If you live in California, you may have also joined a Home Owner’s Association (HOA) when you bought your home. Like these other California residents, you also probably had to sign an HOA agreement as a condition of purchasing a home in your neighborhood. In theory, HOAs protect their residential communities’ aesthetic integrity and ensure that owners and their guests observe common rules and agreed-upon standards. However, in real life, homeowners and HOA leaders can get into hotly-contested disputes that can quickly spiral out of control, turning neighbor against neighbor. If you think your HOA is being unfair, you will want to know your options.
In general, HOAs are mandatory organizations governed by community volunteers who are elected into leadership positions by neighborhood members. The main job of an HOA is to enforce covenants, conditions, and restrictions, or CC&Rs, that protect the overall value of the neighborhood. The HOA has the power to require community residents to follow the rules and cite and fine those who fail to do so. Homeowners have to pay fees to the HOA that are supposed to go towards community upkeep and neighborhood expenses.
In California, the Davis-Stirling Act and the California Corporations Code are the primary areas of law that govern HOA authority and homeowner rights. HOA’s have to observe and fairly enforce the CC&R’s and follow the organization’s bylaws, or procedures.
Unfair Treatment by a HOA
Unfair treatment by a HOA is in the eye of the beholder. Suppose your HOA has issued a citation because your grass is too long, or there is an impermissible structure on your property. In that case, your problem may be with the existing rules. However, if the HOA does not equally enforce the CC&R’s, and you feel you are being targeted, that could be another matter.
Have You Reviewed the CC&Rs and Bylaws?
Depending on the issue, the first step is to familiarize yourself with the CC&R’s and HOA bylaws. By having a working knowledge of these two governing documents, you can better understand what the HOA is allowed to do in your situation.
Did the HOA Follow its Bylaws?
HOAs can’t arbitrarily decide to make up rules. These organizations have to follow their own bylaws before imposing a new requirement on the community. There is also a certain degree of transparency expected during their processes. If the governing body is not following the rulemaking requirements, they may not have a basis to expect you or anyone else to adhere to new CC&Rs.
Is the HOA Applying its Rules Equally?
Even if the HOA has duly adopted its CC&Rs, it’s never acceptable for these requirements to be applied unfairly or in a discriminatory manner. HOAs are required to follow all federal anti-discrimination laws and the Fair Housing Act. If you believe that the HOA is assessing fines against you and not others for the same violations, there may be cause for concern. You should contact an experienced California real estate attorney as soon as possible to review the facts of your case.
Work with a California Real Estate Attorney
Issues between homeowners and their HOAs often start with the initial HOA agreement. When homeowners find a great home, they sometimes see the HOA agreement as just one more paper to sign at closing or something that won’t cause future problems. However, when hefty monthly fees have to be paid, and the lawn has to be maintained, and other obligations get tacked on, this seemingly inconsequential agreement can become more problematic.
If you are having trouble with your HOA, you should meet with an experienced California real estate attorney who can help you read over any signed agreements and assess your obligations. Your real estate attorney can also help you evaluate the conflict and advise you regarding the organization’s culpability.
Additionally, when you work with local counsel, your attorney may be familiar with the HOA and its reputation. If your HOA leadership consists of reasonable people, your attorney may be able to help you negotiate an agreement that will and keep the matter out of court and spare both sides the costs of litigation.
Contact the Law Office of Raffy Boulgourjian
Attorney Raffy Boulgourjian is a California real estate attorney with over twenty years of experience representing clients in residential and commercial real estate matters. He has the knowledge and expertise to protect your interests during your California real estate matter. Contact Mr. Boulgourjian today to schedule a free legal consultation to discuss your California real estate legal needs.