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Orange County Real Estate Law Blog

Violations and variances from your neighborhood's CC&R

If you live in a California neighborhood with an HOA or you are considering such a move, you may find it beneficial to learn more about the way HOAs work, including how to resolve disputes and violations. This effort is prudent for every homeowner, as it may be necessary at some point to contest the actions of an HOA or protect your interests in the event of a dispute. 

A CC&R is an agreement between an HOA and homeowners. Typically, these neighborhood covenants outline what the HOA can and cannot regulate. It should also include an outline for procedures in the event of a violation of the CC&R or seeking a variance.

California residents don't agree with new HOA rule

Those who live in the Auburn Hills complex in Auburn, California, are required to keep their garages open for eight hours each day. According to a notice to residents, garage doors must stay up between 8 a.m. and 4 p.m. on weekdays. Residents who fail to comply with the order may face a hearing and a $200 fine. The rule was put in place because it was discovered that people were sleeping in a resident's garage.

One board member told a local television station that people had actually taken up residence in the garage, and that is why the policy had to be created. Residents have resorted to moving items they consider valuable because leaving garage doors open could increase the risk of a theft occurring. Some residents have ignored the HOA rule altogether.

HOA dispute over tree removal becomes years-long battle

Many California homeowners live in areas and communities governed by homeowners' associations, or HOAs. Various aspects of the look and maintenance of a home or outdoor area can be governed by the rules laid down by the homeowners' association. These restrictions accompany the deed to the home, but many times, people find out just how intensive they can be years after their initial investment.

One couple in Washington State is engaged in an ongoing dispute over trees on their property. Their initial agreement with the HOA notes that large improvements to the home and landscaping must be approved in advance by the homeowners' association. Sixteen years after their initial home purchase, the couple has become concerned about several trees that border the house. The trees are close to the home's roof and could cause significant damage if knocked over in a storm. In addition, the roots of the trees are disrupting the garden's stone pathways and threaten the homeowners' septic system.

Jesus sign prompts neighbors to complain to HOA

Many residents in California are familiar with the restrictions imposed by homeowners' associations. Even decorations that people put up for the holidays can cause disputes. This recently happened in a Pennsylvania community where a husband and wife received a complaint about their Christmas display.

An email from their homeowners' association informed them that neighbors had complained about their sign that said "Jesus." The association asked the couple to remove the sign; although, it did not issue a formal citation. According to the association, the Jesus sign technically violated rules against posting signs in the community.

How to operate in an HOA setting

California residents and others that live in a property that's controlled by an HOA have several rights and responsibilities. For instance, they have the right to expect a timely response to any legitimate questions or concerns conveyed to the board. Rules and regulations should be applied equally to everyone, and anyone who is subject to discipline has the right to defend him or herself.

A person who lives in a property controlled by an HOA should be given the right to vote in elections or appoint someone to vote on his or her behalf. In the event that someone is not permitted to vote, he or she should be told why that is the case. Finally, HOA documents and other important records should be easy to access, and they should be provided without unnecessary restrictions. They should also be produced to residents in a timely manner.

Resolving conflicts related to trees

California residents may not like that a neighbor's tree crosses over to their property. However, they are only allowed to trim or cut the portion of the tree that is in their yard. People may not take steps to cut on their neighbor's property or destroy the tree itself. Furthermore, the fruit that a tree may create belongs to the owner of the tree regardless of where the fruit itself may be located.

However, there may be an exception made for fruit that falls onto an individual's property. The fact that a tree produces leaves that fall or blow into a person's yard is not something that an individual can complain about. Leaves are considered a natural product of the tree as opposed to a nuisance created by the neighbor. The only recourse a person may have is to remove branches that encroach his or her property.

Homeowners should understand the ABCs of CC&Rs

If you buy or rent a home or condo, you may know that there could be certain regulations in place through a homeowners association or a condo owners association. The intent of covenants, conditions and restrictions (CC&Rs) are to protect the look and integrity of the neighborhood or community, but homeowners would be wise to protect themselves by learning how they work.

When you move into a California neighborhood with a homeowners association, you likely have to sign a covenant. This is a document that essentially tells homeowners what they can and cannot do, as well as governs the use of any common areas. Before you sign, it is prudent to learn what your neighborhood covenant will mean for everything from outdoor pets to the colors you can paint your house.

Man forced to rehome dog after HOA dispute

California residents may use therapy dogs to help them cope with a variety of physical and mental health issues. However, one man said that he had to give up his dog after a dispute with the housing complex where he lived. Representatives of MS Homeowners Association claimed that the dog was a dangerous breed and that having the pet violated its rules. Though the pit bull was not registered as a service animal, it did provide emotional support for its owner.

Its owner also claims that the dog plays with children and interacts well with other animals. Ultimately, he believes that the disputes arises from damage that was caused in a previous place he had that was associated with Great Homes Property Management. The dog was given up out of fear that future violations could result in additional fines or being forced to move.

Disputes over decorations mark the holiday season

As the holiday season rolls around each December, homeowners in California and across the nation may find themselves immersed in festive music, oversized lawn decorations, twinkling lights - and neighbor disputes. In Connecticut, the residents of one neighborhood have circulated a petition asking for something to be done about a local homeowner's holiday display, which includes 350,000 lights. The 45 petitioners do not specify what type of action they would like taken in this matter.

These petitioners do, however, want the town and police to mitigate the impact that 30,000 visitors over a six-week period have on other homeowners in the vicinity. Street parking is temporarily limited in the area near the display, and some residents appear to feel that the high volume of traffic coupled with the seasonal parking restriction is a significant inconvenience, as well as a public safety concern. In response to the petition, the owner of the display has told news sources that his family is working to appease the neighbors in this ongoing situation.

Cheetos actor sues neighbor over barking dogs

The California actor behind the voice of Cheetos Chester Cheetah has sued his neighbor over barking dogs. Adam Leadbetter, along with his wife, alleged in their complaint that they have made numerous complaints to the City Hall of Los Angeles, yet nothing has been done about the noise.

The complaint filed against the neighbor and the city alleges nuisance, negligence and intentional infliction of emotional distress. It further claims that the neighbor has at least one dog which is believed to be a German Shepherd and possibly a smaller dog which is believed to be a Chihuahua. According to the complaint, the dogs bark at least 15 times a day, and each disturbance frequently lasts over 10 minutes.