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ARCHITECTURAL COMMITTEE DUTIES

Q. 
I am on the board of directors of my homeowners association located in Long Beach. We have an architectural committee. Traditionally, the architectural committee has been concerned with building code compliance. Is this an appropriate matter to be commented upon by an architectural committee?

A. 
No. Architectural committees should be concerned about compliance with the CC&Rs, Rules and Regulations and the appearance of proposed modifications. Compliance with building codes should be left to the local city or county. If your architectural committee assumes responsibility for making comments on possible code violations, it places your association in a position to be held liable in the event that it makes an error in judgment. There is no reason for an association to assume that responsibility. Top


SATELLITE DISH RULES

Q. 
How do I learn more about Satellite Dish Antenna Rules for homeowner associations?

A. 
Visit Satellite Dish Antenna Rules on our website. Top


GOVERNING DOCUMENTS

Q. 
The CC&Rs (Covenants, Conditions and Restrictions) of our homeowners association refers to the term "governing documents". Are rules of the association included within the definition of governing documents?

A. 
Yes. Section 1351 of the California Civil Code defines governing document as CC&Rs (Covenants, Conditions and Restrictions), bylaws, operating rules and articles of incorporation. Top


FINE PROCEDURE

Q. 
What are the procedures that must be followed before an association can fine one of its members?

A. 
The California Civil Code sets forth the procedure for the fine process. When the board of directors of an association is to meet to consider or impose a fine or discipline upon a member, the board must give notice in writing, either by personal delivery or first class mail, at least 10 days prior to the board meeting. The notification must contain the date, time and location of the meeting, the nature of the alleged violation, and a statement that the member has the right to attend and may address the board of directors at the meeting.

If the board of directors imposes discipline on a member, including a fine, the board must provide a notification of the disciplinary action or fine by either personal delivery or first class mail to the member within 15 days following the action.

The disciplinary action or fine will not be effective against a member unless the board of directors complies with all of the requirements of the California Civil Code. Top


NO SMOKING RULES

Q. 
Can our homeowners association establish a rule that prohibits smoking in the common areas?

A. 
In the absence of a provision in your CC&Rs that prohibits such a rule, the answer is yes. Directors of association boards have the right to make rules governing the use of the common areas so long as they are legal and not inconsistent with the CC&Rs. Keep in mind that such a rule can be over turned by a subsequent board of directors, and consequently, an amendment to your CC&Rs would make more sense if you want a long-term ban. Top


MINIMUM AGE TO USE POOL

Q. 
I work for a small company that manages homeowner associations in Los Angeles County.  What is the minimum age allowed by law for unsupervised children to use a swimming pool or spa?

A. 
Unsupervised use by children under the age of fourteen is prohibited.  In addition, warning signs are required in accordance with Section 3119B.5 of the California Building Code and Title 22, Section 65539(c) of the Code of Regulations - Environmental Health.  Your pool maintenance company should be familiar with these requirements. Top


RULES CONCERNING CHILDREN

Q. 
Our homeowner association would like to adopt a rule prohibiting children from playing in the common area streets. The purpose of the rule would be to minimize the risk that a child will be injured. Can we legally adopt the proposed rule?

A. 
Assuming your association's governing documents do not prohibit the adoption of such a rule, your board of directors can adopt a rule that prohibits all people (not only children) from specified activities on defined portions of the common area of your association. By applying the rule to all persons, your board of directors will probably avoid the claim that your association is discriminating against children or families with children. Top


ATTORNEY SHOULD REVIEW RULES

Q. 
The management company of our association has offered to re-write our rules.  The hourly rate is far below what our attorney would charge for the same work.  Do you have any recommendations or comments?

A. 
Yes.  Your management company would not be doing the same work as your law firm. Only attorneys are permitted to offer legal advice. Writing rules for an association comes dangerously close to practicing law and may cross the line.  I recommend that any new rules be written by your attorney or at least, reviewed and approved by him or her. Top


VIOLATION OF ARCHITECTURAL REQUIREMENT BY FORMER OWNER

Q. 
We recently purchased a townhome in Valencia only to find out that the former owners had previously been notified in writing by the board of directors that their patio cover did not meet the architectural requirements of the community.  What can we do?

A. 
Section 1368 (a)(5) was recently added to the California Civil Code to deal with this type of problem.  Under this section, a copy or a summary of any notice previously sent to the owner that sets forth any alleged violation of the governing documents that remains unresolved must be provided to the prospective purchaser as soon as practical before transfer of title.

Any person or entity who willfully violates this section can be held liable to the purchaser for actual damages and, in addition, a fine not to exceed $500.00. Top


FIRE RISK

Q. 
One of the homeowners in our condominium building in Thousand Oaks barbeques on his covered balcony. The board is very concerned about the possibility of a fire. Do you have any recommendations?

A. 
The barbeque may be a violation of California Fire Codes Sections 308.3.1 and 308.3.1.1 which state that open - flame cooking devices may not be operated on combustible balconies or within ten feet of combustible construction. The law also places limits on propane containers. You should check to see if your city has adopted these codes. The only exceptions are for single family dwellings and buildings that have automatic sprinkler systems that include all interiors, balconies, and decks.

Even if your building is excepted, the association board may adopt a rule prohibiting open fires on balconies.Top


RULES FOR CHILDREN

Q. 
Our association board is very concerned about the safety of the children living within our condominium complex. Can we create a rule prohibiting children from skateboarding within the common areas?

A. 
Such a rule would probably be considered discriminatory. A rule prohibiting all persons from skateboarding would probably be enforceable. Top


SOLAR PANELS

Q. 
Can homeowner associations prohibit members from installing solar panels?

A. 
According to California law, associations cannot prohibit solar systems, impose restrictions that significantly increase their cost, or impose restrictions that significantly decrease their efficiency. However, associations can prohibit members from installing their solar systems in or on common area property. Top


NUISANCE BY MEMBER

Q. 
Can the burning of incense be considered a nuisance by the board of directors of our association?

A. 
Yes, if it satisfies the definition of a nuisance as set forth in the CC&Rs, or California Civil Code.Top


SUPERVISION OF CHILDREN

Q. 
Our homeowner association in Valencia has several rules that require adult supervision of children under certain circumstances. Can we require that the adult be a parent of the child?

A. 
No. Any adult can supervise a child if acceptable to the parent. Top


CHILDREN'S USE OF SPA

Q. 
Can our association prohibit children from using our spa? We are concerned about safety.

A. 
Yes. You are probably safe in prohibiting children under the age of six from using the spa even with adult supervision. Children between the ages of six and thirteen must always be supervised by a responsible adult.Top


USE OF CLUBHOUSE

Q. 
Can our association adopt a rule prohibiting the use of our clubhouse for religious study? We are concerned about the possible teaching from the Qur'an.

A. 
No. As long as all other rules are complied with, members may use the clubhouse for any religious studies. Top


FINES ON FINES

Q. 
Can the board of my condominium association levy a fine on a member of our association for failure to pay a prior fine?

A. 
No. Fines may be levied only for violating the Operating Rules or CC&Rs of an association assuming they are written so as to authorize fines.

Your association can sue a member of the association in small claims court for failure to pay a fine. The likelihood of having a judgment entered against a non – paying member, which will harm their credit, may be a greater incentive to pay a fine levied by the association through its board. Top


PAINT COLOR RESTRICTIONS

Q. 
We have had owners within our association in Newhall paint their homes some rather unusual and unattractive colors. Can we amend our CC&Rs to require owners to select from a list of approved paint colors?

A. 
Yes. Many associations do this in order to maintain an attractive appearance.Top


SMOKING IN COMMON AREAS

Q. 
Is it legally permissible for an association to prohibit smoking in common areas?

A. 
Yes. Homeowner associations are commonly amending their CC&Rs to prohibit smoking in common areas. Many are also prohibiting smoking in balconies and in patio areas.  Top


COMMERCIAL USE OF RESIDENCE

Q. 
The CC&Rs of our association prohibit the commercial or business use of any home within our community. Notwithstanding, one of the owners is running a day care business and refuses to cease. What can we do? The entire community is upset with the constant traffic and noise.

A. 
Unfortunately for your community, the California legislature has determined that permitting day care centers in residential communities meets with their objectives.

The state has defined a “day care home” as a home that regularly provides care, protection, and supervision for 14 or fewer children for periods of less than 24 hours per day. Although homeowner associations cannot prohibit day care homes, they can adopt reasonable regulations as set forth in the California Health and Safety Code.  Top


MANAGEMENT COMPANY AS INSPECTOR OF ELECTIONS

Q. 
Is it legally permissible for the management company for a homeowner association to act as the inspector of elections?

A. 
Yes, but only if the board has adopted an election rule permitting the management company to act as the inspector of elections. Otherwise, inspectors must fall into one of the following categories:

A licensee of the California Board of Accountancy;
A volunteer poll worker with the County Registrar of Voters;
A Notary; or
A member of the association who is not a candidate for the board of directors or related to a candidate, or a current member of the board of directors.
  Top






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