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Orange County Real Estate Law Blog

How an HOA can limit a small business

California residents may choose to start their own business either as a main source of income or as what some people refer to as a "side hustle". However, it is important to understand that even small businesses run from a home are not necessarily exempt from following the law. Depending on what type of business a person chooses to run, he or she may be in violation of zoning or other laws that forbid it.

Local libraries or government websites may describe in detail what types of companies are allowed and which ones are not permitted. Those who run their business from their condo or home within an HOA may want to study association rules carefully before they begin operations. Members of the HOA board itself may be able to tell a person more about any applicable restrictions.

HOA furious over WWII Sherman tank

Homeowners associations in California and around the country sometimes find themselves embroiled in disputes despite having carefully worded rules and policies. HOA rules tend to be quite specific so that all of the parties involved know where they stand, but this can create loopholes that leave associations with little recourse when property owners act in unpredictable ways. One such matter involves a HOA in Texas that is mired in a dispute with a property owner who parked a restored World War II main battle tank in front of his Houston home.

The HOA claims that passing motorists often stop to look at or take photographs of the restored Shewrman tank, and it says that the resulting congestion is causing traffic problems and jeopardizing the safety of residents. It also maintains that the property owner's neighbors have made complaints about the iconic World War II workhorse and want it removed. However, efforts to comply with these wishes have been stymied because the HOA rules do not actually prohibit the parallel parking of tracked military vehicles on residential streets.

HOA's role in regulating animal waste

You love animals as much as the next person. Like the majority of people in California, you probably even own a dog or cat yourself. The companionship of a pet is something most people place high in importance in their lives, and animals, especially dogs, have a way of winning the affection of even the coldest hearts.

Nevertheless, the one drawback of a pet is cleaning up after it. Even a bird in a cage requires clean papers, and a cat needs its litter scooped frequently. Since many dogs do their business outside, their waste often becomes the subject of disputes among neighbors. If you live in a community governed by a homeowner's association, you may see the topic of dog waste on the agenda of many board meetings.

New product helps document noise levels

California apartment or condo dwellers may know a thing or two about dealing with noise. It isn't uncommon for neighbors to have parties or for individuals themselves to have barking dogs or air conditioning units that are loud. While it is hard to avoid noise when living in close proximity to other people, excessive noise can lead to disputes between neighbors. These disputes could become expensive depending on how far the parties involved will go to document the noise.

However, a product called NoiseAware could make it easier for individuals to know when their unit is getting too loud. If a predetermined noise threshold is breached, it will send a notice to a property owner or to a landlord. This may make it easier for those who are not always home to make sure that they aren't doing anything to annoy their neighbors.

Neighbor disputes over barking dogs

Most California residents genuinely want to get along with their neighbors. On occasion, however, there are situations in which conflict arises between people who live near each other. If the parties cannot resolve the problem on their own, they may end up having to turn to their landlord, homeowners association, or condo board for help. From there, the landlord or managing board may seek legal remedies.

It is generally accepted that both homeowners and renters have a right to quiet enjoyment of their homes. When a neighbor behaves in ways that make it difficult for to enjoy being in their own homes, both civil and criminal law may come into play. One common example is that of dog barking. While it is expected that animals will occasionally make noise, persistent barking can become a major nuisance that infringes on the rights of neighbors.

HOA and residents settle sign dispute

California residents may relate to what one couple experienced when he was reportedly harassed by members of his homeowners association. The husband and wife lived on a property in Colorado that was run by the Alford Meadows Community Association. The dispute between the residents and the HOA was about a painted wood pallet that looked like the colonial American flag.

The HOA initially asked the homeowners to remove their flag in a formal complaint. However, the flag was instead placed in the front yard with a sign advising potential buyers to look elsewhere. The HOA responded by filing a lawsuit and asking for an injunction that would lead to the sign and message being removed. It was reported that the resident had about 200 supporters, and one of those supporters was a state legislator.

Governing documents and the HOA's responsiblities

Living in a California community with an HOA has many advantages, but there are times in which your relationship with this organization can become contentious in the event of a dispute. Dealing with issues and complications with your HOA is not always easy, and there are times in which it is necessary to know your rights and how to protect your interests.

It is always useful to know the obligations the HOA must meet. Upon moving into the neighborhood, you likely signed a contract containing all of the terms of the HOA's responsibilities and authority, and it is prudent to be closely familiar with the terms of the agreement. Knowing your rights is the first step in protecting your property rights.

Law protects political speech rights of HOA residents

More than 50,000 developments in California fall under the regulation of homeowners' associations. The passage of SB 407 resulted from ongoing incidents of association boards preventing residents from expressing their political views or engaging in political activities. The new law affirms the rights of people to engage in political speech without interference from an HOA board.

The law stops associations from prohibiting peaceful assemblies during reasonable hours where people discuss elections, legislation or ballot measures. Associations can no longer make members pay fees or acquire liability insurance before using a community's common area. A member of the Senate Judiciary Committee said that the law would prevent association boards from suppressing political speech.

Should you take legal action against your HOA?

California homeowners who live in a neighborhood with a homeowners' association know that sometimes there are issues that can lead to a tense or even contentious relationship with the HOA. As a homeowner, you may find yourself in this situation, and you may be wondering if there is anything you can do, especially if you experienced a violation of your rights.

In some cases, it may be appropriate to take legal action against your HOA. You can't just file a lawsuit because you do not like the leadership or the decisions they have made, but there are occasions in which you can. Homeowners would be wise to apprise themselves of their rights regarding their property and disputes with the HOA.

How to be a good HOA leader

California residents who live in a common interest community such as an HOA don't necessarily have full control over their property. Instead, they elect a group of people to make decisions on behalf of the entire community. When done properly, this may provide them with greater security and help them live a higher quality of life.

However, some board members choose to run the community like an autocracy instead of a democracy. In Florida, one HOA president threatened to shoot a man who was accused of trespassing and was taken into custody. A Las Vegas attorney received a lengthy prison sentence for conspiracy, election rigging and other charges related to an HOA fraud scheme. Fortunately, there are ways in which HOA leaders can look out for the rights of community members without letting the power go to their heads.