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Orange County Real Estate Law Blog

Resident sells property after HOA dispute

Homeowners in California and throughout the country understand the importance of a properly constructed roof. One man got a notice from his HOA after making repairs to the one on his home after a hail storm. The resident was told that permission was required prior to making repairs and that the shingles were the wrong color. According to the association's rules, they needed to be an earth tone color.

The resident pointed out that gray is an earth tone color, and he also cited the HOA's rules as it related to making repairs to a property. According to the association, residents are merely encouraged to ask for approval prior to fixing a roof as opposed to being required to do so. After a local media affiliate got involved, the man was finally given the chance to sell his home.

A dispute with a neighbor can be costly

The English wit G.K. Chesterton once observed, "We make our friends; we make our enemies; but God makes our next door neighbor." While this may or may not be true, it sometimes seems that divine intervention is the only way to resolve disputes regarding a California homeowner's property rights coming into direct conflict with those of the next door neighbor.

A common issue revolves around each property owner's concept of the right to use and enjoy one's property. The obvious limitation should be clear as long as how the property is being enjoyed does not deprive another of the same right. Nowhere are conflicts more common than along property lines. Where the property line actually lies may be in dispute, so ownership, and thus responsibility, for trees that are directly on the property line is often less than clear.

Proposed bill could limit unfair practices by California HOAs

If you live in a community with a homeowners association, you understand that these organizations can provide various benefits for those who live in the neighborhood. They can enforce rules that keep your neighbor's yard looking nice and prevent others from painting their homes odd colors that could affect the value of your own home. However, these organizations can sometimes overstep and infringe on the rights of homeowners.

Several recent cases illustrate how some HOAs are actually taking measures beyond the bounds of their authority. Homeowners often feel powerless to do anything when an HOA is acting unreasonably, but there are ways to fight back and protect your rights. There is currently a proposed bill in California that would ensure fair HOA elections and give residents voice in the governing of their own neighborhoods.

Homeowners urged to stop calling police over parking issue

In Chula Vista, California, abandoned cars can be towed if they aren't moved within 72 hours. Generally, police will mark the spot where a car was parked and leave a notice for the vehicle owner to move it within the allotted time. One homeowners' association in Montecito felt the need to remind residents that they don't own the parking spots in front of their homes.

The notice was sent out in response to numerous calls to the Chula Vista police department to report supposed parking violations. In many cases, residents in that neighborhood have chosen to use their garages as gyms or storage areas. Therefore, they park their cars on the street when not in use. Authorities in the area commended the HOA for issuing the letter and said that police are sometimes called out for disputes that can turn ugly.

Homeowner sues HOA alleging age discrimination

Many homes in California are part of homeowners associations. One homeowner in Phoenix is suing after a property manager stated that the association had changed its rules to prohibit children under the age of 16 from living in the neighborhood. The plaintiff was renting his unit to a family with two children.

The lawsuit alleged that the new rule violated laws prohibiting discrimination based on age and prevented him from using or selling his condominium. The complaint also stated that the property manager had sent emails noting that the family renting the unit was black.

Seeking a variance from a homeowners association

Many homeowners in California live in communities with a homeowners association. When they purchased their properties, whether a condominium in a building or a free-standing house in a town, the deed was accompanied by CC&Rs, or covenants, conditions and restrictions. These neighborhood covenants include procedures for dealing with identified violations of the CC&Rs, and they also provide procedures for seeking variances or exemptions from their provisions. While homeowners associations have a right to enforce these covenants, they are not landlords; they cannot evict homeowners, steal their personal property or violate their rights.

When CC&Rs conflict with a homeowner's plan for the use of his or her property, he or she can request a variance. A variance allows a homeowner to depart from the requirements of the covenant, especially when a specific situation requires a change. For example, disability ramps may be needed for someone in a wheelchair, or people with impaired vision may need a brighter form of outdoor lighting than that provided for in the CC&Rs. People who have more pets than the number listed in a condo CC&R agreement may seek a variance, or homeowners might seek to keep additional cars on their property.

HOA in California community tells man to remove window signs

A 71-year-old man in La Costa has received notice from his homeowners association that his signs protesting immigration policies violate the community's codes, covenants and rules. He disputes the allegation that he broke any rules with the printed signs that measure about 30 inches across. They are taped on the inside of his front windows.

The letter that the manager for the La Costa Valley Master Association sent him cited the code that he allegedly violated, but the resident interpreted the code as only applying to commercial signs. His have political content, which he said the association has no right to regulate. The signs call for resisting fascism and ending the mistreatment of immigrant children. Another message in English, Spanish and Arabic welcomes immigrants as his neighbors. The homeowner said that he will not take down his signs and that he considers the letter from the association to be harassment.

HOA and property owners feud over paint colors

California residents may understand what it feels like to be in a dispute with a neighbor. However, a recent episode in Wyoming shows how disputes can turn into major legal issues. The Cody Ranchettes Homeowners' Association, which is in Powell, Wyo., asked a judge to compel a couple who lives in the HOA to conform with rules regarding exterior house colors. In its complaint, the HOA claims that the home has been painted in four different colors when association rules say that only one color is allowed on the walls and one on the trim.

In response, one of the home's owners said that the HOA was selectively enforcing the rules. This person also threatened to appeal as often as possible if the court ruled in favor of the association. According to the rules of the Cody Ranchettes Homeowners' Association, property owners must submit a paint plan for approval. The association says that this never happened and that the resulting color scheme doesn't mesh with other homes in the area.

Is an HOA community right for you?

When you are shopping for a new home in Southern California, you have many options, including single-family dwellings, condominiums and townhouses. Some of these may include membership in a homeowners association.

Purchasing a home in an HOA community is not a decision to take lightly. An HOA adds a dimension to your home ownership that you should fully understand before you agree to it. HOA membership is not optional, and its rules are legally binding.

Man heads to trial in battle with HOA about wildlife habitat

Some homeowners associations in California are well known to micromanage property owners. The four-year legal battle between a man and a Virginia HOA illustrates this issue. His lawsuit is scheduled for trial as he defies the association's demand that he mow his meadow. He maintains that the 2 acres at the rear of his 5.6 acre parcel serve as habitat for native plants and animals. The HOA has repeatedly ordered him to mow the area.

The exterior maintenance covenant specifies that homeowners must maintain properties, which includes cutting all lawns and pruning trees and shrubs. In his defense, the man has pointed out that the meadow never was a lawn. The developer who built his home never disturbed the 2 acres. The National Audubon Society agreed in 2015 that the land was not touched when the house was built in 1989. As far as he knows, the land has been in a natural state since the 18th century.