This year our HOA dues increased 20%. The reason given was plumbing issues due to sewage backups. When I asked about just having a special assessment to cover the plumbing issues, I was told a special assessment would require a vote by association members. What can homeowners do to prevent this from continuing?
J.L, Newport Beach
Most CC&R’s or bylaws limit increases in regular assessments by boards to no more than 20% per year. Per Civil Code 5605(b), governing documents cannot impose any smaller assessment limits to board power. Some boards, discouraged by lack of participation, address major expenditures by using the maximum increase in assessments for a few years, eliminating the need for a special assessment. While expedient, this does create a few issues. Since members are not voting on it, boards often skip the critical step of having “town hall” meetings and newsletter bulletins to inform the members the reasons for the expenditure. Also, once the need for the increase ends, will the board remember to reduce the assessment amount? Members really should be more involved in their associations, and it is discouraging for a board to try to have to avoid member votes simply because the members won’t vote.
Recently, I signed up for e-statements, by which my monthly statement is available online. I asked my HOA if I could still receive my monthly assessments through mail as well as being signed up for e-statements. Their reply to me was that I could only chose one way or the other. Is this allowed?
The Civil Code does not specifically require that homeowners receive assessment statements. Civil Code 5615 requires associations to give members 30 to 60 days advance notice of assessment increases. That notice must be given by individual delivery under Civil Code 4040, which means a simple announcement or general posting is insufficient. Notice must be individually sent to each member. Associations under Civil Code 5655(b) must provide a receipt when the member requests it. Also, per Civil Code 5650(b) assessments are not delinquent until past due for 15 days (unless the HOA rules state a longer period).
Hope this helps,
My management company has not sent coupon books in time for monthly assessment payments. They sent the address after the late fee date, resulting in adding late fees which they refuse to waive saying only the board can reverse the fees at a board meeting. Once they indicated the next meeting was 11 months later. Is this an ethical way to do business?
Civil Code 5655(c) requires associations to notify owners in writing of the address to send assessment payments, and that notice must also be part of the Annual Policy Statement distributed to members. The law actually does not require that coupon books or invoices be sent for monthly assessments. If your assessment payment was late simply because you didn’t have the right payment, hopefully the board reversed the late charge. However, 11 months is too long to wait for a board meeting – your board must meet at least quarterly (unless pending legislation, Assembly Bill 2912, passes, requiring monthly meetings of all HOA boards).
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®.