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Orange County Real Estate Law Blog

Fighting HOAs

California residents who may have issues with their homeowners association should know that the HOA has to be in compliance with the law regardless of what the HOA board states. The HOA is prohibited by state and federal regulations from illegally restricting its homeowners.

For example, a homeowner association has to adhere to the Fair Housing Act and may not discriminate against homeowners. This means that the rules the HOA board creates and enforces cannot disadvantage anyone belonging to one of the groups specified in the Fair Housing Act. The HOA cannot prevent individuals from buying a home in the area because of the color of their skin or expel them because they may practice a certain religion.

Want to make changes to your condo? You may need board approval

Perhaps you saw the potential in a condominium when you bought it. Now that you own it, you want to make certain changes to put your stamp on it.

You may want to hold up on making any changes until you know for sure whether you need the approval of the condominium association first. If you fail to do so, you could end up in a costly war with the board, and that is not an enviable place to be.

HOA fee dispute leads to foreclosure

A homeowner in California may find unexpected problems if they wind up in a dispute with their homeowners' association. Disputes over fees and regulations can make it difficult to live in a neighborhood where an HOA has a strong presence. Sometimes, the issues can even go to court if they are not resolved. In a recent Texas case, an appellate court has affirmed a ruling by a lower court that allowed the homeowners' association to seek foreclosure against a resident who allegedly failed to pay his HOA fees.

The man in question owns a home in a subdivision governed by an HOA that requires an annual maintenance fee as an assessment. The HOA holds a lien on each home's lot to secure the assessment. The homeowner declined to pay his fees, and the homeowners' association sued the man in 2013, claiming that he owed past-due fees. After the case, the man paid his dues, but he again accrued more fees, leading to another HOA lawsuit in 2016. While the man attempted to make a partial payment, the HOA rejected it as no formal payment plan was in place.

HOA dispute drags on after appeal

California homeowners who live in communities governed by an HOA may be used to disputes with association leadership. However, one case involving Kansas HOA Avignon Villa Homes Community Association has been going on since 2013. Legal fees in the case are expected to hit $1 million after Avignon Villa appealed a January ruling by a judge in Johnson County. The ruling found that both sides were at fault in a battle related to a landscaping project.

In her ruling, the judge ruled that the homeowner must pay the HOA $25,000 in damages for not following protocol before beginning the project. However, she also ruled that the HOA did not act in good faith in not allowing the project to take place. Avignon Villa claims that it tried to settle the matter but that their offers were flatly denied by the homeowner.

HOA accused of implementing racist rental policy

Residential communities in California and around the country often have strict rules that prevent residents from renting out their properties, but the legality of these policies may be challenged when their enforcement would result in discrimination based on race or national origin. A case currently working its way through the Florida court system deals with just these issues. In a lawsuit filed on Oct. 16, three property owners claim that their homeowners association instituted a rental ban primarily to force out black families.

According to the plaintiffs, the homeowners association involved circulated a petition to ban rentals ostensibly to protect property values in the Volusia County development. However, the lawsuit alleges that a more sinister motive was behind the petition as all of the rental units in the development were leased to black families. The property owners behind the litigation say the HOA's reasons for banning rentals are reminiscent of the rhetoric used in years past to keep African-Americans out of affluent neighborhoods.

Dealing with HOA rules during the holiday season

As the holidays approach, homeowners in Orange County may begin thinking about their holiday decor and how they would like to adorn their homes with lights, garlands and more. However, when they are part of a homeowners' association, there may be some restrictions and limitations on what they can do to show off their Halloween frights, Christmas delights or New Year's cheer.

People in condominiums and cooperatives with HOAs have generally agreed to a series of rules and covenants established by the association's board. In some cases, these include regulations for exterior decorations, the type of lighting allowed and even how long decor items can remain visible. Some of the most common regulations address the length of time after the holiday that items can remain up or prohibit items that could be perceived as offensive. Some HOAs may restrict string lights to white or yellow only, while other associations may seek to ban large, inflatable lawn items. Of course, the HOA itself can also opt to take on holiday decorations; some boards may decorate common areas run by the association.

HOA violations to watch out for

California residents and others who live in areas governed by a homeowners association need to remain current on its rules and regulations. Failure to do so could result in fines or other charges regardless of how minor the violation may seem to a homeowner. There are many common types of violations that residents may commit, such as driving too fast through the neighborhood. HOA fines could be added on top of any imposed by local authorities.

Typically, HOA rules are designed to keep residents safe and to keep the neighborhood clean and attractive. For instance, individuals may face a fine for bringing out a trash can too early or leaving it out too late. This is because a trash can could look unseemly and potentially attract pests. Homeowners who don't mow their lawn or get rid of weeds could be penalized for not doing so. They could also be penalized for planting the wrong types of flowers or trees.

New HOA laws passed recently in California

Homeowners who live in neighborhoods and communities in which there is an HOA may be interested to learn about new laws recently passed that could affect how these organizations work. The intent of homeowners' associations is to oversee issues that can impact the look of the community and neutral spaces. The scope of an HOA's authority depends on the individual neighborhood, and homeowners need to know the rules that may affect them. 

If you live in a neighborhood with an HOA, it is in your interests to know where the HOA's authority ends and your property rights begin. Additionally, it could be prudent for you to understand more about the recent HOA legislation passed and what it could mean for you. HOA issues can be complex, and it is worth the effort to know your rights and how you can protect yourself. 

HOA disputes on parking

Many residents of California reside within a community controlled by a homeowners association. An HOA collects dues from the residents and helps maintain the aesthetic standards for the neighborhood with the goal of preserving the value of the properties in the community.

It is common for many HOAs to have problems with parking, particularly if the residences are condominiums. HOAs cannot charge for exclusive rights to use common areas unless this allowed by the organization's governing documents. If the parking areas are part of an individual homeowner's property, it is less likely that the HOA has the right to tell the resident how the property can be used for parking.

Homeowners association disputes

A homeowners association is an organization in a neighborhood that makes and enforces rules within the community. Property owners automatically become members when they purchase a home within the neighborhood and must pay dues to the HOA. Some California HOAs are very restrictive about what a homeowner can do with their property.

An HOA typically has an elected board of directors. Both homeowners and the board must abide by the corporation's governing documents, usually called the declaration of covenants, conditions and restrictions. The rules within these documents specify how the owner is allowed to use the property and may include rules for pets, application procedures for alterations and the types of fences and landscaping allowed.