If you have an HOA dispute in California, the procedure will be guided by the individual rules of the homeowner association. However, those rules are outlined by California's civil code of laws.
The operating rules - often referred to as "rules and regulations" or even "house rules," have to be put in written form, and per Civil Code 4350(a), they need to be adopted by a board of directors. Any adoption or alteration of these rules must follow the procedures as outlined in Civil Code 4360.
As our Newport Beach HOA dispute attorneys can explain, these rules can govern a wide range of issues, depending on the needs of the community and the desire of the residents. These may include:
- Standards for architecture or landscaping;
- Waste removal;
- Procedures for meetings;
- Alterations to homes.
But even though HOAs do have a large degree of discretion, there are certain rules they must, by statute, have. These include:
- Policies on internal disputes: You'll find this in Civil Code 5905. This is the provision that mandates all associations must have an internal dispute policy that is both fair and reasonable. This policy must establish procedures wherein a homeowner can meet with another homeowner, or with the board, to try to work through the dispute, in the hopes of avoiding litigation.
- Requests for modification of home and landscaping: One of the most common functions of HOA management is to respond to the requests of homeowners who wish to make changes to their common areas and residences. The provision that touches on this is Civil Code 4765, which mandates HOAs must have some kind of written procedure for the process. If there is no procedure, there is no guidance as to how applications are processed.
- Enforcement of delinquent assessments: If a homeowner is delinquent on assessments, Civil Code 5730 explains information disclosures and lien enforcement policies. These policies have to be specified at least once a year to members of the association.
- Rules regarding elections: Election rules of HOAs in California are dictated by Civil Code 5105. Rules here would be applicable not just to who would be seated on the board, but also any issues that require member votes. This includes the stipulation that there must be a 30-day notice, and HOAs can stipulate more stringent board member requirements, per the 2013 ruling in Friars Village v. Hansing.
- Fine schedule: The majority of HOAs will have some practice that involves imposing fines, which will take place after a hearing, in order to keep homeowners and members of the association from violating the rules. However, there are many associations that fail to understand that they only have the power to enforce fines for violations that are disclosed in the written rules of the association. Further, the HOA can only impose fines for rules that were written and in effect at the time of the alleged violation.
These rules are going to be applicable both to mixed use and residential HOAs throughout California.
If you have any questions about how to defend yourself against a dispute with your Orange County HOA or if you are an HOA representative seeking guidance on handling a dispute with a member, our experienced real estate attorneys can help.