California homeowners' associations often have a variety of documents that establish certain rights and obligations for the individual property owners as well as the HOA's board of directors. One issue that will usually be addressed is the responsibility of maintenance and payment of repair costs. However, the language in these documents is often unclear and confusing.
California has a specific law dealing with condominium homeowner associations. The Davis-Stirling Act was enacted in 1986, but it is applicable to homeowner associations that were established prior to its adoption as well. One of its functions is to delineate responsibility for maintenance depending on the area of the property or development. In general, individual owners are obligated to maintain and absorb the repair costs for their individual units. Conversely, the HOA is responsible for upkeeping all common areas.
Problems can arise when the governing documents are unclear as to what exactly constitutes a "common area." In some cases, there might be an overlap. It should be noted, however, that the Davis-Sterling Act will only come into play if the language in the declaration of covenants, conditions and restrictions or another governing homeowners' association document is ambiguous. Accordingly, it is advisable for HOA board members to periodically review the applicable provisions.
Homeowners' associations provide a variety of valuable services such as helping to ensure that their properties are well-maintained and an attractive part of the local community. However, it is not uncommon for disputes to arise between an HOA and an individual homeowner. In such an event, an HOA board might find it advisable to seek experienced legal counsel when seeking to quickly get the matter resolved.