In California, it is quite common to live in a subdivision or development that is governed by a Homeowners Association. Whether you live in a luxury townhome or a gated community, you likely have to abide by the set of bylaws created by your HOA. In some cases, these bylaws are extensive - and strictly enforced. As a homeowner, you should know that there are limits to what your HOA can do within your community. There are a set of state laws in California that protect the rights of homeowners, and restrict the reaches of the HOA.
The right to be notified of HOA board and committee meetings
The HOA in your community should be a transparent body that holds open meetings and provides access to records. Most HOA boards will meet regularly throughout the year in order to take care of business and address the concerns of residents within the community. These meetings should be posted at least four days in advance, and an agenda should be provided to homeowners. Residents of the association should be allowed to attend the meetings, with the exception of those that take place in executive session. Executive session must be posted at least two days in advance. The board can establish parameters for residents addressing the body, but residents must be allowed to address the body during the meetings. In addition, residents of the association should be able to request records from the board, such as contracts, the annual budget, policy changes, membership lists and more.
Prohibitions against disciplinary action
The HOA cannot take disciplinary action without providing a homeowner with notice and an opportunity for a fair hearing. If a homeowner has violated the terms of the HOA, it is common for the HOA to attempt to take disciplinary action against the homeowner. This is legal, so long as the restrictions that are put in place do not impugn the rights of homeowners. However, the HOA must provide the homeowner with notice of the disciplinary action as well as a scheduled opportunity for a fair hearing in front of the board.
Flags and signage - the right to free speech
Homeowners have the right to display flags on their personal property, as well as non-commercial signage. The association can control the types of signs and flags that are put on display in the common area. However, the HOA must allow homeowners to display flags on their private property within the community. In addition, non-commercial signs, including flyers, banners and posters, should be allowed as long as it is not obscene or obstructing safety measures that have been put in place. Ultimately, homeowners still have a right to free speech, even if they live in a residential area that is governed by an HOA.
Homeowners have the right to make modifications to improve accessibility, as long as the modifications do not impair the structure of the residence. In the event that a disabled person moves into a home within the association, the homeowner can address the board in order to request modifications to the exterior of the residence in order to improve accessibility. The HOA board is required to approve these requests, unless the modifications would compromise the structural integrity of the home or there is a viable alternative that provides equal accessibility into the home.Homeowners have the right to keep one pet within their home. Any HOA that has created or amended bylaws after January 2010 must allow homeowners to keep one animal as a pet. This right does not apply to nuisance pets or dangerous animals, and is subject to reasonable regulations by the HOA.
Know your rights as a homeowner
There are additional rights available to homeowners in California as well that can protect them in the event of a dispute with a HOA. By working with an experienced attorney who specializes in homeowners rights, you can receive detailed information about your rights and your legal options for dispute. You need someone who understands the laws implicitly to advocate for you and defend you against the HOA. If you feel that your HOA is violating your rights as a homeowner, you need to get legal help from an experienced attorney. You can, and should, take legal action against your HOA.