The Legislature has been in high gear in the past month, and the legislative “season” is a few weeks from its end. Some bills affecting common interest developments (aka “HOA’s”) have already become law and a few are very likely to also pass in the coming weeks.
This is an innocuous bill, sponsored by the Executive Council of Home Owners (“ECHO”), which makes explicit what the mainstream legal community knew was implicit. Under current Civil Code 4775, associations maintain and repair common area, and homeowners maintain exclusive use common areas. The statute does not say who repairs exclusive use common areas. This “hole” in the statute has existed for many years but never was a problem, since most attorneys know that exclusive use is a subset of common area, and so the HOAs obviously would repair them. This bill would make the statute say that explicitly, and so changes nothing. If people say or write that this bill is a big deal, they are trying to panic you, or they don’t understand the law, or… both! This bill passed the Assembly and is now in the Senate and is expected to pass. Expect it to become law, and not to change anything.
This bill, sponsored by the California Association of Realtors®, passed this year with little opposition, was signed by the Governor in July, and will take effect on January 1, 2015. This bill is directed toward the cost of HOA disclosure documents, often billed to the buyer, and primarily shifts the initial cost responsibility to the sellers. However, the seller still may negotiate and ask the buyer to reimburse it. The intent of this law is to increase focus on the small number of management companies which charge abusive fees for these documents, which are directly imposed on a buyer who is not yet part of the HOA.
This bill would have allowed California HOA members to do what all other non-profits can already do – vote electronically if they choose. After passing the Assembly, the bill received opposition from the Secretary of State and died in Senate Committee. Apparently the prospect of voting for directors on line is still off-putting for some of our leaders in Sacramento, who are concerned about hackers.
This bill is one of several responding to the current major drought crisis in California (see also SB 992 and AB 2104). It sailed through both houses and was signed quickly into law by Governor Brown in July as an emergency measure. As such, it is IMMEDIATELY LAW. The new law bans an association from imposing a “fine or assessment against a member … for reducing or eliminating the watering of vegetation or lawns,” during a local or state-declared drought emergency. If your association is fining or assessing a member solely because they are under-watering their lawn or plants, stop the process immediately.
This bill, sponsored by the Conference of California Bar Associations, deals with the Internal Dispute Resolution process under Civil 5910, and would clarify that either the homeowner or HOA may bring an attorney at that party’s expense. The bill has passed the Assembly, is awaiting vote on the Senate floor, and is expected to become law in January.
To review any bill or California statute, visit the Legislature’s official website at www.leginfo.legislature.ca.gov.
Kelly G. Richardson Esq., CCAL, is a Fellow of the College of Community Association Lawyers and a Partner of Richardson | Ober | DeNichilo LLP, a California law firm known for community association advice. Submit questions to Kelly@rodllp.com. Past columns at www.HOAHomefront.com. All rights reserved®.