written, excellent advice.

    A Toronto couple lost their condo, their credit rating and went into bankruptcy using a “friend” as their lawyer. He did not practice condo law and he was learning at their expense.

    Others are out thousands because they got sucked into a dispute with the board when they didn’t know what they were getting into.

    • Beth Grimm
      February 6, 2016 | 5:12 pm

      I am always sorry to hear this. And I understand people’s hesitancy to spend more when they have been duped, through innocence of those who think they know everything (lawyers seemingly being very susceptible to this mindset), or friends trying to be helpful. I get many calls from lawyers who play the “colleague” card to seek free advice which they can take and use on their one HOA client for a cost. Respectfully, I decline, suggesting instead they refer their client to my website for good information, or to me. This may seem disrespectful to my profession but I have some very good, honest lawyer friends and colleagues who don’t offer advice that falls outside their expertise. They want their clients to get good advice and refer the HOA and homeowner clients to me instead of stumbling along collecting legal fees. I do the same. I don’t do wills, trusts, buy-sell real estate transactions, employment disputes except in the context of HOA matters that don’t require special knowledge about employment law (I refer those out), or tax matters. In tax matters, I refer clients to tax attorneys. I don’t do litigation anymore. I tired of that years ago.

      “Friends” can be worse. They speak from the gut. Not from knowledge. Unless someone is familiar with the Non-profit mutual benefit corporations code, the Davis Stirling Act in the Civil Code, and how people tend to think, act and react in various HOA related scenarios, how the organizations operate and what controls in any given scenario, the law or the governing documents, they are incapable of giving good advice. Gut reactions lead to abuse of the concept MY HOME IS MY CASTLE. ‘nuf said.